About Me

Mary Kay Shanley is the author of 11 books that cross multiple genres, tapping into her skills as essayist, historian and journalist. Her journey to now began when her sixth grade teacher asked her to stay after school (again). This time the teacher had good news: Mary Kay was the best writer she’d ever had. Heretofore, Mary Kay had been clueless about possessing any academic talents. That day, while walking six blocks home from school, she came to know she would be a writer.


Her parents sighed.


Mary Kay began as a journalist, later applying her fact-based approach to books about transitioning from high school to college for McGraw-Hill and Barron’s. She’s also a storyteller, with She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes (Sta-Kris Inc., 1993), a national best-seller about friendship — and The Memory Box (Sta-Kris Inc., 1995). She’s been honored as Iowa Author of the Year for Our State Fair—Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story (Blue Ribbon Foundation, 2000) — an illustration-rich book chronicling the first 150-years of people stories. Her articles have appeared in regional and national magazines; she also part of an award-winning anthology, Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie (University of Nebraska Press, 2013).


When still a newbie author, she was asked to teach a writing workshop for second graders. Mary Kay assumed the invitation was a mistake, but no. Unable to decline without lying, she gritted her teeth, marched into the classroom, sat down in a little chair and started talking about how to write good stories. Since that humble baptism, she’s taught at two universities, is in a second decade on staff at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival and offers creative writing and reflective writing workshops internationally. Her most rewarding experience is within prison walls, where instructor and students learn from and teach one another.


She and husband Dennis live in West Des Moines, IA, and are the parents of Amy, Jason and Shanley —who have since grown up. She’s writing her 12th book, The Women Who Had Me (working title), a memoir about adoption.

my kids

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