This is not the post I planned to write.
Just after sharing my new website on Instagram, I learned that my very dear friend and writing mentor Susan Carol Hauser died Tuesday morning. I had the great honor of interviewing her for In Her Room -- an episode that will air in two weeks.
Susan is the reason I am an author and a teacher.
Just before my 16th birthday, Susan lead an editorial team that chose my essay, "Who Am I?" to publish in Dust & Fire. It was my first publication, and four years later I would sit on that same editorial board under Susan's direction, giving another 16-year-old her first publication as a gift.
Susan was also my most treasured writing teacher -- the one who believed in my crazy forms and held the space for me to begin telling some of the hardest stories I have written. Under her teaching, I learned that workshopping my writing didn't have to be scary or painful. She believed in safe creative spaces, and always provided that energy in her classroom.
Not only was Susan an incredible teacher, but her writing touched lives. Whether sharing history and recipes for wild rice or maple syrup, or writing about the changing seasons at her rural Minnesota home, Susan's work embodied a voice of beautiful descriptions. She taught me how to show and not tell, how to share without overwhelming, and how to cultivate a safe space for creative exploration, for sharing our gifts with one another as students, and to make time for grace.
One of my fondest memories is a day spent spring cleaning together at her home. She had suffered a small injury, and asked if I might come and help her prepare the windows to be open for the season. I arrived early, we shared tea and biscuits, and I was happy to work on the windows while she shared stories of MFA programs, working with other writers, and fantastic conference stories. After a light lunch, we workshopped writing together -- and for the first time, I didn't feel like a too-young writer in over her head, but an equal. A writer worthy of respect and trust and publication.
One of Susan's passions was the importance of writer's belonging to a union or a guild. A member of both the National Writer's Union and the Author's Guild herself, she represented NWU at conferences and spoke frequently about the need for authors to have representation and fair compensation for their creative work. Joining a union has been on my list but not a high priority for some time ... In Susan's memory, and in honor of her tireless work, I'm inspired to join and work for these same causes myself.
Stay tuned on July 23rd when I share my conversation with Susan on In Her Room, and hold dear your loved ones a little tighter today.
Rest in Power, Susan. You changed lives with your magik.