Susan Currie – Writer, Musician and Teacher

My life has been defined by music, writing and a focus on supporting children. Happily, I have found a career in which I can pursue all of these things in equal measure, through teaching and advocating for passionate students, and supporting them in building a sense of social justice, global awareness and stewardship. I’ve also published three books and am working on a fourth. They all deal with children, the arts, and social justice.

Before entering teaching, I trained and worked as a musician. At 14, I attended the Gifted Youth Program at the Banff School of Fine Arts, to which I later returned for three summers as a faculty accompanist for the Music Theatre program. I went on to pursue an ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto; a BA in English Literature, also from the University of Toronto; and an MA in English Literature and a B. Ed, both from Western University. Over the years, I have worked as a music director and choir leader, a dinner musician, an accompanist for a wide variety of musicians, as a piano teacher and, briefly, as an organist.  

My writing has evolved as my understanding of my identity has developed. During my first year as a teacher, I published my first book, Basket of Beethoven (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2001). It was a finalist for the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children, for the Ontario Silver Birch Award, and for the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award. 

Before writing my second book, I had the extraordinary experience of connecting with a birth aunt, who shared with me the life-changing fact that my family is Haudenosaunee (Cayuga Nation, turtle clan). Overnight I went from being an adoptee, who did not always feel like she cast a shadow, to someone with roots going back thousands of years. I made some sense of this experience in the writing of The Mask That Sang (Second Story Press, 2016), which is the fictionalized account of a young girl learning about her Haudenosaunee heritage. It is part history, part magic realism, part fantasy.

Following the publication of this book, I had the great privilege of attending the CODE Burt Award ceremony at the Amiskawaciy Academy in Edmonton, where my book was named an Honour Book. As part of this experience, I did readings in a variety of venues, including the Edmonton Young Offender Centre and also a rehab program called Broken Arrow, which works with young people who are coming out of the prison system. This experience led me to do a great deal of thinking about systems in general, and about the ways that young people can find themselves trapped within them. My upcoming third book, Iz the Apocalypse (Common Deer Press, Fall 2023), owes something to those readings and those conversations with the individuals I met, who had such potential, but so many systemic barriers standing in their way.

While trying to understand the many facets of my identity, I once said to a wise person that, at times, I felt as if I didn’t quite exist! She asked me, “What is the voice in your writing?” I thought about that for a while and finally decided that it was a voice tinged with anger, a voice that advocated for vulnerable children and called out systems that perpetuate harm. I named it Fierce Voice. The wise person said to me, “That sounds like someone who exists.” 

And indeed, to have a fierce voice feels like quite an appropriate description of my mission as a writer. 

“The role of the artist is that of a soldier in the revolution.”

Diego Rivera