Wednesday, September 17, 2008

R.I.P. Coleen Salley

Horn Book publisher Anne Quirk writes:


Coleen Salley died yesterday. Her professional life was spent mostly at the University of New Orleans, where she was a distinguished professor of children’s literature, and that’s the excuse most of us in children’s book publishing used for inviting her out for dinner whenever we were within hailing distance of a bayou. But the real reason was that she was the funniest person ever born. When Colleen began to wrap her smoky southern drawl around a story, we cradled our drinks and prayed that story would never end. In her 70s, she began writing down some of those tales she’d been telling. If you never met Coleen, search for one of the several audio books she recorded over the years, then imagine her sitting across your table. That might give you some sense of the terrible loss so many of her friends are feeling today.

7 comments:

Jennifer Finch said...

She was an amazing woman. I had the pleasure of spending time with her at the Children's Book Festival and wished that as a Children's Specialist, I had a tenth of the Storytelling talent that she was born with. The world lost one of its premier storytellers yesterday.

Jennifer Finch
Ridgeland Public Library
Ridgeland, MS

Chris Barton said...

I met Coleen Salley only once, and only for a few moments, as her editor wheeled her into the ALA Midwinter Show in San Antonio and a mutual acquaintance introduced us.

When those few moments were over, I felt like I'd known her for years.

Jeanette Larson said...

I remember her graciousness. She hosted several parties at her wonderful home in the French Quarter. It was an amazing place where illustrators had decorated the walls and doors with their work. Almost every inch of her home was covered with books and art. Coleen always had a greeting or something to say when we'd meet at conferences. She will be missed greatly.

Whitney said...

I already miss her. Coleen was a great friend, a mentor, an inspiration. Always zany, ever loud, often rude, Coleen embraced herself and welcomed others into her wild world of children's books. I have never met anyone more generous in the field. She introduced me and other younger writers to every editor and author who came to her French Quarter condo. She also entertained my writing students at Tulane University.

She believed that her long-deceased husband would be waiting for her. May they be laughing it up together now.

Whitney Stewart

janeyolen said...

The awfullest thing is that she should have gone out telling a story, with a margarita in hand.

"Well, Dawlin'," as she would say, I am just going to pretend that's what happened. The reality is too horrible to contemplate.

Jane

Ron Windham said...

I know that all of us are deeply saddened by this great loss. I am one who was privileged to have Coleen as a teacher at the University of New Orleans in the late 70's. I can still picture her in my mind reading "Alexander and the terrible, horrible..." We were mesmerized - her storytelling was delightful!

Dudley Carlson said...

What stood out about Coleen Salley - beyond her gravelly voice, her Yoda-like appearance, her absolutely matchless ability to leave us gasping in tears with laughter and spellbound by her stories - was her generosity and her focus on what mattered: getting books to children and children to reading. She used her "celebrity" and her friendships in service to children's reading; she told stories to warm up her audiences in order to foster that goal. She was one in a million, and she'll be greatly missed.