Brooklyn-born writer Maryann Reid says she developed her voice at Fordham and, after some turmoil and soul-searching, found personal and career renewal in Abu Dhabi.

Her career got off to a fast start. A college internship at Black Enterprise Magazine led to a full-time job at CNN and several freelance magazine assignments after she graduated from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 1997. By 25, she had sold her first novel to St. Martin’s Press. What should have been a wholly exciting time was mixed with turmoil.

“I thought I had to choose,” she says. “It was either my job at CNN or being an author; I told myself I couldn’t do both.”

So Reid quit her job and tried to make a living as an author. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Miami. And for a while things went well.

She created a lot of buzz around her third book, Marry Your Baby Daddy, a novel in which three sisters will inherit their grandmother’s fortune only if they marry the father of their children no more than six months after reading the will. In keeping with the theme of the novel, Reid started hosting Marry Your Baby Daddy Days—group weddings intended to promote two-parent homes in urban communities—which received plenty of media coverage, including interviews with major news outlets and the likes of Soledad O’Brien.

But “publicity didn’t pay the bills,” Reid says, and it became harder for her to support herself financially.

She decided she needed a reset. On a whim, she applied for a teaching position in the United Arab Emirates. She got the job.

From 2013 to 2014, Reid lived in Abu Dhabi, where she taught English to oil and steel industry employees and took the time to reconnect with herself. It was there that Reid says she realized “having a job is self-care,” because it allowed her to pursue her creative endeavors without having to worry about how she was going to support herself.

“Being there gave me time to be alone, but not lonely. To rest, to develop the discipline to work a 40-hour work week and also write. It gave me the space to reinvent myself and experiment with my ideas.”

On the weekends, Reid spent time with other women who had formed a local writers group, and she started working on a new novel, later published as This Life. She also joined an entrepreneurial women’s group in Dubai. “We would keep each other accountable, share ideas, and get feedback before going out to experiment,” Reid says.

In 2015, about a year after moving back to the United States, she found a local support network in the form of the Fordham community, which she reconnected with during a Yankees spring training event in Tampa, Florida. Now she’s a member of the Fordham University Alumni Association’s advisory board, focused on networking and engagement. She’s also a regular contributor to Forbes, where she has published articles on topics such as workplace diversity and wellness, and has been a content strategist at a major New York City-based investment bank.

“Fordham always felt like a community, always provided a safety net of support for me,” says Reid, who transferred to Fordham as a sophomore. She credits her professors for helping her develop her voice as a writer and says the University’s Jesuit culture made Fordham “a place where I could reflect and renew.”

“I knew I could always connect with people from my past and they would be a catalyst for my future,” she says. “Now I feel I can use the voice I developed there to add value and be a more active part of that community.” 

Fordham Five

What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about growing my spiritual foundation and my connection to God. It’s not really a thing I do, it’s more of a feeling or listening thing. And I’m always trying to develop a more consistent discipline around that.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My driving instructor told me to “stay in my lane,” and I followed that advice and now apply it to everything. It’s not that you have to choose either/or. But when I notice that I’m starting to get drained, I know then I’m doing too many things at once and I have to figure out what to focus on and finish. It helps maintain a sort of stability in my core so I can do both, so I can stay focused, so I can hold on to more in life.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
Being born and bred here, I’ve seen it all. I’m not fascinated by any place in New York City.

My favorite place in the world is poolside at the Shangri-La in Abu Dhabi. There’s a beautiful view of the Grand Mosque. And they have awesome pool service.

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
The Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn. It’s a compilation of all her work. From her book, I learned how much power I have—not only as a woman but just being born, that being here makes me a powerful person, and I don’t need anything else. I read it in 2004, and looking back later on it reminded me that being in itself is enough, being born fulfilled my purpose, and I’m powerful because of that. That has brought me clarity and peace in some challenging situations.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
Elizabeth Stone. She’s a tough professor; she isn’t sugary and sweet. I liked that. She gave me good critiques, things to think about, good advice about my work. I trusted her opinion. And she helped me land that first internship, which helped me land my first published piece. She saw that I was talented and she trusted me enough to vouch for me. I will always remember that.


Alexandra Loizzo-Desai can be reached at [email protected] or 212-636-6536.