Class Notes Profiles
Love a story?
By Joni Moths Mueller
Molly O’Neill, Arts ’00, believes in the power of stories.
Her own is pretty powerful. The story arc moves from Marquette, where she studied teaching, through discovery of her passion for children’s books, to the mecca for book publishers — New York.
She laughs when remembering visits to Harry W. Schwartz Bookstore in Milwaukee on the pretext of looking for good adult fiction. “I’d spend about 10 minutes in the adult section like a good English major should and then creep over to the kid’s section,” she says, where picture books and novels for teens and tweens beckoned.
Mentors on campus encouraged her secret passion. Barbara Elleman, then the distinguished scholar of children’s literature in the College of Education, offered O’Neill an independent study opportunity to learn how art and text tell a story. With Elleman’s guidance, and at the encouragement of her English professors, O’Neill landed an internship with a children’s book editor in Chicago. The experiences opened O’Neill’s eyes to an unconsidered career option.
She broke into publishing in New York by working on the marketing side. Now an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, one of the most respected houses in the business, O’Neill loves finding talented storytellers and bringing their imaginings to the printed page. “Whether I’m talking to people in the industry or strangers on the street, I’m part talent scout, part psychologist, part English teacher, part movie director and part advocator, evangelizing for my authors and artists and their books,” she says.