Besides her love of books, Gillan has a deep love for her hometown of Paterson and was one of those kids who grew up making frequent trips to the library because books were a luxury to own.
Maria went to the Riverside library branch on Madison Avenue when she was 7 and says that “Books saved my life.”
One of her treasured childhood books was a copy of Peter Rabbit that was a gift from an aunt when she was bedridden with rheumatic fever at age 9.
"I read that book about 900 times.” More than 60 years later, the impact of that book and others still touches the daily life of this professor and director of the creative writing program at Binghamton University in New York and executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson.
The Riverside branch that Maria used was shut down along with three branches in 1995, but the donated books will be distributed to children and families at the grand opening of a new Paterson library branch in April. The Northside library branch was destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
Appropriately, Gillan's latest book is the non-fiction Writing Poetry To Save Your Life: How To Find The Courage To Tell Your Stories, which will be released in April.
Maria Gillan is joined by other North Jersey writers in the Big Book Drive including best-selling mystery writer Harlan Coben and Ann Napolitano. Coben's latest novel is Six Years, just released this month. Napolitano's latest novel is A Good Hard Look: A Novel of Flannery O'Connor.