Yesterday, I felt nostalgic and wanted to share my recent writing successes with a mentor I had in high school. I looked up her production company, shot off an email. Then I clicked on their link for news and learned something that rocked my foundation.
She had passed away in April of this year.
Back in 1994, I was a junior in high school and, among other things, was part of the gifted program. We were told someone local was interested in mentoring a student and I ended up with the opportunity. Then I met Michelle Miller. She was the author of at least one locally published novel as well as a playwright. The idea was to turn a short story I'd written into a novel. That never ended up happening, but she did teach me some useful things. Like, know your characters - write a biography or at least an outline of what they're all like and who they are. That I should write even if I had no goal just write for the sake of writing. She gave me a book on writing, Writing Down the Bones, that I still have to plow through because, well, I was a teenager, and it was sort of dry. (I'm honestly still not sure how I was able to pass considering the stated goal was never accomplished.)
We ended up continuing our meetings through the summer and into the next year because we'd become friends. It felt, looking back, almost like a big sister/little sister kind of relationship. We'd still talk about writing, but we also talked about life. She taught me many things...
about bagels & lox
the joy of blueberry bagels with cream cheese
crazy indie art
that heartbreak can (and should!) be viewed as "a good learning experience"
decent restaurant seafood
how amazing a small group of artists can be together
the importance of being independent and not taking crap from anyone
to be brave enough to buy (and wear) crazy purple boots
about playing 3-way chess
about having confidence to be who you are
There are more things that I can't quite put a name or description to, but suffice to say, I feel my life is much better and richer for having known her. My husband and I went back to New Mexico in the late '90s and attended her wedding. We continued to correspond into the early 2000s, but sometime after her husband and partner lost a battle with cancer, she moved to Scotland in 2005. According to an item I found yesterday, she settled in nicely and began working towards improving the environment in her new home.
She was a wonderful, vibrant, fiercely independent woman with a kind heart and fabulous sense of humor. If you're so inclined, her books are currently listed on Amazon and Hunger in First Person Singular is definitely worth a read.
Fare the well, Michelle. Here's hoping you found light, love, and peace on the other side!