Mary Claire Helldorfer
Like many writers, I’ve earned a living doing various jobs. My happiest work has been teaching college and high school. But teaching is an all-consuming passion, just like writing; and often I have felt as if I couldn’t do both well, so I’ve tried other things. Have you ever wondered how some series authors can publish a pile of books so quickly? People like me ghost write under their names. Ever wonder who’s scripting those passages and sentences on school tests and exercises? Yup, that’s another way of paying bills if you’re good at words. I’ve also worked in the office world. Some jobs I’ve liked more than others, but the nice thing about being a writer is that everything—even the worst job or most embarrassing moment of your life—is material. Are you a writer hoping to meet characters who act in ways you’ve never dreamed of? Try working, as I did, for a temp agency in Manhattan. Not living in your dream home? Great! My three years at a Salvation Army residence in NY was crammed with inspiration. Of course, for nosey people, which all writers are, there’s nothing like listening through the thin walls of a cheap apartment.
Every writer needs good teachers. I’ve had an abundance of them, many of them working as editors, others teaching at the schools I attended. Shout-outs go to the fierce nuns who graced my elementary school, St. Mary’s, to Ms. Walsh who taught me at Mercy High School, and to Philip McCaffrey who gave me so much encouragement at Loyola College, Baltimore. An interesting fact: over a two-year period I sent my portfolio to ten graduate schools in creative writing and was rejected by all of them. I bawled my eyes out, believing it was the end of the world; then I got over it. As a result, an additional shout-out goes to the University of Rochester where I earned my Ph.D. in English, determined to learn from “the dead guys” since I couldn’t worm my way into a seminar with the living ones. Since that time I’ve published 36 books with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Houghton Mifflin, and Macmillan. My books have been translated into 15 languages.