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Press Packet

Press Release

Qualities of Light: Reading Guide

Qualities of Light: Reviews

Your Book Starts Here: Reviews

How to Master Change: Reviews

Curriculum Vitae

For interviews, contact:
mary (at)
(dot) com

Represented by

Sandy Lu,

Senior Agent

L. Perkins Literary Agency,

New York










Frequently Asked Questions

Where did you grow up, go to school?

I grew up in Baltimore, Kentucky, and New York. I went to small Quaker schools and studied writing, art, Russian, and French.  I lived in Paris for a year and took lessons in French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu and Russian lessons at the Sorbonne. I received my M.A. in Russian studies and taught the language for a year at San Diego State University then switched to teaching French cooking! When I married and moved to northern California, I opened a natural-foods cooking school in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had a brief but glorious three years, including a feature by Carol Flinders (of Laurel's Kitchen fame) in USA Today, but the school closed during the early-eighties recession. But it started me writing professionally, because the California Culinary Academy asked me to author two cookbooks that were published in the eighties.

Next stop was Minnesota where I relocated in 1986 to work for a small press as an editor, still writing cookbooks on the side and evolving into health topics, then memoir and self-help.  I began teaching writing classes for the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and publishing widely.  Ten nonfiction books later, I got fascinated with fiction.  In 1990 I began publishing short stories and winning awards for them, then I realized I was in way over my head and needed to go back to school. I returned to college for my MFA in creative writing, graduating from Goddard in 2007. My first novel was published in 2009.

Where do you live now?

I live in southern New Hampshire in a small rural community in the Monadnock mountains, about ninety minutes from Boston.

What came first, writing or painting?

Painting was my first love. I won an art contest at twelve with a drawing of Santa Claus. Art continued as my favorite subject through high school and college. I minored in art and took classes at Boston University's School of Fine Arts, and although my art instructors encouraged me to switch my major to painting, my unreasonable obsession with the Russian language directed my degree course.

Writing never came easily to me. It was forced on me after my year of living in Paris. I was asked to write a column on French cooking for Sedona Life magazine. I discovered I enjoyed working with words so when I was approached collaborate on my first cookbook, and that evolved to more books, I was hooked.

What's your greatest creative influence—what writers do you admire?

I read widely and across all genres, from the poetry of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, the novels of Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom, to short story writers Amy Hempl and Alice Munro. I also love a good thriller or an enthralling nonfiction book on brain science.

What artists?

I admire painters Andrew Wyeth, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and Mary Cassatt, among others, but my greatest and most practical influence as a painter was my teacher, Susan Sarback, founder of the School of Light & Color in California where I studied for many years.

What are some of your favorite books?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
anything by Alice Munro or Jhumpa Lahiri and so many others

Where and when do you write? Do you write on the computer or by hand?

I write best in early morning or late at night, when everything quiets down. I'm very focused so I can lose myself in the process and miss meals--unless my teenager or spouse remind me! 

Favorite places to write? The screened porch of my home, at the library, a corner table at a local coffee shop

When I'm needing ideas, I freewrite by hand in a writer's notebook. The looseness of longhand lets me grab initial scene ideas. Then I transfer them to the computer for revision. Once a book is formed into rough draft, it all takes place on the computer.

I print out my drafts and edit them by hand; too many years as a professional editor taught me how hard it is to catch pacing errors onscreen.

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