"This work is unlike any other, in its range of rich, conjuring imagery and its dexterity, its smart voice. Carroll-Hackett doesn’t spare us—but doesn’t save us—she draws a blueprint of power and class with her unflinching pivot: matter-of-fact and tender." —Jan Beatty


Manuscript and Weekend Prompt Consultations

“Mary’s a beautiful soul and a wise teacher, with plenty of exercises to shake writers up and help writers generate the words they aren’t expecting.   She gave me helpful, honest feedback on my story and recommended lots of new writers for me to read.”~Sheri Reynolds, author of Bitterroot Landing, and The Rapture of Canaan (an Oprah book club selection and New York Times bestseller).


“I was impressed by Mary’s exacting commentary on my writing and observed as she deftly adjusted her style and commentary to suit the needs of each individual group participant. I have  a renewed sense of determination about my writing and a greater sense of permission to explore my own creativity and quirky ideas.”-Meg Harris


My abandoned novel, hidden for months at the bottom of my desk drawer, nudged me to sign up for Mary Carroll-Hackett’s one-on-one workshop at the lovely Porches Writing Retreat. I expected, and wanted, intense criticism and instruction. And that’s what I got. Mary had studied every page of my manuscript multiple times. Her concrete suggestions spurred me to think hard about plot, characters, and craft. We sat down each day and specifically examined how placement of chapters adds tension to plot, how to frame dialog within text for deeper meaning, and how slight changes in point of view often strengthens the entire piece. In the evenings, Mary’s magical storytelling came into play. Just when I found myself caught in her conjured world, she would relate all of it to my own work. As my understanding of my characters grew, my trust in both them and myself increased. I returned home ready to make my book the best it could be. Those few days of Mary’s wise guidance changed my writing life forever.”~Kathryn Milam


The one-on-one workshop I did with Mary at the Porches was critical to the evolution of my book and my overall writing career. I had taken writing workshops where students shared 15-20 pages of our writing each week. But I needed someone who would read the whole manuscript and give me more complete feedback.

Mary made me feel comfortable right away. We got right into talking about the book and wow! She knew my characters as well as I did. She asked me hard questions and pushed me to improve in many ways. Going into our session, I knew about some of the problems with my manuscript. Mary helped me figure out how to address those. She also brought up things I hadn’t even thought about but that turned out to be problems that needed fixing before the manuscript was done. Mary’s style is encouraging and thoughtful and expressive. I will always be thankful to call her a teacher, mentor, and friend. 

After my weekend with Mary, I took a month or so to revise my book. I used the extensive notes she gave me to guide my efforts. After one more go-round with an editor friend, I sent the manuscript to agents, many of whom showed a lot of interest. I ended up signing with one of them and well, here we are! I recommend the one-on-one workshop with Mary to all my writer friends: those just starting out or those who have experience but may just need a little nudge. Do it; you won’t regret it!

Shadia Garrison (@shadiagarrison)


My weekend consult with Mary was the best writing instruction and editing commentary I have received since I started working on my first novel. She was incredibly well prepared with an in-depth knowledge of my plot lines and characters. She asked me the right questions to help me articulate where I wanted my novel to go, and was able to share her wealth of experience as a teacher to help me make my characters more real, and my writing much more smooth. I truly enjoyed my weekend with Mary, and am grateful for having had chance to work with such a talented teacher. -Marni von Wilpert


Grad School Application Coaching

When I made the leap to apply to MFA programs, Mary helped me do three things (okay, really, a million, but this is a statement, not a dissertation):

  • pick schools based on my personal needs, not just the schools that everyone else was applying to;

  • tailor my statement of intent so that it actually sounded like my passions and my dreams in my own voice; and 

  • make sure my writing sample was the best representation of where I was at that moment.

I absolutely don’t think I would have gained admission to (and since graduated from!) my top choice without Mary’s help, and for that I am eternally grateful.~Amy Whipple, MFA in Nonfiction, University of Pittsburgh, 2011


I am so indebted to Mary.  I applied to four MFA programs total.  I applied to the first program without Mary’s input and it was the only school I didn’t get accepted to.  When Mary was done reviewing my application, personal statement, and manuscript, I got three acceptances and a scholarship offer.

Mary sees people—she can see the potential in your work and where your strengths lie.  She gave me the permission to trust my voice and helped me find where I had lost it in the stressful work of applying for an MFA program. I graduated from Bennington in 2009 and am so grateful for the program that busted my writing life wide open and set me on this wild journey.  I will always be thankful for Mary’s hard work and belief in me.~MeLaina Evans Ramos


Mary helped me prepare for graduate school twice. In both instances, I was accepted into the graduate programs of my choosing. It was because of Mary’s detailed instructions and her tailored coaching style. When I applied for the Masters in Special Education, she instructed me to follow each instructions carefully, to give them they needed, but to revise until I could do both in a way that showed both the strength and vulnerability I have that makes me a committed educator. When I applied for the MFA, she knew the ins and outs of MFA writing programs, and so helped me best project myself as both a writer and a professional in my applications. The professionalism I learned from her coaching sessions has carried over into my professional life. I cannot rave enough about Mary and how much love and effort she brought to me and to others I know who have been accepted to graduate programs under her coaching. After a course with Mary, you will be prepared for whatever work anyone throws at you.-Brigid Hokana


When I was thinking about applying to graduate school, Mary was the first one to encourage me! It was with that encouragement, I decided to follow my passion, which I found in Mary’s undergrad classes. From there she was a guiding light that helped me turn those passions, to continuing my education (investment in yourself), now into a profession!

When I was applying and getting my statements ready to send in for graduate school at Old Dominion University, she made sure that everything I was writing was a true depiction of myself and my aspirations. She made sure that the conversations we had would convey that same message and enthusiasm in my statements. Mary has a special way to connect with students, and bring out the best of them, even if they don’t know what their best is. I will forever owe Mary a debt of gratitude for all the work she does to help better students and better people.-Bob Stevens

Comments on: "Testimonials" (1)

  1. Alice King said:

    I spent the weekend at a beautiful, secluded writer’s retreat called The Porches with Mary and three other talented writers. We did a prompt marathon and covered topics such as the body, the senses, memory, and secrets. Going to a writer’s retreat with other writers was a first for me. I’m an introvert. I admit I had my hesitations, but after having gone and loved it, I would gladly go again. Mary is an excellent teacher, an amazing storyteller, and a wonderful person. She connects with you both on an intellectual level and on a personal level. I’ve learned so much from Mary about the art of writing but also about caring for others, caring for nature, and reconnecting with the self. I came home from the retreat feeling renewed and ready, ready, ready to write.

    Alice King, junior at Longwood University

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