While doing a graduate degree in 1997 at the University of Miami, Susan McClelland worked for the Miami Herald and interned at the New York Times. Susan went on to Maclean's, Canada's weekly news-magazine. There, she began to do both investigative reporting and feature writing. Her first investigative story at Maclean's examined the exotic wildlife trade in North America and was nominated for a National Magazine Award. In 2007, Mariatu Karma, a child victim of the Sierra Leone war, asked Susan to write her memoir. That book, Bite of the Mango, went on to become an international hit. Today, Susan's writing appears in Times (London), Glamour, Marie Claire, MS, The Guardian, Elle, Newsweek/Daily Beast. Her books have been published in more than 35 countries. Some of her stories have also been made into documentary films. Susan is a descendant of eight founding fathers of Hartford Connecticut; daughters of the United Confederate; Spanish pirates; and Scottish horse thieves.
What do I do best?
When my eldest daughter was applying to high school, her middle school was holding meetings with parents and students to help them pick the school best for how they learned, as well as socially. What stunned me after were the varying accounts parents and students gave of these meetings. I said to my eldest daughter, “Were we in the same meetings?” She turned to me and said: “What do you do better than anyone, mom?” I hadn’t thought about it until she asked but her response was that I listen. I don’t try and contort information to fit my world view. I try to approach information, personally and professionally, neutrally.
In terms of my work, I do try to get ‘myself’ out of the way in my interviews. Especially in the books I write, I aim to allow what wants to come up, to come up, if that makes sense, hopefully allowing for a pure or purer narrative to emerge, without my past experiences, judgments and values interfering. Between my subjects and me, this communication and exchange of information isn’t always verbal, too. In fact, much is non verbal.
So I guess what I do well…perhaps not the best because I am sure there are people who do it better…is listen, not just to words, but how these words are told, the emotions behind them, what isn’t said and then with my books, I imagine I am that subject, like an actor, so as much of an authentic voice can come through as is possible with a middle person telling the story.
What makes me the best version of myself?
My spirituality. When I feel in alignment. When I am driven by fears, need, angers, wants, etc., it’s a bad day and best to just flop myself on the couch and watch Netflix.
What are my aspirations?
To be on my deathbed and know that I have overcome my own limitations (ego, past hurts, trauma etc) and raising children who have done the same. Whatever it is we are supposed to give and do, we do, not letting our fears and insecurities get in the way.
My Biggest Success?
When a subject of mine and members of their community or culture say that what I have written is accurate, reflects their beliefs and is something they stand behind. I have had this experience with my first book, Bite of the Mango, Every Falling Star, and my latest book about an Ezidi girl abducted by an American ISIS convert.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Dealing with egos. It took me a long time to just shrug things off and not take things personally. So in essence, I guess it’s dealing with my own ego, that can be self defeating and sabotaging.
Oh…and others mothers. There is a reason why 'Dance moms' is so successful, (sadly and sigh)!! But seriously, navigating today’s girl and mom culture has been very challenging. The anger and mean-ness and competition is a discussion we need to have as women. The challenge is how do we start this conversation without women feeling persecuted and defensive, so we can heal and move forward together instead of against each other and teach this to our daughters.
Our inner world shapes our outer reality.
What we think, we are.
Try Not or Do Not. There is no try - Yoda
My Favorite People/Role Models?
So many people: but really, those who inspire me are those living on the cutting edge of thought and who are humble and giving, pure of heart and just doing what they are supposed to do in this world, not holding anything back, being honest and real.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Anywhere I go but with family. I love traveling with my work and meeting people and experiencing cultures, but I always have this nagging sadness when I am alone, that I wish my family could be experiencing what I am. So many of my experiences, from the amazing people I have met to the beautiful places I have seen - are rich with beauty. I feel it’s not for me to experience on my own. So from cities in Asia to the southern peaks of South America, I love travel of any kind, as long as I am with my family and OK, friends, so they can see what I do.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Netlfix (LOL – I like foreign crime dramas); but seriously, any mode of communication, Viber, Skype, FB messenger, Zoom, what sap that allows me to connect with people all over the world; cell phones; Goo Gone (ha-ha)
My Current Passions?
I am enjoying helping my youngest daughter, an actor/writer, develop her TV/digital show that was born from experiences she had in elementary school involving girl bullying. She channeled her hurt and confusion into parodying girl culture. It is exciting to see something that moved through her be of interest to broadcasters and production companies.
Seeing my eldest daughter, who from the age of 5 wrote (lyrics and chords) deep and profound songs, in the studio. She is now working with producers, fine tuning her sound and developing these songs that have become part of our lives.
I am helping develop an App with one of the creators of Windows – that’s fun, and again the idea was born from personal experiences with something missing that could be greatly utilized. Who knows!!
I have a few books in development with just awesome people, with phenomenal stories and courage.
Finally, seeing my next book released in the fall. The book, untitled still, tells the story of Badeeah Hassan Ahmed, who was abducted from her village, Kocho, by ISIS. She was sold to Al Amriki, an American commander. During the ordeal, Badeeah shielded her 3 year old nephew and protected another Yazidi girl from rape. Badeeah inspires me. She has a gentle, soft soul, that is equally fierce and strong and just does the right thing.