Kelly O’Connor McNees
Grad Year: 2002
Other areas of sudy/degree(s):
MA, DePaul University, Chicago
To be honest, I can’t even remember making a decision to major in English. I had loved books and book people for so long that when I registered for my first semester at UM, I didn’t even consider taking another path. I trusted my gut in that way you do when you’re eighteen, an ability that seems to seep away as you get older. I loved my four years as an English major, loved writing papers and reading poetry and listening to dynamic and passionate professors lecture on their work. I could have stayed forever!
I wanted to be a writer, of course, but that avocation seemed to float off to the side somewhere, unreachable. So, in an attempt to stay close to books, I spent a summer as an intern for a small press in Minneapolis, then moved to New York after graduation and found a job as an editorial assistant for a large publisher. I learned a great deal about the business of books, but after a year I realized the corporate world was not for me. I bounced back to Ann Arbor as an editorial assistant at the university press, then enrolled in graduate school at DePaul University in Chicago. Two years later, armed with my master’s degree in education, I moved to Rhode Island with my soon-to-be husband and taught seventh grade. After a couple years we moved again, this time to Ontario so he could take a position at a research institute. My certificate was not recognized in the Canadian school system, so I worked as a nanny and took on freelance editorial work from my former employers. I was trying to make space in my life for writing, because I had an idea for a novel about Louisa May Alcott.
Remember that thing I said about trusting your gut? It gets harder. Life gets noisier. All I’d ever wanted to do was be a writer, but I let myself get discouraged, sidetracked, and afraid of failure. I don’t regret my detours. I think I had to take them to get to the place where I could understand that I would regret not writing more than I would regret failing at it.
Majoring in English prepared me to do editorial work, go to graduate school, teach middle school English, and write novels. And it has probably prepared me for a host of other things that I may do in the future. Most importantly, the study of language and literature taught me (and continues to teach me) how to think about myself and about the world, and how to make sense of all the stops on the long road.
Kelly recently published her first novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.
You can read more about Kelly on her website: http://kellyoconnormcnees.com/
Kelly O’Connor McNees
Faith Adler Brown, Erin Crowley, Dory Gannes, Aric Knuth, Lawrence Landman, Katherine MacNair, Howard Markel, MD, PhD, Sarah Marwil Lamstein, Kelly O’Connor McNees, Amanda Richardson, Michael Richman, Melissa Shook, Rebecca Soares, Kurt Taroff, Lisa Vandenbossche, Lee Woldenberg, Anne Wyman, Neil Rao, Vanessa Febo, Ethan Goodman, Silvia Chung, Jennifer Conlin, Fred Uleman, Betsy Carter
Related Career FieldsEducation, Publishing, Writer, Teach/Work Abroad, Post-Graduate Education