The Heroine’s Journey of Mary Strand

Best thing I love about my work: I get to put my characters in tough situations and give them a happy ending. In my YA novels, I get to be a teenager again … but many people would say I never stopped!

My idea of perfect happiness: A warm, sunny day in Paris listening to live music.

My greatest fear: I am not particularly fearful. Maybe I fear that I won’t get it all done.

The trait I most deplore in myself: Procrastination. Wait. No, let me get back to you on that.

Living persons in my profession I most admire: Too many to name! A few who aren’t among my actual pals: Lin-Manuel Miranda (who’s in my profession only in the broadest sense). J.K. Rowling. Meg Cabot.

My greatest extravagance: Trips to Paris every chance I get. And the time I bought wildly expensive tickets to the Tony awards just because Hugh Jackman was the emcee. (Totally worth it!)

Occasion on which I would lie: Never. I don’t always say everything I know or think, but I don’t lie. (Except that I write fiction for a living!)

The thing I dislike the most in my work: The fact that I need to do revisions in my office at home, alone, with no one around. Very tough for an extrovert!

When and where I was happiest in my work: In my actual work of writing, I’m happiest writing at Sebastian Joe’s, a fab coffee and ice cream shop in Minneapolis. (Where I don’t drink coffee and don’t eat ice cream. lol.) In my writing-related work, I’m happiest when surrounded by other writers at a retreat or conference or anywhere else.

If I could, what I would I change about myself: If I could, I would magically turn myself into a New York Times bestselling author who spends a few months in Paris every year, plays guitar and sings in a successful band, writes songs for my band and other singers, writes screenplays that turn into hot movies, and plays a million sports without the slightest knee pain.

My greatest achievement in work: So far, it might be a tie between winning the Golden Heart award (given by Romance Writers of America) for my very first manuscript and the first book I sold to a publisher.

Where I would I most like to live: Paris! Je taime!

My most treasured possession: I don’t actually care much about possessions. Having said that, my BMW Z-3 convertible, known in my house as the Zipster. It’s impossible not to be wildly happy while driving it, especially when going very fast on a curving road.

My most marked characteristic: Probably my sense of humor, which is mostly nonstop. Physically, maybe my strawberry-blond hair or my blue eyes, which I’m told can be intense.

My most inspirational location in my city (Minneapolis): For writing, Sebastian Joe’s (mentioned earlier), which is cozy and has the BEST scones, and where I like to write at the table next to the fireplace … even in the summer, when it’s not on. For music, the Dakota, where I wish I were up on stage. (Some day.) For life in general, Minnehaha Falls. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.

My favorite place to eat and drink in Minneapolis: I’m not a foodie, so for me it’s all about who I’m eating and drinking WITH. Having said that, I love La Fresca (upscale Mexican), Tinto (Mexican right in my neighborhood), Salut (French; the duck a l’orange is to die for), and Crave (where I love the ginger-pear martinis). I’m actually more likely to go out to hear music. For that, my favorite places are First Avenue, the Dakota, Lake Harriet Bandshell, and the Driftwood.

Books that influenced my life and how: There are so many! Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) is probably my all-time favorite and taught me the importance of capturing what people are really like. In my teens, I totally fell for Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky for its brilliant complexity and everything ever written by Hermann Hesse for its intensity of feeling. Various books written by Janet Evanovich, Meg Cabot, and Jennifer Crusie made me realize that my own writing (which has similarities to theirs) could be successful.

My favorite writers: They include (and for the most part I’m not naming my closest writer pals, so as not to choose among them) Jane Austen, Jo Beverley, Georgette Heyer, Anne Lamott, Jennifer Crusie, Meg Cabot, and Echo Bodine. Honestly, though, my favorite books and favorite writers change based on where (and who) I am in my life at any given moment. The list above is just a blurry snapshot. My favorite songwriter is Rodney Crowell. The person I think is most wildly talented in an array of creative fields is Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’d love to be him when I grow up.

You Only Die Once. Music I’d listen to on my last day: In a perfect world, it would be live music, and it would include Southern Serenade and the Cadillac Cowboys (two Wisconsin bands I saw and heard a million times during college), the Eagles, Rodney Crowell, the Melismatics, Elton John, Paul McCartney … and, in this perfect world I’m constructing, whatever fab band I’m then playing in.

My hero or heroine in fiction: In my own fiction, the heroine who most surprised me was Lydia Bennet from Livin’ La Vida Bennet, the last book in my Bennet Sisters YA series, which imagines a modern collision with Pride and Prejudice. Lydia was the bad girl in Jane Austen’s book and in my series, but I made her fierce, confident, and ultimately victorious. I love her.

My heroes and heroines in real life: Politicians who work to do the right thing for our country. Everyone who let their voices be heard in the #metoo campaign. Today’s teenagers who say no to bullying, shaming, discrimination, racism, sexism, and other maladies of our society that can and will change for the better.

Movie I’d recommend to see once in a lifetime: Two for the Road, with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. I think it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen for how marriages actually work.

The role art plays in my life and work: In addition to sports, my life is all about the arts. Writing, obviously, but I’m currently moving beyond “just” writing novels to include screenwriting and songwriting. (In high school, I was a poet and wrote our class poem.) I live and breathe music and am thrilled to have started pursuing it actively on guitar and, recently, vocals. I love painting and sculpture, not to create it but to absorb its beauty. Two of my brothers are artists: one paints and another creates gorgeous Christmas ornaments. My son is a drummer; my daughter paints. Art in all of its forms is vital to any well-lived life.

My greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime: Many have helped me on this road I travel. On the advice of counsel, they should remain nameless. Certainly, my partners in crime should. Joke! Somewhat!

Someone I’d like to work with in 2018: I’m going to a songwriting camp this summer headed by Rodney Crowell, my favorite songwriter EVER. That pretty much takes care of my wish list!

People in my profession I’d love to meet in 2018: The editor who buys my next book. The (new) agent who sells my next book or one that follows. I’d love a sit-down-and-chat with Meg Cabot. I’d love to actually speak (and listen) to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is simply brilliant.

Project in 2018 I’m looking forward to working on: I’m currently working on and loving a YA series about a high school for psychics.

Where you can see me or my work in 2018: You can find my books online or ask for them in bookstores. (My Amazon page: I have upcoming local book events on February 10 in Hudson, Wisconsin, and March 3 in Minneapolis; check my website for details: I’ll be speaking on a YA panel at the April 20-22 Washington Romance Writers retreat in Westminster, Maryland. I’ll be a guest author at the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend in Milwaukee, April 27-29.

What the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me: Without passion, you’re not really living. Go for it.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Here are a few: Emilie Storrs (singer), Brenda Hiatt (novelist), Bethany Barber (singer).

How you can you contact me: Email me at Visit my website: On social media, find me at,, and

Here follows a message of Peter de Kuster, founder of The Heroine’s Journey 

Spring Journey

eatpraylovebigstill (2)Wednesday 14th March – Sunday 18th March

The best of The Heroine’s Journey condensed into a single, unforgettable week.

The Heroine’s Journey is a global organisation dedicated to teaching skills not covered by the regular education system – skills that develop storytelling intelligence and encourage psychological well-being for creative professionals.  The Spring Journey brings together the very best in our storytelling.

We will cover such themes as how to make money doing what you love, how to promote your business, which is you, how to choose our partners more wisely, how to make relationships last, how to find and create your dreamjob by meeting your rolemodels and making testdrives, how to manage your time and organize yourself creativitely, how to focus on our creative goals, how to have the financial freedom to create and how to more regularly experience creative flow and happiness.

You’ll embark on a rich and enlightening voyage, discovering how to make lasting, meaningful change across every aspect of your creative life. By working within a fixed group led by Peter de Kuster over the week, you’ll dive deeper than would be possible in any single daytrip. You’ll be challenged to think deeply about the issues that matter most, and provided with a space to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.

The Journey is ideal for those seeking a more meaningful, transformative vacation; for attendees of our daytrips who now wish to take a structured journey through our expertly curated material; and for those wishing to save time in the long run by working through the dilemmas of creative life, business, passion, and your own story in a single, high intensity week.

Blending tuition, exercises, meeting with stories of rolemodels, and discussion in journeys in a world city, each day of the Spring Journey will equip you with tools and strategies to help you find answers for your creative life’s big questions.

Join us for a truly transformational vacation for the mind in Rome

Ticket costs Euro 1250 excluding VAT per person, includes all teaching, materials, light refreshments & additional activities.

You can reach Peter for a skype meeting about questions you have by mailing him at 


09.40    Tea & Coffee on arrival

10.00     Morning Session

13.00     Lunch Break

14.00     Afternoon Session

17.00     Drinks

Read on for a detailed breakdown of the Spring Journey itinerary.

“You are the Storyteller of Your Own Creative Life. You can Create Your Own Legend – Or Not” – Peter de Kuster

EatPrayLove1 (2)

Spring Journey Itinerary

Day One: The first day of the Spring Journey is designed to equip us with the core skills of The Heroine’s Journey and Storytelling. We will learn the power of the story we tell ourselves, why our minds have a hard time understanding themselves, how to map and understand our passions, and how and why we characteristically respond to them.

Day Two: The second day of the Spring Journey takes us on a structured journey around the power of your story as creative professional.  Creative flow is always in essence a mental phenomenon, it is a result of ideas- and a story you tell yourself therefore relies on having to hand a raft of enriching stories about your business, your money management, your self promotion and your time management that can be called upon in moments of truth. The day begins with a Heroine’s Journey Breakfast – considering what three of the greatest creative heroines of all time have as story about the art of creative living wisely and well.

Day Three: The third day of the Spring Journey teaches us how to choose our clients and business partners wisely and make our relationships last. One of the gravest errors we make around business relationships is to imagine that they aren’t things we can get wiser or better at. On this day we will learn to practise and rehearse our skills at working with the people who can help you further your creative business (clients and business partners like agents, publishers, marketing professionals etcera). In the evening, we will attend a Storytelling Dinner in a local restaurant – learning to overturn small talk and master the art of opening up our deepest stories.

Day Four: The fourth day of the Spring Journey teaches us how to achieve our creative career potential. We will employ storytelling tools to be better able to understand our creative talents and to move forward using the opportunities that are open to us.

Day Five: The final day of the Spring Journey explores new business opportunities and markets for you to as creative professional. Many of the challenges we encounter in modern life require us to develop creative solutions to complex problems. And even when we’re not tackling big problems, continuously improving the way we live using invention and imaginative strategy is deeply important.

You can reach Peter for a skype meeting about questions you have by mailing him at 

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