For as long as she can remember Melissa (also known as Missy), has always loved hearing other people’s stories. Just as much, she loves telling her own.
As a little girl, she was known to befriend strangers. Whether it was on the beach in Ocean City, NJ, on the playground, or in the suburban Philadelphia neighborhood where she grew up, her parents were never surprised when she trailed off, arm-in-arm with a new companion, or brought a strange face home.
As a teenager, Melissa demonstrated a keen business sense by founding her own hair-cutting company. While her mom made dinner, a line of people would sit in the living room, waiting their turn. She’d cut and style in the family room, the floor covered in hair, until it was time for homework. There is some question, to this day, if she actually knew how to cut hair.
Perhaps Melissa’s mother, Catherine, a writer and an English teacher for 30 years, has something to do with Melissa’s love of language and storytelling. Catherine often quoted Shakespeare and e.e. cummings at the dinner table. There was a mountain of books in every room.
Melissa’s childhood was filled with good writing material. Whether she was left with other befuddled children in a new-agey center whose respective parents, along with hers, were attending a Transcendental Meditation session or she was dating a friend of Big Bird while working at Sesame Place in high school, life was never dull.
After college, Melissa quenched her adventurous spirit with as much travel as she could afford. And she still does. Any excuse to fly to Chile, Japan, Alaska, Greece—Melissa’s done it. She feels a special kinship with Hawaii. In cold Philadelphia winters, she’s been known to FedEx herself a fresh tuberose lei and let it hang around the neck of the Buddha statue in her office, where it magically transports her to the 808.
Having earned a degree in business from Villanova University and a Master’s in English Education from Temple University, she started her career in advertising. Later, as a high school English teacher, Melissa taught at-risk youth in Camden how to leverage the power of words and instilled in them a love of literature. She went on to become a communications director at Temple University, where her favorite part of the day was, of course, hearing other people’s stories—in particular, those of the students. Knowing that her work positively affected them validated she was where she was supposed to be. After her children were born, she decided it was time to combine her passions for telling stories and the non-profit sector by starting her own marketing communications agency.
When she first sat down with now business partner Nancy McDonald, the creative director of their company, there was no question—Leapfrog Group was the perfect solution that both of them had been seeking to efficiently, effectively, and compellingly touch the hearts and minds of the people that those nonprofits served. Twelve years later, Leapfrog Group has offices in Philadelphia, Princeton, and Washington D.C., where they combine strategy and creative to brand and market schools, hospitals and arts and culture organizations.
Melissa is the mother of two kind, intelligent, and handsome teenage boys, Drew and Luke, who grew up in a rowhouse on a small Philadelphia street, much like the one depicted in her first novel, Pretty Little World.
Melissa’s first novel, co-authored with neighbor and friend Elizabeth LaBan, will be released by Lake Union Publishing in January of 2017. She is ecstatic and has already begun working on her second novel with Elizabeth. She is grateful for her co-author, who was once one of those strangers that she would just pick up at the beach, on the playground, or in the neighborhood. In fact, it was in the neighborhood. Once just neighbors, Elizabeth and Melissa now consider each other family.