Mary Jo Pehl

WR22 Author Book - Mary Jo Pehl

Mary Jo Pehl was a writer and cast member of the locally produced cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 and has written for many publications and websites. Mary Jo’s memoir about her mother’s love of reading, Dumb Dumb Dumb: My Mother’s Book Reviews, will be published by Redhawk Publications in early 2022.

1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story? 

Dumb Dumb Dumb: My Mother’s Book Reviews is a memoir about my mother and the notes she kept on all the books she’d read. After she died we discovered a recipe box with over 400 index cards, a virtual card catalog of everything she’d read with brief comments. She read so voraciously she began loosing track. The title is taken directly from one of her pithy assessments of a particular book. 

2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching, outlining, or planning before beginning a book? 

 Avoidance seems to be a key part of my process. I will circle my computer or notebook endlessly, doing anything else but writing until I can’t delay it any longer. That’s usually a deadline or remembering the release of endorphins that occurs when I finally get to it. The first draft is pretty much stream of consciousness. I start writing the idea or sentence that comes through my head, and let all my thoughts follow. I just write or type - I need to see where it’s taking me. It starts to “tell” me what it is - or isn’t.  It’s not until subsequent drafts that I actually do any research, even if it’s just figuring out if I’m using a word correctly or meaningfully. 

3. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?

Alison Bechdel, Herman Melville, Ann Lamott, Sarah Ruhl, Willa Cather, William Goldman (mostly for his screenplays) are some of my favorites. Marion Winik’s The Baltimore Book of the Dead; Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie; Kate Chopin’s The Awakening; David von Drehle’s Triangle: The Fire That Changed America; and Nathaniel Philbrick's book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex have all had a profound effect, and I suppose can’t help but influence my writing, even if it’s just aspiring to be better.

4. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? I love biking, anywhere, anytime, hither and yon; I love walking and hiking the local and regional parks; I see a lot of theater and movies. I have a dog, so much of my spare time, perfectly captured in a plaque my father gave me, is “Let dog out. Let dog in. Let dog out. Let dog in.” And of course, I have the urgent impulse to clean my house whenever a writing deadline is nigh, so that keeps me busy.

5. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work? Please feel free to list or link them below.