Susan’s Work

Welcome to my website!

I’m an author with two novels in publication and one in progress.

The Virtues of Oxygen (2014, Lake Union) had its genesis in a New York Times obituary I read in 2009 about a woman who had lived most of her life inside an iron lung. I couldn’t stop thinking about what life would be like for someone virtually divorced from their body. I paired the story of Vivian, who contracted polio at the age of 6, with that of Holly, a young widow struggling to keep her home during the Great Recession. These two women’s lives become interwoven as the town around them tries to cope with a changing economic landscape.


My debut novel, A Watershed Year, was released originally in 2011 and was reissued in November 2013 by Lake Union, a division of Amazon Publishing. In A Watershed Year, Lucy McVie is a woman in her mid-thirties who loses her best friend, Harlan, to cancer. Harlan comes back to her through a series of emails he wrote before he died, and he inadvertently advises Lucy to think about becoming a mother. This begins her journey to adopt a young boy from Russia as she works through her grief over Harlan and starts a new relationship that may or may not work out.

A Watershed Year, at its heart, is a love story, and a story about all the ways that we interconnect in this world of both too much and too little communication.

A Watershed Year won the gold medal for novel in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition in 2006 and was short-listed that year for the Peter Taylor Prize. This novel would not exist without the support of the Faulkner Society and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, which awarded me an artist fellowship in 2007.

Please visit my contact page to tell me what you thought of my books or to arrange for a book club visit.


Susan Schoenberger, a native of Newburgh, N.Y., graduated with honors from Dartmouth College in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Since college, Susan has been a writer, editor and copy editor at various newspapers, including The News and Observer, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. She now works as Director of Communications for Hartford Seminary. Her articles and essays have appeared in many publications, including the Courant’s Northeast magazine and Reader’s Digest, and one of her essays was included in the anthology Stories for a Woman’s Heart. Susan began writing fiction seriously after attending the Wesleyan Writers Conference in 2001. Her short stories have appeared in Inkwell and the Village Rambler and one was a finalist in the New Millennium Writings contest. Her most recent short story publication, Crossroads, can be found on the website

Intercession, her first novel, received the gold medal in the 2006 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing competition. She attended the 2006 Words and Music festival in New Orleans as part of the award and an excerpt of her novel was published in the Double Dealer. For more information on the Faulkner contest, see Intercession was also one of seven finalists for the Peter Taylor Prize given by the Knoxville Writers Guild, and in early 2007, Susan received an Artist Fellowship Grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. In late 2007, Susan was fortunate enough to secure the representation of Jessica Regel of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (JVNLA) in New York, now with Foundry Literary + Media. For her works sold under JVNLA, she is represented by Laura Biaggi.

Under the title A Watershed Year, Susan’s first novel was sold to Guideposts Books in November 2009 and edited by Lindsay Guzzardo. It was re-released by Amazon’s Lake Union division in 2013. Susan’s second novel, The Virtues of Oxygen,” was published by Lake Union on July 22, 2014.

Susan lives in Connecticut with her husband. Two of her three children are recent college graduates and another is in college. They have a beloved dog named Jackson.



The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan SchoenbergerThe Virtues of Oxygen is the heartrending story of unlikely bonds made under dire straits. Holly is a young widow with two sons living in a ramshackle house in the same small town where she grew up wealthy. Now barely able to make ends meet editing the town’s struggling newspaper, she manages to stay afloat with help from her family. Then her mother suffers a stroke, and Holly’s world begins to completely fall apart.

Vivian has lived an extraordinary life, despite the fact that she has been confined to an iron lung since contracting polio as a child. Her condition means she requires constant monitoring, and the close-knit community joins together to give her care and help keep her alive. As their town buckles under the weight of the Great Recession, Holly and Vivian, two very different women both touched by pain, forge an unlikely alliance that may just offer each an unexpected salvation.



A Watershed Year by Susan SchoenbergerWhen Lucy’s best friend and secret big love Harlan dies of cancer with only thirty-three years, a world collapses for the young woman. Slowly she tries to process the loss after his death and to find it back to life. Her greatest consolation in this difficult time are the loving e-mails that Harlan has left her and gets them – posthumously – once a month. One of these messages gives her the power to adopt Mat, a little boy from Russia. But the path to mother happiness is stony, full of cultural obstacles, language and bureaucratic barriers. When suddenly Mats’s physical father emerges and claims the little one for himself, Lucy does everything to protect her son.

In her touching debut novel Susan Schoenberger tells a moving story about love, loss and the courage of the new beginning.


German Edition of “A Watershed Year” as translated by Christina Rodriquez

Das Jahr nach dir von Susan Schoenberger

Als Lucys bester Freund und heimliche große Liebe Harlan mit nur dreiunddreißig Jahren an Krebs stirbt, bricht für die junge Frau eine Welt zusammen. Langsam versucht sie nach seinem Tod den Verlust zu verarbeiten und wieder zurück ins Leben zu finden. Ihr größter Trost sind in dieser schweren Zeit die liebevollen E-Mails, die Harlan ihr hinterlassen hat und die sie – posthum – einmal im Monat bekommt. Eine dieser Nachrichten gibt ihr die Kraft, Mat, einen kleinen Jungen aus Russland zu adoptieren. Doch der Weg zum Mutterglück ist steinig, voller kultureller Hindernisse, sprachlicher und bürokratischer Barrieren. Als plötzlich auch noch Mats leiblicher Vater auftaucht und den Kleinen für sich beansprucht, setzt Lucy alles daran, ihren Sohn zu beschützen.

In ihrem berührenden Debütroman erzählt Susan Schoenberger eine bewegende Geschichte über Liebe, Verlust und den Mut des Neubeginns.



A Watershed YearA Watershed Year traces with subtle humor and grace the months after the death of Lucy’s beloved friend Harlan. Schoenberger’s spot-on storytelling adeptly draws out the ways in which our closest relationships can be imperfect and yet continue to transform us. The story often tugged me to tears-as much for the truths it reveals about human interconnectedness as for the pain of Lucy’s grief.

However, I never felt manipulated or yanked unwillingly to boo-hoo over standard sorrows. Her characters are lovably
quirky yet complex enough to be believable. You’ve never met them before, and yet you know they exist!

Juliette Fay, best-selling author of Shelter Me and Deep Down True

“Susan Schoenberger takes us to the softer places of the heart in her debut novel, A WATERSHED YEAR, where love — in all its forms and glory — transforms grief into grace.”

Patti Callahan Henry, NYT bestselling author. Coming Up for Air is her latest.

Thoughtful and uplifting reading of the power of a mother and family, A Watershed Year is an excellent pick.

— Midwest Book Review

Bloggers who reviewed the book include:

Laura’s Reviews

Chronicles of a Country Girl

Cozy Readers Corner

Books and Movies

Sidewalk Shoes

Books in the City

Books Like Breathing

Kelly’s Lucky You


The Lost Entwife

Goodreads reviews for A Watershed Year


Reviews from