Karen Cushman

Karen Cushman

Newbery award-winning children’s book author

Karen Cushman

On Creativity: Susan Fletcher

My question to several writers I admire: “I find it profoundly difficult these days to be a writer. My inspiration and enthusiasm have been buried so far below an onslaught of awful news headlines and downright hate, trauma, and tragedy that I struggle to reach them. What’s a girl to do? In a world so woeful and broken, how can I dig beneath the heartbreak and create? Do you have the same thoughts? If so, how do you free yourself to write during these confusing and troubling times?”

I have received thoughtful and inspirational answers. I’m happy to share them with you here over the summer. I’m posting them in a random order, as I received their responses. If you have your own thoughts about these questions, I hope you’ll comment.


Susan FletcherSusan Fletcher writes:

I find it both harder and easier to be a writer in days like these.

Harder, because the “hate, trauma, and tragedy” feel so intense right now, and it’s right there in our faces all day long. It seems difficult—and maybe even irresponsible—to turn away from the suffering and crises of our times to cocoon myself in my writing room and in the worlds of my books.

That said, I’ve found in the past that when there is tragedy in my personal life, writing can be a refuge. I can dive down into a book I’m writing and live in another place for a while every day. Right now, it’s 13th century England, in the menagerie at the Tower of London. In times past I have time-traveled to medieval Persia, Renaissance Venice, and places that never were. Writing gives me a break from the relentlessness of seemingly intractable 21st century problems. When I emerge from my writing room, the “real world” comes rushing back, but I am somehow better able to face it.

What’s more, writing offers a kind of sideways wisdom into the very difficulties I am facing. I’ve found that the crisis from which I am “escaping” by writing about a different world … seeps into the world of my book in altered form and lets me see it from different perspectives—at a distance from the intensity of emotion. Indirectly and through fiction, I gradually blunder my way to a better grasp of my thoughts and feelings … and then I can give them voice.


Susan Fletcher is the author of a dozen books for children and young adults, including Dragon’s Milk, Shadow Spinner, and Alphabet of Dreams. Visit her website.


3 thoughts on “On Creativity: Susan Fletcher”

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful questions, Karen. I’ve enjoyed following the posts so far. So good to read Susan Fletcher’s response to your question. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her, and hearing her thoughts made me pop over to her site and order Falcon in the Glass.

  2. Susan Fletcher has been a writing inspiration to me for years. It’s good to know she’s writing away through thick and thin. And Karen Cushman–sure hope you can dig deep enough to find your inspiration and enthusiasm. We’ve never met, but each of your books is an old friend, and I’d sure like to meet more.

  3. So nice to hear from my friend Susan.

    I am finding a certain solace in the historical research I’m doing at the moment. Our nation has seen dark times before. The Know-Nothings a forerunner to the Tea Party took control briefly and pushed and aggressively anti-immigrant policy targeting Jews, Italians, Germans and Irish. They did horrific things. Folks were appalled. They voted those clowns out of office.

    It took some time. Lives were lost. And yet decency prevailed and so I have some hope for our future, though I am sick with worry about our present. My hope is that I will do what must be done, however painful, to bring about the more perfect union we are unsteadily lurching toward.

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