University of Iowa

Mary Kay Shanley

Mary Kay Shanley has ten books that cross multiple genres, tapping into her skills as storyteller, essayist, historian and journalist. Her memoir, The Women Who Had Me, will be out sometime. The manuscript originally centered on her adoption, but ultimately came to also include stories from those unmarried women who, in decades past, were coerced into giving up their babies for adoption. An Iowa Author of the Year, Shanley directs writers’ groups, co-sponsors spiritual/reflective writing workshops, and presents in programs through Humanities Iowa. She has taught at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women—a life-changing experience. This is her twentieth year teaching in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She loves being part of the Festival as much as she loves biking and gardening in good weather.

Instructor Events

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

Ideas, stories, characters, and scenes emerge from our memory, from our imagination, from dreams, lived experiences, history, family and friends. Normally, we begin a writing journey by sorting through these myriad sources. But we have another source deep within and often unknown to us—a place where our inner self, our soul, the essence of who we are resides. Possibilities for writing wait there, too, though they’re not always apparent.

Imagine a story about people who lack depth, or characters who lack emotional lives. Imagine these lusterless characters in hollow dialogue, in a setting so generic it fails to rise even to blandness. Imagine a story that blatantly ignores the richness our senses deliver. Insipid work is what we produce when we don’t utilize five basic tools that unleash soul and spirit into our writing.