Mary was born in Alma, Michigan, graduated from high school in Alma, Michigan, got married in Alma, went to college at Alma College, lives in Alma…one would believe her to be boring beyond belief. (She hopes desperately that this is not true…) In this Bearded Scribe group, she contentedly plays the part of the oddball old lady grandma outsider.
So her long life in a nutshell, with the reading and writing highlights:
She wrote her first book of poetry when she was four. Her mom saved it; they’re very bad and all follow the “roses are red/violets are blue” pattern. After reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in fifth grade, she wrote the first chapter of her only novel (no title—yet) where four siblings find they can go through the bottom of their pool to another land where they meet a merman named Muntus (ring a bell?). She read ravenously till she was 18. Then, well, she got married, moved to Hawaii (her husband was a Marine) and promptly started pushing out kids—five to be exact—in the next eight years. Needless to say, she did little else for quite a while but be a mom, and her reading consisted of the beloved Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears, Winnie thePooh... You get the picture.
After four years in Hawaii and four more in North Carolina, they moved back to Alma. But the high school romance didn’t last, and Mary found herself single and raising five kids on her own. Thanks to some good high school grades and a decent enough ACT score, she got enough scholarship money and decided (translate: was pressured by her mother) to go back to school and enrolled at Alma College. (If you’re thinking, hmm, that was brave, you ain’t kidding. No computer skills and fifteen years older than everyone there except the profs.) But that’s where Mary met Joshua Mercier, our beloved Bearded Scribe, and fellow scribe, Sara Cleveland, in Sociology 101 when they sat next to her and “shortly fell in love” with her (his words, not mine ). More courses (with Cathy Swender!) and poetry and a mutual love of writing created a forever friendship. Mary feels honored to consider Joshua a friend.
(Side note for poets who will appreciate this: The year before Lucille Clifton died, she visited Alma College, and I had the privilege of driving her to Detroit Metro Airport. It was the most amazing 3-hour drive of my life. And now you’re all jealous, aren’t you? Heehee!).
Alma College was a genuine life-changer for Mary. She met amazing people, was inspired by writers like Bob Vivian and Bill Palmer (and many more), and ended up becoming a writer. She got a degree in English and also got her teaching certification, but she couldn’t find a job without uprooting all of her kids. So she went to Central Michigan University to get her Masters in composition, then headed to Michigan State University for her Doctorate. During this time, Mary taught at Alma College as a “visiting professor” (their label for temporaries) while she finished her PhD. She became Dr. Mary Wendt in 2011, with a degree in Rhetoric and Writing, specializing in business, technical, and digital rhetoric. It still gives her the jollies when people call her “Doctor.”
While all this education was going on, Mary wrote poetry and fiction but never with much success. Then she tried creative nonfiction—and found her niche. She's had several essays published, and both her undergraduate and master’s theses were collections of CNF pieces. Unfortunately, doctoral work drained her of time (remember she was still teaching full time and raising all those kids), so the creative work went on hiatus for a while.
Now Mary teaches at CMU. She’s done with formal education (although this summer she’s learning Spanish). All have left the nest, and Mary is a grandma (and LOVES it; makes being old okay). She has time, once again, to write and is currently working on a memoir, two academic articles for publication, and an alternative rhetoric piece—that may keep going on and on until it’s a book. Who knows? Finally, again, she reads for the love of it. Her bucket list only has two items left on it: ride in a hot air balloon and write a best-seller. Favorite music: Nightwish. Favorite author: David Sedaris. Favorite movie about reading/writing/teaching: Dead Poets Society.