Storytelling has always been an integral part of Mary Helen Brown’s life. “My family is full of these outrageous people who had these outrageous stories to tell,” Brown said. “That’s where it all started.” She recently published her first book, Headed for Home, a fictional account in which many events and people are loosely inspired by the stories of her family and friends.
Brown’s family owned Brown Drug in Center, Texas. Her father and grandfather worked in the pharmacy and her mother managed the store. Growing up in her family’s store, Brown came to know the people of Center and the stories they had to tell.
“My family is full of these outrageous people who had these outrageous stories to tell. That’s where it all started.”
Brown attended Centenary College in Shreveport, La., and received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts. As an avid sports fan, Brown enjoyed listening to University of Kentucky basketball games on the radio, and continued her education there. While pursuing her Master of Arts in Human Communication and Gerontology at Kentucky, Brown taught the first communication class she had ever walked into. Although she had worked in radio for years, and intended to pursue a Master's degree in that area, she became intrigued by her course in communication theory.
Brown returned to Texas where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Speech Communication from the University of Texas. Brown accepted a job at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. During her first and only winter in Milwaukee, Brown was ready for a change and applied for teaching positions at several colleges, including Auburn University.
During her interview at Auburn, she immediately felt at home among the blooming azaleas and the people that were as warm as the weather. She accepted Auburn’s job offer and began a career lasting 34 years. She served as the Chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism for 10 of those years. She is proudest of her teaching awards at both the university and national levels.
Her favorite class to teach? Storytelling, of course. During her career in academics, Brown has written numerous articles, conference papers, and instructional materials related to the study of communication. She is thrilled to have published something that people will read for pleasure.
Brown wrote the first chapter of Headed for Home in 1991. In 2012, Brown returned to her project and spent her days writing chapters in a composition notebook. Twenty-something years and three months later, Headed for Home was complete.
Headed for Home takes place in the fictional city of Rowja, Texas where the young narrator Speedy takes readers through an adventure-filled summer. Through vivid descriptions and quirky characters, Brown allows readers to experience small-town, Southern life as if they are living it themselves.
To Brown, Headed for Home weaves the themes of tolerance, family, and humor through each page.