On June 18, my friend and colleague, masterful writer, generous teacher, and sweet soul, Caroline Stutson, transitioned into Spirit. She went on her own terms after she found out she had cancer. My heart is breaking, but I like to think she is chatting it up with my mom and that they are both enveloped in joy.
Caroline was a beautiful writer and a beautiful person. After Caroline left our large critique group, some of us formed a smaller group which would meet every quarter or so. Caroline would drive to my house and then I’d drive us both to Golden to meet the others at the Barnes & Noble bookstore where we’d talk writing, critique a few pages, or brainstorm ideas before sending them to the “big” group for critique.
I loved my time with Caroline in the car. We talked about her family, especially her grandson, Alec–a young man of many talents who brought such joy and grandmotherly pride into her life. I was blessed to see this first hand when Alec was in a workshop I gave for teen writers a couple of weeks ago. He shared his ideas and his own writing; his talent, thoughtfulness and maturity showing through so clearly. What an honor to meet him and be touched by his own sweet, talented spirit, however briefly.
Sometimes Caroline and I talked about books and publishing. She was often discouraged by the turn in the market; how her manuscripts weren’t being acquired as quickly, how she couldn’t get editors to respond. She was shy and sweet, which was something I loved about her. But we would often joke how this beautiful quality of hers didn’t help her in the publishing world :-). I always encouraged her to follow up and work for what she deserved because she deserved SO much; as did the readers who were blessed enough to be touched by her work.
But no matter what, she was always writing. I think she took some breaks, but she loved it and it loved her and she couldn’t not do it. She began writing largely for herself, for the sheer joy of it, letting the pressures of publication fall away. At the time I understood that concept intellectually; heck, I’d been telling hundreds of students that “it’s about the writing” for years. However, it wasn’t until the last two years or so that I actually felt it, truly understood it on a gut level. Now I wonder if Caroline planted a seed in me that I didn’t even know was there.
She was a gifted poet and I think that was her first love. She loved to play with language and had such a talent for rhyme; I learned so much from her!
She also tried her hand at a middle grade novel even though it scared her. I was filled with admiration, though I made fun of her for tiptoeing around her characters because she didn’t want to put them in danger—emotional or otherwise. We laughed about that.
How lucky I was to know her and share time with her. Sending you love, dear friend.
Sorry to hear this, Denise. Thanks for sharing your memories. May you find comfort in them.
Thank you, Jane. It’s been a rough several months.