Susan J. Nassuna has been an ardent reader and a lover of the written word from childhood. It’s a passion she carried with her from her home country of Uganda to London and then to the Netherlands and one she has tried to pass on to her own children. Susan has had her work featured in Perdu’s 30×30 poets marathon and in VERSO, the live literary journal. We spoke to her about her evolution as a writer and what keeps her coming back to the page and to our workshops (she’s currently a member of our Level III workshop).
You write both fiction and poetry. Did you start out wanting to write both?
No, I wanted to master the art of the short story. I wanted to emulate one of my all time favorite writers Alice Munro, and like her wanted to acquire the capability to construct a story so concisely powerful that it could blow a reader’s mind and enchant them entirely. I had never considered myself a poet until I joined a workshop. Part of what the workshops do is guide students in their ability to discern what makes a written work excellent – whether it’s a story or a poem. When I decided to try writing a poem myself, I was amazed at how alive, present and emotionally engaged I felt, and this feeling has only deepened as I continue to discover my poetic voice.
Why do you write?
I first started writing because I believed I had interesting stories to share with others, but along the way have discovered the superpower of being an invisible creator. I can eavesdrop on anyone at anytime and have the power to change the past and predict the future, which has all translated into my own personal life, enabling me to make organized stories out of messy complicated experiences I’ve had, thereby setting me free from my past. I write because just like my regular yoga and meditation practice, I‘ve found it’s a way to look truthfully at myself and accept all that has been, and also understand that just like my narrators, I have the power to create the ending I desire for myself.
What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned as a writer?
Acceptance. I’ve learned not to judge nor condemn the characters I create, and this has had a great effect in my own personal life too, in that I’ve come to accept and understand that there’s no one-dimensional human being. The characters I now create wow me, they are so daring, unapologetic and sometimes downright despicable. They say and do things which make even me, the writer, want to hide under my writing table for their temerity!