Suan is a delight.  She uses her given name, Susan Cushman, and writes in the genres of fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction.  She has honed her craft over years and this year expanded her repertoire of writings with her novel Cherry Bomb.

Tell us a little about yourself (short bio).

I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1951, where I lived until 1988, when I moved to Memphis with my husband, Bill Cushman, and our three children, who were at that time 6, 7, and 11. I went to school at Ole Miss and Belhaven College. My writing career began in earnest after my children left home. Between 2006 and 2017 I have had over a dozen essays published in four anthologies and various journals and magazines, and three books published in 2017: Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be, (which I edited), and Cherry Bomb (a novel). A fourth book, Southern Writers on Writing, which I’m editing, will be out in 2018 from University Press of Mississippi. After benefitting greatly from several writing workshops and conferences, I became co-director of the 2010 and 2013 Creative Nonfiction Conferences in Oxford, Mississippi, and director of the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Conference. I’ve been a panelist or speaker at numerous book festivals, conferences, and workshops.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing poetry as a child (didn’t we all?) and was first published in our junior high school literary magazine. In high school, I was a feature writer and eventually business manager for our newspaper. I thought I wanted to be a journalist, and I did freelance writing, mostly for magazines, while being a stay-at-home and “soccer mom” with our children between 1988 and 2001.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Interesting question. I have always considered myself a “writer,” but I considered myself an “author” the first time I was published. When I edited and published newsletters for businesses and nonprofits, and when I did technical writing for Federal Express, I knew I was a writer. But I wanted to be an author.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

I’ll answer this question as it applies to my novel, CHERRY BOMB. (The answer would be different for each of my books.) If there’s a “message,” it’s that redemption is possible, even for those of us who have been sexually abused in childhood and later. And that art and spirituality can play a big part in that redemption. And that forgiveness is essential.

Are your writings based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Of course, my first book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s, is a memoir based on my relationship with my mother. My novel certainly was influenced by experiences in my own life, but it’s not just a memoir with the names changed. Instead of writing a memoir about my experiences in a cult-like religious group, and my sexual molestation by my grandfather and others, and later my redemptive experiences in the Orthodox Church—especially learning to write icons from a nun at a monastery—I let those experiences inform the novel, which is a work of fiction.

What books or types of books have most influenced your life as a writer?

Pat Conroy’s novels, especially The Prince of Tides and South of Broad, are my favorites, especially because of their strong sense of place and the brave stories he tells that mirror his own dysfunctional family. Also Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I tried to emulate his structure in early versions of my novel Cherry Bomb, which mixes fictional characters with real-life people, Cunningham does. The memoirists Mary Karr, Haven Kimmel, and Robert Goolrick encouraged me to tell “my story,” whether in essay, memoir, or fiction. More about Robert’s influence here.

What book or books are you reading now?

I’m currently reading The Bookshop at Watersend by Patti Callahan Henry AND The Pen and the Brush: How Passion For Art Shaped Nineteenth-Century French Novels by Anka Muhlstein. (I often read more than one book at a time.) Recently I read Perennials by Julie Cantrell (a friend who lives in Oxford, Mississippi, where she set the story) and Before We Were Yours (my favorite book this year) by Lisa Wingate. Also The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, another favorite author. I’ve read 28 books so far this year (about 3-4 books/month) and consider reading both a pleasure and part of my work as a writer.

What are your current projects?

Currently, I’m editing another anthology—Southern Writers on Writing—which will be published by University Press of Mississippi in 2018. I invited 26 southern authors, 13 women and 13 men, to submit essays about their writing lives. I added my own essay and an introduction, organized the essays into groups with section quotes, and it’s almost ready for galleys. And… I just queried several literary agents for what I hope will be my fifth book—Pilgrim Interrupted—a collection of personal essays that reflect my “pilgrimage” (geographically and metaphorically) in the realms of the spirit, art, writing, and my personal life.

Do you see writing as a career?

I see writing as a “late life” career, since I didn’t begin writing “full time” until I was in my fifties. But once I did, I began to spend 4-6 hours a day writing, even if part of that time was writing blog posts. I started my blog, Pen and Palette, in 2007, and have posted three times a week almost every week for ten years. I consider those posts as “published” work. The essays and books I have had published during this decade speak to my commitment to writing as a career, and I hope I can keep it going for another decade or more!

Who designed your covers?

This is a fun question. For Tangles and Plaques, I sent suggested artwork that I found on the internet, and the publisher’s graphics team took it from there, making the yarn threads fade from color to black and white to show what happens to the brain as Alzheimer’s progresses. With A Second Blooming, I didn’t like their first book cover, and fortunately the folks at Mercer University Press listened to my feedback and came up with something wonderful for the cover. For Cherry Bomb, I found the image of the little girl online and my publisher paid for the rights to use it. His graphic designer did the rest, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Also that he used original artwork of mine on the back cover. For Southern Writers on Writing, I put out a call for suggestions on Facebook, and an author/friend who lives in Oxford suggested a local photographer who took and published lots of photographs at William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. University Press of Mississippi ended up using one of his photographs and designed a perfect cover. It will be revealed soon!

What TV shows/ films do you enjoy watching?

My favorite TV shows are dramas, like Law & Order SVU, The Good Wife, Scandal, Madam Secretary, and Gray’s Anatomy. But I also enjoy shows about music and dancing, like The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance. Most of the films I see are at the theaters, although I do catch up on some on Amazon and Netflix. Recently I really liked “The Glass Castle” (loved the book and meeting author Jeanette Walls). I like TV shows and movies about abuse and addiction and dysfunctional families, probably because I can relate.

How were you discovered as a writer?  Really this question asks if you are an Indie or traditionally published?  Trace your route if you will.

I am traditionally published by three different (and soon to be four) indie and academic presses. You can read my story of working with an agent, leaving the agent, querying small and academic presses, working with editors, and more in this piece I wrote for Writer’s Digest’s editors’ blog, “There Are No Rules”: “I Landed 4 Book Deals in One Year With No Agent: Here’s How I Did It.”

To stay in touch, please subscribe to my blog, Pen and Palette, friend me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. My books can be found at indie bookstores (especially in the South) and on Amazon. Reviews can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.

Visit my web site:,  read my personal blog at and follow me on Facebook: and Twitter: Check out my Amazon author page:


“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” ~~ E.E. Cummings


See More from Dorothy A.Day



Visit my web site:,  read my personal blog at and follow me on Facebook: and Twitter: Check out my Amazon author page:

“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” ~~ E.E. Cummings

See More from Dorothy A.Day