Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Danielle Susi, instructor and MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute. Lewis student Zana Dixon interviewed Ms. Susi. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.
Getting lost in a book allows you to escape reality, however, getting lost while reading a book is terrifying; for Danielle Susi this is beyond true. Reading on Chicago’s train, formally known as the “L,” or while on the CTA bus, has become a normal routine for Susi; it allows her to literally move as she is moving through the story. One day while riding the CTA bus, Susi began to read a book. “It was night time and I had a long day at work,” she recalled. She became so distracted reading the book that she lost track of the time. When she finally happened to look up, she noticed she was in an unfamiliar neighborhood. As she hurried off the bus into the cold darkness of the night she fortunately found her direction and began the long ten block walk home. This was not the first time she has gotten lost, and probably will not be the last. “Pay attention while reading on the bus or train,” she advises. Getting lost while reading, however, has not diminished her love for reading.
Danielle Susi’s love for reading and writing stemmed from her childhood. From an early age, reading has been a part of Susi’s life. As a young girl her house was filled with children’s books that her mother would read to her. “I remember the book Is Your Mama a Llama? being read to me over and over again,” Susi recalls. She knows that book had a great influence on her love for llamas but later realized that reading at an early age contributed to her love for reading; or, as she says, “I recall my mother reading to me as a child; she deemed it very important. My favorite book was Go Dogs Go. Reading as a child has also influenced my love for writing.”
Choosing a book to read is not at all difficult for Susi; however, “I am not drawn to genre writing” she declares. Reading a book should be able to take you from your reality and put you in a place that goes beyond one’s imagination. While reading a book, questions should be posed that cause you to look for answers; and when the answers are not found it allows you to look within yourself for the answers.
In college, choosing classes can be easy, especially when you are set on a major. Danielle Susi knew she wanted to major in Political Science. However, she did not know that a simple creative writing class would cause her to double major in writing. At Quinnipiac University during her freshmen year, Susi enrolled in a creative writing class hoping to just fill a requirement. As the year went on, her love for writing began; her writing career started at the age of nineteen. Throughout her college experience her writing profile began to grow: “I personally write poetry and fiction stories.” Susi then declared an independent major in writing. This is often a difficult process because it requires students to make their own curriculum and paradigm for classes; however, since Susi loved writing it wasn’t a chore.
As a college student, it often seems as though my teachers feel their job is a burden. This impression can be detrimental to a student’s education; whereas, Susi loves writing and has taken her love for writing into the classroom. As a freshmen English teacher, she teaches the significance of writing. It is an important, but easy, job to relay her love for writing to her students to make them better writers. She often warns her students that writing is an integral component for any major, therefore writing skills have to be perfected. As an aviation student, I understand how important writing is, that is why I also value the importance of higher education.
Susi can attest to how influential, but life changing, education can be. A series of events have altered her view of education for the better. As a political science major, she received the opportunity to study in Nicaragua. Once there, she was able to conduct research that helped her with her undergraduate degree: “That opportunity gave me the education that you cannot experience through books.” There is no real comparison between educational cultures. Being able to study abroad is an experience that every student should have. It will broaden your horizon for all the things you love.
Susi has allowed her love for writing to influence her to pursue a Masters in Writing. This was an important decision, however, her value in education made the choice an easy one. She would advise other students who are contemplating this decision to make sure it is what they really want, “I don’t believe in the idea that you should only go to graduate school to make you a more marketable employee.”
Although writing is an important part of her life Susi often struggles with “writer’s block.” In order to get past this setback Susi reverts to listening to music, writing little sentences here and there, and reading other books. Reading allows other writers to learn different stylistic strategies. Besides reading other books, most of her inspiration comes from her suburban childhood and the many places she has traveled. After moving to Chicago, she notices how different cities have various ways to appeal to writers, “Chicago has a unique literary scene. There are different events for writers to attend and through this I have made many friends.” Through meeting other people Susi has become a better writer, in part, by accepting feedback from other and more experienced writers. As her experience and expertise in writing increases, she plans on helping the next generation and wants to fill the future with better writers.
Acts of Reading and Writing: Meet Danielle Susi
*You can read one of Danielle Susi’s poems in the Fall 2013 issue of Jet Fuel Review at http://www.jetfuelreview.com/previous-issues/issue-6-fall-2013/poetry/danielle-susi/
Q: What book might we find on your nightstand right now?
A: There are several: Li-young Lee’s book of poems The City in Which I Love You (purchased for me at last year’s AWP by my friend Simone Muench), Threats by the fabulous Amelia Gray, The Virgins by Pamela Erens, and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.
A: I think writing with Justin Torres would be incredible. I read his novel when it came out and I’ve just recently met him, and I am blown away by both the power of his prose and his truly engaging demeanor. I would love my prose to have that sort of repetitive, poetic fierceness. Plus, he’s excellent to hang out with.
Q: Describe your perfect reading atmosphere.
A: I enjoy reading on the ‘L’. There’s something peaceful about the physical travel of your body from one place to another and the mirror of the sort of mental travel that your mind takes when engrossed in a good book. You just have to make sure you don’t miss your stop!
Q: What might your personal library look like?
A: At the moment it’s a bit disjointed. I moved to Chicago over the summer so about half of my books are here and the other half are in Massachusetts. I organize them in a very specific way by groups. For example, all of the “Lost Generation” writers are together, my books of poetry are together, sometimes I arrange the books I read during a specific time period on the same shelf, etc.
Q: If you could “re-make” any movie that was based on a book, what movie would it be?
A: I’m fearful that a more modern adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird might destroy the beauty of the story with awkward acting and special effects, but I think a new version has potential to be done well if produced by the right people.
Q: What piece of literature can you read over and over again?
A: I read The Sun Also Rises every year. To me, it is a seminal text that is both gorgeously written and devastatingly heartbreaking.
Q: Give us a quote from your favorite (or any) book/movie.
A: The final stanza from Theodore Roethke’s villanelle, “The Waking”:
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
A: I’d prefer tea with Toby Ziegler from the television series, “The West Wing.” Dude has the driest sense of humor and is remarkably bright.
Q: What advice would you give a college student who is looking to enter graduate school?
A: For college students looking into graduate school, I would tell them to be absolutely sure it’s what they want to do. I don’t believe in the idea that you should only go to grad school to make you a more marketable employee. I truly think that continued education is important, but that you shouldn’t waste your time and money if you think you won’t benefit from it.
Q: What advice do you give your freshmen class pertaining to the writing they might encounter in whatever field of study they choose?
A: In the past, I’ve told freshmen and underclassmen that writing is going to be a critical component of any field they enter into. Art students are a little different. I like to focus more on showing them how reading and writing works in conjunction with the creativity they harbor in their art.
Li-young Lee’s poem “The City in Which I Love You”
Kevin Wilson’s novel The Family Fang
E.B White’s essay “Once More to the Lake”
Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies
Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding
Thank you, Danielle Susi!