We had the good fortune of connecting with Melody Simpson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melody, how do you think about risk?
I think risks can be very daunting but if you believe they are worth taking, if you know in the bottom of your heart that the risks outweigh whatever the cost is of not trying, go for it. We’re always making choices. Risks are just choices we may put more thought into. There might be more weight behind a choice, bigger responsibilities and consequences that come with it. People in my life know me as a risk taker but I just identify myself as someone who doesn’t wait for other people to take a step. Step into your destiny and understand that everybody is not going to understand the path that you’re on and the risks that need to be taken. Not everyone is prepared to take those risks, You might not even be fully prepared to take the risks, But understand that if you don’t take those steps, you delay what will eventually happen… the people whose lives you will change forever don’t know it but they’re waiting on you.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Melanin in YA is a database for all things Black in the traditional Young Adult publishing space. It’s a directory where you can search for and find Black YA authors, literary agents, editors, cover designers, audiobook narrators, social media influencers, and more. I’m most proud of Melanin in YA’s impact on readers, both young adult and adult. Melanin in YA has been in existence for just over one year and already, we’ve been able to put young adult books written by Black authors in the hands of hundreds of readers. We’ve already got dozens of messages from people all over social media, from Twitter and Instagram to Clubhouse and even through word of mouth, telling us how Melanin in YA has helped them.

It’s so important not to just talk about the need for a resource but to BE an active resource. So while Melanin in YA acts as a no excuses database for all things Black in traditional young adult publishing, we’re also doing the work of putting the books that are in the directory into the hands of the next generation of eager readers.

I launched Melanin in YA in August 2020 after a very politically and racially charged summer. Melanin in YA officially became an LLC while I was recovering from a month long battle with COVID-19. This was not easy. It’s still not easy. It’s not going to be easy for a long while. But I’m not doing this for easy. I’m doing this to make it easier for other people to access all of the information provided in the database.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned during this time is to take my time. Do not rush anything. Slow and steady wins the race and truly, I’ve already won. The work that’s being done is truly meaningful and affecting the lives of so many different people – readers, querying writers, librarians, teachers, industry professionals, etc… I’m already making a difference and keeping a steady pace with my Why encourages me everyday to keep going.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a great question because I barely get out myself and I definitely need suggestions but the first thing that comes to mind is food. I think that after a hike in Griffith Park or at the Culver City steps, I would take someone out to Real Food Daily for breakfast. A drive to the beach would most likely be next and then Monty’s Burgers for lunch sounds about right. I would say they have to experience going to a movie at the Arclight but RIP to the Arclight so I truly am at a loss for what the next go to theater is. But I do know that Sage Vegan Bistro for dinner is a must. The only musts here are the food, so whatever else someone wants to see, I’m down to show them. Shows at the Dynasty Typewriter, Hollywood Bowl, Pantages, and Geffen are musts as well. I haven’t been out in so long, it’s hard to think of where to go and what I’d feel comfortable doing but I think those are great starting points!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shout out to We Need Diverse Books (https://diversebooks.org), a non profit grassroots organization that advocates for change (inclusivity) in the publishing industry and lifts up books written by marginalized creators as well as up and coming marginalized writers and illustrators. I’ve been fortunate to have parents who are really big readers and went out of their way to find books for me that were written by Black authors and books that had Black girls on the cover while I was growing up. Everyone is not as fortunate to have those resources. We Need Diverse Books provides so many resources for readers and professionals who are working to expand their library and improve the landscape of the publishing industry.

Website: https://melanininya.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melanininya/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/melanin_ya

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melanininya

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.