Remembering Bev Fosdal

A fearless, peerless writer passed away on Wednesday, January 25th — Bev Fosdal of Cambridge, Wisconsin.

I was introduced to Bev by Anne Short, reminiscence writing instructor extraordinaire, when I was looking for people to interview for my book, Madison Women Remember Growing Up in Wisconsin’s Capital. Several of my interview narrators came from Anne’s students–because of their life writing, Anne knew who had a good story to tell.

Bev was a child of divorce before people did that. She grew up in boarding houses her mother ran near the UW campus, and the campus was her playground. Her energy and independence led her to the borderline of Bad Girl. She pulled back on the stick just in time and married Gerry Fosdal, who caught her attention when he spoke about Jesus as if he were someone he had just met last week.

That’s as far as Bev and I went together in the interviews for Madison Women Remember, a book about coming-of-age experiences. A couple of years later I met up with Bev again when I followed in Anne Short’s shoes, teaching reminiscecne writing at Madison’s Westside Senior Center. Bev, a student of Anne’s for six years or so, continued to attend the class and write about her life under my guidance.

Bev’s voice was unique among that table-full of writers. She chose a free verse style, clipped and spare, packing volumes into each line. She was honest, keen, and above all, kind.

“Teaching” Bev was all about learning–from her writing style, from her life experience, from her relationship with her husband, family, and God.

There’s a saying, “the first one served by service is the server.” That’s what it felt like to have Bev in my class. I’m sorry the lessons are over.

Bev Mickelson (Fosdal) as a teenager, with the clothesline she used as an escape route from her Murray Street home.

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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