By PHYL NEWBECK
Hinesburg’s Meg Little Reilly was a voice for others during her days working for the Obama administration. She continues to do that work as a speechwriter for Bennington College, but she uses her own voice as a novelist, most recently with her book “Everything that Follows,” which was published in 2018.
Born in Brattleboro, the 40-year-old Reilly got her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont and subsequently worked for Vermont Public Radio. Moving to Washington, D.C., for graduate studies, she ended up spending a decade in the city as a spokesperson for the Treasury Department and then as Deputy Associate Director of Communications at the Office of Management and Budgeting. At the former she dealt primarily with Wall Street reforms and the auto industry bailouts, and at the latter she focused on fiscal and regulatory policy.
Reilly thoroughly enjoyed her time in Washington, although she describes her early years as the equivalent of drinking out of a fire hose.
“It was exciting and such an honor,” she said. “The hours were long and it was physically and emotionally demanding, but when the economy started to stabilize it felt a little easier.”
Around 2011, Reilly began to get up early to write before walking to work.
“I’ve always been writing,” Reilly said, “but it never occurred to me that being a writer was a viable career path. I thought it would just be a hobby.”
Reilly left the White House after her first child was born, but she and her husband stayed in Washington for two more years and a second daughter was born there. Her first book, “We are Unprepared,” was published in 2016.
“It was actually easier to write a book while working in the White House then while having small children,” she said.
Reilly did some political consulting work and signed a two-book contract with Harper Collins. “Once we did that, I felt we had the freedom to live any place we wanted,” she said.
After a brief sojourn in the Boston area, Reilly and her family moved to Hinesburg in June of 2017. “We were looking for a place with a real sense of community and identity and a town center,” she said.
In addition to working on her third novel, which is due out in early 2020, Reilly has been doing commentary on civic engagement for Vermont Public Radio, and last September she began working as a writer for the president of Bennington College, traveling there once a week and working remotely the rest of the time.
“Writing books thrills me the most but it became too solitary,” she said. “I missed collaboration so being in the Bennington community has been really fun.”
Reilly has begun to take a more leisurely pace to her novel writing and is hoping to sign on with a small independent publisher after her current novel is completed.
Reilly said one common thread for her novels is the presence of the natural world. The books take place, respectively, in the Northeast Kingdom, Martha’s Vineyard and the Berkshires. Her first two novels have strong environmental components and Reilly said a sense of place is essential to her work.
“Being a Vermonter is important to the way I write because of the strong connection to the natural world,” she said. “It’s a primary lens through which I experience the world.”