A day with Susie Moloney

On May 4th (which is, incidentally, Star Wars Day – “May the Fourth be with you!”) self-described horrorista Susie Moloney was the guest writer at Stories in the North.

It was a good day, even if I am a member of the SiN board. Susie led two workshops for writers, one in the morning on creating backstory, and the other in the afternoon on the six rules of writing. (For the curious, they are: read, read, read, write, write, write.) Both were well-attended, and I at least found them both inspiring and helpful.

Susie’s a great advocate of reading for writers. She says it doesn’t really matter what you read, as long as you read, and that you should, at least once a year, choose something you would never normally read (and which possibly is a bit of a struggle) and read it. Reading, she says, prepares you for writing, and she makes a habit of reading for half an hour every morning before she starts writing. I may take this up, just to see if it works for me.

I love writing to prompts, and I found the prompts Susie provided interesting and easy to work with. She called them “old” and “ham-handed”, but for me they opened up some new ideas. Perhaps they were just so old that they were new to me – I’ve only been a seriously obsessed practicing writer for about five or six years. It was fun hearing what everyone else had done with the same prompts – we all responded so differently!

The evening was also fun. I love jazz, and I love listening to stories being read to me. Susie is a good reader, easy to listen to, clear even when her voice is soft, expressive and vivid.

As a practicing witch, I had some concerns about The Thirteen, which reminded me a lot of Fritz Lieber’s Conjure Wife. When I asked Susie if The Thirteen was a send-up of the suburban-women’s-secret-devil-worship-society trope, I opened by saying that I was a witch, and her response was, “I know – everyone in this room told me!” She admitted that it was a send-up, though not of the Craft. She’s had angry letters from Wiccans who hadn’t even read the novel. I at least had read it, and I wasn’t angry so much as curious. Her answer satisfied my curiosity, and also set to rest my feeling that she might have been making mock of the Craft. She wasn’t.

In addition to being such a good reader and workshop leader, Susie is also warm and kind, funny and sympathetic and candid. She gave me some advice about publishing, which was wonderful because I have nobody in my circle with her level of experience in the publishing world. She loves Thessalon as much as we love her – if she hadn’t just got recently married, we might have been able to persuade her to stay on permanently. Alas, two weeks before her date with SiN, she married playwright Vern Thiessen, and moved from Winnipeg to upstate New York. Never mind, maybe next time she’ll bring her husband and he’ll fall in love with Northern Ontario, too.

All in all, a wonderful weekend. I have new ideas about writing, and a new writing friend.

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