Meet Susan

Photo credit: Jeanne Birdsall

Susan Hill Long is a children’s book author. Her recent books include THE MAGIC MIRROR: CONCERNING A LONELY PRINCESS, A FOUNDLING GIRL, A SCHEMING KING, AND A PICKPOCKET SQUIRREL (May, 2016), and the middle grade novel WHISTLE IN THE DARK, named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. Her awards include Bank Street Best Books, Oregon Book Award–the Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children’s Literature–and the Katherine Paterson Prize.

She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.

And here’s a little more:

I was born back in the ‘60s, which, I can tell from my black-and-white school pictures, was a long time ago. That’s first-grade-me, the middle girl kneeling. I’m wearing a long dress to school, and I’m not the only one! I was the youngest of four kids. The older ones were born all in a row, 1-2-3, but there was a space of about four years between 3 and 4 (me).  I was always rushing to catch up, but figured I’d be able.  We lived in a big house in Maine, with an even bigger barn where I kept my sheep. My first sheep was what’s called a “bottle-lamb,” because he was runty (like Wilbur!) and had to be fed with a bottle. Kip was as tame as our Springer Spaniel, and often followed me around town (like Mary had a little-!) and across the field beside our house, boinging and sproinging.

Later, we moved from that house to an apartment over the 5- and dime, and that was fun, too, in different ways.  I had a special box—black, with tiny hinges, and with indentations inside for each of many colored pens, and every evening I would rate my day from 1 – 10, the score (both color and number) determined by the meeting of several requirements: I had to do my homework, eat well, exercise, practice my flute, and do something nice for someone else. In this way, I imposed a blue or green or orange kind of order to my world, which, as I knew but didn’t always understand, was changing. I don’t rate my days anymore. In some ways, I was smarter at 12 than I have been since.

When I grew up, I helped out in a needlework shop, waited tables, sold books and toys at StoryLand, filed slides in an art library, worked at a museum, edited books, prepared test questions for a testing service, and did fundraising consulting for nonprofit organizations. And I wrote! At first I wasn’t very good, but with practice I improved, and I hope I will always continue to improve.

The world is wide, wacky, and wonderful; you know this. But it is also terrifying, and troubling, and tricky; you know that, too. I write as a way to sort out the world, to put some order to it, and to appreciate it fully, the way I used to when I rated my days. I still use up a lot of colored pens.