MFA Alumna and Animal Enthusiast Releases Second Book

Nicole Martignetti
April 04, 2012

Susan Nusser (MFA, ‘01) loves horses and spending all day at the barn. It’s no surprise that the title of her second book is Kentucky Derby Dreams: The Making of Thoroughbred Champions, to be published this month by St. Martin’s Press. The book chronicles three years in the lives of foals born in the barns of Kentucky’s Taylor Made Farm, a breeding farm notorious for its championship horses. In her book, Nusser unveils the story of the vets, the drugs, the surgeries, the long hours, and the hard work it takes to breed a Derby hopeful. From the birth of the new crop of foals, to the annual yearling sales, and finally to the Derby, Nusser gives the reader an insider’s view of the hardship and heartache that accompany the potential champion horses.

The Thoroughbred industry, says Nusser, “brings together such a diversity of people who are there because they love horses: Sheikhs and music industry moguls and sharecropper's sons and horse-crazy girls from New Jersey. Despite their differences, because they're all horsemen, everyone speaks the same language.” Her book captures the fascinating juxtaposition of the horse racing industry: the serenity of daily life on the farm and the excitement of a multimillion-dollar yearling auction.

This is not the first time Susan has written about competition horses. She explains, “My writing career began when both Maria Koundoura and Pam Painter helped me write a proposal for my first book, In Service to the Horse, which was published in 2004.” The book explores the special bond between equestrian sports horses and the grooms who care for them. She began working on the proposal for In Service to the Horse through an independent study with Maria Koundoura. Later, she worked closely with Pam Painter to finalize her work. Both professors were instrumental in helping Susan turn her writing into a professional book proposal.

Before settling into writing, Susan was unsure where her career path would take her. She admits, “I meandered quite a bit professionally and worked on farms sometimes because it was a nice break, and because it was the only job I could get.” Her first published piece was an essay about fishing with her father titled "Heart of Alaska,” published in the Beacon Street Review's Spring 2000 issue. She has also written about the human and animal relationship for Milwaukee Magazine. Her articles and stories include “All the Pretty Horses” (Milwaukee Magazine May '09), "Zoo Story” (MM August '07) and "Man Bites Dog” (MM August '06).

Today, as a writing teacher at Carroll University, Susan's advice to young writers is to read. Of her students, she says, “The readers are more energetic, more engaged, more knowledgeable and absolutely have a much better understanding of the relationship between a writer and their audience.” Beyond creative nonfiction, Susan’s areas of specialization include animal studies and journalism. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband, daughters, cats and a pit bull. Kentucky Derby Dreams can be purchased in stores and online beginning April 24.

MFA News Highlights

Sara Novic BFA Alum and Girl at War author Sara Novic talks to The Guardian about what it's like to be a deaf novelist.

Read more»


Brionne Thompson Congratulations to our Graduate Award Winners: Brionne Thompson (Best Thesis), Stephen Shane (WLP Thesis Award), Mary Nolan (Outstanding Publishing Project and Bookbuilders), Mireidys Garcia (Bookbuilders) Madison Bakalar (Fiction), Caitlin McGill (Nonfiction and President's Award), and Cheryl Buchanan (Poetry).


Asako Serizawa Asako Serizawa (MFA '01) is the recipient of a fiction writing fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.


Senior Lecturer Mary Kovaleski Senior Lecturer Mary Kovaleski is the recipient of the inaugural Emerson College Alumni Award for Teaching Innovation, presented by the Alumni Association to a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in innovation by engaging students in active learning in and out of the classroom.


Christina Pugh Poet Christina Pugh (MFA '00) was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Read more»


Fulbright ScholarshipSarah Chaves (BFA '11) was awarded a Fulbright 2015-2016 Grant. Chaves will spend one year, fully-funded, in Portugal working on her memoir.

Read more»


The Wilderness of RuinRoxane Gay visited campus on March 19 for a question-and-answer session with students followed by a reading of some of her essays. Both events are part of the Writing, Literature & Publishing Reading Series.

Read more»


The Wilderness of RuinMFA '98 Roseanne Montillo's article about 14-year old serial killer Jesse Pomeroy appeared on CBS News Crimsider. Montillo's latest book The Wilderness of Ruin explores the hunt for the child killer during Boston's Gilded Age and the Great Fire of 1872.

Read the article»


All the Old KnivesMFA '99 Olen Steinhauer's new book, All the Old Knives was recently reviewed by The New York Times.


Lacy EyeProfessor Jessica Treadway is featured in the Boston Globe for her new novel “Lacy Eye.” In the Q&A with the Globe, Treadway discusses her writing habits, including writing drafts in longhand.

Read the Globe piece»


Columbian ArtistsA group of nine young, emerging artists from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín recently presented their artwork at Emerson College Los Angeles and are visiting Emerson College in Boston this month.

Read more »


Stephen ShaneCreative Writing MFA Stephen Shane (2015) and his colleague David Knight created a short documentary on Boston busing called Desegregated, Yet Unequal, and it was recently named an Editors' Pick by The Atlantic.

Read more and watch the video »


Steve YarbroughProfessor Steve Yarbrough has been elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and, in addition, will receive the 2015 Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction this spring from the same organization.

Read more »


Thomas McBeeWLP alum and writer Thomas Page McBee's memoir Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man was named on Publisher's Weekly's "Best Books of 2014."

Read more »


Ladette RandolphLadette Randolph's new memoir Leaving the Pink House was featured on Oprah.com as a suggested memoir. Randolph teaches in WLP and is Editor-in-Chief of Ploughshares literary magazine.

Read more »


Greg NicholsGreg Nichols (MFA '11) released his first book, Striking Gridiron, A Town's Pride and a Team's Shot at Glory During the Biggest Strike in American History. The book was named a Junior Library Guild Fall 2014 Selection.

Read more »


Marko TameraLecturer Tamera Marko's writing collective with Emerson maintenance workers from Latin America and undergraduates presented a bilingual presentation: "Proyecto Carrito II: When the Student Receives an 'A' and the Worker Gets Fired: Driving our Own Narrative" at the Conference on Rhetoric and Composition.

Read more »


Megan MarshallRecent MA in Publishing & Writing alumni collaborated to launch a new literary genre journal called Strangelet. Alumni include Executive Editor Casey Brown (MA ’13), Managing Editor Leah Thompson (MA ’12), Production Editor Franco Alvarado (MA ’13), and Creative Director Chandra Asar (MA ’12).

Read more »


Megan MarshallWLP Professor Megan Marshall and the emersonWRITES program participate in the launch and unveiling of Boston as the country's first Literary Cultural District.

Read more »


Michelle Bailat JonesMichelle Bailat-Jones (MFA '05) won the inaugral Christopher Doheny award for her novel Fog Island Mountains. The award recognizes a book-lenth work exploring the experience of serious illness and includes a $10,000 prize and publication and promotion of the book.

Read more »