On Tuesday 16 October year 6-9, and some visiting pupils from Sydenham School, were lucky enough to hear from author Susin Nielsen about her latest book, No Fixed Address, and the journey from her teenage years, being encouraged by her seventh grade teacher, to becoming a published author.
Susin began by sharing a photo of younger herself and reading an extract from her teenage diary where she stated that if she was to be a famous author she ought to start writing a diary for when she reached stardom! At this time she moved from Chatham to London, Ontario, during the summer holidays and, with her mother at work all day as a nurse, she found herself with a great deal of free time to develop her writing. She wrote poetry and tried submitting it to various magazines but was rejected for being “too depressing” but, still persevering on the path to writing, she started temp jobs as a runner on tv shows, and started writing some speculative scripts. One of which was eventually successful and her writing then formed episodes of Degrassi Junior High – she even took on a bit-part character on screen, who was sadly later killed off! She knew that she would one day write Young Adult literature and talked us through each of her books.
There were many questions from the audience about how Susin came up with the themes for her books (often in the half-awake, half-asleep 5am periods but sometimes from other books or news stories), who her favourite authors are (Lisa Williamson, Zadie Smith, Marcus Zusak, Emily Bronte to name a few) and the long process for writing novels. It was interesting to hear that she is proud of all her books but she has a soft spot for Word Nerd as it was the first that she finished and published and that she sometimes puts characters from other novels into stories as secondary characters. She even has an idea of exactly where all her characters live – we wonder if the owners can sense that they share their house with a fictional character?!
As a teenager she read Judy Blume and was delighted to discover that she wasn’t the only one feeling how she felt and being able to explore experiences – both her own and of others, through books. The idea of being able to do this for other young people made her want to pursue her writing career. She also emphasised the importance of learning more from your mistakes than your successes. It was an excellent start to the morning and we hope to see lots of inspired young writers having a go at their own literary masterpieces. Susin even made time to come and see our year 7 “bookshelf” lockers – and found one of her titles!
To find out more about Susin Nielsen please visit her website.