Melody Warnick tapped the resources and skills she developed as a freelance journalist to create a compendium of community engagement and placemaking strategies. This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are (Viking/Penguin, 2016) is both personal essay and how-to guide, encouraging creative and committed participation in the world around us. The world around Warnick is Blacksburg. The community plays a big role in her writing, in both subject and process. Here’s how.
BOOK CITY★ ROANOKE: What about your place inspires your writing?
Melody Warnick: Everything about Blacksburg inspires my writing. My book is a blend of sociology, self-help, and memoir, and the memoir portion is about Blacksburg—about moving here, grappling with my own restlessness, and executing experiments until I finally learned to feel at home here. Now my relationship with my town is layered and deep in a way it hasn’t really been in the other places I’ve lived.
In the book I write about the farmers market, Steppin’ Out, the Huckleberry Trail, Carol Lee Donuts, Virginia Tech football, and dozens of other little things that make me feel connected locally. I’m still inspired by daily moments of “Holy crap, it’s beautiful here,” and “Wow, I know a lot of good people” and everything else that makes me not want to move away for a long time. So when I say this place inspires my writing, I mean it.
BCR: What, outside of writing, gets your motor running, fuels your creativity?MW: Things are maybe a little different for a nonfiction writer, but I find that I’m most likely to get good creative ideas lately from travel, news stories (well-constructed Google alerts help here), podcasts, conferences, books, and the confluence of all of the above. Maybe I’m made more creative by other people’s creativity and ambition. Speaking of which, a good library always inspires me as well.
BCR: What challenge are you currently addressing in your writing?
MW: What to write. The #1 question I’ve been asked since This Is Where You Belong came out is, “Are you working on a second book?” Cue awkward pause and stammering. I loved researching and writing about place but wasn’t sure where to go next. Sometimes, however, I think we just need to let ideas percolate slowly. When I gave up on the idea that there would be a book #2 is when I finally put together an idea I’m excited about it.
BCR: How is a favorite fictional character a model for how we might live today?
MW: I’ve been a devotee of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables since childhood, when she inspired me to wear more pink than I ever would have otherwise. Now I love to reflect on how enmeshed she was in her community of Avonlea. Deep friendships, neighborly ties (although sometimes tumultuous), a partnership with a local economy, community engagement, and an awe for the beauty of where you live equal a satisfying life.
This is Where You Belong was released in paperback in July of 2017. Pick up a copy and read Melody’s Loving Where you Live posts on Livability.com.★