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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Susi Gregg Fowler

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?

Writing helps me reflect, allows a space between “first thought” and deeper thought. Regular writing helps me know myself and my world better even though I pretty much begin with scribbles in a notebook, often without a clue what I’m heading toward. Plunging in helps carry me into the next stage of my work day, and whether I’m working on a picture book text, novel, essay or poem, I usually enjoy the process. I get excited when I see how to improve a draft or when I finally unearth the theme I’d been struggling to articulate or when something utterly unexpected happens that I didn’t see coming. I believe writing is important for the world in part because we need to know each other better. Reading other people’s writing shows us how our words and ideas fit into a larger universe, even if we can never meet in person, even if we are from different centuries and different countries. Stories (along with music and art) enrich us, illuminate our world, offering glimpses of experiences far beyond our own place and time, or maybe startlingly familiar, or both at the same time. If we cannot share our work, how will we know each other?

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?

Writer’s block is less a problem for me than organizational block! It’s rarely a dearth of ideas but of self-discipline and trust. Where is that darn draft? Where did I file that research? Sometimes I trick myself into thinking reorganizing my writing space is writing. It’s not. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve a purpose, but my writing partner will notice if I put “clear off desk” as my writing goal week after week. The truth is that I’m likelier to stop writing when I’m discouraged, which happens when I overdo the business end of writing or overfill my schedule with other commitments. But when I blink myself back into awareness, I remember that I have a tool for that. Not an app, no, but writing. Long walks and writing.

What is your favorite time to write?

Favorite time to write? Morning, I suppose. And any other time I’m alone. But really, my absolute favorite time to write is anytime I’m so seized by a project that it’s almost all I can think about, so that I rush to get back to editing, write late into the night, skip planned activities– anything just to stay with the newly beloved.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?

Best piece of writing advice? It’s from William Stafford. I met him at a conference in Port Townsend not long before his death. In his book Writing the Australian Crawl, he encouraged writers to trust themselves. “For the person who follows with trust and forgiveness what occurs to him, the world remains always ready and deep, an inexhaustible environment, with the combined vividness of an actuality and flexibility of a dream.” When I remember his words and example, that’s the advice that keeps me writing and loving it, whatever the outcome¬–just following “with trust and forgiveness” whatever occurs to me.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?

First thought? Technology (despite my being the least techie person I know, with the exception of my artist husband). You can’t drive to or from my southeast Alaska home. Flying in or out of Juneau is a spendy proposition, and our income is modest. The fact that Authors Guild and SCBWI and a few other entities have been holding online video writing events, classes and talks, often free, has been a tremendous boon. I have been less isolated from the broader writing community than I ever have been. Amazing. It’s one pandemic-related change I hope will continue in some form.

Susi Gregg Fowler’s Who Lives Near a Glacier: Alaska Animals in the Wild, illustrated by Jim Fowler, is out now with Little Bigfoot.