Mel Torrefranca is a 16-year-old author and YouTuber from Northern California. She has been working on her debut novel, LEAVING WISHVILLE, since October of 2017. She was fourteen years old and preparing to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time (a 50,000-word writing challenge during the month of November) when she started on her novel.
Question 1 : Can you describe your creative process? How do you come up with ideas for your writing, YouTube channel, or any other projects?
I’ve found that my best ideas come when I least expect them to.
Every time I force brainstorming sessions for new book ideas, YouTube videos, or even music, I can never come up with anything worth keeping.
Question 2 : As an author, what does the average day look like for you during the different stages of creating a book?
During the writing phase of creating a book, which I consider the most fun part, I wake up early to get an hour of writing in before school. This usually allows me to blast out at least a thousand words, which helps drastically when working toward word-count deadlines.
During the editing phase, mornings usually doesn’t work too well. I usually edit during free time at school and after finishing my homework at night.
Question 3 : What is the publishing process like? How do you reach out to publishers? Was there anything that you didn’t expect? Do you feel that being a teenager has influenced how publishers view you and your work?
I’m self-published, so I don’t have direct experience with publishing houses. However, many freelance editors, cover designers, etc. have denied their services to me because of my age. I understand that some people would rather not be associated with teenage work, but the rejections did sting at first. Overall, I would say that most people involved in the publishing process have been supportive of my writing.
Question 4: On your YouTube channel, you uploaded a video about deleting a website you made at the age of 12. What is that website? How were you able to create and manage a website without any experience? How did you build a community and spread the word?
Teen Authors Journal was a community blog I created for teens to share their writing advice and experiences. Creating the site required research, time, and dedication, but I found the process enjoyable. During the blog’s creation, I gained a massive interest in website design and marketing. Most of what I learned came from first-hand experience with coding, social media, and SEO.
Gaining members on Teen Authors Journal was a challenge in the beginning. Before the website had an established community, no one showed interest in joining. However, after I managed to convince a few people to join through social media, various teen writers helped spread the word and sign-ups came organically, without prompting.
As the community grew, the website became more difficult to maintain. Halfway through my freshman year of high school, I deleted the website to prioritize my health. I’m still great friends with many of the writers I met through Teen Authors Journal, so overall, it was an amazing experience.
Question 5: What is your favorite part of writing? What is your favorite part of being a YouTuber/filmmaker?
My favorite part about writing is the ability to weave emotions into a story. The most satisfying feeling is when a reader tells me that they nearly cried or burst out laughing in a scene.
I would have to say the same for YouTube. Both videos and writing tell stories; the only difference is the format. Hearing that a video inspired someone makes my day.
Mel Torrefranca's teen magical realism novel, LEAVING WISHVILLE, releases February 8, 2020
Question 6: Do you think that there are any advantages, disadvantages or unique perspectives Gen-Zers have when it comes to entrepreneurial/creative projects?
The advantages definitely outweigh the cons. Generation Z is still young, but we have access to amazing resources online. We can learn practically anything we have a passion for at any age we please.
This gives us the opportunity to hone our talents and even start a career at a much younger age than older generations could. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship or starting a creative project, don’t let your age stop you. Rather than thinking of youth as a setback, think of it as a head start and go for it!
Question 7: What other hobbies do you have outside of writing and YouTube? How do you manage to balance everything on top of school/extracurriculars?
My main interests outside of YouTube and writing would be music, baking, and travel. Because I’m involved with rigorous school classes, clubs, and sports, it can be challenging to balance my time.
What helps me the most is allowing myself to drop commitments temporarily. I like to think of hobbies as a cycle. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, sometimes I’ll tell myself, “Okay, no guitar or social media this month” or “Take badminton less seriously this week.”
It’s impossible to do everything all the time, so it’s relieving to have a flexible mindset.
Question 8: What advice do you have for teenagers interested in writing a book or starting a YouTube channel?
For any teens who are interested in pursuing a creative hobby, my best advice is to stop thinking, and start doing. Many people have asked me incredibly specific questions about the writing and publishing process, but I don’t have all the answers. Everyone develops their own projects in their own way, so if you have something you’d love to work on, stop stressing over the little details and hop into it!
Make that YouTube video, even if you don’t know what your niche is. Write the book, even if you don’t understand how the publication process works. You don’t need to know everything before you start, so don’t worry about whether you’re prepared or knowledgeable enough. You’ll figure it out as you go, I promise.
Question 9: Who are your favorite authors? What are your favorite books?
My childhood favorite is definitely Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. At a young age, it taught me that it’s possible to tell a beautiful story with nothing but interesting characters and that you don’t need crazy action scenes to draw attention from readers.
As for books I currently enjoy, the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman is great!
Check out Mel's social media, website, and Youtube channel!