Marilyn Coffey

Author of Great Plains Patchwork

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Short biography
Great Plains writer Marilyn June Coffey has written
three books, 600 poems, and dozens of articles and
stories. A trained journalist (B.A., University of
Nebraska, 1959) and creative writer (M.F.A., Brooklyn College,
1981), she has produced work that includes a popular memoir, a
record-setting novel, and a prize-winning poem.

Her poem, "Pricksong," reviewed in the Los Angeles Times
Book Review and Newsweek, won a national Pushcart Prize.
Coffey’s novel "Marcella" made literary history. It was the first
novel written in English to use female autoeroticism as a main
theme. Gloria Steinem called it "an important part of the truth
telling by and for women." 

In 1989, Coffey’s memoir, Great Plains Patchwork, appeared.
The New York Times called it entertaining and insightful.
Atlantic Monthly featured a chapter as its cover story. Natural
History bought two chapters, American Heritage one. Harper &
Row, McGraw-Hill, Macmillan, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
printed excerpts.

Known as a prose stylist, Coffey received a Master Alumnus
award for distinction in the field of writing from the University
of Nebraska in 1977. Since 1987, the UN-L Archives has collected
forty boxes of Coffey’s papers in its Mari Sandoz room.
In 1991, Coffey investigated the orphan train movement,
developing three programs for the Nebraska Humanities
Council. One became the second most popular of the 232
programs underwritten by NHC and spurred her to write Mail-
Order Kid.

Now retired, Coffey taught writing at Boston University,
Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and Fort Hays State University in
Kansas for thirty-four years, twice earning tenure. She became an
interpretive reader/performer, appearing on local radio stations,
statewide TV, and before more than 130 groups in twelve states,
from Maine to Texas.

Coffey is an Admiral in the Great Navy of Nebraska, the
state’s highest honor. However, the honorary title is given
tongue in cheek, since Admirals in landlocked Nebraska claim
jurisdiction over little but tadpoles. Governor J. James Exon
appointed Coffey, a Nebraska native, an Admiral in 1977 for her
writing achievements.
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