The Freelance Writer | “I like writing nonfiction; you can get at the contradictions”

The Freelance Writer | “I like writing nonfiction; you can get at the contradictions”

Mary Phillips-Sandy, 33


“I had a professor once tell me if you were writing about New York, everyone would want to read it, but no one’s going to care about Maine,” said Mary Phillips-Sandy.

But growing up in Maine was one of the reasons why Phillips-Sandy became a writer.

“To me, growing up in Waterville, there were stories everywhere,” said Phillips-Sandy.

She always wanted to know “why” things were changing in the central Maine mill towns around her. “If I had grown up in New York I would have been too busy going to other people’s movies or art galleries.”

After spending fi ve years in New York City, the 33-year-old has returned to Maine. She lives in Portland, where she works as a freelance writer. Phillips- Sandy describes her writing career as “eclectic by necessity.” She covered the 2008 elections as a blogger for Comedy Central, co-founded the website RuinedMusic. com, which was featured on MTV, wrote how-to guides for those interested in working in the fi nancial world (when it existed), and picks up corporate work and freelance magazine articles along the way.

She started Scratchpad, a nonfi ction and fi ction reading series that takes place once a month at Mama’s Crow- Bar ( after learning that though the city has poetry readings there weren’t any forums available for prose writers.

“We have such a great music scene in Portland. It’s nice to see some of that vibe for people who are working on an essay or a short story collection,” said Phillips- Sandy. “There a lot of writers in Portland, but writing is inherently solitary.”

Recently, she wrote a magazine article about religious tent revivals in Falmouth, tapping into her interest in writing about communities and the people connected to them, exploring issues she describes as “a little bit hidden, a little bit below the surface, but really important to the people involved in it.”

“I think one of the reasons I like writing nonfi ction is that you can get at the contradictions,” said Phillips-Sandy. “People from away write about Maine and they’ll talk about a rundown, struggling community. On the other hand, you see people who haven’t given up and they’re doing their best.”

Mary Phillips-Sandy has a varied and busy freelance writing career. Photo by Bryan Bruchman

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