Colleen Markley’s humor essays have been published in multiple print anthologies and online magazines. She is currently querying a novel about the end of the world where only the women survive (it’s a novel, not an action plan). Colleen is also an accomplished workshop speaker and keynote speaker. The founder of the Get On Board leadership development program, Colleen consults with volunteers and nonprofit boards on best practices, engagement, and strategic planning. She loves bringing her comic wit to everyday situations, and is currently working on a memoir about her experience in using humor as a healing strategy for anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She prefers Shakespeare’s comedies to his tragedies, and is an even bigger fan of Shakespeare’s sister.
Colleen grew up in New Jersey, which she thought was generally terrible luck, since she is not a fan of the cold. She decided to double down on winter and went to Boston University. While it snowed September through May, Colleen began college as an English major, until a professor assigned a fabulous paper which asked her to read Beowulf and describe how she would adapt it for the screen. In an instant, Colleen was hooked on the translation of great books to great adaptations and applied to transfer to BU’s College of Communications to study screenwriting. She wrote two original screenplays before graduating cum laude, and won the Screenwriting Achievement Award, as well as the college’s most prestigious honor – the Blue Chip Award. When Colleen wasn’t writing, she was reading, including the summer she interned in Los Angeles at Jim Henson Pictures. Reading and providing coverage on scripts while sitting next to Muppets was one of her all-time favorite jobs. It sure beat her gig in high school dressing up as Chuck E. Cheese and dancing for kids’ birthday parties.
After college, Colleen moved back to New Jersey to live at home while paying off buckets of student loans. She managed to become debt-free the month before she married her high school sweetheart and moved to Manhattan, so life was good on many fronts. Colleen worked at Thirteen/WNET, the public television affiliate in New York City. Colleen loved the programs, the people, the writing she was paid to do in various forms, and health insurance. She was sad to leave when she started her next big adventure – raising children. Her children are – in addition to being responsible for a ten-year gap in Colleen’s paid work resume – her greatest joy and accomplishment, and also the reason she started doing Reiki and meditation. Teenagers are not for the weak of heart.
While living in the suburbs of New Jersey, Colleen turned to volunteering in her community. When the local library wanted to add space for a proper children’s section, Colleen helped organize a fundraising event through the Newcomer’s Club, of which she later became president. When the school districts in New Jersey were faced with slashed funding, Colleen joined the Chatham Education Foundation board of trustees to help raise private funds for public education. She later became president of CEF and went on to found their annual Trivia Night, a friend-raiser and a fundraiser. When Colleen wanted to enhance her skills and learn more about nonprofit board training, she joined the Junior League of Summit, later becoming president of the JLS, Chair of the Junior Leagues of New Jersey, and president of the Small Leagues Big Impact national affinity group. When Colleen learned that each year hundreds of new nonprofits are created, and that each of those organizations needed access to best practices and thoughtful strategic planning, Colleen founded a nonprofit training program called Get On Board, gathering experts from around the country to share with others who want to make the world a better place.
In the midst of all the do-gooder work, Colleen needed a creative outlet and turned to writing again. She launched a blog in 2013 called YesItReallyHappened.com. Her tagline was “because life is nutty enough without needing to make anything up.” The readership was loyal and the connections people had to her stories made her feel warm and fuzzy. Colleen had a couple posts go viral and loved watching stats climb into the tens of thousands. It was always when Colleen was writing that she felt most passionate.
Once the kids became sassy teenagers, Colleen decided it was time to remind them that she was not only a wife, mom, and volunteer, but also a writer. Colleen announced that she was “going back to work,” bought some fresh office supplies and a new mug for tea, and claimed a room of her own. She wrote some pieces for freelance and whooped and hollered when she got her first check. She drafted a book, a humorous memoir styled after her blogs, and shared it with a friend of a friend who was an actual big shot for a Big Five publisher. The big shot wrote back: “Colleen, your writing is very, very good and you are extremely funny! There isn't a book market for short essays like this, however. I think you should put your focus on a novel. I'm so glad J. put me in touch with your work. Please feel free to stay in touch.”
After Colleen picked herself up off the floor from the compliment from someone “in the industry,” she decided to try writing a novel, which is where Lilith Land was born. Yes, it’s done. Yes, she keeps tinkering with it. And thinking about it. And listens when her characters tell her what needs a little revising and polishing. Colleen’s also working on the prequel/sequel to include some of the side characters who sit around her office, asking for their stories to be written too. Colleen is seeking representation from a literary agent who can help bring her to the next step with the Big Five. Or Four. Whenever the government figures that whole thing out.
Once Colleen figured out how long the whole novel thing was going to take, she realized she wanted some short-term goals too, and started tinkering with short fiction and humor essays. Two of her humor essays were published in 2021 and 2022. Colleen’s award-winning essay “Unflappably Calm, Occasionally Furious, Willing and Able to Hide the Bodies”, was one of the Nickie’s Prize for Humor winners, and was published in the anthology Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter, published by the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. Her essay “Spaghetti-Gate” was published in The Order of Us. Both books shared their royalties with others (The Erma Bombeck Writers Foundation and The Imagination Library). Colleen loves that her nonprofit love and writing success have come together in this space. Colleen is also a monthly contributor for The Dharma Direction, where she riffs on the zodiac.
When she’s not writing, attempting to make the world a better place, or coaching her teens to be decent humans, Colleen enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and seeing a great play on stage.