Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.” Suzanne, who taught our little group of would-be writers, was such a person. For instance, if she were to read the last sentence, she would object to the words “would-be.” So long as you write, she’d say, you are a writer, no matter how short – or nonexistent – your list of credits.
“Submit! Submit! Submit!” Suzanne told us. That probably isn’t how she would have written it. Suzanne had a thing about exclamation marks. She said a writer was entitled to use an exclamation mark only once in his or her life. And she told us to rid our writing of unnecessary words and to be sure the words we did use were the best possible words. She frowned upon the use of pretty as an adverb, as in “pretty big” or “pretty hard.” She mentioned that one day after reading something I had written. It was pretty embarrassing.
Suzanne cared about our writing, and she remembered what we had written. When Mary read a recently completed portion of her family history, or when Katie read the latest chapter from her young adult novel, Suzanne remembered what all those people and characters had been up to in the previous installments. Oh, that I could do that with the book I was reading last night.
Suzanne never stopped encouraging us, urging us, prodding us to write. She gave us three or four assignments every week, always prefaced with “Your assignments, should you wish to do them,” What we wrote about was unimportant, but it was important that we wrote. “And don’t forget your longer work,” she’d say, and I’d cringe, because I didn’t have a longer work. After I moved to Georgia, Suzanne allowed me, nay,encouraged me to attend class via Skype.
Suzanne died in an automobile accident a week ago. Those of us who met with her every week at the Conneaut Community Center for the Arts, and later at the Kingsville Public Library and the Geneva Public Library, are better writers – and better people – for having shared that time with Suzanne.