Marianne Kjos, my beloved high school creative writing teacher, died last Friday after a protracted bout with ovarian cancer. My friend Carrie, another former student, passed on the sad news Tuesday afternoon.
I could rave about Mrs. Kjos as an inspirational figure, about all the things she did that good writing teachers do. She introduced us to Joan Didion. She got us arguing about books. She praised my fiction when I worked on it and criticized it when I slapped something together, and she refrained from calling the police when I wrote a rousing piece about burning down the school.
But more than that, she somehow sensed that things were bad for me — as they say — at home. Mrs. Kjos never pried, never pressed, but, unlike my friends and my boyfriend and my other teachers, she saw through my reserve. She conveyed to me in the least intrusive way possible that she would listen if I wanted to talk. I didn’t want to talk, though, and she accepted that.
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