Q: What is your name?
A: Susan Cormier
Q: What are your pronouns?
Q: Do you identify as someone with Indigenous heritage?
Q: Where is your hometown and where are you located now?
A: Grew up in the small communities surrounding Salmon Arm, B.C. Currently residing in Langley, B.C.
Q: What did you take at OC/OUC? What years did you attend? What campus did you attend?
A: '93-'95 - Salmon Arm, Arts, focused on psychology and sociology
'95-'98 - North Kelowna, Arts, majored in literature and rhetoric
Q: What are you doing currently?
A: By day, I am a beekeeper and co-owner of a small apiary. By night, I produce Canada's longest-running live storytelling competition, Vancouver Story Slam. In between, I write.
Q: Why did you choose your program at OC? How does it relate to what you’re doing now?
A: I was fascinated by the workings of the mind, and wanted to explore memory, consciousness, and semiotics. Later in my studies, I switched to focusing on the study of words: literature and writing. Very few of the courses I took relate directly to the things I'm doing now; it was more the mindset and encouragement of specific instructors, rather than the details of the things I learned, that helped shape how I approach my work.
Q: When did you know you had found your discipline?
A: I didn't. I attended university, and studied the subjects I did, because I had always been told that was what I 'should' do. Our minds evolve as we grow and move through life; it is foolish to believe that an individual will have the same interests and goals at 40 or 50 that they do at 18 or 20, thus I don't believe it's reasonable to expect to study one subject for one's entire life. I am glad I pursued the education I did because it influenced how I interpret the world and express myself - but if I returned today, I'd likely choose a completely different avenue of study.
Q: What was one of your most meaningful memories during your time at OC?
A: While we students worked on an in-class assignment, English professor Les Ellenor walked around the class asking if we had any questions. Cheekily, I asked what the meaning of life was. He took my pen, turned to a blank page in my notebook, and drew a simple diagram of all knowledge: what we know, what we do not know, science, religion, the unknown. He circled the area where science and the unknown touched, and said (paraphrased), "This is where magic is. The more we learn, the more the realm of science grows. But this, here, is the most fascinating place to be. This is where the magic is." His approach towards exploring literature and writing empowered me to think outside the box, resist self-censorship, and nurture creativity - and to remember that the unknown is magic.
Q: What do you think has been the biggest turning point for your career success?
A: Being awarded a substantial Canada Council for the Arts grant to produce a film. This opportunity enabled me to step away from the grind of a soul-less day job and focus on what I really wanted to do: write, do audio and visual art, and encourage and support others in their own creative endeavors.
Q: Are there any awards, achievements or activities that you would like to highlight?
A: Won the CBC National Literary Award for Non-Fiction. I've also won or been shortlisted for awards including CBC's National Literary Award in Poetry, Arc Magazine's Poem of the Year, SubTerrain Magazine’s Lush Triumphant, and the Federation of B.C. Writers’ Literary Writes Award. My writing has appeared in many literary and academic publications including Atlantis Women's Studies Journal, Blood and Aphorisms New Fiction, West Coast Line, and several anthologies including Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary B.C. Poets and Against Death: 35 Essays on Living.
Q: What advice would you pass on to current/future students?
A: Happiness is a fleeting emotion, not a value or goal to base your life decisions on. Do what brings you a sense of accomplishment and pride; do things that work towards improving yourself and the world around you. If you have reached goals and built accomplishments, and improved yourself and the world, you will have more moments of happiness in your life than otherwise.
Q: Where are you the happiest?
A: The bohemian district of East Vancouver, B.C.