Susan Wilson ’73

From at least the time she came to Eastern after two years and an Associate’s degree from Middlesex Community College, Susan Wilson ’73 knew what she really wanted to do was be a writer. It didn’t happen right away, and then it was a sidelight for a while. It has happened now.

Wilson, a resident of Martha’s Vineyard for more than two decades, is the author of seven novels. Her most successful, the 2010 One Good Dog, was on the New York Times best seller list for six weeks. She expects to keep producing more. It is her real job now, even if it is not how most people would conceive of a “real job.”

“It’s a really hard job and it’s a really fun job and it’s a really frustrating job, and it’s not like any other job in the world,” she said, then qualifying the statement a bit by saying it’s a little like being a sculptor, having a good concept and then executing it.

“And I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to do this now as my primary career,” she said, adding that she has had a lot of success, “and it’s very sweet.”

Wilson majored in English in the two years she spent at Eastern, hoping to get to somewhere like the place where she is now. That was in the early days of Eastern’s transition from a teacher’s college to a public liberal arts university, though, and her advisors here got her to minor in Secondary Education as a practical job skill. She said there was one semester she was able to take nothing but English courses, though, and she loved that.

Then, as a woman entering the early 1970s job market, she went from Eastern to a secretarial school in Connecticut to learn job skills like typing and shorthand. That background helped her get a job with a Connecticut bank in the portfolio department, but she soon found herself writing for the bank’s newsletter.

“Everything I’ve ever done has always reflected back on a good education and an ability to put words together,” she said. She had no real focus on concentrating on her own writing as a career, however, she said, until moving to Martha’s Vineyard 17 years later.

The seven novels have come since, and the first, Beauty, was made into a television movie starring Janine Turner, Jamey Sheridan and Hal Holbrooke, with a result that pleased her more than is often the case with authors whose works are translated to film. “So many times you hear of cinemutations, but in this case BEAUTY the movie was every bit as I had imagined BEAUTY the book,” she says on her web site.

Wilson also writes the column “The Last Word” for the Martha’s Vineyard weekly newspaper, but does so only on occasion now, not for every issue.

Meanwhile the ideas for her future books come in part from thoughts she has during daily walks with her own dog, Bonnie.