Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

At the Desk: Suzanne Sutherland

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February 24, 2015 - Our March 2015 writer-in-residence, Suzanne Sutherland is most recently the author of Something Wiki (Dundurn Press), which tells the story of Jo Waller. 12-year old Jo deals with a pretty terrible year in an unusual way; she edits Wikipedia entries.

Suzanne has been praised for her ability to accurately (and sometimes painfully) capture the longing, confusion and humour of the pre-teen search for identity and individuality.

Today we get to go behind the scenes with Suzanne as she takes on our At The Desk series, in which writers pull back the curtain on their workspaces and give us a peek into their writing processes. We get to see her fabulous workspace and Suzanne tells us about decorating as procrastination, keeping Alice Munro close by and the beauty of faint messages on flea market typewriters.

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For a long time, I was a slob who refused to decorate. And while I still have certain slobbish tendencies (a magical tidier I am not), I've developed what can only be called an obsession with creating home since my boyfriend and I moved into an apartment that was much too nice for us a year and a half ago. I take pride in my writing space, and it’s been good to me.

It's probably worth noting, though, that I decorated this room while putting off the work of revising my third novel. It’s amazing what you can get done when you’re avoiding revisiting plot holes.

This is the small half-room of our one-and-a-half-bedroom apartment, and other than the fact that I share it with our cat, Ramona, it is pretty well a room of my own.

The room is full of cast-offs and things I've inherited from family and friends. My small desk — modified from an old Singer sewing machine — was a gift from an old roommate who moved across the country, and the framed sketch that hangs nearby was done by my late grandmother of Bissett, Ontario, the mining town where my mom grew up. I also keep my gramma’s copy of Alice Munro’s collected stories close by, just in case. There’s a small painting done by my good friend Amy Deverell, as well as a painting I rescued from trash day on Brunswick Avenue several years ago that somehow matches the one Amy did perfectly. There’s also an artificial fireplace that I found on the curb too, though that’s a much more recent addition.

My zine collection isn’t quite what it used to be back when I was an active member of the Toronto Zine Library’s volunteer collective, but I like to keep my small selection on display. I also have a misprint of the cover of my first book, When We Were Good, hanging on the wall, as well as an old Scream in High Park poster, and a beautiful paper bag from the Quebec publisher La Pasteque, who originally published the graphic novel Jane, the Fox and Me in French.

Rounding out the room are some odds and ends that I’ve bought at the many vintage and antiques stores in our neighbourhood. The school desk that the fake fireplace sits on was something I tried to carry home on my own after I bought it at the Public Butter. I made it about halfway before my arms gave out and I had to call for help. The yellow chair came from our landlords’ old store and is Ramona’s favourite perch while I’m writing, and the red metal organizers, that I bought at neighbourhood gem Mrs. Huizenga, were salvaged from an old prison. I picked up the typewriter at the Parkdale Flea, but I keep forgetting to buy a new ribbon for it. We had a party maybe six months ago and two of my friends holed up in here and left me a very faint message on the page stuck inside. It was a pretty sweet surprise the next morning.

Suzanne Sutherland


Suzanne Sutherland is a writer for children and teens. Her first novel, When We Were Good, received critical acclaim and was selected for the American Library Association’s Rainbow List. She also works in children’s publishing and is the co-founder of the Toronto Zine Library. She lives in Toronto.

Check out all the At the Desk interviews in our archives.

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