Eileen Biernat and "Stalking Mary"

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I first met Eileen Biernat--the author of this week's feature story--when she walked into my Narrative Writing class at the Loft last year. It was not an auspicious beginning for my teaching career--a man stood up and walked out during roll call, saying, "This isn't going to work." But the other most memorable moment of that class was when Biernat pitched her story.

She explained that she had lived in the neighborhood with the victim's family when this happened, and it left a profound impression on her. So much so that when she got a tax refund courtesy of George W. Bush, she could think of no better use for the $1,200 than to spend it obtaining all of the available public records--a haul of paperwork that requires its own room to store.

As an editor who has always impressed upon writers the importance of thorough reporting, I was blown away by Biernat's fierce commitment to getting to the essential truth of this extraordinary case.

The six-week course wasn't near enough time to complete the book-length manuscript that her story called for, but that wasn't going to stop someone as dedicated as Biernat. She continued to press on, and months later I received an email informing me that she had secured a contract and the story would be published as a book.

After reading the manuscript, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to share with the City Pages audience. Staff writer Erin Carlyle took on the yeoman task of editing the book-length manuscript into something that would fit into the limited pages of a weekly newspaper. Although we were not able to capture the full story in its amazing entirety--for that you will have to purchase it from Beaver's Press, which will be releasing "Stalking Mary, One Man's Fifteen Year Obsession with his High School Teacher" on March 17--hopefully you will agree that even in excerpted form, it is a gripping yarn worthy of a TV movie.
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