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Shanley, Mary Kay

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Comments from the author about writing:
I was told by my sixth grade teacher that I was a good writer --- a surprising-to-me piece of information that defined the rest of my life. I write because it is my talent, my gift and, at least in part, my purpose.

I’ve only had two career goals: One was to get a degree [Creighton University in Omaha, NE]; the other was to work for a newspaper. The Des Moines Register and Tribune was a raucous place back in the ‘60s. People rode bikes in the newsroom. They drank lunch out of brown paper bags, smoked religiously and had parties after the first edition of the next day’s Register went to press. Never mind that it was midnight.

I declared I would spend the rest of my life there. Then, I met this guy, got married, and four years after my career was launched, I left the newsroom to have a baby. For several years, my only goal was to get a good night’s sleep.

While there was still a lot of little-kid activity at our house, I moved into free-lance writing. Then, in 1991, my friend Karen died of cancer. From that loss emerged my first book, She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes, a story about women’s friendships.

After Artichokes came out, I packed up and went on tour. Every time I walked in a bookstore, the manager asked, "What’s your next book?" To which I replied, "What next book? I just got done with this one."

Four more books followed: Little Lessons for Teachers (paperback); The Memory Box; Rhythm of the Seasons - A Journey beyond Loss (with Marilyn Adams, founder of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, a national organization); and When I Think about My Father (editor). Cumulative sales are 200,000. Both the Father and the Artichoke books were considered for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

There is a BIG difference between being considered for Oprah and being on Oprah.

A joy for me was writing Our State Fair - Iowa's Blue Ribbon Story, which chronicles the first 150 years of a great state fair. From a writerly perspective, this project was challenging. No comprehensive history book had been written, so some stories left on my cutting-room floor may be lost forever. And stories in the bold and beautiful coffee table book may eventually hold more sway than they deserve.

My last three books were co-authored with Julia Johnston, another Iowa author. They are: Survival Secrets of College Students and For Parents Only: Tips for Surviving the Journey from Homeroom to Dorm Room and and 201 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Getting into College.

My favorite book, it seems, is the one I am working on at the time. Right now, that would be a memoir.

Literary awards received and date received:

  • The Memory Box, illustrated by Paul Micich of Norwalk, received the recipient of the Mid-America Publishers Association Award.
  • The Underground Railroad in Iowa [The Iowan magazine issue January/February 2005]received an award from the Regional magazine association in 2006.

Book Types: Nonfiction, Short Story Collection

Audience Types: Adult

Genres: Memoir Memoir other

Are you willing to do programs for schools, libraries, or other groups? Yes

If you are willing to do programs, will you charge a fee? Yes

Author Web site URL: marykayshanley.com

E-mail Address: mks@marykayshanley.com

County: Polk

Books By This Author

  • She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes, Sta-Kris, Inc., Grantsburg, WI, 1993
  • The Memory Box, Sta-Kris, Inc., Grantsburg, WI, 1996
  • Rhythm of the Seasons -- A Journey Beyond Loss, Sta-Kris, Inc., Grantsburg, WI, 1997
  • When I Think about My Father -- A Collection of Essays, Sta-Kris, Inc., Grantsburg, WI, 1996
  • For Parents Only: Tips for Surviving the Journey from Homeroom to Dorm Room, Barron's Educational Division, Hauppauge, NY, 2000
  • Our State Fair --- Iowa's Blue Ribbon Story, The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, Des Moines, IA, 2000
  • Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Getting into College, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 2005
  • Survival Secrets of College Students, Barron's Educational Division, Hauppauge, NY, 2007

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