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Conversations with Dr. Michelle Arellano Haberberger

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Michelle Arellano Haberberger.

Hi Dr. Haberberger, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Franklin County and had the misfortune of a disobedient imagination. Looking back, I realize I’ve been crafting stories since I began to walk, tottering around my parents’ mobile home and chasing down wild things I could see lurking in the corners.

As I grew, my imagination grew with me, and I started writing out my stories. I remember pressing on the keys of my parents’ typewriter with the fascination of someone wielding a magic wand for the first time. As the years went on, I also became an ardent reader. In the fall of seventh grade, for example, I toted around a 1,000-page dystopian paperback with pride.

That love for stories led to a brief career in community journalism, where many of my experiences later provided creative fodder for my narratives. Yet, I didn’t last in that field for long: I found my true joy while advising a teen newspaper page. Through a transition program, I received my first teaching job in a St. Louis City charter school. That placement changed my life. Not only did I move to the city, but I also fell in love with teaching as my lifetime career choice.

After teaching for many years, I went back to school for my doctorate in education leadership. However, as my doctoral program drew to a close, I found myself eager to lean back into that wild imagination from my childhood. I began writing my first fiction young adult novel the day after I finished the rough draft of my dissertation and haven’t looked back since.

I am now a mid-level administrator at a city school, an adjunct professor in a local university’s doctoral program, and an author of four novels, with two already published. My husband and I have six amazing children between the two of us. Our little home in High Pointe, close to Forest Park, is always bursting at the seams with creativity and energy.

My husband, for example, just launched his stand-up comedy career. All of my stories are based in St. Louis City because this city will be my home for the rest of my life.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I am a loud advocate for the recognition, normalization, and treatment of mental illness. As someone diagnosed with manic depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD, I see every day as a challenge. I am always working to grow, both in my external skills as well as my internal regulation. I carry these beliefs into my career in education as well as into my stories.

For example, my fourth book, Cabin Redemption, is about a troubled teen who has been in and out of mental hospitals for most of her young life. I consider my portrayal of such facilitates as harsh, but unfortunately highly accurate, as they are based on my personal experiences. The treatment of people in mental crises as sub-human has to be stopped.

I hope the themes I imbed in my books, one of them being the importance of love of the self, help some young people feel they are less alone.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I brand myself as an author of the “scary, weird, and offbeat.” Most of my work is for a young audience, but I try to take a raw, sometimes brutal approach to my storytelling. This is mostly inspired by my work with my students over the years, who have themselves triumphed over obstacles and are therefore often imbued with more wisdom than their adult guardians.

I am proud to be represented by my agent Stephanie Hansen, who is also the owner and CEO of Metamorphosis Literary Agency. My best friend and writing wife for life, LL Montez, is also represented by Stephanie. L lives in Chicago, and we met on a writing platform called Wattpad. We met as writing rivals and got to talking. When we realized how much we have in common, we’ve been best friends ever since. For almost two years, we co-hosted a writing podcast called The Writers XL.

My first three books are part of a trilogy, The Broken Series. That series as well as Cabin Redemption are being published by Owl Hollow Press. This year, I will serve as the editor of Owl Hollow Press’s teen anthology and will also speak at their upcoming conference.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
I suppose my most important lesson has been to slow down and enjoy simple things.

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