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Mary Pauer


Mary Pauer Headshot 2023
Mary Pauer

Literature: Creative Nonfiction

By: Gail Obenreder

“I tend to explore a small, seemingly simple event to offer a deeper, emotional meaning of self in society. I invite the reader into the experience as fully as possible, to savor the moment, and to linger afterwards.”

Mary Pauer has been writing creatively for twelve years. Successful as an author of fiction, she’s published widely (two or three pieces a year). She has also amassed an impressive list of juried workshops and more than a few awards, including the Division’s 2019 Emerging Artist Award for creative nonfiction, a field relatively new to her. It’s in this genre that Pauer feels she has “found my voice, my niche, and a larger universality.”

Pauer continually concentrates on “learning the structure and craft of the personal, lyrical, and meditative essay.” Not a memoirist or a moralist, the Established Fellow hopes that “when readers read my essays, they feel we are chatting over a cup of coffee.” She works to imbue her writing with humor or a subversive comment as a way to “survive the ridiculous and the sublime, to find a moment of grace in an ungodly situation.”

Forgive Us as We Forgive Them 

At 8 a.m. before the first class of the schooling horse show and the only in-hand class of the day, I stood facing inexperienced riders, my judge’s clipboard in hand, the wind whipping dust in my eyes.

A class in showmanship focuses on details: the horses must be groomed to a glistening sheen; the handlers polished; they should pivot around as the judge passes the horse’s tail; saddles gleam; specific placement of the hands on the lead rope is scrutinized.

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Pauer grew up in northern New Jersey, in a small family with just one sister. Her mother was an avid reader, and “I stole her books, so Perry Mason was one of my heroes.” She felt that “Nancy Drew could have been a real person, maybe my friend.”  The young reader had a library shelf in her room, and “I had special permission to take out extra books from the public library.” Through her books, Pauer felt that “the world could be at my fingertips.”

Throughout her career in education, Pauer has always written documents, reports, ads, and other practical pieces. But deciding to “test my skills outside of my ‘work,’” in 2010 (at age 60) she decided to return to school. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing (at the University of Southern Maine), starting first with fiction and moving to creative nonfiction, finding the essay form particularly inspiring.

Pauer enjoys reading and re-reading the classics. “When I need comfort, I reread Sherlock Holmes [to] find something new about the story.” And she always looks for “that inhalation of breath” that comes with a vibrant sentence or paragraph. “It seems that books are never-ending gifts.”

As a mature writer, Pauer sometimes worries that “my style might be old-fashioned, that the language is changing faster than I want, and that the landscape of popular literature is foreign to me.” And she sometimes feels that she “should have started writing years ago.” But when a reader is touched by her work and “my images become theirs . . . or when I hear a chuckle,” she knows that her writing has given the “gifts” she finds in the work of others.

Pauer loves the land and animals, doing what she can to rescue and keep them safe. “I have horses who would not have homes if not for me,” citing her “passion and voice for those who cannot speak, or who speak softly.” As a writer, she is thankful for how much she’s gained from fellow writers and artists who allow her to reach “different parts of myself and my creativity.”

Since Pauer needs solitude to recharge, the pandemic didn’t greatly affect her. But she did miss the ability to offer private writing experiences to others and hopes to return to that practice. The Division’s Established Fellowship has enabled her to attend a writer’s retreat, work with a mentor, and delve even further into “the nuances of creative nonfiction.”

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