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Susan Rushton provides the chicken soup for Auburn’s soul

Local writer publishes collection of her columns
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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“And Another Thing: Reflections from My Small Town”
What: Book celebration, including appetizers, drinks and music; reading, sales and signings; laughter and merriment
When: 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9
Where: Arts Building, 808 Lincoln Way, Auburn
Buy the book: $17.95 paperback; $8.99 eBook
Info: (530) 878-7938, www.mootpointpress.com

Those who pick up Susan Rushton’s book kickoff invitation are warned “You won’t always agree with her … but she doesn’t always agree with you, either.”
That being said, most will agree that Rushton is an Auburn institution, a fixture in the community, one who keeps her finger on the town’s pulse and a keen grasp on its heart and soul.
She has written a bi-weekly opinion column for the Auburn Journal since 1987. She organizes the Silver Screen Classic movie series and hosts two monthly programs on Auburn’s community television station, “Olio” and “People of the Symphony.”
We caught up with Rushton recently, and asked her about her book – which means we talked politics, relationships, media, technology, the First Amendment and, of course, Auburn.

In your foreword, you wrote the column “keeps you on your toes.” How so?
It forces me to pay attention, I have a deadline and because of that I have to write something. And, to make it interesting, I have to be interested in it.

You publish your e-mail at the end of each column. Do you get a lot of feedback?
Not really. In the past I did, when I wrote more about politics. But when I write about books I don’t get nearly as much as I want to.

Chapter One: Relentless optimism. Would you say you are a relentless optimist?
I rant and rave and seethe and holler, so I’m not a consistent relentless optimist. But when I get tired of ranting and raving it turns to optimism because there’s so much to be joyful about.

Chapter Two: Men and Women. You swore you’d never denigrate your husband in print, and, as far as I can tell, you haven’t. While he may serve as an inspiration for a column here or there, do you ever ask his input?
Oh yes. He’s a wonderful person to bounce things off of and he’s a wonderful partner. We’ve been married 33 years, together for 35.

Chapter Three: Rufus T. Firefly. We know –or should I say –hope Rufus is fictional. But is she a conglomeration of people you may have had the pleasure to be acquainted with?
No. she’s just somebody I made up so I could make comments about politics and attitude.

Chapter Four: Technology. In a 1993 column, you joked about “Readmans and Handipedias.” Al Gore had barely invented the internet, yet you saw it all coming. Are you at all surprised?
I don’t know why and I wasn’t happy about it. But as I wrote, I wouldn’t go back to a typewriter if you paid me. I value my computer and what we can do with technology. It’s just that it separates us. Human touch is vital and technology tends to encourage people not to touch each other.

Chapter Five: First Amendment. Still haven’t read “Little Women?”
I make it a point not to read it. In sixth or seventh grade I planned to read every book in my school library. But Louisa May Alcott was right there. So I gave up on that plan.

Chapter Six: Ms. Mootpoint. There ever any desire to be an advice columnist? After all, we just lost Dear Abby.
No. I like reading them though. I just thought it was fun and doing it like Rufus. And like I wrote, “quoting lots of people gets you to the end fast,” especially when you are on deadline. Also, there are some situations I might want to talk about but couldn’t fill up a full column.

Chapter Seven: Entropy International. Your fictional company was formed around 1995. Was there something happening in corporate America at the time that inspired it?
Just ongoing things. My husband would roll his eyes at me, but I always said there was a behind-the-scenes conspiracy to sell us things we don’t want or need and to screw us up. The more screwed up we are the happier Entropy International is.

Chapter Eight: Humor. Your “Forced to buy a new one” column appeared a full year before GWB told us to fight terrorism by going shopping. Don’t you think that’s funny?
Yes. It was an entertaining way of saying “listen, we don’t just have to buy because the ads tell us to.”

Chapter Nine: Politics. Pomp and Circumstance. The one you ran last month was nearly identical to the one you ran in Jan. 2009. Have they basically been the same column since 1989?
Yes. I added “randy’ after Clinton and “illegal” refers to somebody else.

Chapter Ten: Auburn. “The knot of the bow” that ties the county together.  If you had to pick one word that best describes Auburn, what would it be?
I’ll have to hyphen it, but “community-oriented.” In the best sense of the word. I went to a Meddler’s meeting this morning, no appointment, didn’t know I was coming, but Steve Galyardt saw me and said “Susan. Do you have anything you want to tell us about?” Everybody knew who I was, they were happy to have me … it’s just a great place.

Chapter Eleven: Tschitska. This is where you include the “at large” columns, those you felt worthy of inclusion yet may not fit into any category. Is there a favorite column in there?
Not necessarily in there. I love “Spectacular Men,” it’s in the “Men and Women” chapter. “Listen for the Song of the Lark,” leads off the book. And I love “Look for gold.” I’ll tell you, I couldn’t have written this book without the help of the Auburn Journal. I am very happy. I love the column and being in the Journal. I’m honored to be a part of it for 25 years.