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Alumni Stories: Maura Kelly '96

A Writer's Story is Never FinishedMaura Kelly

by Julia Plevin '09


As Holden Caulfield demonstrates in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, growing up is really hard and sometimes everyone in the world feels like a phony. Maura Kelly '96 found solace in Salinger's classic novel because it made her feel like she was not so alone. She struggled with anorexia growing up and credits the psychologists who worked with her for helping her to overcome the disorder. She was so thankful to her psychologists that she decided to major in psychology at Dartmouth so she could one day help others in the same way.

Upon graduation, Kelly reread Catcher in the Rye and decided that being a psychologist no longer appealed to her and what she really wanted to do was write a book that would "make people feel less alone in the world." While at Dartmouth, Kelly busied herself with her psychology major, Dartmouth Recycles, Amnesty International, and helping to found Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, but she had not done anything with writing besides papers and a few poetry classes.

After graduation, she decided to pursue her dream of writing a book but recognized that she first needed some money and some training as a writer.

Aware of the challenges ahead of her, Kelly wrote her first novel.  She thought it would be fast and easy to write, but the process took a lot longer and was a lot harder than she expected.  The novel is told from the narrative perspective of a fourteen year-old. She hopes the story will help kids who, like both her and Holden Caulfield, struggle to define themselves and find meaning in the world as they reach adolescence. Four years after starting to write, she has completed her novel and a book of essays. She has received offers from agents and is still deciding which agent to choose.  Her story is still being written and she still does not know what will happen to her novel, but she continues to write. She plans to write another book and someday write a screenplay. Writing is her life and it is all she does besides exercising, reading, and watching movies with friends.

Kelly advises would-be novelists that there are many smart, ambitious people trying to write novels and it is possible that writers could be sacrificing their lives to a project that will never come to fruition or be profitable. Also, the journalism world is extremely competitive today because there are lots of people who want to write and, with newspapers and magazines continuing to collapse, there are fewer and fewer outlets for writers. Kelly understands that her career as a novelist/journalist is full of challenges.

Her career is a desirable one, but unlike other desirable careers, it takes a lot of self-motivation and perseverance because there is a lot of rejection. Kelly doesn't take it personally when an editor rejects a journalism pitch, because it may just not have been the kind of story he or she was looking for. But she finds rejection with her creative writing a lot more painful. She realizes that there are a lot of stories in the newspaper about people writing bestselling novels but really there are many more people who do not write bestsellers.

Kelly has certainly held on to her goal and urges others to do the same. She concedes, "you can always go to law school if you are 28 or 30 and writing has not worked out."  It seems that writing has worked out for Kelly and perhaps her novel will become one of those rare bestsellers. Here's to hoping!


Last Updated: 6/21/12