Snapshot: Sue Kassirer

Occupation: I’m a children’s book editor and writer. I worked in publishing at various companies in New York City for 25 years, and I’m currently a freelance editor and writer. I’ve done a lot of children’s book writing for Random House, Disney, Penguin, and others, in which I write about familiar licensed characters from movies and TV. But what I’m just as proud of and enjoyed equally was editing Newbury and Caldecott Award-winning writers such as Katherine Paterson, Avi, Linda Sue Park, and Brian Selznick. Working with those writers was fascinating and immensely fulfilling. I’ve also worked for many years as editor for Breakfast Serials, which serializes novels for children in hundreds of newspapers nationally. Now, I’ve been working on a middle-grades mystery novel that may take place in Newtown.

Family: I’ve been married to Tom Langner for 24 years. We have one daughter, Laura, who is a sophomore at Kenyon College in Ohio. I also have five grown stepchildren: Lisa, Josh, Eli, Gretchen, and Belinda.

Pets: We have Bee, a wonderful black and white rescue cat from Manhattan. She’s not named after this newspaper, by the way. Her original name was Mrs Butterscotch… It’s a long story.

How long have you lived in Newtown? Last October, the day before Hurricane Sandy, we moved here to our former Sandy Hook summer home. I’ve been coming up to Sandy Hook for 30 years in the summertime.

What do you like to do in your free time? I’ve always liked to read. I love to draw and paint, too. I was an art major before I majored in English literature. I enjoy gardening. Most recently, I joined the Newtown Choral Society, and with the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library, I sort books for the book sale. I go to a discussion group at the library, too. After 12/14, I joined the editorial staff of the Newtowner magazine and helped put out the Special Tribute issue. It’s our hope that through the arts, we can help people in town with the healing process.

Do you have a favorite book? Recently, even having been an English Lit major, some nonfiction has taken my interest, and I’ve been captivated by A Romance on Three Legs; Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest For the Perfect Piano by Katie Hafner, along with her more recent book, Mother, Daughter, Me. My favorite fiction writers are Alice Munro, Jamaica Kincaid, and Penelope Fitzgerald. For children’s books, I am partial to a book my mother wrote, Magic Elizabeth, by Norma Kassirer. It goes in and out of print and is loved by many. Then there are the classics, like Alice in Wonderland and Charlotte’s Web.

Do you have a favorite travel destination? The favorite place I’ve been is London and the English countryside. We always used to come up to Newtown for the summers!

What is the best thing about Newtown? I would say the strong community, and the people. I’ve been amazed, since moving here, how welcoming, kind, and generous the people are. I truly feel blessed in this regard.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life? My mother, without a doubt. She was a writer and a visual artist, and she lived more fully than anyone I ever met. She had the gift of possessing a wonderful curiosity of life, despite some serious setbacks. I lost her this past February, but she left a lot through her art, her writing, and the people whose lives she touched.

Do you have a personal philosophy? Try to live fully and creatively, with curiosity, imagination, and compassion. I like the E.M. Forster quote, “Only Connect.” We can all use more connecting.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? Most recently, streaming series on Netflix. My husband and I have missed so many, we’re catching up. We try to limit ourselves to two episodes at a time but it’s not easy. I also love the occasional lunch with friends that stretches into the afternoon. Friends: You know who you are!

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