- a lifelong teacher of English to immigrants and grammar curmudgeon who still believes that the subject of the gerund should be in the possessive
Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
Susan wrote her first story, The Toy Horse on Wheels, in third grade, and went on to study creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University. For a birds-eye look at how that went, watch The Wonder Boys, a movie about the program, filmed at CMU. It starred Kirk Douglas, the first Spider-Man, and Ironman. It’s based on a novel by award-winning author Michael Chabon, who also attended CMU, but wisely transferred to the University of Pittsburgh.
Susan got her MA in linguistics, still one of her passions, at Pitt. To pay her tuition she started teaching English to students from other countries, which became her lifelong profession and love. She also become a prolific contributor and editor of articles about improving the academic achievement of immigrant children for national education publications. Now she’s writing a series of novels about her middle school students and dabbling in rom-com novels about “mature adults,” because she’s almost 70 and is tired of the invisibility of old age.
Along the way, she moved to Mexico for 15 years, had three kids, became bilingual-bicultural, moved back to Maryland, and is most proud of having raised bilingual-bicultural children who contribute to the support of Latin American immigrants through their work and in their daily life.
Susan, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
I want a goat. They hop around the house in their little goat shoes and, I don’t know, I just want a cute little goat. I already have four cats, commonly acknowledged to be 2-3 cats too many.
I have friends with goats! They’re herd animals, so I’m not sure if you can just get one. But it might be okay with a house-goat.
What do you write? And how did you get started?
Except for The Toy Dog on Wheels, in third grade, and a few forgettable pieces of fiction in college, I’ve written predominantly non-fiction and pride myself on pieces that leave the reader feeling somehow touched by the content (usually about immigrant families and children.)
After I read the book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas I was so inspired by the power of Star’s voice and her struggle to find it that I vowed to use fiction to help my students from Mexico and Central America find theirs. The first book in the series is Hear My Words, loosely based on the true-life murder of a former student by gang violence. The next in the series, out early next year, will be The Family in Room 137, about young teens who suffer unspeakable hardships to make it over the Mexican-American border to join their family, only to find them to be strangers who are ill-equipped to handle the voluble teens who they remember as cute, chubby-cheeked toddlers. The final book will be Xóchitl, about a young girl who was abused on her journey to El Norte and must find her way, pregnant and 14, in a new country. In my free time I work on Sunflowers Also Bloom in Autumn, a mature romance about dwindling options and last chances.
Oh, wow! The passion you feel for helping others understand the struggles of your students is quite palpable by the description of your stories.
What do you like to read?
I’m inspired by the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Amado, Isabelle Allende, and many other Latin American authors. My guilty pleasures are witty rom-coms and crime stories with female leads, especially Sarah Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, who, by the way, gets the crap beat out of her by the end of each of the 20 plus novels.
With deep apologies and respect to most of the people in my writers’ support group, I confess I’m not a fan of fantasy or sci-fi except Dune, Asimov’s The Foundation Trilogy and Enders Game. Don’t hate me, but I don’t care much about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings either.
Fantasy’s and Sci-fi aren’t for everyone, it’s okay to be wrong. *winks* Especially with your great taste in other genres.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you
Have a schedule for your writing
This seems so punitive, because if you don’t cleave to it, you judge yourself and feel like a bad person. Since I tend to write in 2000-5000 word spurts, I just try my best to find as many opportunities as possible to do it, usually in the evening or whenever I’m mad at my husband. Writing does take self-discipline, but it should be something you look forward to, not something you must do.
I wish my writing sprints were half as productive!
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice they can pry out of your cold, dead hands
Stop whining and just get something -anything- on paper.
Stop procrastinating because you think you don’t know what to say, or that it won’t be good enough. First drafts are supposed to suck.
So many people out there think about having written and never sit down and actually produce the words. They’re letting fear hold them back.
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
Hear My Words
Gabriela Rodriguez’s new life in the United States was not like the sunny TV shows about American high school she had watched back home. When she arrived in the cold rainy days of November, her new school was just as grey and unfriendly as the weather.
Unable to speak English. she felt alone and invisible until Jazmin, a student from El Salvador, took her under her wing. Now four months later, Jazmin was dead, murdered by the same gang that was trying to recruit Gabi’s little brother. Torn between loyalties to Jazmin and to her family, Gabi had not had the words to prevent the death of her best friend.
Now she had to speak up to save her little brother from the same gang that murdered her friend.
Check out Susan Zimmerman Orozco across the web!
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon