Non Fiction / Memoir
Date Published: December 18, 2013
Everybody needs to run away from home at least once. Susan Corbett told people she was out to save the world, but really she was running — running from her home as much as to anywhere. Like many women, she was searching for meaning to her life or for a good man to share it with. In Africa, she hoped to find both.
Compelling and compassionate, In the Belly of the Elephant is Susan's transformative story of what happens when you decide to try to achieve world peace while searching for a good man. More than a fish-out-of-water story, it's a surprising and heart-rending account of her time in Africa trying to change the world as she battles heat, sandstorms, drought, riots, intestinal bugs, burnout, love affairs and more than one meeting with death. Against a backdrop of vivid beauty and culture, in a narrative interwoven with a rich tapestry of African myths and fables, Susan learns the true simplicity of life, and discovers people full of kindness, wisdom and resilience, and shares with us lessons we, too, can learn from her experiences.
1. What is the hardest part about writing your books?
Writing is a creative process, but first and foremost, it is a discipline. The discipline of writing 3-4 hours every day can be hard to do (especially if you have a day job,) but is essential if you're ever going to finish the book. And, I have found, the more I write, the more my creative juices get flowing.
Regarding my memoir, In the Belly of the Elephant was hard to write at times because I felt I was exposing my soul to the world. Not always an easy thing to do.
2. What songs are most played on your Ipod?
I'm 62 and still have my favorites from the 70's. Most listened to are Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, Crosby Stills & Nash.
3. Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
I have been in three different critique groups. My first group was the best. I met them in a novel writing class so we were all on the same page regarding what too look for, etc. If you can find a good critique group (which is not easy,) their on-going feedback is vital to writing a good book.
4. What book are you reading now?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, probably in my top 5 best books ever.
5. How did you start your writing career?
When I came home from Africa in 1982, people would ask me, "How was it?" How do you explain five years of an experience that changed your life in one brief conversation? I had kept detailed journals the entire time I was in Africa. In 1991, after I had married and had my 2 boys, I quit working full time to be with my small children. I started reading my journals again and realized I wanted to share my story with the world. So, at the ripe old age of 40, I took every local writing class I could find, joined a critique group, and started going to writing conferences. It took me ten years to write In the Belly of the Elephant.
6. Tell us about your next release.
I am currently writing a mystery series about a group of women (based on my old high school buddies) my age (50's) who go traveling and get embroiled in local unsolved mysteries. These books will be full of my life experiences, my perspective, my love of place and travel, and the lessons I want to share with the world. They have strong characters and sense of place with a mystery woven throughout. I have chosen the fiction/mystery path because it is easier on the body and soul to write than memoir and more fun.
A writer, community organizer, and consultant in program management, micro-enterprise development, family planning, and HIV/AIDS education, Susan Corbett began her community development career in 1976 as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working in a health clinic in Liberia, West Africa. In 1979, she joined Save the Children Federation as a program coordinator for cooperative and small business projects in Burkina Faso. In 1982, Susan returned to the States where she has worked with local non-profits in drug and alcohol prevention for runaway youth, family planning, homelessness prevention, and immigrant issues.
Susan has traveled to over 40 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Caribbean, and Central and North America and has lived and worked in ten African countries over the past thirty years (Uganda, Tanzania, Mali, The Gambia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Liberia). She lives in Colorado with her husband, Steve, her sons, Mitch & Sam, and her dog, Molly.