Lit Chat: Meet Melissa Wray

Posted on Tue, Feb 16 2016 9:00 am by Molly Fuller


When I first heard that Melissa Wray would be taking over as Marketing Coordinator at the Loft, I thought to myself, “Yes, that is the exact right person for the job.” I’d only met her once (briefly at a Lit Punch event when I was an intern at Coffee House—I have an oddly specific memory of our meeting because we’d talked about how her aunt had set her up on a friend date), but I’ve long been a fan of, and thoroughly impressed with, Hazel & Wren, a website that is the co-brainchild of Melissa (with sister Amanda Wray Ninneman). She’s been on my “to interview” list for quite a while, and now seemed like the perfect time for three reasons:

1. We’re both starting new jobs in the publishing field. I recently left the freelance world to become the Outreach and Development Manager at the University of Minnesota Press. Moving forward in your career is amazing and exciting, but hard, and it’s great to talk with someone in step with your walk of life.

2. As I begin my foray into the university world, Melissa is leaving it, having worked at Northrop at the U of MN in various roles—most recently as the Assistant to the Director, and previously in marketing—since she was a student.

3. Melissa is awesome, which I suppose is not timing specific but still a very worthy reason to grab a coffee and chat.

Like many of us, Melissa’s love of books started at an early age by way of avoiding chores. She began writing poetry as a kid (a hobby that, like reading, she’s continued into her adult life) and making accordion books for her family, which, in fact, she’s carried into her adult life too, as one of her first experiences working in the literary world was as an apprentice at Red Dragonfly Press, a small nonprofit letterpress publisher of poetry. Sometimes the correlation between our childhood and adult life illustrates an uncanny, almost too perfect, trajectory.

Melissa’s trajectory naturally lead her to an English degree, which naturally didn’t lead to any one career path after graduation. Lucky for us because it lead to Hazel & Wren, an inclusive online resource and community for all walks of literary life that has expanded beyond the webpage to become a creator and host-er of literary events with partner organizations including the likes of Weisman Art Museum and the Loft. Events include their flagship event Words at WAM, a fast-paced literary open mic—and they take time seriously: if you go over your time you will bombarded with a storm of trashy romance novels, a method the academy should consider for shortening acceptance speeches—and more recently, Lonely Arts, an evening of speed-dating to find your critique soulmate, in partnership with the Loft (next one happening on Mar 3!).

The online and IRL offerings of Hazel and Wren are too numerous to name but oh so worthy of knowing, so visit the website and follow on twitter @hazelandwren. And join me in welcoming Melissa Wray to the Loft!

Molly Fuller is the former production editor of Coffee House Press as well as a freelance writer and editor, and is currently the outreach and development manager at the University of Minnesota Press. When not working, she can usually be found with her nose in book or crossword puzzle, or wrangling a wild animal someone misleadingly told her was a dog. You can follow Molly on Twitter @tamalebruce.