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Susan Vaught, Age 17

Winner of an Edgar Award and a Carl Brandon Kindred Award, Susan Vaught is a novelist whose most recent book is Things Too Huge To Fix By Saying Sorry. She wrote this poem in high school.

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— Susan Vaught, Age 17


“I’m four. Almost five. My eyes are bright. I don’t realize that in a tiny handful of months, one of the people in this photo will die in a terrible Christmas plane crash—the one closest to me. My dad. My mother, smiling at the camera here, will have to go to the tiny airport in Oxford, MS, and wait for the sheriff to show up and tell her Dad won’t be coming home. Much of her, mind and heart, will never return from that airport. The other family member who died in that crash was my dad’s brother—the dad of the two cousins in the next picture.”

Susan Vaught

“So, it may be reasonable to say we had an early introduction to angst. My cousins became really cool people. I became very quiet on the outside, but on paper, I was a DRAMA QUEEN. Seriously. And writing was so much more than a hobby. It was and is a compulsion. An obsession. I didn’t just want to write. I had to. I offer this proof, from my 17th year: Yes. That’s a poem on a napkin. With actual food stains. It really is. A rotten, dramatic poem. I have hundreds. I might have thousands. I worried constantly that I’d suddenly run dry, that my words would evaporate, and I’d just disappear as a person.”