Author influenced by teaching career to visit Carmel library April 22


Susan Beckham Zurenda drew inspiration for her second novel from her long teaching career.

She will speak about her book, “The Girl from the Red Rose Motel,” at 1 p.m. April 22 at the Carmel Clay Public Library, 425 E. Main St.

“In the last 10 years of my teaching career, I accepted a position at Spartanburg (S.C.) High School, where I taught four classes of the highest-achieving students and one class of students reading far below grade level who needed to pass the South Carolina Exit Exam to graduate,” Zurenda said. “The wide disparity among my students and my desire to succeed in teaching both extremes was the inspiration for creating Sterling Lovell and Hazel Smalls, characters from opposite socioeconomic backgrounds who meet when they are sent to in-school suspension and form an unlikely relationship.”

Zurenda said she wanted to know what would happen when she pulled two very different people together and let their worlds collide.

“I didn’t consciously have the inspiration for the novel in my head for a long time before I started, but I believe my subconscious must have known even before I retired from teaching 10 years ago,” she said.

Zurenda said the novel addresses a number of timely topics, including young people living as sheltered homeless, the joys and challenges of public school teaching and issues surrounding book censorship.

“As I wrote the novel, I decided to develop the character of Angela Wilmore, their English teacher, and give her a story arc to emphasize the caring influence of teachers who are human, too,” Zurenda said. “I hope the lives of these very different characters highlight both how people from different backgrounds have much to learn about and from one another and also show us the power of kindness and connection in the human condition.”

Zurenda taught full time at Spartanburg Community College for more than 20 years before taking the Spartanburg High School position.

To register for the free event at CCPL, visit