Off the curb


Melissa Marsted, Children’s Book Author & Founder of Lucky Penny Publications

Melissa M.jpg


Then Story: Working for Arts and Education Non-Profits
Now Story: Children’s Book Author and Founder of Lucky Penny Publication
Curb Moments:  When a combination of a series of devastating circumstances and a need for adventure sparked the need for change

Sometimes curb moments include an equal mixture of devastation and inspiration. When Melissa’s path hit some rough territory, including losing her home in a California wildfire, this competitive athlete put her grit to the test and turned her part-time passions for outdoor excursions and writing nature-inspired children’s stories into an exciting career adventure! 

What do you do? Tell us about it.

“I am the publisher of Lucky Penny Publications and author in the series Wildlife Adventures for Young Readers. My current list of completed books includes: Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons, Casey Cruises California, Tiny’s Grand Adventure, and The Secret Life of Phil. In the works are: The Tale of Five Pikas, Sadie’s Search for Truth and Beauty in the Desert Southwest, Valor and the National Seashore Horses, DeeDee’s Acadia Adventure, and Molly’s Tale of the American Pikas. I am also a board member for Utah Humanities and a member of the Summit County RAP Committee, which provides $1 million in funding to arts organizations each year. When I am not writing or on the road selling my books, I enjoy running and hiking on the trails, rock climbing, and Nordic and downhill skiing.”


What did you do before this?

“I graduated from Harvard with a degree in Classical Greek and Art History. I thought I would either go back to school for a Master’s Degree, teach Greek and Latin and coach at a private school, or work for an art museum. I moved to New York City and none of those happened! I found out about fundraising and grant-writing and started a career in New York City that went until my last job in Santa Barbara, working for Novim as part of the UCSB Department of Physics. I spent most of my career in Santa Barbara working for arts and education-oriented non-profits. I also did freelance writing for Noozhawk, Food and Home Magazine, and a number of other magazines. I still LOVE to write freelance articles about my outdoor adventures that can be found at,, and


Why did you make the shift to something different and what would you say was your “curb moment (s)?”

“My older son received a hot air balloon Lego for his eighth birthday. I looked up the origins and found out that the first hot air balloon was launched over the gardens of Versailles in 1783 with a duck, a rooster, and a sheep in it, so I wrote my first children’s book, The King’s Balloon! The following year I was craving an adventure and googled Machu Picchu and “marathon” came up with a company based in Santa Monica that offers a marathon along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I signed up to go and that’s where my passion for, what I call, unique outdoor adventures started! On the plane ride home, I drafted two children’s book manuscripts: Pablito and the Speckled Bear and The Little Hummingbird (yet to be published). 


After losing my home in the 2008 Tea Fire, a Santa Barbara running friend said to me, “if you could do anything to start your life over, what would you do?” … I knew immediately what the answer was. I had already been working with an artist who actually lost his house on Mountain Drive on the night of the fire and I had six of his illustrations for my book on a CD I took with me that night. The book came out a year later. I later started Lucky Penny Press and Silver Dollar Press as eBook companies and have trademarks for both of those. ‘


What challenges have you had in making the shift?

‘Melissa faced a series of devastating circumstances, including illness of close relatives and friends, the stress of accounting for relatives during the 9/11 tragedy, and raising two young children in the midst of a divorce. 

While pushing forward with Lucky Penny, I spent the next two years collecting the money from the fire insurance claim, moved eight times, and flew to the East Coast on multiple occasions for my mother’s illness and near-death experiences. Soon after, I was in the midst of my divorce, had my younger son full-time and was "forced” to do: an emotional evaluation, vocational evaluation, and a child custody evaluation. I was feeling overwhelmed with my mother’s cancer, 9/11, and little kids… I needed to change things up; I needed an adventure.”


What has helped you overcome these challenges?

“As a competitive runner, I had an innate determination and perseverance in my life. I was a long-distance runner, I had always gone the distance…completely driven, and self-motivated. Also through trusting my intuition, my boys, believing in my life purpose!”

Melissa mentioned a lack of support from some family members and other naysayers but credits her perseverance to learning about the concept of “Transitional character,” or one’s ability to change habits passed on through family patterns, and reading inspiring books by entrepreneurs and leaders.  

“So many books have impacted me but I have really liked: The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life by Lynne Twist, The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein, Becoming by Michelle Obama,  and The Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.”

Melissa runner

What advice do you have for others “at the curb” who want to make a career change or start something new?

“My whole thing is trust your intuition. That’s where I am. I just know this is what I was meant to do. If you know what your life purpose is, trust your intuition.”

Check out Lucky Penny Press Publications at and stay updated with Melissa @luckypennypresspublications on Instagram! 

 By Off the Curb Features Writer Catalina Fernandez  

ProfilesLynne Cage