Susan Stroh is one of those people who asks about you first. To start a conversation she says something nice about you--not your outfit, you. She points out something intriguing she heard you say, or mentions how well you carry yourself or how interesting your work is. She knows how to focus outside herself. I imagine this skill comes in pretty handy in her work. But I wanted to focus on her this time.
Susan and I met through the Women's City Club Business Boot Camp. A writer and editor (she published 15 personal essays in 2009 alone), Susan has an office but she'd rather work at Pasadena's Central Library, so we met for a cup of coffee at Central Grounds. With our shared backgrounds in acting and writing, we found a lot to talk about--my acting, my writing, my blog--wait a minute--I was supposed to be interviewing her. How does she do that?
Besides her own writing, Susan's in the business of coaching other writers. It fits. Her gifts for getting people to open up and for seeing an individual's strengths are ideal for a writing coach, because each writer is different. With novelists, for example, coaching might involve a good deal of brainstorming. With those working on a memoir, a session with Susan might be about coaxing an idea to fruition. Susan describes part of her process as "finding what the client is doing right and encouraging them to do more of it."
I told her I'm so intent on my own work I don't think I could focus that hard on someone else's. I asked how she does it. Her answer: "Standing back and creating a vacuum for the writer to fill is so satisfying to them that it's satisfying to me."
She can be tough. She expects agreements to be kept and deadlines to be met. "So many people mean to write, plan to write, say they're going to write, and put off writing. I help them keep the promises they make to themselves."
"I know," I said. "I had to set a deadline, then tell people about it so I'd be accountable."
"What's your deadline for?" she asked.
And I was off again, telling Susan my story instead of getting hers. I'm not selfish. Really I'm not. She's just that good at coaxing my story out of me.
Morning classes for Susan Stroh's ten-week Memoir and Personal Essay Writing Workshop begin January 20th. Evening classes start February 2nd. For more information and to sign up, contact SusanStroh (at) sbcglobal.net or call (818) 497-7486.