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In an interview, Anderson said that the character of Melinda came to her in a nightmare! At first, she thought the crying dream girl was real and in her house. Speak is also the story of Anderson getting to know Melinda and her secrets ("Laurie Halse Anderson speaks about SPEAK" in Speak: 10th Anniversary Edition).
Fans really, really want a sequel to Speak, and Laurie Halse Anderson is one of those people. But, she says she can't write one until "Melinda is ready" ("Here's the thing…" in Speak: 10th Anniversary Edition).
Laurie Halse Anderson had trouble learning to read as a kid, and she had a speech impediment. We wonder if that influenced her portrayal of Melinda's difficulty communicating in Speak (source).
Melinda takes inspiration from Maya Angelou, even though she's never read her books. If she had only read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she would have learned that after being raped when she was seven years old Maya Angelou spent five years as what she calls "a voluntary mute," like Melinda (source).