While in kindergarten, Melanie Batchelor taped together her first “book,” a five-sentence work on printer paper about cats and dogs.
The junior at Paint Branch High in Burtonsville has progressed to get a 168-page novel, “Remember Me,” published with Bold Strokes Books, a Johnsonville, N.Y.-based independent publisher. The novel was released May 13.
“It’s been a long process,” Batchelor, 16, said of finding a publisher. “It’s exciting to see my work published.”
Mark Willen, a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association who leads the Teen Writers’ Club at the Marilyn J. Praisner Library in Burtonsville, said Batchelor is the first member of the 2-year-old club to have a book published.
The club is jointly sponsored by the Praisner Library, which provides free space and publicity, and the Maryland Writers’ Association, which provides an adult leader.
Another teen writing club affiliated with the association meets at the White Oak Library.
“Melanie is really a very intelligent writer,” said Willen, a longtime journalist whose first novel, “Hawke’s Point,” is scheduled to be released this summer from Pen-L Publishing. “It’s not easy to get a book published, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly she found two publishers.”
Batchelor will have a public reading of her book June 5 at the Praisner Library. She said Willen and her mother, Jeanine Batchelor, helped her query publishers and provided other support.
“They are always encouraging me to keep writing,” she said.
Jeanine Batchelor, whose family lives in Cloverly, in eastern Montgomery County, said her daughter is the first published writer in the family. Other family members are in creative fields, she said.
“She has worked very hard,” Jeanine Batchelor said. “I’m thrilled that her book is being published.”
Batchelor finished another novel-length story when she was 12 and completed “Remember Me” at age 14. She participated in several writing workshops, including ones associated with The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and Centenary College in New Jersey.
She rewrote parts of “Remember Me,” after getting feedback from friends, family members and writing club members. The book is in verse form.
“I admire the style,” Batchelor said. “It makes it interesting. You can say a lot without using too many words.”
The book is a “coming of age” story for young adults centered on two 15-year-old girls, said Batchelor, who described her novel as “realistic fiction.”
In the novel, Jamie Richards’ father dies a few years earlier, and she feels abandoned by her mother, who is “consumed by her career,” according to the book publisher’s website. “Jamie finds an escape through her artistic passion and her first love — the one person who hasn’t abandoned her, Erica Sinclair.”
Jamie and Erica create a world of their own in an abandoned park, a place they call “Wonderland.” Jamie “idolizes Erica until the two grow closer,” and Jamie begins to question the love she thought she had for Erica until a “shocking event occurs that changes Jamie and Erica’s relationship forever,” according to the site.
Bold Strokes Books’ young adult segment feature stories “within all fiction genres that delve into questions of identity, gender, sexuality, self-esteem, peer relationships, ethics and life issues,” according to its website.
Characters often jump into her head when she is in class or listening to music, Batchelor said. She recommends that aspiring young writers not be afraid to tackle a subject “because you’re scared of what other people will assume about you.”
“Good fiction doesn’t play it safe,” Batchelor said.