Mary Kay Shanley
Just like you, I was born and, five years later, went to school. In sixth grade, my teacher told me I was the best writer she’d ever had. That afternoon while walking the five blocks home, I decided to be a journalist. The plot thickened in high school when my father declared I’d be majoring in nursing. (“Women don’t get jobs in the newsroom,” he’d remind me—and he was almost, but not quite, correct.) If I’d gone into nursing, there are thousands of people alive in Central Iowa today who would otherwise be dead.
I went to Creighton University ( Omaha) armed with two goals: to seriously study the night before every test, and to end up working for a newspaper. During my final semester, I interviewed an editor at the Des Moines Register and Tribune for my senior project. After he’d answered all my questions, the editor offered me a job, to which I replied, “Huh?” followed by, “Sure!” Three years later, I married and left the newsroom to birth three babies in four years. My only goal then was to get a good night’s sleep.
I moved into free-lancing, knowing I could do the laundry between paragraphs. For 20 years, I freelanced for newspapers and national magazines. Then, after a friend died of cancer in 1991, my first book, She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes, emerged. Though I did not intend to write more books, nine have followed and No. 10 is coming together. Two -- Artichokes and When I Think about My Father (a collection of essays) -- were considered for Oprah Winfrey shows.
There is a big difference between being considered for Oprah and being on Oprah.
I’m the Iowa Author (2012-2013); member of the Society of Midland Authors and Published Authors Liaison of Central Iowa. I teach at the University of Iowa's Summer Writing Festival (16 years); co-conduct writing retreats for women and run two Writers Groups. I've also taught in the J-schools at Iowa State University (Ames) and Drake University (Des Moines) and in the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women prison.