Professor Sue Shapiro

My writing colleague Kathleen Frazier recently had her beautiful memoir Sleepwalker published by Skyhorse Publishing. She has been giving readings at many public events, but I chose the one at St. Mark’s Bookshop a few weeks ago because Kathleen mentioned that I should meet one of her mentors, Susan Shapiro.

Sue organized the event at St. Mark’s on behalf of four of her published authors–men and women who had been students of hers. Each read a passage from their newly published work. Then Sue talked about the process of getting published and had the authors share their experiences of getting book deals. It was highly informative, incredibly inspiring and motivating.

Not coincidentally, Sue offered a course starting the following week entitled Instant Gratification Takes Too Long. It’s a 5-week course and costs $500. Her goal for us: Publish a great piece by the end of class to pay for the class. Each of her panelists had had that experience, whether through the Modern Love column in the Times or Kathleen’s piece that came out in Psychology Today where an agent found her.

I, too, want to have my work seen by an agent or editor, so I signed up.

Tonight is Session 2, and I am already over the moon with the class. At Session 1 Sue handed each of her students a 1″ thick volume of published articles by people she’s taught. Each class emphasizes a genre of personal essay–op-eds, personal stories, regional pieces. Then she goes around the room hearing our ideas and masterfully tweaking them to guide each student to their most relevant story line. It’s fascinating to watch her at work. It’s as educational to listen to her guidance to others as it is to have her discern what my best story line should be.

 

I love her style, her clarity and her boundary setting. Everything needs to be turned in as hard copy. She tells you what contact info to include and where. She’s available for questions through email, but maintains a 9am – 5pm writing schedule which she’d like you to respect. And she makes it clear that if a piece you write gets sold for over $1000, she would like dinner, preferably sushi.

This kind of order helps me to do my best work. She’s not there to be my friend, but to get me published. You will be the second to know when that happens.

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