Susan Conley recently came to Kennebooks to read from her book, The Foremost Good Fortune. Susan is a Mainer, raised in Woolwich. In addition to being a great writer, she is also a great reader. Maybe this is because (as we learned in her talk) Susan is a poetry teacher, and when she reads passages from her book aloud, in her slow, sing-song-y sort of way of drawing out the syllables, the consonant sounds…it makes her book sound like poetry. Could this manner of speech perhaps be connected to her learning to speak Mandarin?
I also learned that hula hooping and badminton are “huge” in China. That she was involved in the founding of The Children’s Room.
“Memoir is all about honesty,” Susan says, and further states that “you feel it when it’s not (honest).” This is why, after her writers group read her earlier drafts of this book they basically asked her, “Where are you in this?” and she ultimately rewrote so that she was now “showing up” on the page. “You’ve got to take us to those places,” her writing friend said, of “emotional complexity” that were lacking in the earlier work. Oh and of course, I learned the significance of the title of the book.
Susan started writing her book, was diagnosed with cancer, then started writing it all over again. A different book. This book. She says she told her story in the present tense in the book and thinks of it as a love letter to her sons, who she hopes will read it one day.
Finally, The best thing that I learned is that Susan has been cancer-free for three years.
Susan may be back at Kennebooks in March as part of the Maine Women Write Book Club. Consider joining! The first meeting is slated for mid-October at the time of this writing. Call (207-967-6136) or email Ann (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Kennebooks for more information. Hope to see you there!