For Montclair Local


“All Write Now” reflects the writing life. Melissa D. Sullivan is an attorney by day, writer by night, mother of two and a 2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Melissa’s writing has appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow, Sum Journal and elsewhere. She splits her time between Montclair and Bucks County, PA. You can learn more at and follow her on Twitter @MelDSullivan.

At least once a week, I, like every native New Jerseyan, am forced to make a heroic choice: what should I order at the diner? Spreading before me as thick as a bible, the typical Garden State diner menu offers what seems like endless options on its sturdy laminate pages. Should I get pancakes and bacon? A basic burger? A boatload of coronary-inducing appetizers? The sheer number of choices can be incapacitating.

As a writer with many interests and a full-time day job, I am also faced with a debilitating number of choices: what of the many possible projects should I work on in my few spare evening and weekend hours? Should I work on a new short story for that anthology that just announced a contest? Should I push through to finish that novel that has been languishing for a year?  Or should I just finally do that essay with its deadline looming over my head?

In an effort to solve two problems at once, I’ve come up with a new life hack: I will use my current mood to determine what I should work on and, more importantly, what I should order. As an act of magnanimity, I am sharing my breakthrough with my readers, in the hopes that they too will be able to escape their artistic and ordering conundrums.

If I want to keep to the tried-and-true:

  • Diner order: Two eggs over easy with hash browns, well-done wheat toast and a cup of coffee.
  • Writing Project: A short, pithy article on parenthood and why the docent at the museum suggested I was a brave soul for taking my 4-year-old in to the new exhibit on the Art of Seating: Two Hundred Years of American Design.   






If I want to feel in tune with my fellow Millennials:

  • Diner order: A turkey burger on a brioche bun with avocado, tomato and caramelized onions, a side of sweet potato fries and a Diet Coke.
  • Writing Project: A lyrical essay linking the sounds of the wind through the winter-bare Pocono mountains with my struggles regarding the modern feminine ideal.


If I’m trying to keep to my New Year’s resolutions:

  • Diner order: A Mediterranean quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, Kalamata olives, feta cheese and fresh greens topped with grilled chicken and an iced tea, no sugar.
  • Writing Project: A third revision of my never-ending novel of linked short stories, which has been languishing on my hard drive for over a year.  Because 2019 is the year I finish it, I swear…


If I just want to be viscerally satisfied:

  • Diner order: A hot grilled Cuban sandwich, with thinly sliced pork and ham, julienned pickles, melted Swiss cheese, lavish mustard, a side of onion rings and a regular coke.
  • Writing Project: A short story/space opera where an escaped pleasure-bot revolts against her owners and commandeers a spacecraft to engage in a galaxy-wide quest for revenge and pecuniary piracy.


If I’m feeling defeated by the world:

  • Diner order: A homely bowl of tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich on white and a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.
  • Writing Project: A tweet that takes me 20 minutes to compose, complaining about how creating art in an ungrateful world is eating my soul and asking for commiseration from my fellow writers, and then another two hours to monitor possible social media reactions.  #whywrite #writingcommunity #pleasesomeonerespond


If I’m finally ready to get my stuff together and get things done:

  • Diner order: A generous slice of strawberry cheesecake and an endless cup of coffee.
  • Writing Project: My column for Montclair Local.


*All menu items are available at the Montclair House Grill at 12 Church St, and probably every other diner in New Jersey.