On October 12, 2023, Merion Mercy Academy hosted its biannual Mercy in Action Speaker Series. This year’s honored guest was celebrated author Alycia Appicello Kelly, a graduate of the class of 1998. Under the pen name Lee Kelly, Alycia has published four novels in the women’s fiction/suspense genre. She spoke of her career trajectory and Merion Mercy’s influence during a presentation to students. Nearly 50 alumnae, faculty and staff were later treated to an evening with Alycia, emceed by Emmy-award winning alumna Kelly McKelvey '04.
In her student presentation, Alycia spoke of her “life of stories,” chronicling her “meandering” trajectory from Georgetown University as an undergraduate majoring in psychology and government, to New York University School of Law where she focused on entertainment law as a way to embrace her creative side. It was during law school that she began writing and while practicing law she found herself a literary agent and closed her first publishing deal. Recently, she graduated with her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Alycia noted that these days, students are encouraged to “pick a lane” and focus their energies on a specialty as early as high school. “I did the opposite,” she said. “There is great value in exploration and leaving space for self-discovery.” Believing there is no one answer to fulfillment or happiness, she encouraged students to allow for detours and noted that Merion Mercy provides for “space, nuance, and texture” in their growth and development.
After her presentation, Alycia took questions from an enthusiastic audience that asked her about everything from her favorite book and how long the publishing process takes, to how to stay motivated and deal with writer’s block. A large group of girls stayed afterward seeking more of Alycia's wisdom and inspiration.
Later that evening, Alycia gushed to the adult audience about the students’ welcome and response to her presentation. “Every girl I saw in the halls smiled or waved to me. They are the beating heart of the school.” Their standing ovation nearly brought her to tears.
Changing the focus of her presentation to the writing process and the themes of her new books, Alycia recalled always wanting to write, but “being terrified of sharing her writing.” She said, “I wasn’t sure it was the thing for me.”
In addition to reading from her two newest books, The Antiquity Affair and With Regrets, Alycia took questions from the audience about her sources of inspiration (“they’re found everywhere”), her genre (while committed to women’s fiction and suspense she would like to write a comedy), her writing style (the pomodoro method), and a favorite author (Taylor Jenkins Reid).
Finally, she and Kelly both spoke of how Merion Mercy set them up for success in writing. Alycia added, “Whatever you’re passionate about, Merion Mercy is there to support you.”