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The End of the Beginning

January 19, 2011

Six years ago this month, I served Jury Duty at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in downtown Manhattan. Back then, we were permitted laptops while waiting. And I waited a lot–three days without being called. Can’t remember why, but I used the three-day break from my second grade classroom to write a chapter book for the elementary set. Titled Zoo and the Niners, my amateur debut effort featured a girl named Zoo who loved breakfast for dinner and baseball. But Zoo just couldn’t earn a jazzy compliment from her teacher. While Ms. Farrell (of course) doled out numberless “terrifics” and “wonderfuls” to classmates, Zoo had to swallow “good” and “fine” over and over again. That is, until Zoo’s terrific, wonderful baseball idea. Zoo contained nine chapters plus nine accompanying songs, like “My Grandma Sews Baseballs” and “Inappropriate and Not OK.” The book’s first line: “The bell rang.”

My bell rang, too. (Oh, bad pun, you’re so good to me.) Returning to my classroom later that week, I felt itchy, keen to move on. Within a couple months, I’d researched grad school programs and signed up for the GRE. The only program I applied to the following fall was the Master’s in Liberal Studies at The New School for Social Research. Still enamored with sociology, my undergraduate major, and the humanities, my undergraduate minor, I thought the NSSR program would open up more pathways than it would narrow. Besides, it emphasized writing: “The curriculum developed by the Committee on Liberal Studies offers graduate training in intellectual history, cultural studies, and the art of fine writing, bringing together students of social thought, philosophy, the arts, and current affairs who wish to work on the quality of their prose while mastering new modes of serious inquiry, both academic and journalistic.” It was the only program for me.

Yay! I got in! And met some great people. And started to write essays. And took a class with a professor who suggested I write more essays. And attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. And spent an afternoon hiding in a drafty basement while a thunderstorm did its worst outside and brought up an old memory inside. And wondered if I might find more memories. And nurtured a little idea for a memory project that would become my thesis. And decided to get an MFA. And kept working on that project. And met some more great people. And wrote some more essays. And added to my memory project.

And now it’s a book-length manuscript.

In six days I go back to Jury Duty, same room, the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in downtown Manhattan. They don’t allow laptops anymore, so I’m bringing the 200+ pages to edit with a good old-fashioned red teacher pen.

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  1. Laurie Easter permalink

    I love this entry, Suzanne! I love it when things work in circles. Can’t wait to read that manuscript!


  2. ahhh, the continuity. love love love


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