Bio

Novelist, author, journalist, inadvertent humorist, public speaker (see Media for TEDx and Google talks). Former NPR contributor.

Made, born, raised in New York City. Received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. Before that, attended Brown University and Stuyvesant HighSusan Jane Gilman - toddler at the typewriter School, where English teacher Frank McCourt became my mentor and is largely to blame for my being a writer.  Since I keep getting queries from schools using my work in speech contests: Yes, I was born after 1960. I don’t put my exact birthday on the Internet for reasons of security.

My books, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, and Kiss My Tiara plus two novels, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and the forthcoming Donna Has Left the Building, have so far been translated into a dozen languages. In addition, I have contributed to numerous anthologies, worked as journalist, and written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles TimesMs., The Daily Beast, Real Simple, Washington City Paper, Us magazine among others. In my first full-time job as a reporter, I won a New York Press Association Award for features written on assignment in Poland.

My short fiction has appeared in Story, Ploughshares, Beloit Fiction Journal, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Greensboro Review, which awarded my work its 1998 Literary Award for short fiction.

TELEVISION: Appearances twice on “The Today Show” for promotion of books, as well as on ABC World News; Good Morning NY; WGN-America; WCAU-TV “The 10!” in Philadelphia; “AM Northwest” on ABC in Portland, OR; NBC affiliates in New Haven & Seattle; “Connie Martinson Talks Books”;“The Iyanla Show”; “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

RADIO: Commentator for National Public Radio. Until 2010, co-hosted “Bookmark,” a monthly book show on World Radio Switzerland. Guest on dozens of radio shows across U.S. and Australia, including WNYC’s “Leonard Lopate Show,” WGN in Chicago, Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, ABC Radio Australia “Breakfast Club,” ABC Radio National “Life Matters,” ABC Canberra “Sunday Brunch.” I love to do radio, even though I cannot stand to hear my own voice on my answering machine.

ice cream queenFUN FACT: To research my first novel, “The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street” I worked at a Carvel Ice Cream store in Massapequa, Long Island for two days and took a gelato-making course at the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, Italy. I am also founder of the Susan Jane Gilman Institute of Advanced Gelato Studies, whose research is extensive and ongoing.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Inspiration for my second novel, “Donna Has Left the Building,”  came out of volunteer work I’ve been doing at the Eleonas Refugee Camp in Athens, Greece. Recently, I had the honor to write a forward for a cookbook, Recipes Welcome, compiled by residents of the camp from fourteen different countries, featuring the delicious and easy-to-make recipes they’ve carried with them from around the globe.  All proceeds from the cookbook benefit the camp, and it can be purchased by clicking on the title above. So far, it is only available via Amazon.

FUNNY BUT… I never set out to write books that made people laugh. My main love has always been literary fiction. However, even with my darkest work, people would always tell me that parts of it were funny. This annoyed me because I aspired to be an American Dostoevsky with Breasts.

Yet when I was living in Washington DC, I took a writers’ workshop at the Bethesda Writers’ Center. The first story I submitted was a heartbreaking tale of a man’s addiction, which impressed the class. The second was an absurd story about mistaken identity full of Jews, Rastafarians, lesbians, and dental hygienists. To my great irritation, the class liked this one infinitely more. After class, a man pulled me aside. “I have to tell you,” he said. “My wife has been battling breast cancer. I read her your story last night, and it was the first time in two years she really laughed. You’ve got a gift. Please don’t ignore it. Not everyone can make a sick woman laugh in her hospital bed.” That’s when I finally saw the merit in my own, lurking smart-ass and stopped fighting it.