Author, Alumna Shares Work, Gratitude

Kailene Nye, Reporter

English students learned about the work and experiences of author and alumna Marianne Strong as she spoke to students in Dr. Rebecca Steinberger’s Shakespeare class.

Strong described the opportunity as a “gift” and said she loved seeing the students’ reactions.

“I saw in the eager, intelligent faces of those students’ wonderful futures, how rich their minds will always be from the literature they read, and how much they will be able to give to those they teach, talk to, befriend.  Most of all, as I watched them and thought of how I once sat in classes at Misericordia, I experienced a flood of gratitude to Misericordia for its influence on my writing and my life,” she explained.

Strong graduated in 1964, when the school was called Misericordia College, with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She later attended the University of Maryland and received her Master’s degree.

She had a long teaching career before she got into writing. She taught at the University of Maryland for four years and then at Prince George’s Community Collegein Largo, Maryland in the subjects of world and American literature. She alsoserved as Honors Director and Chair of Literature and Philosophy at PGCC.

“I loved my teaching career, but always, stirring in my heart and mind, was the desire to write creative fiction,” Strong said.

She said writing was something she was interested since childhood. She said listening to her father tell stories about his family’s travels from Europe to the United States made her fall in love with storytelling.

“I learned to love stories. I made up stories and told them to whoever would listen. Writing was in my blood, perhaps genetically,” she said.

Strong said she enrolled as an English major because she knew reading was essential for her to follow her writing passion.

“I loved every minute of my classes from Anglo-Saxon literature to modern drama. I loved the grounds, the breezeway, the atmosphere that encouraged me to strive. I loved writing papers and did well,” she said.

She said it wasn’t until she entered a short story writing contest and won that she truly became a writer.

“I wrote, and I won, only second place, but it was enough. I was a writer.”

Strong said she began teaching to make her passion for literature and writing into a career that would help her meet life’s financial demands, but her mind was always reeling with ideas for stories she wanted to write.

“Medusa in Mourning,”,the story that began her life as an author, came from one of these very ideas.

“I had an image in my head: A woman is looking in the window of a house. She sees another woman, sitting with her back to the window, smoke rising because she is burning something. I knew that I had to write a story with this image at its heart,” she said.

Strong published 40 of her short stories since then in magazines such as The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Her work has also been published in the anthologies “Storm Warningand “Fur, Feather, and Felonies.”

She is working on a play set that takes place in the Shakespeare Garden. She said it is a murder mystery in which the murderer uses an item in the garden to commit thecrime. Strong said she leaves it to the students to figure out which item that is.

“The arch, the breezeway, and the garden all figure into the story. The play might turn into a mystery short story. I am still at work,” she said.

She said her favorite stories are the ones in a series centered around her character Aunt Chesla because of a saying the character brings to life.

“Aunt Chesla personifies the saying I learned at Misericordia: mulier fortis – strong woman.  Aunt Chesla is strong, like so many of the miners’ wives I knew in Wilkes-Barre.  She has a strong sense of duty and justice. She is the first to help anyone in need, but she is also the first to do away with nasty people who hurt others. She is very clever,” she explained.

She mentioned “The Last Vigil”, which tells the story of a sacred icon that was stolen by a character in the church, and “St. Casimir’s Fire,” based on the underground mine fire that took place in Centralia, Pa. as her other favorite stories.

She said she loves bringing characters to life.

“What I love most about writing and story-telling is creating a character and giving that character virtues and flaws, a distinctive appearance, hobbies, friends – anything that will give the character life for my readers.”

Strong said she hopes sharing her passion for storytelling will motivate aspiring writers to go after their dreams like she did.

“Perhaps, I hope, my talk will have inspired a budding writer to follow out that need to write, to experience that incomparable sense of fulfillment when the heartbreakingly hard work of finding the right words blossoms into characters that live, into a story that has its own life,” she said.

She expressed love and gratitude for the opportunities being a Misericordia student gave her.

“Misericordia has been, is, and always will be my place, the place I support, the place to which I return,” she said.

Strong invites people to visit her website,,to listen to podcasts of he stories and read her work.