Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mentor Sarah Allman

“Bill,” said Sarah, her voice strong and enthusiastic, “I’m glad you’re here today.” Our writing group, including Bill Sorenson, exploded in laughter.

A few weeks before, we had discussed guidelines for our newly-formed critique group. Sarah suggested we begin each critique with a positive comment. In response to a query for suggestions, she offered several. “If nothing else,” she quipped, “say I’m glad you’re here.”

With Sarah Allman present, we always enjoyed an upbeat meeting and worthwhile learning experience. A retired teacher, she mentored all of us, including WW II Navy pilot Bill Sorenson, a few years her senior. Sarah had been working with him to use active verbs and write shorter sentences. That particular day she had counted and circled the number of words in his lengthy sentences. She cut one of his shorter sentences (twenty-eight words) to two.

You haven’t read The Bear? Bill tried to look serious, but it was too much for the rest of the group.

Sarah held her response until our laughter died down. “Your name?” Sarah enjoyed banter.

Knowing what she meant he feigned a sigh of disappointment, “Okay, it’s not Faulkner.”

As a result of Sarah’s patient tutelage, Bill gradually steered his work away from a dated style. A publisher finally accepted one of Bill’s articles. At his bedside, Bill’s daughter read it to him from the magazine that arrived a week before Bill died.

Our critique group changed throughout the years. Members joined and left, including Sarah. She and her husband Herb experienced health problems. Later Herb died. Sarah moved to Lawton, Oklahoma to be near her daughter.

On May 7, 2012, at age 87, Sarah died.

But even now, when I facilitate a critique group or prepare a Topics on Cue presentation on the subject of critique, Sarah remains a nurturing force. She was the friend and teacher who shared her writing knowledge while imparting leadership skills.

Thank you, Sarah.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

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