Somerville Writer Suzanne Cope: A Locavore in the City
By Doug Holder
Old habits die hard. Now I find myself gravitating to the window seats at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville, Mass. It may be the darker environs in the back are less attractive as I press closer towards the 60 year mark--you know rage, rage against the dying of the light and all that sort of rot. On this morning I was at my window at Bloc 11 to shed light on my subject for the day, writer Suzanne Cope.
Cope is an Asst. Professor of English at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and lives with her husband, the musician Steve Mayone, on Laurel St. right outside of Union Square. She has lived in Somerville for 9 years, and is originally from Western New York. She earned her PhD from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. Like many a Somerville resident, poet, and writer that I have interviewed over the last decade she loves our city. She told me: " It is the perfect combination of the urban landscape with the green landscape. It gives me plenty of material to write about."
Cope has experience as a Trade Marketing Manager at the venerable publisher Houghton Mifflin in Boston, and this summer she is working on a special project to promote the reissue of the novel The Hobbit in conjunction with a new movie being released based on this work.
Cope writes primarily in the Creative Non-Fiction genre. She reflected: " Creative Non-Fiction has been under the umbrella of Creative Writing for a long time. It is really a creative union of non-fiction craft and fiction. It takes the form of personal essays and memoir. It deals with emotional truth and memory."
Cope is also a Locavore. The name reminds me of some extinct species eons ago but in fact is according to Wikipedia: "A person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market." And Cope writes a great deal about food. Her conversation is peppered with references to all sorts of cuisine. She is also an accomplished cook, and gets her ingredients locally. She writes about her culinary experiences on her blog Locavore in the City. She will also have a book coming out from a university press Locavore in the City in 2013.
Cope said" I write about how food relates to culture. I am inspired by canning, familial meals, gardening, and my Italian heritage--which of course involves a lot of cooking.'
Cope seems to be the kind of teacher who would easily engage her students. She teaches at Grub Street in Boston as well as Berklee. She finds that her students at Berklee are very creative and open minded due to their creative musical backgrounds. On her teaching method Cope explained: "I strive to have them write about something they care about. I want them to write from their own experience. If there is a personal aspect to their writing they will be more engaged in the work." Cope has used the memoir by the late Jazz artist Charles Mingus Beneath the Underdog and profiles of other musicians to spark her students writing.
Cope usually writes in the privacy of her own home. But now and again she ventures out and you may see her profile in the window of the Bloc 11 Cafe or the Sherman Cafe in Union Square-- yet another young writer thriving in theParis of New England--Somerville, Mass.