Susan Gordon: Storyteller, writer, poet, teacher, & counselor

susanstorytelling5Susan Gordon, MA, LCADC is a storyteller, poet and a prose writer of memoir and fiction. She is also a teacher, therapist and presenter. Susan is a skilled teller and has taught storytelling in colleges, universities and from the barn on her farm. She shares her stories and writing in a variety of settings where she helps the listeners create their own stories or writing in response. She has led workshops and retreats using writing or storytelling as the departure point. She is now telling personal stories, stories that explore the complex and interwoven relationships between people. She often uses the mediums of art, writing, and improvisational drama to support the listeners’ work with the stories they have heard.

Susan has been a writer and storyteller all her life. She was born in West Virginia and raised in Maryland.  Her first word was “book” and she was drawing horses by the time she was four. She was a day dreamer and the school woods in which she played came with a cast of horses, sheep and dogs. She read Lassie-Come-Home instead of doing arithmetic and her college SATs made that decision evident. In college she majored in art, psychology and Ralph Gordon.

Susan has two children and when they were elementary age, Susan and Ralph went down to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN in 1981. Susan arrived home with forty stories in her head and soon her children were begging her to tell them in their school. Within a year, Susan had created a story curriculum, using traditional tales, for grades K-5th. The following year, she was teaching storytelling to teachers throughout Frederick County and one of the teachers started to cry. Susan stopped the class and asked, “What is wrong?” and the teacher, who worked with emotionally disturbed and abused children, said: “Your stories start out where our kids are—a mess. But your stories say there’s a way through and our kids don’t know that.”

The following year, Susan was invited to work with those children, ages 6-12. She was kept on because the kids sat down and listened but soon she and the teachers and the therapists were working hand in hand to create storytelling sessions that were crafted to meet the children’s therapeutic needs. Before the year was out, they discovered that the folktale the child was most drawn to, was also the story of the family. The story work became multi-generational.

Susan was off and running as a therapeutic storyteller: working with the children, teaching student therapists how to use stories with their clients, with abused women, with perpetrators. She needed to better understand the power of story that she was encountering every day and she entered Antioch University in 1986 to pursue a master’s degree in the art of therapeutic storytelling. In 2002 she also became a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor.

Susan has worked in colleges and universities. She was an artist-in-residence on the pediatric wards of Georgetown Hospital for six years. Susan has worked for thirty years in the fields of: addictions, trauma, the treatment of anxiety and depression and with the more severely mentally ill. She has been a presenter and workshop leader at many conferences on the applied uses of storytelling. Susan has been a retreat leader in secular and religious settings where she has used both writing and storytelling to help the listeners reflect on their own lives. Susan has also been a stage teller in many settings from school auditoriums to theatres. She has shared her writing at open mics and in concerts.

Now, living in her small brown house on a 41 acre farm with two good dogs, Susan is reveling in telling Grimm’s tales made new and in discovering the joys of the personal story. She’d love to share one or two stories with you.