Friends Beyond the Hilltop

By Marya Myers '03 and Allison Pataki '03 

Nelly Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris have been a wonderful adventure for us! It has been a joy for us as long-time friends to be able to fuse our career paths and collaborate on this creative endeavor together.

Our journey began over twenty years ago in the hallways of Hackley. We met at the beginning of freshman year, hit it off right away, and the rest is history! We have always shared a drive to find new adventures, explore cities near and far, and discover and share great stories. Likely something that began in Mr. Edwards’ Modern European history class and then blossomed and thrived in Mr. Leistler’s AP Art History, Mr. King’s American History, and Dr. Robinson’s AP English. Our education on the Hilltop fostered a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature – an interest we were both able to continue exploring at Yale.

Nelly Takes New York began as a gift for Marya’s niece, Ali (Hackley Class of 2029), who lived in California at the time. While in grad school, Marya wanted to create something that would tie Ali to her East Coast family. As our careers developed, Allison became a historically-based adult fiction writer and Marya became an early-childhood educator and author. With Allison in Chicago and Marya in NYC, we were always trying to capitalize on time together. Marya thought - we both love traveling the world and writing, what if we could combine our passions and do this together? How fun would that be?! Marya hopped a plane to Chicago and we wrote our first drafts of Nelly Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris in Allison’s living room. It was invigorating! How many people can say they are able to work with their best friend?

We have found working together to be fun and rewarding. Because of our deep-rooted friendship, we often know what each other is thinking, where the other one was going with a certain plot development, and we can share in the humor of the process. Our friendship has allowed us to be respectful but also not too precious with our words. And now that we are both mothers ourselves, we’ve enjoyed sharing these stories with our own families.

This past year in particular, as we have watched the suffering wrought by COVID-19 and in particular the early and recent surges that have devastated our beloved New York City, a place where we lived together after college, we’ve reconnected with Nelly in an even deeper way, and have taken great pride in reading this book to students (virtually, thanks to technology) and sharing with young readers near and far the many ways that our Big Apple is a truly special place. We hope you will pick up copies of Nelly and Poppy for the young readers in your life. There is no better way to start and share adventures with loved ones of all ages than through the pages of a beloved and shared book. That’s a truth we learned a long time ago on the Hilltop, now something we hope to share with the early readers in our lives.