I'm a speculative and literary fiction writer, living in Seattle, WA with my husband, the artist and data scientist, Chris Sumption, and two cat-children, Molly Bloom and Paul Atriedes.
Born in New York, I attended the University of Colorado, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Clarion West (as the Carl Brandon Society's Octavia Butler scholar) and Launchpad Astronomy Workshop. I'm also a Hedgebrook alum (2010, 2016).
I'm a Unitarian Universalist, a feminist, fat, and identify as a mix race person of color.
I love serial commas, quadruple espressos, knitting, the new golden age of television, and over-analyzing things. My turn offs include ear infections, black mold, and raisins.
You may want to know about my day job, which I also really love: I am a peer and crisis intervention/diversion counselor with special interests in time-limited, trauma-informed care with folks who have co-occurring mental and behavioral disorders, and/or chronic pain. I'm proud to be a part of Crisis Text Line and the Downtown Emergency Service Center teams.
For more complete (or abbreviated) writing bios, please download my media kit (.zip, 11MB).
How do you say your name?
KAH-wren GUS-awf SUMP-shun. I don't use a hyphen between my last names.
Anything I've contracted or published before 2016 will probably just be credited as Caren Gussoff. I officially added my married name, professionally, on 1/1/2016 (though I have been married for more than 10 years).
Why do you get pretty adamant about saying you write science fiction?
I'm actually fine with being called a speculative fiction writer (and call myself that as a shorthand for all I do within genre, as opposed to "straight" literary fiction). And while I have written fantasy, horror, and even mystery (my Channillo series, "Last End," is a traditional "cozy" mystery), I primarily write "medium-hard" science fiction. I'm obsessed with space travel and first contact, and while I use these topics to play with identity politics, my work is usually based on sound -- if not truly speculative -- science. It's gotten much, much better in the past few years, but there are still people who assume because I'm female-identified, I must write fantasy or soft, anthropological scifi.
What's a Didikai? Why do you describe yourself as one?
Didikai (diddykay, didicoy) is a Romanichal word for a Romani with mixed blood. I am of Kaderash, Russian, German, and Jewish ancestry, with a itty bit of English/Irish hiding in there, somewhere.
You talk a lot about ankylosing spondylitis. What's that?
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS, or, "affectionately," spondy) is an inflammatory arthritis that involves the spine and sacroiliac joints. I wasn't diagnosed until my late thirties, because spondy is, historically, overlooked in women, though research and awareness is changing that.I have varying levels of chronic pain in my spine and left hip, and I occasionally suffer from flares. During flares, my pain increases, and my mobility decreases. I get headaches, stomach aches, low-level fevers, and fatigue. I do talk a lot about AS in social media because it affects my daily life. Additionally, I also have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (pretty common BFFs of AS), and am in recovery from bipolar depression and C-PTSD.
But you look healthy!
I take that as a well-meaning compliment! Aside from my psoriasis, which is usually mild, my conditions are "invisible disabilities". There's a sometimes moment of shock when folks first see me using a cane during a serious flare -- I can go from scampering around freely to having limited mobility quickly, when I have a flare. The same happens with my depression: like others with depression issues, I can lose my balance if I'm stressed, overtired, or generally not taking care of myself.
The moniker "spitkitten" dates back to my early days on the Internet. I wanted something, girly-punky-funny-cool-yannowotimean? -- it was the very early 90s -- but, more importantly, easy to remember. Whatever nickname I wanted first had already been claimed, so I tossing around syllables. And a happy accident manifested my portmanteau.
It's still easier to remember than my name, and, at this point, I've have had it for so long that I don't think I could ever shake it -- even if I wanted to.
I'm a beginning writer. Will you read/edit my _____?
Apologies in advance, but: no. I don't read unsolicited manuscripts, and rarely take on editorial or critique work outside teaching the occasional workshop. If you are interested in finding out when I teach, drop me a line and I'll add you to my mailing list.
The good news is that there's awesome places you can get feedback/beta-readers and further instruction:
|Chapters posted monthly||"The Man Who Sold The World": A Last End mystery||At Channillo.com|
|Researching||A Fine Girl||A biography of astronomer Annie Jump Cannon|
|Drafting||Games||A science fiction novel|
Available at most major retailers.
I'm not including URLs for web pubs because they change so rapidly. If there's something you want to find, but can't: please contact me.