5 Burning Questions with Susan Buttenwieser

Susan Buttenwieser is one of our featured writers for a 2020 reading which has been postponed, but we wanted to introduce you to her anyway. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I always loved making up stories. remember writing stories in elementary schools in these cool homemade notebooks that my teacher made out of lined paper stapled between wallpaper samples. The material alone made it really fun. When I was a kid, my family used to go away every summer with another family for a week, and one of the boys in that family would make up plays that all us kids would act in—he was really a genius and went on to become a comedy writer and show-runner and a life-long friend. Being immersed in story-telling in that way had a huge impact on me.

How many drafts = done?

One thousand

What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?

That question is too hard, but recently I have so loved Olive Again, Ask Again Yes, Girl, Woman, Other, Say Nothing, and On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous. But the book that got me excited about writing and books was Charlotte’s Web which I read and re-read so much as a child, and was read to me. And then I had the complete pleasure of reading and re-reading it to my daughters. Every word in that book is perfect.

What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

Two parts—when I connect with an idea and can begin to craft a story, and then when I feel like I have revised it enough so that its readable. The part in between is torture.

What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?

Right now it’s hope and I have this great quote from Phillip Pullman on an index card taped up by my desk, which is from the aftermath of the June 2016 Brexit vote. “Hope is the name not of a temperament of an emotion, but of a virtue. It’s our duty to hope.”

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

A mixture of all five


My fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in Epiphany, the Atticus Review, KGB Bar Literary Magazine, Failbetter and other publications, and I contribute news articles to Women’s Media Center, and been awarded several fiction fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I teach creative writing in New York City public schools that serve high poverty neighborhoods, with incarcerated women at a maximum-security prison, with older adults, and with incarcerated women at Rikers Island and their families.

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