Growing up amid the white sand and tall pines of eastern North Carolina, Madge McKeithen headed to Tidewater Virginia to the College of William and Mary and then to Washington, DC to graduate school at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Writing, editing, and research work in a Congressional office on Capitol Hill and at the World Bank, and then in New Jersey, on a demography journal at Princeton University, and at the Educational Testing Service preceded her move to teach and obtain certification through New Jersey’s alternate route to teaching in 1990. For the next decade, she taught a variety of subjects to a variety of ages in public and private schools in New Jersey and Georgia, and with her husband (of twenty-five years, now divorced) enjoyed life with two growing sons.
In 2001, the search for a diagnosis for her older son’s progressive degenerative illness led her to take a leave from full-time high school teaching and subsequently to begin writing. She began studying in the Queens low-residency MFA program in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2003, and in 2006, completed that degree and began teaching nonfiction writing at The New School in New York. For three months in the summer and fall of 2001, she was on faculty at Tashkent International School in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, while continuing to teach online at The New School.
Her first book, Blue Peninsula (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006), now also on Kindle and NOOKbook, tells in fragments of her turn to poetry in the wake of her older son’s undiagnosed degenerative neurological disorder. Her work can also be read at these links—“Paul Newman On Sixth Avenue.” Lost and Found: Stories from New York (Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood Books, 2009), an essay about her father in her hometown paper, an essay about going public (library) with her love for poetry in Topograph (2010) and a dark true love story in TriQuarterly vol. 137, reprinted in Utne Reader (Nov-Dec 2010). Her essay “What Really Happened” appears in Best American Essays, 2011 (October 2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her review of a memoir by Kelle Groom was published in The New York Times Book Review in August 2011.