Country bred and born, again like her Aunt Sue, Susan grew up loving the land and the farm animals. In later years, the love was also directed to the wildlife on the family farm.
And again like her Aunt Sue, she worked as a writer or editor all of her working life. Susan has continued to write after retirement, but now for pleasure rather than for hire.
Both of her hobbies, writing and photography, have led to many awards.
Susan romped through life on a southern plantation in the years surrounding the Second World War, and hunted possums and snakes, broke and rode horses, drove cattle and hauled them to market, cut and hauled hay, found whiskey stills, and pursued cattle rustlers.
The Northern Lights came to Georgia in those years and both frightened and excited local residents. That time is stamped into her memory book as if it were yesterday rather than 50 years ago, for on the night of those lights, a man was murdered on her family’s land and the killers escaped capture.
Life abounded with college professors as well as people who made William Faulkner’s Snopes family look like angels.
Susan began writing in grammar school, but her interests included biology also, and her major conflict in her school years was selecting the route of her life: Science or art? With deep interests in herpetology and in writing, she faced a difficult decision in college and changed her major from biology to English and journalism. Her professional career became writing and editing.
Susan received her B.A.degree summa cum laude from Mercer University. Soon thereafter, began her writing career as a reporter for the Macon News, where she wrote feature articles as well as news items. She moved on to Raytheon Manufacturing in Massachusetts and then to M. I. T. She returned to Georgia in the 1960s and became a writer-editor at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Now retired, she is fulfilling her childhood dream and writing about those days of living in her Yesterplace. She writes fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry.
Writing for a Living
Work years were spent writing and editing at the Macon News (a daily), at Raytheon Manufacturing Co., at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Research Laboratory of Electronics), and at the Centers for Disease Control.
Susan’s most exciting projects were at the Research Laboratory of Electronics, where she edited the first paper on laser beams and the first on telemetry.
At Raytheon, Susan wrote and edited manuals on rockets and prepared motivational materials, both written and display, for the mount operators (those who assembled radio and rocket tubes in the days before solid state circuitry).
Susan wrote programmed instruction handbooks for the Centers for Disease Control—including the handbook on the mechanical injector used to eradicate smallpox. Her handbooks have been translated for use in Africa and Asia as well as in English-speaking nations. One of the criteria for programmed instruction demands that 80 percent of the students score 80 percent or higher on a post test. These students were medical professionals.
Susan’s unit produced nine booklets in three years. She wrote seven of the nine.
- Lecture Preparation Guide
- Ped-O-Jet Operation, Maintenance and Repair Guide (for Smallpox eradication, and translated into French and Spanish)
- Professional Model Jet Injector
- SAD, SA/C Calculator for Pesticide Formulation
- Operation and Maintenance of a Portable Sprayer (translated into Vietnamese)
From writing, Susan moved into editing at the CDC and edited medical research papers for the physicians. One side project was to prepare a grammar guide for the authors. She issued a two-page leaflet weekly, each on a specific problem that she had seen in papers that week.
Writing for Fun
O Yesterplace and Other Poems came about as a result of Susan’s desire to get the word Yesterplace into wider use. She submitted it to the Oxford English Dictionary as a new word, but received a response that it had to be more widely used to be considered for the dictionary.
Privately printed in 1999, Susan’s poetry book sold more than 500 of the 1,000 copies in less than 6 months.
After Susan’s Aunt Sue died, she took some of her aunt’s notes about Margaret Mitchell and combined them with information from her diary. The result was an article published in The Georgia Journal, “Margaret Mitchell: A Portrait” (February/March 1983).
Trying to run beavers away from the family pond, Susan used techniques learned from the local ranger, Jack Benford, and that success resulted in an article for TOPS. “We Used Deer Repellent to Get Rid of Beavers“ (Spring 1979).
The Georgia Wildlife Federation has used Susan’s articles in its newspaper, as has the magazine Deerhunters United. In fact, she used a pen name (Robin Adair, the same as her father’s when he was in college) for some articles for the Deerhunters United magazine because the editor didn’t want too many articles by the same person, especially a woman. Both the Georgia Wildlife Federation and the Deerhunters United have used her photographs. One of her pictures of a Texas whitetail appeared on the cover of the premier issue of Deerhunters United.
• “Biologists Should Set Game Regulations” (editorial) Summer 1986
• “Quality Hunting” (pen name used, Robin Adair) Sept/Oct 1987
• “Personal View of G. W. F.” (editorial) Sept/Oct 1987
• Georgia Wildlife: “Sharing Makes for Quality Hunting” August 1987
Wildlife and Politics
When conflict between various hunting organizations threatened our deer herds, Susan became actively involved in Game and Fish Division activities. Her efforts changed some regulations and helped maintain others. She spoke in the House of Representatives’ chambers to the G&F officials, the hunters of Georgia, and members of wildlife organizations.
Susan drafted a resolution for the House of Representatives to honor the T.I.P Program (Turn in Poachers), and the resolution passed our state legislature.
Susan’s donation of a sculpture of a deer fawn by James Darnell became the James R. Darnell Outstanding Ranger Award for the Department of Natural Resources to honor a Wildlife Ranger every year. The award is a rotating sculpture that will eventually be retired to the State Capitol museum.
Because of her activism for wildlife’s protection and management, Susan has been awarded a lifetime, honorary membership in the Georgia Wildlife Federation, our state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.
Susan’s first camera, in 1946, led her to develop and print pictures in childhood. Horses as her major target have given way to wildlife, especially deer. She continued with darkroom printing until she switched to a digital camera.
Susan stopped writing for a number of years to devote her time to photography. One year, Susan toured the western states for 10 weeks just to photograph wildlife. Her equipment included a Nikon camera and a 600 mm, f 2 lens. Susan held one-person shows and toured wildlife shows and art/craft festivals to sell her photograph
Susan’s photographs have been published by the Georgia Wildlife Federation, Deerhunters United, and the Georgia Forestry Association.
Susan produces an annual calendar of her photographs as gifts for family and friends.
Susan’s Aunt, Susan Myrick, a close friend of Peggy Mitchell (and the only person she selected to be involved in the production of the movie), mentored her and constantly encouraged her writing. Her aunt wrote a column herself and was farm editor of The Macon Telegraph; her farm page won best in the nation.
A friend and neighbor taught Susan the value of focus while writing: set aside a time to write every day; allow no distractions, whether visual, sound, or smells; and allow no visitors. Flannery O’Connor succeeded with her writing.
Susan’s father edited the William and Mary Literary Magazine for three years before 1910. She read and loved his stories of the occult and mysterious events. The first poem she memorized was one of his. Susan longed to create such beauty as he did.
Susan’s father taught chemistry at a local college, and long before the atomic bomb, he taught his classes how the atom would be split. His students worked on the Manhattan Project. He taught a class of Ph. D.’s at Columbia University. His research in microscopy became the foundation of the field in the United States and has expanded from his work to the procedures we watch on CSI.
Susan’s mother worked in nutritional research at Columbia University before her marriage. She also wrote nonfiction for fun.
Susan’s father called it a plantation because he bought an antebellum plantation house and its acreage. Today she calls it “the farm.” Seventy-six horses roamed the pastures, along with more than 100 cattle. They raised chickens to sell eggs, and turkeys and ducks to eat. Raising white-leghorns to frying size became a money-making project for Susan and her sisters. Houses dotted the land where tenant farmers raised crops for the family’s use and to sell. Doors stayed unlocked. Keys remained in vehicles. Life felt safer, slower, and more fun. Games took them outside rather than to a computer or a TV.