I’ve had many ecstatic encounters with great individuals, including when I was a naval officer, working with an Admiral as systems analyst to help him solve problems. It was sharing my naval experiences with the Dean of Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, that inspired him to hire me to head the Department of Undergraduate Drama. The doctorate that I had earned at the University of Minnesota helped me get hired.<

At NYU I worked with one of the greatest acting teachers of all times, Stella Adler. She trained the students I auditioned–students who also took academic classes at NYU. A class that I was required to teach was called Research and Description. I made that class more exciting by inviting in top players in New York theater such as producer Harold Prince and Broadway lyricist Stephen Sondheim. My students would research the artists I brought in, and then describe their encounter with them in a class essay.

Stella Adler is one of the central characters in my just completed memoir, titled A Tale of Two Passions. Those two passions are Family and Art. I detail how sometimes I had to sacrifice one of those passions in order to satisfy the other, such as leaving my position as Chair of Undergraduate Drama, New York University. I went to Sweden, a more feminine society than the patriarchy that is America. During my time in Sweden my ten-year-old son, Daniel, stayed with my sister and her family. He suffered from ADHD, and had to attend special ed classes in the USA. In Sweden I wrote my first play to rave reviews, even though my play attacked the misogyny of Sweden’s famous writer August Strindberg.

Once I came home, my husband, Don, who was a Commander in the US Navy, and I homeschooled Daniel. I came up with an idea that brought me a lot of notice in The New York Times. I directed production-level readings of what I called ‘source’ writers, those that founded modern theater and film: August Strindberg, Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov. I called it Source Productions. Some of the top actors who performed for Source Productions were: Frank Langella, Glenn Close, Raul Julia, Stephen Lang, Frances McDormand, Geraldine Page, and Jose Ferrer. Stella Adler taught students about these great playwrights, so I brought her onto the Source Productions board.

I’ve written a lot of plays, some of which have been performed in Sweden, in New York and in Hollywood, all to rave reviews. I’ve published a lot of magazine articles. I’m also a screenwriter, and feel empowered by a screenplay I’ve written, titled Undaunted. It’s based on the life of Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved woman who escaped to the North, and became an activist working with Frederick Douglass. I have several producers currently, but am seeking a top-notch Executive Producer.

When did you first decide writing would be your career or hobby–did you find writing, or did writing find you?

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was seventeen and an exchange student in the Netherlands. In Dutch literature class the teacher gave us several topics to choose from. I chose the subject about what I wanted to become–a writer. I wrote my essay in Dutch!

Do you have a favorite book or favorite author?

One of my favorite writers is Trevor Noah. His memoir Born of a Crime, is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them.

Do you remember the first book you read on your own?

The first book I ever read was called Nanette of the Wooden Shoes. My legal name is Nanette Sue Flakes. When I was a kid, everyone knew me as Nanette, so this story was personal to me. I later changed my name to Sue, and then to Susan. It’s so wonderfully romantic that I would later go to the Netherlands where at least the farmers all wore wooden shoes.

One of my favorite books current books is Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

I’d recommend that aspiring writers join a group of writers. They should make sure they respect the participants. I’m a member of a critique group. We meet once a month and each of us brings in seven pages to share. The critique group has really helped me improve my memoir.