When she moved to San Antonio several years ago, Melissa Leddy wanted to explore and learn as much as she could about her new home. A professional writer by trade, she created a blog hosted by mySA.com titled Not From Here where she chronicled her adventures in the Alamo City. A few years later, Melissa’s life took a new direction when her daughter was born and she went from working full-time to becoming a freelance writer. Her latest blog, Maternity Ward, focuses on her journey through early motherhood. Maternity Ward led her to publish her first E-book, Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go! 237 Tips for First-Time Moms, which is available at Amazon.com. Ten percent of the sales from her book will be donated to help prevent child abuse.
Maternity Ward isn’t your first blog. Tell us a bit about Not From Here and how you got started blogging for the San Antonio Express-News. Have you ever thought about blogging on another platform?
I first began blogging for mySA (the San Antonio Express-News) when I moved here to San Antonio in 2009. My blog then was Not From Here, and every week I shared posts, from a newbie’s perspective, about discovering San Antonio. I blogged about distinctly local things to do and experience. Not From Here was a lot of fun to write, and also very popular, but after about a year, I had settled in and was more “From Here” than “Not.” I also had a much-beloved full-time editorial job at that point, and so it felt natural to bring Not From Here to a close.
I launched my current blog, Maternity Ward, in December of 2011. I started Maternity Ward in order to begin a freelance writing career after I gave birth to my daughter, Grace, and after I resigned from my full-time job. Freelancing allows me to work on writing projects on a flexible schedule so that I can spend a good amount of time during the day with Grace. I am very thankful for this setup—although some days are smoother than others! In addition to my blog, I also write for The CE Group, a local event marketing firm.
I’ve thought about blogging on a website of my own, but I feel as though I have good reach to a variety of readers through mySA. I appreciate their supporting my writing for almost five years now! Also, another note of gratitude: I first began blogging when I worked as a magazine editor for Richmond magazine in my old hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and I’ll always be grateful to my colleagues there for introducing me to blogging.
One of your regular features on Maternity Ward is your Book Club Conversation, in which you discuss a variety of fiction and non-fiction books. What books are you reading now? And what are some of your favorites from 2013?
Right now, my book club and I are reading “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” by Katrina Alcorn. There have been some moments lately when I’ve felt maxed out, and so I’m hoping to get some good insights from this book! I’m really looking forward to chatting with folks about the work-life issues that the author explores in her memoir.
My favorite fiction book from 2013 was “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer. It’s a moving, expansive story about six friends as they journey along in their lives, and it covers big issues like family, growing up, and family ties compared to friendship. My favorite nonfiction book this year was “Fire in the Ashes” by Jonathan Kozol. “Fire in the Ashes” is a deeply moving account of the author’s personal experiences with the people who live, work and try to make a difference in the Mott Haven neighborhood, “the poorest neighborhood in all of the South Bronx, which remains the poorest congressional district, out of 435 such districts, in all of the United States” (page 307). When I read a book like “Fire in the Ashes,” it helps open my eyes to the real hardships that are out there, and it motivates me to do some real good in my lifetime.
You’ve just made the leap from blog (Maternity Ward) to book (“Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go!”). When did you know you were ready to write a book? What advice do you have for bloggers wanting to publish their own books?
I knew I was ready to write a book when I realized that I had blogged more than 300 pages of tips for first-time moms! In July, I began organizing the tips that I thought were most helpful into chapters. I self-published my book on Amazon in early November—so the writing process took about two years, and the rewriting/publishing process took about five months.
I am all about tips, so here are my top four tips for bloggers who want to publish their own e-books: (1) Read the book “Publishing E-books for Dummies” by Ali Luke. It is absolutely excellent, and Ali is open to answering your questions through her Twitter account. (2) Hire a professional photographer or graphic designer to create your book cover. The cover is vitally important. (3) Be disciplined, and be patient. Write consistently so that you are always developing content and keeping your writing skills fresh. At the same time, don’t pressure yourself into finishing such a big project by a self-imposed deadline. (4) After you publish your book, you need to market it. Stay energized!
Please also see my blog post, “Blog Your Way to a Self-Published E-book,” for lots more resourceful info on this topic.
Now that you’ve been in San Antonio for several years, what are your favorite family-friendly things to do and places to go?
My absolute favorite thing to do with my family is go to The Pearl on Saturday mornings. My husband, Grace and I love walking along the river and then listening to the local musicians at the farmers’ market. Grace and I also love having mother-daughter “dates” at coffee shops and bakeries around town. She has a sweet tooth just like me. My current favorite local coffee shop is Aspen’s Brew on Huebner Road. It has a very chill, comfy vibe; bagels, which Grace loves; and of course coffee, which I can’t live without.
What’s next for Maternity Ward?
As the New Year approaches, I’ll be writing more toddler-focused tips. Grace started preschool a few months ago, and every month I dedicate one post to my “Starting Preschool Series.” So readers will continue to hear more about the preschool experience. I’m also really looking forward to getting more involved with our local mom blogging community, and I know my writing will be inspired by these new connections and conversations, too. The future looks bright, busy and collaborative.