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At the age of six, when asked the usual question about what she wanted to be when she grew up, Susan replied, ‘I want to travel round the world and write about animals.’

She is the author of Where the Seals Sing, a work of narrative non-fiction blending natural history and travel, memoir and myth, recently published by William Collins, as well as four collections of poetry. Her latest collection, Words the Turtle Taught Me, themed around endangered ocean species, emerged from her residency with the Marine Conservation Society and was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award.

In addition to her ongoing writing residency with the British Animal Studies Network, facilitated by the University of Strathclyde, she has shared her work on BBC Two and Radio 3, enjoyed a four-year stint as one of the resident poets on Radio 4’s Saturday Live and performed at festivals both nationally and internationally.

A pile of Susan's childhood writing about animals from when she was 8 and 9 years old. One page is typed and slightly torn. The other pages are handwritten and one is illustrated with a drawing of a lion.

The Backstory

Born and raised in Wales, Susan moved to London for her undergraduate and postgraduate literature degrees and then enjoyed a mostly nomadic decade, touring with Something Permanent Theatre Company, for which she worked as playwright and performer, and living, for longer stretches of time, in the USA, Canada and Australia.

A series of scholarships took her to the University of Massachusetts for a year to study creative writing and to the University of Toronto where she pursued postgraduate research in drama. Finally, thanks to a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship, she was based in Adelaide for two years as a writer and researcher with visiting academic status. As well as relishing writing and theatre opportunities in all these locations, she had many memorable encounters with wildlife from brown bears and coyotes to emus and tree snakes while on wilderness hikes and camping trips.

On returning to Wales, Susan focused on devising and running writing workshops and courses, developing a specialism in environmental and wildlife themes, for a whole range of organisations and academic institutions. Having been awarded a Churchill Fellowship, she also spent a summer journeying through Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in the footsteps of an eleventh century female Viking to whose intrepid life she’d been introduced while doing research for one of the Cardiff University courses she was teaching. This experience provided the inspiration for her first poetry collection and sparked a long-term love of the Arctic and sub-Arctic: she has since made several more writing- and wildlife-related visits to the region.

Now, Susan lives and writes on a Pembrokeshire cliff with badgers, kestrels and choughs as her nearest neighbours. She spends as much time as possible lying full-stretch on the cliff top, watching the activities of the grey seals, who populate her new book, on the beach below.

Susan, wearing a blue waterproof coat and black leggings, lies on her belly on the precipitous edge of a grass-topped cliff. She's using binoculars to look down at the sea several hundred feet below.

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