News & Events 2016-12-16T17:19:27+00:00

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Susan loves speaking with book clubs, writer’s groups, libraries, and students about all aspects of writing and the creative process. She spoke most recently at Lilac City Rochester Writers on the topic of critiquing manuscripts, asking whether it is more blessed to give than to receive.

If you’re interested in having Susan speak with your book club or group, please contact her here.


Click here to read Susan’s favorite essay on writing, “The Talent of the Room” by Michael Ventura.

Reviews for Starting from Scratch:

“What a wonderful story of familial love, loss, and the healing power of made-from-scratch food. I was completely absorbed by the lives of the Tschetter family, and I very much want to be invited to their house for dinner on a night when Olivia is cooking. Susan Gilbert-Collins has written a fantastic debut novel: warm, witty, and redemptive.”

– Susan Rebecca White, author of A Soft Place to Land

“Take one part Jane Hamilton, one part Julie Powell, season liberally with originality, and you have Starting from Scratch, the tender, humorous debut. Blowing away preconceptions about contemporary Midwesterners, this novel will be of particular interest to anyone who’s clashed with a sibling, mourned the passing of a parent or wondered, even in young adulthood, what they’re going to do when they grow up.”

–Sally Koslow, author of Little Pink Slips and With Friends like These

Editorial Reviews:

From Booklist:

Olivia Tschetter returns from graduate studies to her South Dakota home just before her mother Vivian’s unexpected death. The gathering of her family only deepens her sadness and her sense of distance from the rest of her family. Sinking into depression, she finds herself unable to return to the university. She can’t even summon up the strength to celebrate with her family her recent academic accomplishment: a successful defense of her doctoral dissertation in linguistics. To keep herself occupied, she goes to work at the local charity kitchen, where her involvement with the Meals on Wheels program leads her on a journey of discovery, both about herself and about her mother and sisters. Gilbert-Collins has an ear for the inflections and cadences of upper-midwestern speech, which adds to the book’s other charms. A few recipes appear within the text to document some of the significant foods prepared and served.

–Mark Knoblauch

from The Star Tribune (Minneapolis):

Few books are set in South Dakota, and state native Susan Gilbert-Collins clearly took to heart the old saw to “write what you know.” The result of her debut novel is a spot-on depiction of the terseness that exists in the state’s landscape as well as its people. Yet as a native myself, it all felt as warm and familiar as the recipe for Aunt Rubina’s Pink Dessert. Yes, this is another novel-with-recipes, yet with blessedly far more story than souffle. Grad student Olivia Tschetter, youngest of four sisters, worries her family when she doesn’t snap back to normal after their mother unexpectedly dies. A stint at Meals on Wheels in Brookings forces her to interact with others, including a woman whom her mother once had befriended, but with violent results. The tale’s interconnections could strain credulity — unless you know how everyone’s business is everyone’s business in a small town. Or a small state: People’s preoccupation with Olivia’s sister, Ruby, who does the weather on TV in Sioux Falls, seems almost comic relief until Gilbert-Collins brings it into the heart of the drama as swiftly and tumultuously as the storms Ruby likes to chase.

–Kim Ode