Melissa Walker’s Favorite Waterfront Books—and a Writing Challenge!

Melissa Walker’s new novel, Unbreak My Heart, is out this week! We asked Melissa to share a few words on writing and water . . . and a writing challenge!

My new novel, Unbreak My Heart, is set aboard a family sailboat called The Possibility. As 16-year-old Clem floats away with her parents and little sister, she’s incredibly sad, thinking about the year the broke her heart. Little does she know that she’s embarking on the summer that just may heal it.

I am a total sucker for waterfront situations—lake houses, beach cottages, sailboats. Setting a story near a body of water can add so much atmosphere and emotion. An angry sea creates tension, a calm pond might evoke nostalgia or peace, a rushing river could symbolize change or the passage of time. Water, man. So meaningful.

Here are five books I’ve loved that are set at land’s edge, and each uses water in a very different way:

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

Jane and her family, still dealing with the death of her mother years earlier, inherit her grandfather’s house in Coney Island. There, Jane discovers a world full of singing mermaids, mysterious misfits and beautiful tattooed boys. Altebrando’s writing is laced with magic, making the entire story like a lovely dream that you hope won’t end–and the ocean roars in the background for the entire novel.

Surface Tension by Brent Runyon

In this story told in four summers, Luke goes from 13-16 years old, and we follow him on a two-week vacation at a family lake cottage every year. Luke’s voice is sympathetic and smart, and the nuances of each summer–from earnest to cynical and back again–are alternately hilarious and heartbreaking.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

This one isn’t vacation-water, it’s creepy-water. It’s a tale of an underwater town, a girl who drowned and a pair of sisters with a steadfast bond. Gorgeous writing blurs the line between realistic fiction and something more otherworldly, and the story manages to be both heart-stirring and suspenseful while the water provides a whole separate world to be discovered.

The Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han

Technically, these are three books, but once you read one, you’ll read them all. They’re set mostly in a beach town where the lazy days of summer find Belly falling in love with two brothers who’ve been family friends forever. There are so many swoony moments in these books that I stopped counting, and the ocean backdrop adds to the romance.

We Were Here by Matt de la Peña

This one’s not set entirely on the water, but the scenes on the shore, especially, will make your heart ache. When Miguel is sentenced to spend a year in a group home, he’s angry, guarded and alone. Despite his surliness, you will love him instantly. He meets two unlikely friends — Mong and Rondell — who are both also trying to overcome intense personal tragedies. You’ll love them too. The voices are sharp, and the plot is riveting and full of unexpected turns that feel honest.

Feeling nautical? Write a story of 150 words or fewer set by the water and tag your story WalkerFlash. The Figment team will choose four winners to be featured along with Unbreak My Heart on the Figment homepage. You have until 4 p.m. ET on June 1 to tag your writing.  Read the full guidelines, and get writing!

Contest Entries

  • Snow
    • 1
    • 1

    His Lullaby

    A young man has a nostalgic moment during the end of his life.

    View Entry »
  • Calloftheseacover
    • 19
    • 1

    Call of the Sea

    Will you answer the call of the sea? (This was my entry for the WalkerFlash contest. Unfortunately, it wasn't selected. But thank y…

    View Entry »
  • 4078220582_4d94dd9f4c_ommmmmmmmmmmmmm
    • 2
    • 2

    Widow's Peak

    Waiting for him to come home to me. I'll be waiting, waiting, waiting...

    View Entry »
  • Perfect
    • 2
    • 0


    the reflections of a girl on a hot summer's day (a short written for the Melissa Walker contest)

    View Entry »
  • Cover-normal
    • 0
    • 0


    A girl enjoys a wonderfulday at the beach.

    View Entry »
  • 28743050
    • 2
    • 0

    Swallowed By The Sea

    Oh, to be swallowed by the thrashing sea would be a life ideal for a girl like me--in truth, a girl like Annabel Lee.

    View Entry »
  • Crashing-waves-rocks-water
    • 0
    • 0

    The Seas Call

    The waves of loss can encompass us all.

    View Entry »
  • 546160_208440359276742_100003323381744_347890_2047113831_n_large (1)
    • 3
    • 0

    What Could Have Been

    The sun and the seas reflect her emotions. Her future uncertain.

    View Entry »
  • Screen shot 2012-05-26 at 10.31.27 am
    • 54
    • 15

    Water's Grave

    "His watery grave was clearly marked, a pool of darkness against the grey ripples" i am thinking of continuing this and making it a…

    View Entry »
  • Bbbbbeach
    • 7
    • 0

    The Day I Met You

    For the Walker Flash Contest! Heart! About the chance encounter of strangers on the beach.

    View Entry »
  • Footsteps on the shore picture
    • 5
    • 0


    How do you feel when you're making new memories? Or when you're taking a trip through the past and reliving the ones you already have?

    View Entry »
  • Tumblr_lxndpst9nx1qfb46yo1_500_large
    • 0
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    Some dreams come, and go, and come again. Just like a childhood dream. Just like a crashing wave. But waves are always pulled back …

    View Entry »
Show all entries »

20 thoughts on “Melissa Walker’s Favorite Waterfront Books—and a Writing Challenge!

  1. I actually take back my original writing! Love At the Beach was too long, so I untagged it, and replaced it with Soi Beautiful. Please do not diqualify me, and fixing the slight mishap would be very appriciated!
    Thank you so much,

  2. WALKERFLASH: The Birth of the Myth

    The villagers said Nan was half-fish, on account of how much time she spent at the lakeshore. Nan was proud of this, until she overheard the shop assistant speaking to the innkeeper’s wife.
    “Tain’t natural, that’s all I’m sayin’. Most knowin’ folks are afeared of the water. Don’t know what’s in them depths, do ye?”
    Nan had never feared the blue and green out towards the middle. In fact, she longed for it, wanted to see how far down the colors went. She didn’t try, however; once her Mater had caught her up to her white frillies in water. She dragged Nan out so abruptly that Nan got a chestful of the wet cold pain, and had to stay inside until she coughed all of it up again.
    These days, she didn’t visit. She snuck into bramble-boughs with older boys, and pretended the scoldings drowned out the sound of waves.

  3. I’m having trouble with my writing. I created it and tagged it but it still hasn’t appeared with the other entries. This is my first contest I’ve entered. So am I doing something wrong? Or did I forget to do something?

  4. I entered the contest and tagged it Walkerflash and everything, but I checked all 15 pages of entries, it’s not there. I even just searched the name of my book for the whole website, and it didn’t come up. any ideas what’s wrong with it? It’s called

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