Featured Interview With Mary T. Wagner
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Chicago, but have lived in Wisconsin since I was a teenager. You could say I’ve worn a lot of hats over the years–newspaper journalist, magazine writer, stay-home soccer mom, prosecuting attorney, blogger, author, photographer–and usually more than one hat at a time! I switched careers and went to law school when I was forty after surviving a serious horse-back riding accident, and was lucky enough to find a part-time law school program that let me keep up the hands-on mothering my kids were used to. Now they’re all grown up…and so my steady companions are a wolf-sized border collie mix named Lucky and two cats, Smokey and The Meatball. I was just in a tug-of-war in the snow the other day with Lucky over a frozen rabbit carcass he’d found and wanted to eat, so you could say there’s never a dull moment with these guys! In the last few years, despite the distance, I’ve managed to reconnect with my home town as a writer, and love to get down there once in a while to read essays as part of the “live lit” scene.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I literally read my way through childhood! I was not an outgoing little girl, and so I spent a lot of time in my room with my nose in a book–horses, mythology, Nancy Drew mysteries, regency romances. I didn’t think of writing as a talent or a profession until I stumbled into a journalism degree in college, and then I was hooked. Over the years, there’s been a progression to what I write. First it was newspaper style where you just report the facts using very simple sentences. Then the magazine writing allowed me to use more description and a more convoluted sentence structure, and even let a little opinion or perspective come through. When I finally started blogging, I was writing just for myself and not to please an editor or an audience, and it felt quite liberating! It’s a little like opening Pandora’s Box at times–I’m more even sure what’s lurking around in the recesses of my mind until I start writing it down, leaving room for more to burble to the top and get discovered.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
If I had to be shipwrecked on a desert island with ONE BOOK, it would be Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca.” But in the past few years I’ve become enchanted with William Kent Krueger’s series of novels featuring Cork O’Connor, a small-town lawman who straddles the worlds of the white townsfolk and the reservation-dwelling Native Americans to solve crimes in deep-woods Minnesota. The detective element of the stories is always wonderfully plotted, but Cork’s relationships with his family and friends are fully half of the charm…along with the lyrical way he writes about the beauty of the North Woods.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
When the Shoe Fits…Essays of Love, Life and Second Chances is a “best of” collection of my essays from my FIRST three collections…and a few other places. These are all “slice of life” essays, and I think my life runs the gamut of many women’s experiences–motherhood, divorce and post-divorce dating, reinvention, learning to cope with things like power tools and home repairs, changing careers, elderly parents, going back to school in mid-life–and then there’s the lighter stuff like chocolate, high heels, pets, nature and the view from the back of a Harley. I’ve often been told they are inspiring and empowering, and I am always grateful and humbled when someone tells me they felt a real and positive connection with my words.
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