Susan McClelland

Susan Elizabeth McClelland was born in Toronto and spent part of her childhood in England. Her grandfather, Norman McClelland, a Toronto businessman; her grandmother, Margaret Chown, an avid reader; and her father, Robert McClelland, a physical-organic chemistry professor at the University of Toronto and fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, exposed Susan to traveling, politics, and social issues at a young age. Although she grew up surrounded by scientists, academics, and writers, it was a high school world issues class that turned Susan’s attention toward becoming a journalist herself. A lecture on multinational companies encouraging mothers in developing countries to use concentrated milk products instead of breast-feeding their own babies sparked in Susan the lifelong passion of giving a voice to the voiceless.

Susan went on to receive an honors degree in political science from McMaster University, with a minor in peace studies. Her particular interest was Central American politics and liberation movements. During her undergraduate days, Susan worked at the Children’s International Learning Centre, a project partially funded by UNICEF Canada. The year she graduated from McMaster, Susan received a Week of the Child certificate of honor from the city of Hamilton for her work with children and the Centre.

In 1998, Susan received a master of arts in communications, specializing in print journalism, from the University of Miami. She attended the university on a scholarship, and while there, Susan wrote for the Miami Herald and interned at the New York Times’ Florida, Caribbean, and Central American bureau. Susan graduated from the University of Miami at the top of her class. She also was the only student in her program to have her work published in every issue of the Miami Herald’s Neighbors section.

Also while in Miami, Susan landed her first investigative reporting story. A Canadian consul representative introduced her to several Canadian women serving federal prison sentences for smuggling cocaine from Jamaica into the United States. A series Susan wrote on this topic was published in the Ottawa Citizen. Susan subsequently received her first investigative award from the Society of Professional Journalists (U.S.) in the student competition.

After a brief stint at the Ottawa Citizen, Susan went on to Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly newsmagazine. There she began to distinguish herself as both an investigative and lifestyles reporter. Her first investigative story at Maclean’s looked at the exotic wildlife trade in North America and was nominated for a National Magazine Award. At Maclean’s, Susan generated approximately 90 percent of her own story ideas. Among other things, she was one of the first journalists to write about the trafficking of Asian and Eastern European women into North America as prostitutes, and about the child sex trade in Cambodia, which garnered Susan her first Canadian Association of Journalists investigative reporting award.

Susan also wrote numerous stories at Maclean’s on the lifestyles of women and children. Her repertoire ranged from stories on swing clubs to child poverty in Canada; the impact of war on children to the plight of Sudanese slaves; straight edge youth culture to children conceived through sperm donation. The latter, a Maclean’s cover story, was copied nearly verbatim by CBS’s 60 Minutes.

As a freelancer, she has been published in Chatelaine, Canadian Family, Canadian Living, Elle, Reader’s Digest, Toronto Life, The Globe and Mail, Best Health, and the Walrus.

A story Susan wrote for the Walrus on Filipino domestic workers in Canada, examining the Canadian government's Live-In Caregiver Program and the Philippines labour-export policies, won the prestigious Amnesty International Media Award for Canada in 2005. In 2008, she won the award again for a story that appeared in Chatelaine on female genital cutting.

Susan has also taught magazine journalism at Centennial College. In 2007, the college implemented an investigative reporting course Susan designed. She also authored a chapter in the university and college-aged textbook, The Bigger Picture-Elements of Feature Writing.

The Bite of the Mango (2008), a memoir of a child victim of the Sierra Leone war, as told to Susan, is her first book.

Her hobbies include cooking, photography, hiking, reading and music. Most of all, though, Susan likes being surrounded by water, boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming. She loves traveling, particularly to places off the beaten track where she inevitably finds new and interesting stories and meets new and interesting people, all with a story of their own to share.

Annick Press books
with Susan McClelland