In addition to Maryann Leserts’ nine-year stint at Grand Rapids Community College, the full-time English professor has continuously reinvented herself over the years from playwright to journalist and soon to be two-time novelist.
Lesert is nearing the final edits of her second novel titled “Threshold,” which she began in November 2011. The storyline is informed by the events and people she has met over the years while doing intense investigative research on horizontal hydraulic fracking throughout Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but she described the characters themselves as fictional.
“One of the things that activists talk about a lot is knowing your threshold,” Lesert said. “That means you decide ahead of time what actions, problems or events will happen that will push you over your threshold of action. Meaning when will you stop talking about it, thinking about considering it and what will actually propel you into action?”
Horizontal hydraulic fracking is the removal of natural gas from deep within the shale layer of the earth. This type of fracking is publicised as “safe” by big oil companies, even though millions of gallons of water mixed with chemical agents are used to retrieve the gas. Once it’s contaminated this water can never be used again as it is far too toxic.
On top of doing research for her novel, Lesert began publishing articles that went hand in hand with her fieldwork about the activists and people directly affected by fracking sites.
“It’s really changed my life for the better a lot of ways in just by who I’ve met,” Lesert said. “It’s one thing to observe things, but to really get to know somebody and understand what makes them tick and hear about their stories, that’s incredibly interesting to me.”
Lesert obtained a dual bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in Arts and Art and Creative Writing. She later continued her education at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky where she earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing.
“By fully committing to my writer self and writer life I’ve become much more embedded in the world of art and activism together,” Lesert said.
This semester she is teaching both English 101 and 102 as well as a level two creative writing class. In recent years Lesert taught Writing for Publication, a class focusing on nonfiction writing, but can be anything from creative nonfiction to in-depth investigative pieces. This class is not on the schedule this year, but Lesert made sure to point out how much she loved teaching it.
Lesert grew up just outside of Kentwood and enjoys hiking and backcountry camping as well as traveling. She plans on contacting agents as early as November when the final touches will be made on “Threshold,” before publication. Although she already has another novel in the works, she has a strong need to get back into the theatre.
“The next project I want to work on is a rock opera complete with music and dance.”