When Mary Shafer was born in June of 1961, not only was her sun sign in Gemini, so was the moon and Gemini’s ruling planet, Mercury. Since none of her homies were into astrology, Mary was unaware that as a triple Gemini, she was doomed. Blissfully ignorant, she turned her natural inclinations toward attention deficit disorder and taking mechanical objects apart into a varied and interesting career path with more twists than the Burma Road.
Always possessed of an artful side, she first tried her hand at illustration, doing her first paid freelance job at 14. (Thanks, Dad.) Since art directors weren’t exactly beating down the door, she also got a fast food job. Steadfastly refusing the pedantic, she never asked, “Do you want fries with that?” Especially after witnessing how those fries were made. (You don’t wanna know.) Throughout these trials, she served as a reporter and layout editor on her high school newspaper.
Following graduation, Mary suffered the inertia common to liberal arts students, and decided to stray from academia for awhile. She worked several jobs that included picture framer, auto mechanic, electronics salesperson and deputy sheriff in undercover narcotics. Yes, really.
Tired of putting her life at risk for six bucks an hour, she attended the University of Wisconsin system as an art student. Quickly realizing that was the fast lane to starvation and chronic fashion faux pas, she left college in 1981. She became a production artist for a suburban Milwaukee newspaper group, later moving to a small weekly on the city’s south side. Through it all, she continued to write ad copy and the occasional feature story for the papers.
After striking out on her own as a freelance graphic designer, Mary got a job as art director for NorthWord Press, a small nature book publisher. She went back out on her own when the company moved away from books toward producing music CDs and videos, but never got books out of her system. In fact, she wrote her first book, Wisconsin: The Way Were Were, 1845-1945 for Heartland Press, a NorthWord imprint. The book came out in 1993 and she was hooked forever. She knew she’d always be an author in one form or another.
A second book, Rural America: A Pictorial Folk Memory followed in 1995, winning an award from the MidAmerica Publishers Association. Mary did a small tour of New England and the MidAtlantic region in support of it, and realized she missed the east coast. In February 1997, the day after the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, she got in her loaded van and moved back to her home state of Pennsylvania.
She settled in Bucks County, where she freelanced and began writing in earnest, as the president and creative director of Rhino Tactics, a construction-specific ad agency in Lambertville, New Jersey. By June 2001, agency life had run its course for Mary, and returned to freelancing. This time, though, she left graphics behind to follow the path she realized she’d always been on: that of a writer.
Mary now splits her time between freelance writing for magazines and books, consulting with businesses, publishers and authors on their marketing needs, and publishing books. Ever unable to focus too long on any one thing, she also dabbles in drawing, painting, teaching, metal detecting and storm chasing. She’s frequently tired but never bored.