As one of the most beloved contestants in American Idol’s history, Melinda Doolittle, the singer, needs no introduction. But how about Melinda Doolittle, the author? Her debut, Beyond Me, hits shelves with a powerful message and built-in audience that should make this new endeavor a success. “I grew up in a single parent home, just me and my mommy,” explains Doolittle about her source material. “She taught me so many life lessons, teaching me how to be a positive thinker and how to see the best in every situation. All of those things were things I’ve used not only during Idol but before and after Idol and just in all of life. It’s just cool to be able to put all of these things on paper. With Doolittle’s talent and humility unfolding before millions each week, it’s no surprise the Tennessee resident was approached about telling her story. The chance to share words of wisdom and lessons learned was too much for Doolittle to pass up. “When we were writing Beyond Me, it was not only about giving an inside glimpse while I was on American Idol,” says Doolittle, “but it was also talking about my experiences before Idol and how they shaped who I am and how I learned to overcome obstacles. It’s about how I just learned to be who I am and not be afraid of being that person. So it was one of those things where it was almost therapeutic to put down on paper what I’ve learned and what I’ve been through in life.” Not everything found in Beyond Me came easily for Doolittle, however. As she reflected on her life experiences, she says that painful areas of her past came back once again. Yet healing was found in her ability to work through them. “It was difficult to talk about the fear that I experienced growing up,” she says. “I have always kind of been scared to step out and do what I’m supposed to do or what I feel like I’m supposed to do. So to really sit down and talk about how fear can be paralyzing and how stepping out really makes a difference, it made me think about those places where I could have stepped out a lot earlier that I didn’t take the time to do or didn’t go after with all of my heart. I’m glad to be at a point where I’m getting past that, but it’s definitely hard to think about those situations that I could have been a lot further along if I hadn’t let fear paralyze me.” Doolittle already holds a strong audience—a great example of which is Melinda’s Backups, her popular fan club—so she’s already developed a message to give to fans wherever she finds the time. “Anybody that I get a chance to talk to, whether at a school or wherever, I always tell people to dream big. I want to make sure they’re not scared to dream and that they believe anything is possible.” That message doesn’t change on Beyond Me, it just goes deeper than she’s ever gone before. — Matt Conner For more information, check out www. Matt Conner is a music writer for the Indianapolis Star, HM, Relevant and Metromix and the founding editor of 54 CCM