M Shelly Conner, PhD

Author, Essayist, Screenwriter, and Playwright

Nautilus Award Winning Novel- Everyman

Eve Mann arrives in Ideal, Georgia, in 1972, looking for answers about the mother who died giving her life. A mother named Mercy. A mother who for all of Eve’s twenty-two years has been a mystery and a quest. Eve’s search for her mother, and the father she never knew, is a mission to discover her identity, her name, her people, her home.
Eve’s questions and longing launch a multigenerational story that sprawls back to the turn of the twentieth century, settles into the soil of the South, the blood and souls of Black folk making love and life, and fleeing into a Great Migration into the savage embrace of the North. Eve is a young woman coming of age in Chicago against the backdrop of the twin fires and fury of the civil rights and Black Power movements. A time when everything—and everyone, it seems—longs to be made anew.

At the core of this story are the various meanings of love, how we love and most of all who we love. everyman is peopled by rebellious Black women straining against the yoke of convention and designated identities, explorers announcing their determination to be and to be free. There is Nelle, Eve’s best friend and heart, who claims her right both to love women and to always love Eve as sister and friend. Brother Lee Roy, professor and mentor, gives Eve the tools for her genealogical search while turning away from his own bitter harvest of family secrets. Mama Ann, the aunt who has raised Eve and knows everything about Mercy, offers Eve a silence that she defines as protection and care. It is James and Geneva, strangers Eve meets in Ideal who plumb the depths of their own hurt and reconciliations to finally give Eve the gift of her past, a reimagined present, and her name.


Chicago native M Shelly Conner spent her summers bouncing between her grandmother in Memphis and relatives in Los Angeles, reveling in the sprawl of the Great Migration. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. A multi-genre writer, she is the creator of the Quare Life web series and has published essays on dapperqueer aesthetics, black womanhood, self-sustainable living and their intersections in various publications including: the A.V. Club; the Grio; Playboy Magazine; and Crisis Magazine. An excerpt of everyman appears in the Obsidian Journal of Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora. Conner is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas and lives with her wife and their dog Whiskey on their Arkansas homestead.


M Shelly Conner received her B.A. in English from Tuskegee University, M.A. in Education from Concordia University – River Forest, and Ph.D in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she wrote everyman as her creative dissertation. Shelly taught in Chicago Public Schools for a decade before working as an educational consultant for several private education companies. She is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas.