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Bestselling alum authors share how the Law School shaped their fiction-writing careers

September 08, 2021

Lisa Scottoline C’77, L’81, Kimberly McCreight L’98, and Pam Jenoff L’01 discuss how their Penn Law education helped them build incredibly successful writing careers.

With comprehensive, cross-disciplinary course offerings and experiences, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School prepares graduates for whatever career trajectory they can imagine. Some alums – such as these three incredibly successful fiction authors – pursued paths outside the traditional practice of law.

Here, Lisa Scottoline C’77, L’81, Kimberly McCreight L’98, and Pam Jenoff L’01 reflect fondly on their time at the Law School and explain how their Penn Law education has prepared them for their writing careers.

Lisa Scottoline C’77, L’81

Lisa Scottoline C’77, L’81 is a household name among readers of legal thrillers especially. She is a #1 bestselling and Edgar award-winning author who has written 33 novels. She has over 30 million copies of her books in print in the United States, has been published in 35 countries, has served as President of the Mystery Writers of America, and has taught a course she developed, “Justice in Fiction,” at the Law School.

Lisa Scottoline C?77, L?81 Lisa Scottoline C’77, L’81In addition to fiction, Scottoline also pens “Chick Wit,” a weekly Philadelphia Inquirer column with her daughter Francesca Serritella. Stories from the column along with other never-before-published tales appear in a New York Times bestselling series of humorous memoirs including their most recent, I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses; a previously published work, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, has been optioned for television.

Scottoline is grateful to the Law School, which is where she said she learned to write fiction and quickly added, “And that’s not as cheeky as it sounds.”

Expounding upon this thought, Scottline said, “The ability to martial a set of facts, emphasizing the vital ones and eliminating the unnecessary ones, then fashioning them into a story from a specific point of view is a lawyer’s skill set – and exactly the skill set you need as a novelist. I learned to think that way, and write that way, in law school. That, and my love for justice, made me into the writer I am today, and for that, I thank the Law School.”

Scottline’s latest work is her first-ever historical novel, Eternal, “a tale of loyalty and loss, family and food, love and war – all set in one of the world’s most beautiful cities at its darkest moment”: Rome during World War II.

Her website is https://www.scottoline.com.

Kimberly McCreight L’98

Kimberly McCreight L’98 is a New York Times bestselling author whose Reconstructing Amelia was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Alex Awards; it was also named Entertainment Weekly’s Favorite Book of the Year and been optioned for film by HBO and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films. Other notable books by McCreight include Where They Found Her, a USA Today bestseller, and A Good Marriage, a New York Times, People, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Summer. An Amazon and Blossom Films television adaptation of A Good Marriage will soon be released.

Kimberly McCreight L'98 Kimberly McCreight L'98McCreight is also the author of the New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy The Outliers (The Outliers, The Scattering, and The Collide), optioned for film by Lionsgate and Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard.

“My time at Penn Law was very important to my development as an author,” said McCreight. “The critical thinking, work ethic, and attention to detail I developed at Penn have all served me well. But most important has been the way law school teaches you to think more broadly, to develop an argument then immediately anticipate counterarguments so that you can improve upon it. It’s an incredible kind of mental dexterity that I rely on often when I am structuring my mysteries. I imagine what a hypothetical reader might think is happening and bolster my red herrings so they are pleasantly surprised by being wrong every time. A legal education teaches a kind of creative, intellectual rigor found in few other disciplines that serves me well with each book.”

McCreight also sent a “shout out” to Associate Dean for Professional Engagement Heather Frattone W’94, L’98, Vice Dean for Administrative Services Jo-Ann Verrier L’93, and former Professor of Law and History Bruce Mann, “all of whom were so incredibly supportive in the long years when I was chasing my dream of publishing novels. Countless times they helped me believe it was possible even when I wasn’t so sure and I will always be grateful.”

McCreight’s latest release is Friends Like These, “a relentlessly twisty literary thriller” in which a “desperate intervention brings together a group of college friends 10 years after graduation – a reunion marked by lies, betrayal, and murder.”

Her website is https://kimberlymccreight.com.

Pam Jenoff L’01

Pam Jenoff L’01 is the author of several historical fiction books, including New York Times bestsellers The Orphan’s Tale, The Lost Girls of Paris, The Diplomat’s Wife, and her most recent release, The Woman with the Blue Star, inspired by the story of a group of Polish Jews who lived in sewers for over a year to escape the Nazis.

Other titles include The Kommandant’s Girl, The Ambassador’s Daughter, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, The Winter Guest, The Things We Cherished, Almost Home, and A Hidden Affair. She also authored a short story in the anthology Grand Central: Original Postwar Stories of Love and Reunion.

Pam Jenoff L'01 Pam Jenoff L'01Jenoff’s writing is inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Krakow, Poland. She teaches at Rutgers University Law School and credits her time in Law School for influencing her writing career in several ways.

“My years at Penn Law helped me to become a novelist in so many ways, from developing research skills needed for historical fiction to strengthening my narrative voice,” said Jenoff. “Perhaps the skill which I learned in law school that has been most useful in fiction writing is the ability to revise, that is, to take the feedback from others and incorporate it in a way that is still wholly my own.”

Her website is https://pamjenoff.com.

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