(This article was published over a year ago, shortly after Stephanie Moore died. Several friends asked me to republish it.)
Days have been darker the past few weeks, partially from the short days and the open storm door, but for me, and a lot of other folks, it’s because a light is missing from our lives. This light has a name; it is Stephanie Moore.
Stephanie Moore was a teacher and a writer who lived in Mill Valley. (I find it very difficult to refer to her in the past tense). Stephanie wrote stories that were tight and edgy, penetrating and surprising. She often wrote speculative fiction, a genre I especially enjoy. What I remember most about her stories was that once I started I kept reading until it was over — and that was her intention.
Stephanie’s own story ended shortly after the year began. I join the many who mourn her passing, holes in our hearts, a mentor missing from our minds. She was more than a writer; she was a teacher. More than a teacher, she was a gardener. More than a gardener, she was a flower herself. Stephanie Moore was always more.
She caringly crafted and cultivated writing and writers in her garden tucked behind 55 Mountain View Avenue. She prepared us for writing with syntax and diction, sprinkled us with device and technique, weeded out the cliché and the blasé and strong-staked our stories so they could grow while we crafted the skeleton they needed to stand by themselves. And when we were done, she applauded and helped us send our stories flying into the world.
Writing is a lonely endeavor, which is why it’s so important to have a guide when starting out, a supporter, someone to tell you the frustration you’re experiencing is part of the price writing extracts. In class she never ran out of exercises ,so we never ran out of enthusiasm; she always found the value in our work where we always found the faults; she never quit on us, so we never gave up on ourselves. She cared — so we dared.
Even as I miss the stories she won’t write, I think of how many more stories will be shared because she taught than she could have ever written herself. Everyone in Stephanie’s classes flew; not always together, not at the same height or speed or time, but fly we all did as we became addicted to the giddiness that comes from creating and crafting, the two-headed monster of her profession.
When I was young, and a friend died, I felt the loss of the future that wouldn’t happen, the part of me that wouldn’t be completed, the loss of what could have been. Now that I’m older, when a friend dies I feel a loss of myself and what once was. As John Updike wrote, “their instant gone, the mind cannot remember or believe them; a past that no longer happened as fully, a past their passing partially erases, leaving a thinner, fainter me in its wake.”
Yet, I remember more deeply because I can’t write without thinking of her. While Stephanie’s gone from my everyday world and my weekly writers’ nights, she lives on in every repetitive structure, in every alliteration, in every metaphor I write. The light I grew from every week is gone, but the light of her legacy will remain bright in my writing and warm in my heart. I think her memorial is and will be the written words of her students, many, many Moore words than she might have written herself.
I wish for everyone to have a least one teacher in his or her lives like Stephanie Moore. I wish death could figure out a better, gentler way to do its necessary work.
Most of all, I wish I could spend an evening again with Stephanie.
(Postscript: After her death our Tuesday night writing class continued to meet every other week. Several in our small group have won awards since then and one writer’s novel, one we discussed snippets of over several years with Stephanie adding suggestions, was recently purchased.)