It was March 2018, and I had been in business as a self-employed copywriter for all of two months when I attended my first ever networking meeting, in Sam Poole’s SJPoole Network. I’m not a natural extrovert, and that, combined with a lack of confidence and a good helping of imposter syndrome, made me pretty nervous to be there at all.
Round-the-tables introductions were first, and I got through mine without too many problems, introducing myself as a copywriter for small businesses. Then a softly-spoken Canadian lady stood up to introduce herself. “I’m Suzan St Maur, and for many years I was a copywriter just like Rebecca there; but I realised some time ago that I was sick of writing about radiators, plumbing or whatever else clients wanted…and I decided to be an author instead, and write what I wanted to.”
My insides curled up. A confident, established professional writer who’d already done what I was planning to do, and she’d done it for many years; and not only that, she’d become a successful, published author many times over! What would she think of someone who believed they could just jump into her profession now the kids were off at school, and make a business out of it?! All this and more raced through my head, and it sped up as she started to approach me during Mingling….
“Hello!” she said. “It’s great to meet a fellow writer. It sounds like you had an interesting start as a journalist too, just like me. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to meet copywriters, because since I stopped doing it, I often have old clients cropping up who need referrals. What sort of work are you looking for?”
And that was Suze. From the moment I met her, she was kind, supportive, positive, and generous. A few months later, Sam asked her to run a networking session on blogging, and Suze was in touch with me immediately, asking me if I’d like to help her run it, add my professional input, and run my own breakout group. I practically bit her hand off, because every opportunity to learn from Suze was invaluable. The insights she gave me from that time on influenced my own workshops and blogging guides, which she was also kind enough to review for me before I put them out there – and that was a huge boost to my confidence in what I was offering.
We shared interests not only in writing and literature, but in self-knowledge and improvement too. We both belonged to Ali Moore’s Reconnection group, and shared many a delicious lunch at The Swan in Bedford, talking about all sorts of issues and influences we’ve known over the years, and putting the world to rights.
Suze was such great company generally, and I soon learned that she deeply loved her son, her animals, her native Canada, and the English language. She had a huge catalogue of anecdotes, from chain-smoking editors in London to difficult copywriting clients, and some fantastical novel ideas that had been thrown her way over her years as an author coach. She’s written a staggering array of books, including professional handbooks, self-help books, and several volumes of brilliant humorous poetry. How to Write Brilliant Business Blogs remains a regular source of inspiration for me.
A little over three years since the day I met her, and Suze is gone – taken by the cancer that plagued her and attempted to slow her down several times throughout her life. In the live stream of her funeral yesterday, I learned about the huge amount of voluntary work she did for cancer patients, becoming Chair of the Milton Keynes Cancer Patient Partnership and giving her time and expertise in all sorts of ways to improve services for cancer patients in the area. She was generous with her time for young authors and writers, and helped wherever she could – which absolutely fits with the generosity I received from Suze myself.
I will miss her. I will miss her anecdotes and insights; her Joke Time on Facebook; and the great privilege of her opinion and expertise. But most of all I will miss walking into a meeting, and seeing her smile and her twinkle, and knowing that I had a true friend there.
There’s no better way to finish than with one of the jokes she would regularly find and share on Facebook. Here’s one of my favourites:
When a wealthy businessman choked on a fish bone at a restaurant, he was fortunate that there was a doctor seated at a nearby table. Springing up, the doctor skilfully removed the bone and saved the businessman’s life. As soon as the fellow had calmed himself and could talk again, he thanked the doctor enthusiastically and offered to pay him for his services. Although the doctor declined at first, the businessman insisted. “Just name your fee,” he croaked gratefully.
“Okay,” replied the doctor. “Let’s say about half what you’d have offered when the bone was still stuck in your throat.”
Goodbye, Suze. I will miss you – and I wish I’d known you longer.
There is a fundraiser in her name, for Willen Hospice, which provided her palliative care, to which you can donate here: https://gofund.me/7d63780e
But if you would like a good laugh – or a good learn, for that matter – you can do no better than one of her books, which you can browse on her website, here: https://howtowritebetter.net/
Cover photo credit: Sam Poole