Maria V. Snyder: From Poisons to Terr-Cotta Warriors, Imagination Never Read (or Sold) So Well!

I think every book-lover has a few moments in time they will never forget, like when they pick up a book that changes their life. One of those moments for me was when I picked Maria V. Snyder’s “Poison Study” off the Costco book table years ago. She was a relative unknown at the time and I was a young mother with little time to read. That book was so creative and unique with so much heart and soul that it single-handedly set me on the path I am on today.  And, with every book of hers since, my resolve to actually interview this personal hero has grown.  Luckily, I found her to be just as creative and interesting in person as her books are! Seriously, what other famous author can boast at both being a meteorologist, a ground-breaking University professor AND a NYTimes bestselling author who has literally traveled the world?!?! She’s truly everything a fan-girl like myself could have dreamed her to be!

InD: There is so much I want to talk to you about! First, I read you were born and raised in Pennsylvania. What was your childhood like?
: I grew up in Philadelphia, so I am a city girl. We lived on a street of row homes, with a little postage stamp lawn. I walked to a Catholic school, Our Lady of Ransom, which I always thought was a funny name. My parents both went to Catholic school, so they thought my sister and I should go. I was bullied in middle school because I was different; I liked to read and was creative. By the time I was in high school, I had to take a public bus because it was much further away.
InD: So as a child, were you a reader?
I loved to read! My mother got me hooked on reading and really encouraged my love of it. We would go to the library every couple weeks to get books and then go back and get more. I was not very good at the whole English language thing or writing in school. In fact, I was quite horrible at it.
InD: Why?
I don't know. I wasn't very good at spelling and I just found my English classes really boring. I tended to daydream a lot during those classes.
InD: Isn't it funny, as you look back, English is one of those subjects where, if you have a fabulous teacher, it is amazing, but if you don't, it is SO boring?!
Yes! I had no problem reading Shakespeare and all of the other classics, but when it came to the actual writing and trying to get anything across, then having to edit... I just had no interest. When I went to Penn State, they required one English class, first semester, and if you passed, you didn't have to take another English class ever. So I avoided ever having to write papers, and I am quite proud of that.
InD: I can’t even imagine getting all the way through college without writing papers!
I was working on my meteorology degree, mostly math and science. I made sure all of my electives were things like art, painting, or drawing... and I took one psychology class. Penn State is a gigantic college campus, so psychology was just multiple choice tests and no papers.
InD: You were bullied when you were in middle school, just because you liked reading?
: I don’t know what exactly started it, but I was not the type to join in and follow everybody, and all of a sudden, I became the one everyone picked on.
InD: Did that continue to high school?
In high school it stopped. I went to an all-girl Catholic high school. In Philadelphia, the Catholic school system was pretty robust, so St. Huberts pulled in the girls and all the boys went to Father Judge. I was able to get lost in the mix. I took classes like art and music and hung out with people who had similar interests, so it was much better.
InD: You went to Penn State to be a Meteorologist; how did you decide on that?
: In the 6th grade, I learned about the weather and I was really fascinated with the big storms like thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. I actually loved the creative arts better. I danced and acted and drew, played the cello, but I didn't feel confident enough in my abilities and I wanted to be independent when I graduated college.
My goal was to be able to have a job and afford my own place to live and not have to rely on anyone for income. I figured I was good at math and science, and the big storms really fascinated me, so I chose Meteorology, thinking I would do research for tornadoes and things like that, go out and be a storm chaser, try to learn more about them. But the problem was, when I got to college, the math and science classes were so hard, and I wasn't as prepared as I should've been. I graduated with my degree, but it was not strong enough to go to graduate school, and that is what you need to become a researcher and join the National Weather Service.

Read the entire fun and informative interview in the November 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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