My name is Margalea Warner and here are three things that define me:
- I am a person who lives in gratitude to God for bringing my life up from the pit of mental illness.
- I am a person in retirement, after 36 years of work as a hospital secretary. Now I am more committed than ever to writing and being published. I consider myself a triumphant tortoise in that regard.
- I am a person compelled to write because my story must be told. In my writing, in my speaking, in my mental health outreach, I strive to give glory to God.
I have been a writer since at least age 6 when I got in trouble for pressing hard with a fat pencil and carving the letters “Once upon a time” into the family dining room table. It took a lot of sanding and refinishing to restore the table and it got me on the journey of always revising what I write. When I was seven, I wrote a poem about my mischievous pet cat named Who Me? saying “Who me? is a cat and not a rat and that is that.” My father sent it to Wee Wisdom magazine and they published it.
I received my BA in Liberal Arts with a communications major and a French language minor in 1981 from Bethany College, Bethany, WV. I studied in Paris and in Quebec City, Canada.
My poetry and prose have appeared in Anabaptist World magazine, Rejoice! magazine, Guidepost’s sister Publication Angels on Earth (accepted but not yet in print), the Mennonite, Faith at Work, Purpose, and bimonthly news reports in Mennonite World Review. My long-term writing goal is to write longer prose pieces that may grow to be a memoir.
From 2010 to 2012 I gave talks at trainings for prison workers from across Iowa on how to care for the huge number of incarcerated persons living with mental illness. I have made “Hope for Recovery” presentations to medical students on their psych rotation quarterly since 2014. I have shared my wisdom of lived experience as a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter since 2016. I have educated law enforcement officers in how to effectively intervene in a mental health crisis at trainings annually since 2017. In 2018, I presented a monologue, “On Being the Helen Keller of Schizophrenia,” as part of a group show called This is My Brave where individuals shared how their lives had been shaped by mental illness.
I was raised as a child in the Church of the Saviour, Washington, D.C., an ecumenical faith community. I made an adult commitment to following Jesus by being baptized at age 23. I was blessed by the mentoring of a spiritual director named Christine Weaver who nudged me to visit and later move to Iowa City, Iowa. I am a member of First Mennonite Church, Iowa City and I write poems and liturgy for their worship. I also worship on Saturday nights at Just Church (the name reflects their commitment to knowing Jesus and doing justice). I have proclaimed sermons for Just Church and read scriptures and poems at First Mennonite Church of Iowa City.