Becoming a Writer
more photos and bio
in For the Press
As a child, Melissa Stewart often accompanied her father and brother on long walks through the fields and forests near their rural New England home. On one of these outings, Melissa’s father asked a simple question that sparked her life-long fascination with the natural world: "Do you notice anything unusual about the trees in this part of the woods?"

At first, Melissa wasn’t sure how to answer the question, but then she noticed that all the trees seemed small. Melissa’s father praised her observation and then explained that 25 years earlier, there had been a fire in the forest. All the trees had burned and many animals had died, but over time, the forest had recovered.

Suddenly, Melissa understood the incredible power of nature. She also realized that a field, a forest, any natural place has stories to tell, and she could discover those stories just by looking. Ever since that day, Melissa has wanted to learn as much as she can about the natural world.

At Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton, MA, science was Melissa's favorite subject. But she also enjoyed her English classes and was the co-editor of the student newspaper.

When Melissa headed off to Union College in Schenectady, NY, she had no trouble choosing a major—biology. But she continued to take literature and writing classes, and she contributed many articles to the campus newspaper.

Melissa never considered writing professionally until one of her biology professors suggested it. At the time, Melissa was doing a senior research project that involved sequencing fruit fly DNA. Professor Karen Williams showed Melissa a related article in Discover magazine and told her she could have written the piece. Melissa knew Professor Williams was right, and suddenly, her future path stretched out before her.

A few days later, Melissa applied to New York University’s prestigious Science and Environmental Reporting Program. Luckily, she was accepted.

After graduating, Melissa worked as an editor for nine years. Finally, she mustered the courage to quit her job and started writing fulltime. Now she gets paid to learn everything she can about the natural world and share it with other people. What could be better than that?

Don't miss Melissa's answers to some Not So Frequently Asked Questions!

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