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Melissa Keil’s romantic comedy, Life in Outer Space, was the winner of the inaugural Ampersand Project, an initiative for debut young adult writers. It is a been described as a ‘humorous, heartfelt and angst-y romance with the potential to break the gender barrier’. When she is not writing, she can be found immersed in other people’s manuscripts in her day job as a children’s book editor.
I was born and raised in Melbourne.
Too many to count! At various times I have worked as a waitress, community theatre dogs body, high school teacher, tour guide in the Middle East, and IT help-desk person. I have no idea how I stumbled into that last job – apart from ‘have you tried turning it off and on again’, my IT trouble-shooting skills were pretty limited. Now I work as a children’s book editor.
I suppose I have a soft spot for creative, weird outsiders – for the freaks and geeks who don’t always have the easiest time in high school. I love exploring those characters who you just know are going to become phenomenal, interesting, happy adults, but who are struggling through the phase in their lives where their awesomeness is not always appreciated.
Being selected out of 250 manuscripts to be the first book published through the Ampersand Project was a pretty major highlight! Appearing at writers festivals, and meeting young fans is always amazing. Doing a comedy event on stage at the Emerging Writers Festival, and actually getting a laugh was a huge highlight, as I think it’s probably been the most nerve-inducing public speaking gig I’ve ever had!
Life in Outer Space is my first novel, but I have been published in a short story anthology, and have also published a picture book and some junior non-fiction. My day job involves a lot of writing ‘in-house’ books that don’t have my name on them, so I have written everything from baby board books to non-fiction books about space and pirates and sharks.
I’m passionate about giving all kids the widest, fullest opportunities to experience the world and to exercise their imaginations, so gender representation in kids books is a really big concern of mine.
The presentation from Melissa went very well – it was well paced and well structured. The kids enjoyed that it was centred around Life in Outer Space as that is the book they have been reading all term. There were some interesting bits of information and behind the scenes things they all found interesting. I think all our kids got to take something away from it for the future.
The audience responded very well to Melissa’s talk, and the students were keen to ask plenty of questions. Melissa inspired them to read and write. She stayed back for photos and autographs. The students were keen to read her books.