Melissa Spratt: A Poet and She Didn’t Know It
Melissa Spratt never thought of herself as a writer. She was a business major in college; she knew management, marketing strategy, sales.
“I never thought of myself as creative,” she says.
Put all that aside.
Melissa, who lives in Ivoryton, has just published her first book of poetry, My Roots Grow Strong. The book includes 87 of her poems, all with original illustrations by local artist Alina Davis. There will be a launch party on April 28 from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Hive in Chester.
“I am so excited. I’ve planned the whole thing, the food, the drinks,” Melissa says, adding she has even chosen music for the occasion.
“Everything is done with intention.”
Still, she began writing poems about ten years ago, not with any intention of publication. “It was part of mental health and my miscarriage,” she says.
Since childhood, Melissa has battled eating issues and anorexia nervosa. In 2019, she suffered a miscarriage. Since then, she has had a daughter, Violet Lily, now three, who was born at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Melissa describes herself as a first-time pandemic mama, an experience she says was particularly isolating.
Melissa wrote in spurts, but when she wrote, she said the words came easily.
“The whole process just flowed. It made me realize that I was creative,” she says.
She took no writing courses in college, but just after her miscarriage, she did a writing workshop with Christine Woodside, a writer and editor who lives in Chester. The workshop, though not focused on poetry, fostered her desire to continue her writing journey.
“I was unearthing things inside me, and I was fine with the experience,” she says.
The next step came two years ago, when Melissa decided to collect her poems into a book of poetry.
She used 40 poems she had already written and the rest are new compositions. She felt the issues that animated her writing were in no way unique to her.
“I wanted to put my experiences out there,” she says. “I wanted to help others to heal and to inspire people by talking about tough subjects. Everybody goes through some kind of struggle.”
Though the book is targeted at women readers, Melissa points out that struggling with personal challenges is not a single-sex phenomenon and she feels there are messages for both sexes in what she has written.
“The underlying theme of the book about our connection to the human experience. Both men and women, I think, will relate to this,” she says.
Melissa grew up in Northern New Jersey and met her husband John, who spent his childhood in Old Lyme, at business-focused Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
She graduated in 2009 and went back to New Jersey to work for her family’s manufacturing firm. After a long-distance relationship, John relocated to New Jersey but the two, who have been married for nine years, moved back to Connecticut after her family’s business was sold.
“I really think I am a New England girl; I love this community,” Melissa says.
She is on the board of the Essex Community Fund and hopes her poetry and emphasis on issues like body image will lead to partnerships with other local organizations focusing on wellness and creativity.
Professionally, Melissa is still in the business world. She works for Pratt & Whitney as a customer accounts manager dealing with engine shops throughout the world. She works from home as does her husband, but not together. He is in an office in the garage. She is in the house.
Even without the commute she used to do to East Hartford, her day is full. She gets up at 5:45 a.m. and does 20 minutes of yoga or Pilates, makes her daughter’s lunch, and takes her to day care. If her husband does the driving, she steals a few minutes for writing.
“You have to make the time,” she says.
Getting a book published is about more than getting the words down on paper. Melissa had to learn the ins and outs of publishing. She did that work online, finding a business that specialized in self-publishing to guide her through the process. She herself researched the copyright information she needed. Her book, My Roots Grow Strong, can be ordered through her website, melissasprattwrites.com.
Melissa is also putting her business and marketing background to good use. She has merchandise tie-ins with her book, including illustrated note cards with excerpts of her writing, earrings using the female form as an inspiration, and T-shirts for both adults and children with logos like Positive Vibes, inspired by the book. “That’s what I am, positive vibes; I have that mindset every day,” Melissa says.
The T-shirts will be printed by Melissa’s father, Joe Osterling. Her parents have moved from New Jersey to Deep River, and her father has a screen printing and embroidery business, Riverview Stitch & Print.
Her experience as an author has given Melissa an insight that goes beyond her own poetry. “If you enjoy what you are doing, put aside the fear and do it,” she says. “All of us have gifts to share with the world.”
My Roots Grow Strong by Melissa Spratt Book Launch Party
Friday, April 28, 5 to 8 p.m.
The Hive, 1 Maple Street, Chester