Adapting With Susan
Featuring Susan Orlean
March 5, 2019
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
In Susan’s words:
What can I tell you? I am the product of a happy and relatively uneventful childhood in Cleveland, Ohio (back when the Indians were still a lousy team, and before they became a really good team and then again became a somewhat lousy team, although I have hope again…) This was followed by a happy and relatively squandered college career at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (back when Ann Arbor hosted a Hash Bash every spring). I studied literature and history and always dreamed of being a writer, but had no idea of how you went about being a writer – or at least the kind of writer I wanted to be: someone who wrote long stories about interesting things, rather than news stories about short-lived events. There is no guidebook to becoming that kind of writer, so I assumed I’d end up doing something practical like going to law school, much as the thought of it made me cringe. After college, I moved to Portland, Oregon (back when Portland was cappucino-free) to kill some time before the inevitable trek to law school – and amazingly enough I lucked into a writing job at a tiny now-defunct monthly magazine. That led to a job at an alternative newsweekly in Portland where I wrote music reviews and feature pieces. While I was in Portland, Mt. St. Helens erupted; I started writing for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice; I learned to cross-country ski; I failed to learn how to cook.
I moved to Boston in 1982 (back before they built the Ted Williams Tunnel and long before the Red Sox reversed the curse). I wrote for the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Globe, and started work on my first book Saturday Night. Four years later I moved to New York. After moving to New York, I learned how to snowboard; wrote The Orchid Thief; became a staff writer at The New Yorker; got married; got a Welsh Springer Spaniel; learned how to order take-out food. These days I do some lecturing and some teaching, but most of the time I’m writing pieces for The New Yorker and occasionally for other magazines, and working on books. My latest project, a book about the Los Angeles Public Library and the arson fire there in 1986, will be published in October, 2018, by Simon and Schuster. Right now, I split my time between Los Angeles and the Hudson Valley of New York, with my husband, my son, and a small menagerie of animals.
Susan has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, and has contributed articles to many magazines including Vogue, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside.
She also wrote the Women’s Outside article, “Life’s Swell”, which featured a group of young surfer girls in Maui, and behind the the basis of the film Blue Crush.
She is best known as the author of the 1998 book The Orchid Thief, which was adapted into the 2002 film Adaptation.
She is the author of eight books, including “The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People”; “My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere”; “Red Sox and Bluefish”; “Saturday Night”; “The Orchid Thief”.
Meryl Streep received an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Susan.
Her Welsh Springer Spaniel is enjoys swimming, eating plastic, sitting on top of the newspaper when she’s reading it, and chicken.