Ms. Salley graduated from Louisiana State University. After 30 years at the University of New Orleans she retired as Distinguished Professor of Children's Literature.
She was Visiting Professor at Simmons College in Boston, MA, University of Southern California, University of Denver, George Peabody College in Nashville, TN, and Louisiana State University. Organizations that have received her presentations include the American Library Association, International Reading Association and American Booksellers Association. She was the winner of several awards for distinguished professional accomplishments, notably the Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher of the Year in 1972, the Distinguished Faculty Award, L.S.U. Alumni Association in 1983, and the Essae M. Culver Society Award, Louisiana Libray Association in 1989. She authored many articles and you can read some of those contributing articles here. Ms. Salley conducted storytelling presentations at hundreds of schools and libraries around the country. For over 10 years, she was a regular at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival performing in the Children's Tent.
Ms. Salley toured the world, spreading her joie de vivre as an envoy of reading and the oral tradition. She made presentations in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Egypt, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and most of the United States.
Her broadcast appearances included a Visa commercial in which she starred as the Cajun storyteller and was broadcast nationally during 1991. She entertained the animation departments at Disney Studios and P.I.X.A.R Films.
Some commercially available audiocassettes and CD's
that Ms. Salley made are The Cajun Night
Before Christmas, The Cajun Night
After Christmas (Pelican), The Tub People
(HarperCollins), and Cocodrile Cajun Classics
(More Than a Card Press).
Between 2001 and 2008, Ms. Salley wrote 5 children's books, "Epossumondas",
and "Why Epossumondas
Has No Hair On His Tail?", and "Epossumondas Saves The Day", "Epossumondas Plays Possum" all illustrated by Janet Stevens
(Harcourt Inc.) as well as "Who's
That Tripping Over My Bridge?" illustrated by Amy Dixon (Pelican
Janet Stevens immortalized Ms. Salley in To
Market, To Market (Harcourt Inc.) and she was the inspiration
for Tomie de Paola's Befana in The Legend of
Old Befana. Ten other authors and illustrators have dedicated
picture books to her. Read
In 2004, New Orleans authors, artists, teachers, librarians, booksellers and lovers of children's books launched the Coleen Salley/Bill Morris Literacy Foundation. The development and launch of this foundation underlined the significant impact Ms. Salley made in the children's book world. The foundation was dissolved in 2009 after Coleen's death but during its short existence, it accomplished many things: grants to 12 schools in Louisiana to pay for an author visit, restocking of libraries that lost books after Hurricane Katrina and an in-service workshop for the 17 Head Start schools located in New Orleans.
The legacy of Coleen continues with the establishment in 2010 of the Coleen Salley Endowment Fund managed by the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation. A children's book author is the recipient of an award from the Endowment Fund and is hosted at the annual Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival to conduct a lively storytelling session of their latest book.
Ms. Salley lived in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana where she entertained countless friends and relatives. Since 1974, Ms. Salley had been a Mardi Gras attraction, reigning as Queen over her zany Krewe of Coleen's walking parade. Another passion was the Christmas holidays when she lavishly decorated her house in the French Quarter to receive visitors on the French Quarter Patio Tour. Ms. Salley erected no less than 7 Christmas trees decorated with ornaments collected from her many travels around the world!
On September 26, 2008, Coleen's family and friends gathered in New Orleans to pay tribute to her with a traditional Jazz Funeral. Over 450 people wound through the French Quarter following the Pin Stripe Jazz Band and the funeral procession in which Coleen's cremated remains were placed inside her Krewe of Coleen grocery cart, decorated with roses and Mardi Gras memorabilia.
Per her wishes, her remains have been placed with her husband in Richmond, Virginia and next to her parents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On her headstone in Baton Rouge, it reads "She loved books and children".