Mary Winn Heider is the author of two middle grade novels: THE LOSERS AT THE CENTER OF THE GALAXY and THE MORTIFICATION OF FOVEA MUNSON. She is currently working on a theatrical adaptation of FOVEA for The Kennedy Center with the composer Justin Huertas. Her picture book THE UNICORNS WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS, illustrated by Christian Cornia, is out now. Mary Winn has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she lives in Chicago, where she teaches creative writing residencies with PlayMakers Lab, performs at theaters around the city, and sometimes helps out at The Mystery League.
Mary Winn is represented by Tina Dubois at ICM.
Hi! I’m Mary Winn! And I am a Huge. Fan. Of. Books. I love reading them. I love writing them. I love making stacks of them around my house that I can trip on later.
I’ve been reading books basically non-stop ever since I learned to read. But it took me a long time to realize that I could write them.
I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and Bukittinggi, Indonesia. We traveled a lot when I was in elementary school (my dad is an anthropologist who studied language and emotions, and he worked at a college in Indonesia for a few years). Sometimes all that travel was adventurous and sometimes it was lonely and frustrating.
As soon as I could read, I read all the time. It’s hard to bring friends with you halfway around the world…unless those friends are books! So I promptly became friends with ALL THE BOOKS. I’d take a book up a tree, I’d read instead of doing my homework, I’d do that sneaky thing and read at night when I was supposed to be asleep. I was relentless.
So me + books = bffs. EXCEPT that I didn’t think writing a book was ever anything I could do.
I tried a lot of other things first: I studied acting and anthropology, I taught high school, I was a public radio reporter, I spent time as a bartender on a train in Alaska, I traveled with an Italian circus, and I worked as the receptionist for the cadaver lab that inspired The Mortification of Fovea Munson.
The whole time, I kept acting in plays, learning about storytelling without realizing that I was helping future me be a better writer.
Eventually, I went back to school and studied writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It turned out the biggest thing for me to learn was that I didn’t have to get it right on the first try.
Now I live in Chicago, where I write (and sometimes act in plays). I’m also lucky enough to be part of a ridiculous theater company! The PlayMaker’s Laboratory is a group of actors and teachers who work together to lead creative writing workshops in Chicago Public Schools. After those six-week-long workshops, we perform what the students wrote—for them, in their schools.
And those students? They are some of my favorite authors.