Books & Essays

I have worked as a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years and have published award-winning features, essays, books, and projects-for-hire for a range of publications, museums and other organizations, including the Smithsonian and National Geographic.

The Bronzed Project


Click here to enter the site and explore → The Bronzed Project: Should My Uncle John be in Your Public Square?

Mary sets off to visit the bronzed statues of her various maternal relatives in public squares across America and explores how we can all engage in more civil discourse on race, class and politics. The Bronzed Project includes four personal essays centered on the people she met on the road as well as a nonpartisan Programmer’s Guide and Story-Sharing Guide.

This free resource offers a template for how to start a new national conversation that embraces our shared humanity and concern for the health of our democracy.



At the Broken Places: A Mother & Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces

★ Winner, Memoir/Biography Prize, American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), 2018

In At the Broken Places, my transgender son, Donald Collins, and I alternate chapters as we explore core issues we faced as he transitioned during his teens and college years from female-to-male.



“When one person transitions, everyone transitions… A necessary and beautiful book.”

Jill Soloway, Creator, Transparent

“This is the best, most thorough narrative of trans experience I’ve read: mind, body and soul.”

Kate Bornstein, author, A Queer and Pleasant Danger

American Idle:
A Journey Through Our Sedentary CultureAmerican Idle

★ Winner of the Grand Prize in Nonfiction, Indie Book Awards, NYC, 2010

★ Honorable Mention, Best Adult Nonfiction Book, 2010, American Society of Journalists and Authors

Explores the many forces that make it difficult for Americans to move in their daily lives in healthy ways and the consequences of not realizing that basic need

Photobiography of the Wright Brothers
National Geographic Books, 2003

★ Recognized as a Top 10 Young Adult Biography by the New York Public Library and earned a starred Kirkus Review; Winner of Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year from American Society of Journalists and Authors

Material World Series

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

My essay, “Moving the Idle Masses,” is one of six in WHAT I EAT: Around the World in 80 Diets, another great title in Menzel and D’Aluisio’s award-winning Material World Series.

Other essayists in this volume: Michael Pollan, Wendell Barry and Richard Wrangham.


Petrified Forest
Young boy measuring petrified tree trunk. (Photo Susan McElhinney)

Artist-in-Resident, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, Fall 2013

I teamed with Susan McElhinney, a former photo editor for National Geographic and current photo editor for the National Wildlife Federation, on a photo/prose portrait project of people that work, volunteer and visit the park. They plan to put our work on permanent display in the historic Painted Desert Inn.

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