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Reclaiming Her Dream to Write, With a Little Help from Scribd

Reclaiming Her Dream to Write, With a Little Help from Scribd

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Published by Ingrid Ricks
At 33, Suzanne Rosenwasser had secured a book contract to write the biography of folksinger Harry Chapin, who had just been killed in a car accident. Then a lawsuit ripped away her dream. Now, nearly thirty years later, Suzanne is reclaiming her dream to write -- with a little help from Scribd.
At 33, Suzanne Rosenwasser had secured a book contract to write the biography of folksinger Harry Chapin, who had just been killed in a car accident. Then a lawsuit ripped away her dream. Now, nearly thirty years later, Suzanne is reclaiming her dream to write -- with a little help from Scribd.

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Published by: Ingrid Ricks on Sep 21, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/05/2013

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Reclaiming HerDream to Write
With a Little Help
FROM SCRIBD
By Ingrid Ricks
 
 
At thirty-three,
Suzanne Rosenwasser had proven that the right mixture of guts, passion and self-belief could work magic in the dreamsdepartment.Folksinger Harry Chapin had recentlybeen killed in a car accident. And with
only an unpublished children’s book to
her name, the longtime fan had first
convinced Chapin’s family to let her tell
his story, and then had managed tosecure a book contract with publishingpowerhouse William Morrow to write
the singer’s biography
.An Atlanta English teacher who had recently returned to her hometown of New York with her husbandand two children to pursue a writing career, Suzanne was living an
“as good as it gets” dream.
She spent
her days delving into Chapin’s life and interviewing those who knew him best –
including fellow musicianPete Seeger, and former President Jimmy Carter, who called her to discuss
Chapin’s efforts to combat
world hunger.Then midway into the project, the ring of her Long Island doorbell changed everything.
“I answered the door and
this guy shoved a paper at me and told me I had just been served
,” says
Suzanne, the sting still audible in her voice more than twenty-five years later
. “Apparently Chapin had a
biographer he had chosen who used to ride around with him, and the guy had a contract with Putnamfor his biogra
phy when he died.”
 Reading the subpoena, Suzanne discovered that she was being accused of plagiarizing
from the man’s
partially completed manuscript. She soon learned that
Chapin’s family didn’t approve of the guy and
had kept a copy of the manuscript he had been working on at the time of Chapin
s death. The suitclaimed that the family had given the manuscript to Suzanne to use for her book.
 
 
Suzanne wasn’t prepared for the grueling nightmare that her life was to become.
For the next year, shefelt like she did nothing but testify. The plagiarism lawsuit was eventually
deemed ‘frivolous’ when the
manuscripts were compared,
but the humiliation of being accused of stealing someone else’s work –
anaccusation that appeared in a story in
The New York Times
 
 –
was still hard to bear. And just as thatlawsuit was being resolved, the circumstances around Chapin's death involving the implosion of a VW hewas driving led to legal inquiries into Suzanne's research about the accident. Amid it all, Suzanne beganclashing with her editor, who wanted her to take the manuscript in a different direction than she wastaking it.
“These people were playing a game I didn’t understand,” says Suzanne.
 
“How could someone just ring
my doorbell and bring this lawsuit against me? And then there was the Volkswagen mess and thepressure from my editor. I began questioning my legitimacy as a writer.
I felt like I wasn’t sophisticatedenough to be dealing with the bigwigs on Madison Avenue and that I wasn’t a mature enough writ
er to
deal with defining someone else’s life while I was
giving depositions for lawsuits which went on foryears. By then, no one was deader to me
than Harry Chapin and everything fell apart.”
 
The blow was so crushing that for awhile, Suzanne couldn’t w
rite at all. Then in 1986, she was invitedto collaborate with another writer on a large Vietnam memorial story, which led to a regular writing gigwith a Long Island newspaper. She spent the next few years covering education and writing localfeature stories and she won some awards for her writing. Buoyed by that success, she submitted a storyto
The New York Times
, which was accepted for publication in 1991.Suzanne felt redeemed by
The New York Times
article and thought she could finally put the Chapinfiasco behind her. But the article
didn’t replace the sense of loss and
failure she still felt. About that
same time, her husband’s business floundered and they decided New York was too expensive.
As theyleft New York, Suzanne also subconsciously left behind her writing life.Back in Atlanta, Suzanne returned to teaching and spent the next sixteen years pushing her dream aside.She still wrote occasionally, but only for herself. Soon she convinced herself that she was no longerworthy of the writer title.

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Lee Conrad liked this
DrShabbir Khan liked this
Helen Winslow Black added this note
These publishing industry horror stories do need to be told...so thank you! And Suzanne, why don't you post those stories from the NYT, or maybe you have already? Identify them then!
Rose added this note
Awesome! Good for her!!
7BILLIONHUMANBEING added this note
star work father mike
Ingrid Ricks added this note
Suzanne is one of my all-time favorite writers on Scribd..and I love her story of reclaiming her dream to write. It's definitely been an inspiration to me.

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