Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Behind the Books, with Creative Writing Teacher Kathryn Sussman

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Kathryn Sussman

When we think of the people behind the books we love, we generally think of writers. But many people work in a variety of professions to get those books onto your shelves. In our new series, Behind The Books, Open Book speaks with the printers, publicists, book sellers, book bloggers, event programmers and many others who work in the publishing industry.

Today we speak with writer and teacher, Kathryn Sussman. Kathryn has an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, Oakland, California, an MA in English from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario and a PhD in English specializing in African American modern fiction from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the owner and director of The Writing Space, a Toronto-based writing studio, a freelance writer and a mommy. Her work has appeared in numerous online, print and television sources including Front&Centre, Lichen Arts & Letters Preview, Regina Weese, Artsforum Magazine, the Queen’s Alumni Review, Countlan Magazine and the Mark News.

Open Book:

How long have you been at your current job?

Kathryn Sussman:

I have been an avid reader and story writer since first learning to read. It was clear to me from a very early age that my favourite part of school was reading and writing stories. I have been doing this all of my life, and after acquiring my MFA in Creative Writing as well as my MA and PhD in English Literature, decided to open up my own writing studio to help others fulfill their own personal writing goals.


What does an average work day look like for you?


My work days are broken up into three categories: I have days devoted solely to my academic writing, others devoted to my creative writing and freelance work, and others that are entirely studio-based for teaching my students both in-person private and group classes and also online classes.


What's the best thing about your job?


By far, the best thing about my job is getting to work with amazing people from all walks of life, at all different stages of the writing process, and not only to learn from them myself, but also to see the unusual and phenomenally successful partnerships that develop in my classes between people at different ends of the age, economic and cultural spectra. There is never a teaching day that isn’t interesting or personally fulfilling at The Writing Space.


Tell us about a memorable work experience.


I am currently working with a very talented student with no formal writing background who is producing a fictionalized memoir about her “toxic” yet incredibly jovial family — all from the oral and written history passed down to her from her paternal grandparents in Trinidad. Every class we have is full of fun, laughter, and new wisdom that she imparts into her tales. Each session leaves me with a sense of excitement to see the project completed and ready for publication.


When you were a kid, what was your dream job?


My dream job has always been to work with marine mammals: a dream that has become a passion. After having had several opportunities to work with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas, in the last five years I have begun to combine my writing expertise with my passion for animals and use my writing skills to advocate for animal rights to help to bring about progressive legislative change to Canada’s failing laws when it comes to protecting captive animals.

Vist the Open Book Archives for more Behind The Books interviews.

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