It was my privilege in 2001 to take a fiction writing course through the Continuing Education Department at Queens University in Charlotte. The instructor was Judith H. Simpson. Judy was a jewel and a natural-born teacher. She always had time for each of her students, and she organized and moderated the Queens Writers Group — a group that any of her former students were eligible to join.
When I get stuck, bogged down, confused, or just need a little encouragement in my writing life, I can turn to the words Judy left behind in her book (Foundations of Fiction), my notes from her class, e-mails from her that I printed and kept, or postings she made on our yahoo group’s site.
Judy had a way of explaining things in a nutshell and giving examples that clearly illustrated the points she was making. She delighted in seeing her students improve and succeed. I wish Judy were still here to nudge me along to get a literary agent and get my historical novel, The Spanish Coin, published.
It has been my experience that most writers are happy to share what they have learned with those of us who are still just beginning our journeys as writers. If you aspire to be a writer, I hope you will find a writing instructor/mentor like Judy Simpson. Through her class and caring, Judy helped me to take my first steps as a writer. She gave me the confidence to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to keep writing after she was gone. Come to think of it, is that not the true definition of a teacher?
I was recently surprised to reconnect with another member of the Queens Writers Group in Charlotte at an unexpected place. It was one of those times when I knew there was something familiar about her but it took me about an hour to figure out that it was Elizabeth Towles.
Elizabeth is working on her second novel. Her first novel was titled The Long Night Moon. Look for it online.
Everyone who completed a writing course at Queens University in Charlotte taught by Judy Simpson was eligible to join the Queens Writers Group. Judy was an excellent teacher and mentor. She led the group and encouraged and supported each of us until the day she died. I think of her often and miss her greatly. I am so grateful I had the privilege of having her teach me how to write fiction.
After not hearing from anyone in the group for about ten years, it was nice to reconnect with Elizabeth.
On Monday afternoon, December 1, I had the pleasure of talking to people who had participated throughout the month of November in National Novel Writing Month “write-ins” at the Canton Branch of the Haywood County, North Carolina, Public Library about my experience while writing a book for Arcadia Publishing. This was different from all my earlier speaking engagements about by vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
The audience members were attentive and asked some good questions at the end of my presentation. I enjoyed my time with them. I felt like we were kindred spirits since I, too, hope to get a novel published someday.
In addition to talking about my experience in writing a book for Arcadia Publishing, I told them about Judith H. Simpson’s book, Foundations in Fiction and recommended that they look for it. It is a good “nuts and bolts” how-to book about writing good fiction. Judy was my teacher fall semester 2001 at Queens University in Charlotte. Her Fiction Writing course was a life-changing experience, and one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Judy is no longer with us physically, but she is a very real presence every time I sit down to write. Judy was a gifted teacher.
Each time I have a speaking engagement, I feel a little more at ease than the previous time. I hope that means I’m getting better at it, too!