RIO RANCHO, N.M. — At the age of 6, Michelle Rusk says, she knew she wanted to be a writer – and someday have one of her books listed on the New York Times list of best sellers.
“I used to make little books,” she said, of her time growing up in a Chicago suburb.
Several decades later, she has easily surpassed her first goal — she’s a writer with 11 books and another one soon to be published — but that “Times” goal still looms large.
No problem: She’ll keep writing and enjoying life, which for her begins at 4:30 every morning for a jump-start on another day and a chance to see the sun rise above the Sandia Mountains.
The multi-talented wife of Cleveland High School Spanish teacher and varsity girls soccer coach Greg Rusk, Michelle prefers to avoid the limelight.
“I was groomed to be a writer,” she said, and she has a résumé to back up that statement.
She attended Ball State University and was a sports writer, covering the women’s basketball team, for the school’s newspaper before becoming the beat writer for the men’s basketball team when the previous writer flunked out. She covered the basketball team in the NCAA tournament and the football team in a bowl game.
She also reported on the USA’s boxing team from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and worked the 1996 Summer Olympics.
She covered the first-round game of the 1993 NCAA “dance,” with her Cardinals about to face Kansas, but then received horrific news the next day: Her younger sister had committed suicide.
“I didn’t find out my sister had killed herself until the next day. While she did it during the (NCAA tournament) game, my parents didn’t know, either, because she was supposed to be in school and they weren’t alarmed until she didn’t come home that afternoon.
“I shared a room with my sister for 11 years,” Rusk said, holding back tears. “We did everything together (when we were younger): sewed, drew, did creativity together.”
The experience provided inspiration for her first book, “Do They have Bad Days in Heaven?” and led to a role as a speaker on the subject and, later, as the president for two years of the American Association of Suicidology.
“Nobody wanted to talk about it,” she said.
But, she was willing and, regardless of if all the days in heaven are fun-filled, she’s in no hurry to get there.
“I’m in no hurry to leave – I have things to do,” she said. “I don’t identify with the pain; it’s what you do with the pain.”
Although she doesn’t have a bucket list, per se, she’s completed her 12th book and is in search of a publisher for it; has traveled around the world and wants to keep doing that with Greg; and will stay busy at home, where, “Writing makes me happy; I sew; I paint; I create.”
She’s also quite the cook.
Her creations are evident throughout the couple’s home.
Speaking of the couple, they were set up on a blind date, but as it turned out, they had a lot in common.
Michelle had also been a teacher and coach, working at Del Norte High School. In her teen years, she had been a runner, and was an assistant of the Knights’ cross country and track & field teams. She had come to Albuquerque in 1994 to get her master’s at the University of New Mexico – “One of two schools near mountains,” she quipped.
“It was really hard to get a teaching job in the mid-90s,” she recalled. “There just weren’t many open jobs like there are now. It was before ‘No Child Left Behind’ and all that testing, which did change things.”
She and Greg began dating in September 2013 and were wed in June 2015.
Her 11th book, “That Cooking Girl,” is what Rusk calls “a fun story” and is set in Albuquerque. Although fictional and not about her, it has actual Albuquerque sites mentioned throughout.
Her 12th book is about a 1986 family vacation on Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles – also not about herself, she affirmed.
“Every book I write, I get better,” she said, with a smile.
She still isn’t over the loss of her beloved sister, but just seeing the sun appear over the mountains inspires her to carry on because, “It’s gonna be a beautiful day.”
You can find Rusk’s books on amazon.com. You can keep up with her blogs and products at chellesummer.com.