Mary Claire Zauel-A Screenwriter Hoping to Pursue a Creative Writing MFA

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Robin Silbergleid: “In the classroom and out, Mary Claire Zauel displays exceptional artistic ability, intellectual curiosity, and dedication to her area(s) of study.  As a nonfiction writer, she’s a master of the “hermit crab” form, using the shape of Buzzfeed quizzes and resumes to grapple with complicated subject matter.  Her writing is as vulnerable as it is smart.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English major and Film Studies minor has been incredible. I have been able to grow so much as a student, person, and creative thanks to the opportunities and support I received here.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I took FLM 334, Introduction to Screenwriting, my first semester here at MSU, and it changed the course of my life. I took the class on a whim and initially felt so out of place. I had never read a screenplay before, let alone written one. However, as soon as I started writing my first screenplay, I fell in love. I instantly knew that I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I immediately added the Film Studies minor so that I could continue my study of film. That course inspired my dream to become a screenwriter. My professors Dr. Divya Victor and Dr. Robin Silbergleid also stand out as having an incredible impact on my time here. These two phenomenal women supported, encouraged, and inspired me every step of the way, and I would not be the person or writer that I am today without their help. The most important lesson they taught me was this: sometimes what you are most afraid to write about is exactly what you need to.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice would simply be to dive in. MSU has so many opportunities to offer, from student organizations to a wide variety of courses. I would highly recommend going outside of your comfort zone to engage with opportunities or even genres that you normally wouldn’t. Even if you’ve never written in a particular genre before, take the intro class and try it! You never know what you might fall in love with, or what one particular class, organization, or faculty relationship might lead to later on. There is so much to experiment with, so much to try, and that is really what your time here is for.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

Since I will not be graduating until the fall, I did not complete a capstone or thesis yet. However, I did have the opportunity to put together a cumulative portfolio of my creative work to submit for scholarships, and that was an extremely gratifying experience. What excited me about that process was getting to read back through all my old work and watching my growth throughout my time here. It was almost emotional, as it made me proud of the writer I have become.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

My dream job is to write for Saturday Night Live! However, I am open to many things post-graduation. I know that I want to be a published author someday, ideally in the genre of creative nonfiction. I would love to someday return to MSU as a distinguished alum and possibly judge the MSU Creative Writing Awards; I think it would be amazing to inspire writers the way that I have been inspired and to be able to give the awards that I have been lucky enough to receive. I am potentially looking into getting my Master’s in Creative Writing, but the future is largely open for me right now!

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

The pandemic has obviously had a huge impact on my college career. In terms of resources, I have definitely relied on my support system for guidance, whether it be my fantastic advisor Andrew Murray, supportive professors, or just family and friends. Having a strong support network has helped me plan while also remaining positive despite the circumstances, and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to graduate early without their help.