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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Powers Stengel

Susie Goes West

A Freakin' American Tale


Spoilers For: My Womanifest Destiny.

When I was but a wee lamb of twenty-six years, I took an epic and exhilarating road trip from my native Arkansas to Los Angeles, California with my sister-from-another-mister Kasey to visit my favorite childhood play-pretend-friend, Hannah. My first time on America's west coast and my first taste of the Westward Ho! dream. The temperate climate, the (mostly) blue politics, and the "all weirdos welcome" energy had me hooked. Hannah in San Francisco at the time encouraged me to join her in LA so we could write together.

But, like my vision of myself as a writer at the time, I didn't take a dream-driven life out west seriously.

I lived it up hard in Cali that summer, vowing to return for another adventure, another escape from my "grown up life" as a public school teacher and perennial rule follower. I would miss the sunshine. Back to reality.

Out West in my Nissan. Listening to a Neil Gaiman audiobook and flirting with Kasey. Circa May 2016.

Flash forward six years, and I have built myself a whole new reality out west. I have the gall to call myself a writer.

When I arrived in Seattle, Washington last year (the likely final move I will ever do for a dude--the best man I have ever met), I knew I had a unique opportunity to finally chase my ambition ragged.

I'm not published (yet).

I'm not represented (yet).

I'm not staffed in a tv writers' room (yet).


I work on a challenging, loving writing team. I co-create a cathartic comedy writers' room with Hannah.

I write for whoever's looking.

I write for myself.

I'm finally cashing the checks my shit-talking mouth has been spouting all my life. ("I'm gonna be somebody one day.") Alls I know is-I'll be somebody for myself. Right now.

Thanks Mama Ru!


EXT. Grey-Skied Seattle (October 2022) - NIGHT

The lady writes.

Fade out to an entirely flexible day job as a professional matchmaker. My hours can be manipulated to fill and fill and fill with tasks to build my ever-bolder writer identity. I engage in the business of writing.

SIDEBAR: (Hannah & I near pissed ourselves laughing in 6th grade art with elaborate, inappropriate jokes about the Fievel American Tail movies. Miss Austin was not amused. "Somewhere Out There" is still a banger, y'all.)

Busting my butt to write sans immediate external benefit or acclaim is a choice. It's an ambition I'm learning to activate more and more, watching in inspired awe as my darling collaborator Hannah brings the heat in her new film program in Berlin. Girl's gonna crush it. (I've never been so sure about anything in my life.)

As so much of my past identity has revolved around school and defining myself through scholastic benchmarks, I know I'm a little jealous of Hannah's dip back into the warm embrace of grades. I find myself now in a domain where the pass/fail measures I place on my creative work are entirely self-imposed. If I say I fail, then I fail.

So, I'd better make my own fucking rubrics then. I'll write about that more here on Tellyfish to banish my fear.

In Hannah I have a creative sponsor for life. Sharing roots since we've been wee ones doesn't hurt. Sharing sweet, salty gossip on Zoom a mere nine hours apart resets me every Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Of course I have Hannah, as well as a growing community of artists in Seattle, and my tender, tasty partner, Jeremiah. But more than that, I now really, finally have me. Out west, I have transformed many of my childhood fantasies into a new, grown-up adult reality. The writer I have named myself now gets to behave accordingly. Deep down, beyond the stewing shield of self-doubt, writer's block, and even writers' separation--I'm sure of one thing. I'm a writer, baby!

Yes, that too!

I can't get off the ride now. I want to be aboard my rocket when I fuel it to full potential. I can already see the stars.

Any thoughts on fueling your creative dreams--regardless of outcome? Comment below!

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1 Comment

Oct 05, 2022

I find myself now in a domain where the pass/fail measures I place on my creative work are entirely self-imposed.If I say I fail, then I fail.” This is such a banger of a sentiment, and really resonates with me as someone who cared an awful lot about grades for so long. Learning to evaluate the work you do for yourself without letting insecurity color it is a Challenge.

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