We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan Lanier-Graham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, how do you think about risk?
I received an amazing piece of advice when I was 16. My high school speech coach told me that if I took anything away from his classes, it should be “Never be afraid to change.” I think that has dictated my life since that point. As a writer, I’ve had amazing experiences, but they haven’t always been traditional. I have had to take a lot of risks. I chose to give up a full-ride scholarship to law school to pursue my passion. I have never regretted that choice. I tell people that there are easier ways to make a living, but there is no better way to make a life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a storyteller. My art is translating the world I experience into either stories I share as a writer or the scenes I capture from behind the lens of a camera. when I create, I share a part of myself. One of my favorite things to do is to help others tell their stories. I do this through the editing work I do for North Peoria Lifestyle. I do this in my own digital publication, Wander With Wonder. I do this when I speak to groups and lead retreats for other creative people.
I have always been a little bit different. My soul is filled with wanderlust. Even as a small child, I marched to the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes I’ve felt it more intensely than other times. I had times when I felt empowered and other times when I felt stifled. I moved to Scottsdale in 1994 and split my time between teaching humanities and grammar at a performing arts high school, training corporations on using hardware and software, writing courseware development materials, writing marketing materials, writing travel articles, and even writing novels. It took me a while to realize that I simply had to embrace “me”.
A few years after we moved here, we were in Colorado for my dad’s 70th birthday. That was 20 years ago. I was 35 years old with a husband and a 15-year-old son. We were all lining up to take family photos. Someone laughed and commented that everyone else had on jeans, t-shirts…and here was Susan in a bright-colored flowing skirt, tie-dyed shirt, and big dangling earrings. My son laughed and said, “Mom has to always be different – today she’s dressed like a writer, so she’ll be happy today.”
I thought about that. My son was right. The moments I was happiest were when I was being my authentic self. I am most successful and happiest when I am my authentic self. I built Wander With Wonder on the basis of authenticity. I seek to create connections between my readers, to help them understand the world from a different perspective. I tell my stories, or help others tell their stories, in a way that empowers those connections. It hasn’t always been easy, but I love what I do!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There is so much to do in the Phoenix area. An ideal getaway when someone comes to visit is to balance time between the outdoors and our amazing eateries here in the Valley. I encourage people to visit in November or February, because those are the best months here in the Valley. I love to maybe take a couple of days to escape to Sedona if someone is in town long enough. There is a bit of magic in those red rocks! We have great hiking and biking trails. I’m new to the West Valley, but I’m discovering some great places in North Peoria and North Glendale to go for a hike.
I love to take people to Desert Botanical Garden, because it’s a nice way to experience the variety of flora and fauna here in Arizona. It’s especially gorgeous in February and March when everything blooms.
Eating is a huge part of my life (after all, I write about food, wine and travel), so I do have a few favorites for a great meal. One of the best views anywhere in the Valley is from the patio at Talavera at Four Seasons. I love to take people up there. Another big favorite is to watch the sun setting from jade bar at Sanctuary on Camelback. Meals usually depend on what everyone wants to eat. A few years ago, I had about 15 family members visiting from all over the country and we had dinner on the patio at La Hacienda at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. That’s such a memorable place to dine. I love The Americano for a more intimate meal. You can’t go wrong with Hula’s for Happy Hour.
Another great way to spend some time with visitors is to head to Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. It’s a great place to stay, but even if you only go out for a stroll around the walking trail, it’s such a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
If I have a girlfriend visiting, or when my sister visits, we always try to do a spa day. Again, I have a few favorites there. I adore Omni Montelucia’s spa. That rooftop pool and relaxation room are the best! I enjoy the spa at The Phoenician, Fairmont Scottsdale, and Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass (Aji Spa). Those are my favorites and I never get tired of taking visitors there. I could go on and on…and have through hundreds of articles on Wander With Wonder.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My story wouldn’t be my story without my husband, Bill Graham. We’ve been together since we were 15 and 17 years old. We are complete opposites, but he supports me unconditionally. It has often been a wild, crazy ride, but he believes in me even when I question myself.
Other: I also edit for City Lifestyle North Peoria at https://citylifestyle.com/northpeoria