Inspirational Feature By J1 Reporter Brianna Wessling
Mary Kay Mangus Leatherman is on top of the world. She’s doing everything she’s ever wanted to do. She’s writing full time and still inspiring students to have a love of literature and the written word.
Leatherman, a Marian alumna of the Class of ’81, has been a lover of literature her entire life. Even while she was in high school, she knew that she wanted to someday be a writer.
“I thought I wanted to go into journalism. I knew I wanted to write. I had a really incredible teacher who was a creative writing teacher at the time that made me really love that sort of writing.”
Another English teacher, Ms. Jackie Egan, was a huge inspiration to Leatherman. Leatherman says that she was always so enthusiastic about literature. She really helped Leatherman to realize the power of written word, and the importance of stories.
Despite this love of creative writing, Leatherman continued to pursue journalism. After she graduated from Marian she attended Creighton University as a journalism major. During her sophomore year she realized that she was a teacher and a writer at heart. She switched from a journalism major to an English major. She then went on to teach for 13 years.
Leatherman has also had three books published. Her first book was non-fiction and was published in 1996. “Surviving Your Friend’s Divorce” is about how divorce does not only effect the people getting divorced but all of the people around them as well. Her second book is also a non-fiction book titled “Sharing the Faith with your Children.” The book was published in 2006 and written with the help of Phyllis Chandler and Joan Burney.
“Vanity Insanity,” her most recent novel published in 2014, is her first fiction book. Leatherman said that the world of fiction is much more competitive than the one of non-fiction, and that writing non-fiction books was a good way for her to get her foot in the door.
Leatherman credits Marian to a lot of her success.
“Marian is an awesome place. I’ve always said this, but I truly believe that Marian helps young ladies to find their voice. You kind of feel like as a girl or a young lady that you should feel hesitant voicing your opinion, but at Marian they want you to shout it from the top of the mountain. What you say has value.”
Leatherman says that Marian helped her to grow as a writer. She believes that in all different types of writing, Marian has helped her to develop her voice. At Marian she gained a lot of confidence as a writer. Despite all of this confidence there were many times she doubted herself.
“Self doubt is the reason why you need to have people around you to hold you up on those days. I can be so excited about a story and it’s really going somewhere, and then I’ll just have a dark day.”
During those dark days, Leatherman relies on her husband to help her to believe in her story again. She also loves to have fellow writers around to help her get around any writer’s block. Another way she works to get through writer’s block is by walking away and praying about it.
After years of teaching, Leatherman realized that she wanted to dedicate more of her time to writing and to her children. So, with the support of her husband, she quit her job to stay home with her kids and started writing full time. Even though she loved writing and being with her kids Leatherman still missed teaching, she just didn’t have the time to teach full time. After a few years, OPS called her and asked her if she would be interested in teaching test prep part time. This was a great way for her to balance all of the things in her life.
Leatherman continued to tutor for a few years until her husband suggested she teach her own class. The only problem was that Leatherman was only really qualified to teach reading and writing, and there’s a science and math portion on the ACT. So her husband suggested she find other people to help teach the other portions of the test. Leatherman teamed up with Dr. Janice Rech and Sara Smith to create the 3 Moms and a Test ACT test preparation course. One of the main goals of the course is to make ACT prep classes affordable and available to everybody. They’ve now been doing these prep courses for around nine years.
Leatherman says that her greatest inspiration is her husband, who always encouraged her to do what she loves.
Today, Leatherman is able to teach, spend time with her children, and write all she wants. She claims she’s on top of the world right now.
“I walked into a 7/11 one night and I was paying for gas, and the guy working was sitting there and I asked how he was doing, and he said, “I’m living the dream”. . . Today, I’m just like the guy in 7/11, I’m truly living the dream.”