Browsing the social media accounts of Susan Cushman, author of Friends of the Library, is an encounter with her love of writing, author peers, family, and an abundance of varied interests. Her smile beams as she poses with her beautiful multiracial family, and when she’s supporting fellow writers at events or signing her books and having her picture taken with readers. She’s also a woman of faith, and she collects peacocks! All of this vibrancy from a woman who found Friends of the Library to be cathartic, telling short stories permeated with angst, stories that emanated from her own life and challenging circumstances.
On her website, Susan Cushman describes Friends of the Library as:
When Adele Covington becomes an author in her sixties, she goes on a book tour to speak to the Friends of the Library groups in ten small towns in her home state of Mississippi. Chasing her personal demons through the Christ-haunted South of her childhood, Adele befriends an eclectic group of wounded people and decides to tell their stories. From Eupora to Meridian, from a budding artist with an abusive husband to a seven-year-old with a rare form of cancer, each story contains elements of hope and healing and honors the heart, soul, and history of the Magnolia State.
In the many interviews Susan Cushman has done, she’s often asked about her similarities to Adele. Susan responds by saying that she did visit libraries in ten small towns in her home state of Mississippi while promoting her book and that she and Adele are so much alike. Both were sexually abused as children, battled addictions and eating disorders, and survived cancer. One of the stories in Friends of the Library is about Shelby, a cancer patient. Susan is especially impassioned because the story includes a weeping icon. In the past, Susan studied iconography and painted icons. She feels blessed to have had several experiences of seeing weeping icons.
The road to Friends of the Library began in 2007 with Susan Cushman’s blog, Pen and Palette, a place where she often wrote about her mother, Effie Johnson, who had Alzheimer’s Disease. Susan chose essays from eight years of blog posts that became her first book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s – a title that describes what was going on in her mother’s brain, as well as in their changing relationship.
Also interspersed throughout Pen and Palette are posts Susan has written about depression, a sporadic condition she has experienced for many years; something she has chosen not to hide, but instead to share with her readers. The specific posts are tagged depression, anxiety, and a few other related words. This platform ties in with her need to help people, a theme in Friends of the Library.
Blogger-to-author has worked well for Susan Cushman. Another book in her repertoire is Cherry Bomb, a novel. She has also edited three collections of essays that include esteemed writers Anne Lamott, Mary Karr, and Beth Ann Fennelly, the current Poet Laureate of Mississippi. The most recent collection is The Pulpwood Queens Celebrate 20 Years!, who awarded her Author-of-the-Month for April 2020 at the Pulpwood Academy. Congratulations, Susan!
With boundless energy, Susan has directed and co-directed conferences and workshops and has been a panelist multiple times at major festivals and conferences. She continues to be sought after by her literary peers and by the press for articles and interviews. Not bad for a writer who began this full-time journey in her fifties!
Susan, I’m happy to have another vintage postcard in my collection. These little 3.5” x 5.5” postcards are a treasure and another bit of history. Thank you for sending it! I’ll bet West Point, Mississippi has changed in appearance from the time of this photo to how it looked when you visited and gathered stories for Friends of the Library. 🙂
A meaningful quote to Susan, is: “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” ~~ E.E. Cummings