Susan will receive a certificate in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto in spring 2016 with the submission of her short story collection, We Gave Her Everything. Dark humour and an attraction to the ironic underscores most of Susan’s fiction, a tone she attributes to having spent her formative years as an Irish Catholic girl child dropped from the sky into Milledgeville, Georgia in 1964, not to be plucked out again until late in 1968. She once had ambitions to be a photojournalist and has a BAA of Photography. She also manages a Great Lakes ferry company from Grey County, Ontario.
Being a Story Is a State of Mind teacher has been an exciting, surprising, and rewarding experience. First and foremost, I am a reader. I write because I read. I don’t believe writers write so that they can keep all their writing for themselves. Writers write because they want their stories out in the world where they will be read, where stories create discussion and take on lives of their own separate from the writer. And like the watchmaker, I want to know what makes good stories tick—I want to be able to identify and articulate how the writer has used words to lift the story off the printed page, and give the reader a full-bodied experience.
I love discovering beauty in the raw dissonance of early first drafts when a writer (emerging or experienced) is still figuring out how to put a story they are carrying around in their head into words. To be able to say to a writer that I get it, that I understand, and that I can connect to what they are trying to express is always exciting, especially if that simple recognition helps them tease out the rest of the story that seems to be emerging on the page.
The beauty of Story Is a State of Mind is that writers have a space in which they are able and willing to share their early work, their messy first drafts, not because they are looking for affirmation of whether or not it is ‘good’ but more to learn whether or not their writing ‘works’, and has achieved what it was meant to do. As a teacher, I get to be part of that on-going conversation which continues to influence my own writing development.
When each of us sits down to write, we are all faced with a blank page which we approach with a healthy and respectful fear of the unknown, mixed with the excitement of possibility. The trick is to figure out how to tame that beast, and let the writing flow. Sometimes we can’t get there on our own. As a teacher, I believe my role is to keep a firm hand on the tiller, and make sure we all get to the opposite shore intact, and with our stories well on their way to completion.