Mary Snow met Lois Phillips Hudson at the University of Washington in 1971. The two formed a relationship that spanned the next 40 decades. Over the course of the last few years, Mary has offered many stories of her life with Lois, some of which will be shared on this page.
To begin, here is Mary’s account of her first introduction to Lois:
“I met Lois spring quarter, 1971, at the University of Washington; I was a freshman and it was my third quarter. I had taken an Introduction to Writing course from another Lois (Professor Lois Clemens) and submitted it for her critique. Professor Clemens called me into her office and told me she could not give me a grade on my essay as she was at a loss as to how to grade such a powerful piece. She asked me what my major was, to which I responded that I had not thought about it. She encouraged me to think about becoming and English major and to take more creative writing courses, and recommended that I take a course from a professor whose work and teaching style she admired. Since registration was closed and most of the writing courses were full, Professor Clemens suggested that I go with her to Professor Hudson’s office and see if she would sign an overload for me. Which Professor Hudson did -two courses – Introduction to World Literature and Creative Writing 101. After one day in her literature class I was enthralled. She was no stuffy academician, she was vibrant, interspersing her lectures with personal anecdotes about her girls and ex-husband. Sometimes I would be at a loss during her parenthetical lapses, but to my awe she always wrapped up with cogent information, quoting whatever author we were studying. She was hypnotizing. As a result she always had students lined up for an overload. We didn’t just read great literature, she taught us how to think and “only connect.” Her book list was a treasure trove; Dostoyevsky, Franz Fanon, Chinua Achebe, George Stewart (about the Donner party introducing us to cannibalism and the strength of the human soul to survive in the face of great obstacles and hardship), Nadine Gordimer, George Lamming, Rachael Carson, Saint Exupery, Anais Nin. In her writing courses she had us write from the point-of-view of places some of us had never considered, i.e., she assigned subjects that stretched our imaginations. She had the men in the course write from the point of view (pov) of a woman who has been raped, the women of the class from the pov of a man. Those of us of color she had write from the pov of a white male/female. She really made us think about and examine our assumptions/prejudices. She would make copies of each of our papers and invite those who would like the input of their fellow classmates to read and discuss them. However, she cautioned us that we were to be aware of others feelings–not to be too critical, “leaving no blood on the floor.” She taught us that writing was personal; our task was to take our personal experiences and make them universal. I was not the only student mesmerized by Lois. Students adored her and she had a following; once they had taken Lois’s class they continued to follow her from class to class taking whatever she was teaching. I used to amuse her by telling her she had more groupies than a rock star. Lois would read each and every word of our writing assignments, making extensive marginal comments and then schedule a conference to discuss them with us. She was always available to students beyond her office hours. Many of the other professors I took writing classes from were not so conscientious – a couple of notations; it was difficult to catch them during their scant office hours. Every one of us knew that Lois cared about us as individuals. She taught us to “write what you know,” how to make connections and to start to question our assumptions/prejudices.”