Biscuit City Local Writer of the Week: Mary McElveen

I first met Mary Mac (as I like to think of her) when she started teaching chemistry in 1987 at Robinson High School where I also taught (English). We were in the same subschool together and I quickly became aware that this quiet woman from Baltimore with a quick smile and wicked sense of humor was not your traditional high school chemistry teacher. For one thing, she read…and read…and read…She got me onto the urban legend scene, which I used in my deathless study of the use of narrative in teaching writing. I also became aware she was an inventive and caring teacher—in fact, I was surprised to learn at the end of the year that she was a first year teacher. I told her I would have been nicer to her if I had known that. 
Mary fit right into our little band of brothers and sisters in Sub-School 5. When our secretary from those days, Gail Hall, passed away last fall, Mary emailed me to let me know. The memorial service for Gail was not only a beautiful tribute to a wonderful lady but also, as these things work out, a kind of reunion for the Robinson High School/Sub-School 5 crowd. I saw people I hadn’t seen in years from what was a golden era for us. Mary has been instrumental in keeping all of us in touch.
Mary is part of what the kids would call a “crazy smart” family. Both daughters Kay and Sarah went to William and Mary about the same time Amy (our older daughter) did, and husband J.C. is a lawyer. The family used to do things like go to the bookstore together for a night out. And they enjoyed it. Ain’t no pretense in this group. 
Mary says of her daughters, Sarah is now a practicing lawyer, and Kay a Ph.D in anthropology, with two daughters, post-doc-ing at Brown University. THEY are the ones who are crazy-smart…and disciplined. And my heroes.
Here’s how Mary describes herself on her Facebook page: Former biochemist, former chemistry teacher, former network engineer, former corporate training/ communications/ program manager, former executive director of local bar association, poet laureate emeritus, wife, mom, grandma–did I leave anything out?
Mary Mac left teaching in 1997 and went to work for Capital One bank in 1999, having taken the network engineering courses and been certified by Microsoft and Novell. She worked at the bank for ten years, moved twice and became Poet Laureate of Alexandria in 2007 and held that post until 2010.  I learned a couple of years ago that she was Poet Laureate of Alexandria. I wasn’t surprised.
Here’s a poem representative of her work as Poet Laureate:
Afternoon Tea
I have spent too long
in the world of coffee mugs;
I am ready to return
to teacups:
delicate china teacups,
light as whispers,
fragile as my secret dreams;
cups filled with music:
the song of silver spoons.
Coffee mugs swagger
with their murky bitter brew,
and boast in columns of black and white
of argument and negotiation,
of ceaseless cigarettes and crumpled papers
Give me instead
a vellum sheet of poetry,
a thimble of sherry,
a tiered plate of artful sandwiches…
a perfect strawberry,
clothed in chocolate
a cup of amber tea.
She also blogs. You can read all about it at
And so here’s to my friend Mary Mac, Biscuit City Local Writer of the Week, writer, poet, blogger, reader, crazy smart lady! May you sail on for a long time to come!

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