As a young girl growing up in Chicago in the 1950s, Susan Liverpool dreamed of being a professional dancer.
Her mother had instilled in her a love and appreciation of the arts and ensured she was exposed to as much as possible.
“She involved me in voice and piano,” Susan said. They attended concerts and visited museums. They played music at their home.
But the after-school creative dancing lessons was Susan’s favorite. She idolized her elegant, statuesque dance teacher.
“I wanted to move like she did.”
When she went to her grandmother’s house, Susan would perform for the family. And the adoring relatives rewarded her with money – nickels, dimes and sometimes even quarters!
When she was still prepubescent, her teacher declared that Susan was good enough at dancing to try out for Juilliard, the private performing arts school in New York City.
However, her mother was cautious, asking Susan what would happen if she broke a leg. She told her daughter she needed a regular, stable income – a career.
“That scared me,” Susan said. “Being an artist seemed frivolous, then.”
Susan put aside her dreams and began the quest of figuring out how she’d earn a stable income in adulthood. She eventually settled on nursing after watching a series on television about nurses.
“You’ll never need a job, never be unemployed, because they always need nurses,” her mother said.
Wasting no time, Susan jumped right in before even finishing high school. Via a school program, she became a licensed practical nurse by graduation, then entered the University of Illinois on a four-year grant.
She moved to Atlanta, began working at the VA and found out quickly she did not like nursing. But she had to have a career so stuck with it.
Over the years, she tried different areas of nursing – on the floor, alcohol and drug unit, ICU, home health, just about everything except pediatrics or OB-GYN.
Wanting more freedom in her life, she began working for an agency where she had more control of how much she worked.
Things changed significantly in 1983 when she did the est training, an intense personal growth program created by Werner Erhard. Erhard’s work was the precursor to what is now known as Landmark Worldwide.
She signed up for the initial training because she felt like there was something inside that wanted to come out, to be expressed. But she had no idea what it was.
After est, she started writing poems. It seemed to Susan like this burst of creativity came out of the blue. But when she read the poems to her mother, she found out that she had written poems and stories as a child. She just didn’t remember.
“I was really shocked when she told me I was a writer,” Susan said. “My mother said I suddenly stopped writing when I was 9 and when she asked me why, I couldn’t tell her. I didn’t remember.”
Encouraged by her mother and the knowledge of her earlier writings, Susan kept creating poetry. She went on to publish three booklets of her work.
Later, she experienced more breakthroughs in creativity. While participating in the Landmark’s first Wisdom Unlimited Course in Atlanta in the late 1990s, she rediscovered her love of dancing.
During one of the course’s weekends, participants put on a talent show. Susan chose to impersonate Tina Turner, dancing to one of her hits, “Proud Mary.”
“People went crazy – and it was so much fun,” she said. She was soon in demand to perform at parties and other functions, including her own office party at the request of one of the doctors she worked with.
The breakthroughs continued. Jack Canfield’s advice in “The Secret” movie haunted her. He said: “When you have an inspired idea, act on it.”
She started writing one morning after seeing the movie repeatedly. Three and a half hours later, she had her first completed story. It was an incident from childhood involving her grandmother that she had told to a friend who thought it was hilarious.
The friend had been encouraging Susan to write a book of the stories she told. And Canfield’s advice spurred her to do it. By the end of the first week, she had written five or six stories for the book.
“The Little Liverpool Diaries” was born. She recorded a CD of the stories in 2007, then put everything aside. She was convinced the stories would be great on the stage but wasn’t quite ready to do anything about it.
A couple of years later, she had a dream about a lion and porcupine that became her next creative project. Again, with encouragement from someone she shared the dream with, she wrote “The Lion and the Porcupine” as a children’s book.
She put that away and pulled out the “The Little Liverpool Diaries” in 2010. Surprising herself, she started writing short little songs for it.
“That just blew my mind,” she said. “If you had said ‘you’re going to write songs,’ I would have said ‘you’re crazy.’ I didn’t know anything about songwriting.”
She wrote songs to go with the stories and produced an audiobook that included the songs.
She then went back to "The Lion and the Porcupine" and started writing songs for that book. She found someone who helped with orchestration of her songs.
Everything fell into place for “The Lion and the Porcupine” – illustrations, music orchestration, editing, publishing – and it was published in 2014.
A neighbor who had bought her books told her about the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, encouraging her to submit something to perform. With the help of her editor friend, she did it and was accepted.
She performed a stage reading - one-woman show - of some of the stories from “The Little Liverpool Diaries” on Oct. 5. She also sang some of the songs she wrote to go with them.
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Recently retired from nursing, she’s not sure what’s next. But she's fairly certain, it will be something creative.
And her fans will be anxiously waiting.
If you know of any Blooming Boomers who are actively living with gusto, let us know. We'd love to hear their stories. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.