b'A Local AuthorChronicles Middle Grade Melanie Conklin revisits the wonder yearsBY SARA COURTNEYW henSouthOrangeauthoras forks for consumers to use in their homes. Its acluded travel every other week to Chicago from their Melanie Conklin sits down tohome in Brooklyn, a hectic pace that she ultimately write, she does so surroundeddecidedtoabandon.Itkindofreachedapoint by post-it notes, cut-outs, doo- where either I was going to continue to have a nanny dles, project notebooksandand travel extensively and spend a lot of time in Asia, rocks. Yes, thats right. Rocks.she recalls, or Id step back and spend time with my EverywhereIgoIcollectkids while they were little. And I really wanted to do rocks, she says. I find it so fascinating how theresbackground that has well served her writing. I spentthat. With that decision, she and her family moved just so much to endlessly look at on the earth.a lot of time working on kitchen and office prod- toNewJer-A southern transplant from North Carolina whoucts, but basically my job was to understand howsey,after hasmadeherrootsrighthereinSouthOrange,people live and what their needs are in their lives,identifying Conklin is a friendly, earthy writer with an apprecia- she explains. That not only taught me the creativeSouthOr-tion for the world around her and the stories thatprocess, which is invaluable, but also really taughtangeasthe deserve to be told. In her recently-published thirdme to identify needs in consumers, and I think I stillleafysuburb book, A Perfect Mistake, Conklin tells the story ofdo that when Im writing.reminiscent a boy named Max, a tall, self-conscious kid withConklins history of studying what products areofherown ADHD who is navigating the mysteries and hard- available to consumers, and then suggesting wherechildhood ships of middle school, all while suddenly facing upthere are gaps for products to make it to the shelf is ahomein to his role in a troubled situation. A poignant por- process she employs to this day by identifying whichNorth Caro-trayal of that time when one is on the precipice ofstories are undertold and deserve to be read by anlina.leaving their childhood and entering young adult- audience. I tend to be attracted to write in thoseHerwrit-hood, A Perfect Mistake is a special story that readers,areas, says Conklin. I generally think of myself asing first came young and old alike, will cherish. a consumer advocate. And now Im like a humanaboutasa Conklins background, while always creative, didadvocate. Im an advocate for young people now. waytokeep not start out in writing. She studied industrial prod- When her own children, now 13 and 16, were lit- busyduringMelanie Conklin at her book launch party for A Perfect Mistake, at the uct design, creating and designing various items suchtle, Conklin balanced a heavy work schedule that in- her childrensSouth Orange Public Library.18/ matters magazine / school 2022'