Remember St. Paul’s Rosalie Maggio, a good friend of writers

“I feel like there should be a skywriting plane around the globe spreading the sad news that Rosalie Maggio has left us.” (Michelle J. Edwards)

And then there was, via the 21st century version of a skywriting plane circling the globe: a Facebook post. Rosalie Maggio died Saturday, Sept. 18, of pancreatic cancer. As the word spread, friends and writers cried (but I repeat myself).

Rosalie May


Rosalie May

There was never a better friend of writers; and those of us who lived in the twin towns where Rosalie lived for years felt particularly close to us. Her book, “How to Say It: Keywords, Phrases, Phrases, and Paragraphs for Any Situation,” was the go-to book for those who wanted to get it right; to move the needle, tip the balance, even the playing field. And when others did not know how to say it – for example, that the journalist referred to people who “staffed” a project, we would refer them to the better and more precise choice, “staffing”. Or to the politician who calls those who fight fire, “firefighters,” we suggest the better, more accurate, “firefighter.”

Easy-peasy, sensible, logical; so what’s the big problem? In 1989, it was a big thing. The world was very different, and gender equality was a flaming battlefield. As someone who wrote on the subject, I often called Rosalie, not just to find the right word, but to rage, commiserate, sigh, cry and sometimes laugh. Rosalie was an introvert and not often interested in meeting physically, but at the end of a phone line she was always present.

“Even knowing that they live in the world with one is quite enough.” (Nancy Spain, “Why I’m Not a Millionaire,” 1956).

The article continues after the announcement

It was. Even when she moved from St. Paul to his mountaintop in California, the conversations continued. We both grew in our work, Rosalie wrote other books, I went on to copywriting.

And “Oh the consolation – the inexplicable consolation of feeling safe with a person – neither having to weigh thoughts nor measuring words, but pouring them all out as they are, bait and grain together, making sure a faithful hand will take them and tell them, keep what is worth keeping, and ten with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. ”(Dinah Maria Mulock Craik,” A Life for a Life “, 1866)

Then Rosalie gave us the gift of the quote book! With a book, Rosalie’s New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, with 16,000 quotes from 2,600 women, it shattered the old, well-known Bartlett-ian idea that except for a handful of exceptions, anyone worth quoting was a man.

Susan J. Berkson

Susan J. Berkson

Rosalie’s collection of quotes by women, most found in no other collection, opened the door to new sources, new topics, and new wisdom. With freedom of choice and witty words from women ranging from Bella Abzug to Ann Zwinger on over 1,400 topics, this is an indispensable treasure chest, a reader delight and outgoing. Hold on to your copy and search high and low for another.

Who should I call now to rage, commiserate, sigh and cry? Author / illustrator Michelle J. Edwards, who wrote about Rosalie, “She gave me, and I believe all of us, her readers, her friends, her family, a fullness of love and support that allowed us to feel like we were ready for the task, whether it was motherhood or writing a novel. Rosalie was sure we could do it. ”(Michelle J. Edwards)

Rosalie did, and thanks to her, we are now writing on the shoulders of the giants.

Susan J. Berkson, a longtime twin city, wrote comments for Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and TPT. She is now writing from her home in Jerusalem.

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