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"UnspOILed: Writers Speak for Florida's Coast" - 2010-05-25

Interviewer: Roberta Isleib
Interviewee: Susan Cerulean

ROBERTA: Authors sometimes dream that a current event will dovetail with their book's launch and bring it to prominence. This is not the case for Susan Cerulean, the co-editor of Unspoiled: Writers Speak for Florida's Coast, a collection of thirty-six essays and poems contributed by writers including Connie May Fowler, Janisse Ray and many others. For Cerulean and her co-authors, the BP oil disaster on April 20 occurred just as their book is about to be launched, and embodies their worst fears. They can only hope that Unspoiled (to be released by the Red Hills Writers Project on June 1) will push forward the case for protecting the fragile coastal environment.

Welcome to Jungle Red Sue! (And ps, Sue happens to be my fabulous, multi-talented older sister!)

Tell us first about UNSPOILED. How did the idea come about? What kinds of writers agreed to contribute?

SUSAN: For nearly thirty years, our state has stood firm against oil and gas drilling off Florida shores. But last fall, a cadre of lobbyists began to push hard to nullify the long-standing law protecting our Gulf of Mexico. All we could think to do in response was what we do: Write.

So, we invited dozens of colleagues who share our love of the Gulf to donate a short piece to an anthology we hope will remind our fellow Floridians to stand up and participate in the public conversation. Some are students, some are scientists, many are well-known Florida writers. They hail from the Panhandle to the Keys and range in age from seventy-two to just nine years old.

ROBERTA: Why an anthology?

SUSAN: I'm a big believer in anthologies; this is the fifth collection I've shaped and co-edited. I love the creative energy of working with a group. Anthologies extend the reach of a book, and you have 36 built-in marketers.

Also, recruiting writers and editing come more easily to me than writing my own book length works!

ROBERTA: The whole country is watching the fight to contain the oil spill and its consequences. Are there lessons you hope we'll draw from this disaster?

SUSAN: Definitely. First, we cannot let corporations have such unbridled access to our irreplaceable commons. Second, we must shrink our own use of petroleum, our own carbon footprints. And, third, Florida must pass a constitutional amendment to ban all offshore drilling.

ROBERTA: I imagine there are plenty of folks who agree with the concept of stopping drilling in fragile ecosystems, but wonder where else our energy needs can be met. Comments on that?

SUSAN: Unspoiled reminds us that now is the time to shift from the oil dependent, industrial economy that is devastating our planet and driving climate change. We've got find our way into culture based on clean, renewable energy sources.

You can preorder Unspoiled: Writers Speak for Florida's Coast, and read a sample chapter at And Susan is happy to answer questions and comments!