Author Spotlight: Melissa Coffey
Oct. 28, 2022
We are pleased to feature author Melissa Coffey and her debut picture book, FRIDGE-OPOLIS, illustrated by Josh Cleland (Little Bee Books 2022), out now. Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’ve pretty much always loved words. I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived in California, Georgia and now Texas. I was the kid with my nose in a book and a Trapper Keeper full of poetry and stories. I have a deep respect for Mother Earth and still have an assignment from second/third grade where I wrote about pollution and conservation.
My first job in high school was as a page at the public library, where I loved being surrounded by books and the endless drawers of the card catalogue. I’ve been a professional writer for 20+ years and started my own freelance writing business, Coffey Creative. Then when I had my two sons, I rediscovered my love of picture books from reading mountains of them at bedtime.
Congrats on your picture book, Fridge-Opolis! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you so much! Fridge-Opolis is a playful introduction to the topics of food waste, recycling and composting. It’s chocked full of wordplay, rhyme and anthropomorphic food characters like Mayor Mayonnaise and Doctor Baking Soda who are trying to save the polluted, overcrowded city from rancid ruin.
One of my least favorite chores is cleaning out the fridge. Who hasn’t found some leftovers lurking in the back or forgotten produce that has turned mushy in the crispers? I’ve always been environmentally conscious, but when I learned the staggering statistic that we throw away roughly 40 percent of all food in the US, and that food is the number one thing dumped in landfills, I knew I had a really important, timely--yet overlooked--topic I wanted to share with kids, but in a humorous, empowering way.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
It’s been a five-year journey. I dove headfirst into the wonderful world of kid lit in 2017 when I joined SCBWI, found my critique group and devoted myself to learning the craft---which was completely different from what I’d been writing before. I teamed up with my lovely agent, Charlotte Wenger, in 2019. Charlotte submitted Fridge-Opolis right before Thanksgiving 2020 to my delightful (then) editor, Courtney Fahy, at Little Bee Books. Five weeks later, right before Christmas, we had an offer in hand. It was truly the most unexpected, incredible holiday present I could have received.
What are some of your favorite classic picture books? recent ones?
Such a hard question! One of my favorites was Tell Me a Mitzi, by Lore Segal, illustrated by Harriet Pincus, because my childhood nickname was Mitzi, and I remember my mother reading this to me all the time. It’s quintessential 1970s. And the entire iconic series of This Is . . .by M. Sasek.
For recent ones, I adore my critique partners’ books and the 2022 debuts of my fellow KidLitCaravan @KidLitCaravan (@kidlitcaravan) / Twitter authors.
What projects are you working on now?
I have several picture book manuscripts currently out on submission and multiple works-in-progress. I also am enjoying working on a graphic novel script featuring a hilarious main character my youngest son invented. He loves to doodle and draw and has illustrative talent, so it’s been really fun to collaborate and hear his ideas for this project.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Find your critique people. I love my critique partners, and we all bring different strengths to the table. These amazing authors are some of my closest friends now and have both inspired and sustained me on my own creative journey.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I actually had the honor of spending an afternoon with Dr. Carla Hayden in Washington DC. When my oldest son was seven, he wrote a letter (in green sharpie no less) to her protesting the minimum age to get a reader’s card (16) at the Library of Congress. She invited our family to visit her and made him Librarian for the Day. Dr. Hayden and her team are bonafide rock stars, and we were treated like royalty. It was a magical, memorable day!
Where can people find you online?
Website: https://melissacoffey.com Melissa Coffey, Children's Book Author
Melissa Coffey is the author of FRIDGE-OPOLIS, her debut picture book published by Little Bee Books and illustrated by Josh Cleland. She grew up in Wisconsin toting around an overstuffed book bag and a dog-eared spiral notebook of poetry and stories. Unsurprisingly, her first job was at the public library. After earning a journalism degree from UW-Madison, she moved to Atlanta and called CNN Center home. Melissa was a freelance writer for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs and magazines before pursuing her passion as a children’s author. She now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two sons—who thankfully inherited her book-loving genes. She is a member of SCBWI and represented by Charlotte Wenger at Prospect Agency.
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