Featured Drone: Susan Stevenson Borowitz '81

I grew up in an artsy-craftsy family.  My parents, both artists, filled our home with art—pictures, art supplies and art books dedicated to everything from Old Masters to Modern nude photography (the latter of which delighted my brothers’ neighborhood friends while my parents naively believed that these small lads were just suddenly interested in art).  I started making art projects as far back as I can remember, but as I grew I used it more to illustrate narratives than anything else, stapling together “books” that told stories  exclusively through pictures that I had drawn—the pre-school version of the graphic novel, if you will.

Once introduced to the alphabet, my passion for story-telling turned towards the written word, and I spent my school years developing my writing and focusing on that ability as a potential career. I found it easier to summon the writing muse; the art muse, as they say, was just not that into me. Yet I never abandoned the graphic arts and I would often draw as an escape from the stresses of the day.

At Harvard, my tinkering with the visual arts gave way to a full-on dedication to writing as my position as an editor of the Lampoon gave me a forum for humor writing—the type of writing I have the greatest affinity for.  A brief and disastrous comp for Padan Aram pretty much convinced me that the “poetry” I had been seriously writing was so trite it was funny. So no wind-swept all-lower-case enigmatic musings self-consciously scribbled on coffee-stained napkins by nicotine-tinged fingers for me. Nope.  I was going to sell out completely and write comedy for Hollywood.

Since anyone with rudimentary computer skills can find the minutiae of my career on imdb.com, I won’t bore us all with the details.  The pertinent facts are as follows: after a few years freelancing, I landed a job on the successful 80’s sitcom “Family Ties” where I spent the next four years honing my craft and working my way from story editor (a low-level writer) to producer (a high-level writer).  Along the way my mentor Gary David Goldberg taught me all of the arts that are involved in producing a half-hour of television: writing, directing and editing are the skills I learned; lighting, sound, costuming, and set design are those that I learned to respect. My appreciation for the artistry of every facet of production helped me in my next endeavor as the co-creator, writer and executive producer of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”   

During my Hollywood years, my desire to return to the visual arts coincided with a need for formal dresses to wear to the many award ceremonies/benefits that are so much a part of life in the TV/movie industry.  I started sewing—first using patterns and then designing my own—initially as a means of satisfying my new sartorial requirements and then as personal expression.  The birth of my daughter shifted my focus from creating my own clothes to sewing dresses and constructing more and more fantastical Halloween costumes for her.  Needles, thread and fabric constituted my armory against the severe pressure and stresses of my career.

The birth of a son and our subsequent move back east presented new challenges.  It was more difficult to get a show on the air when the powers-that-be are 3,000 miles away and once that was accomplished, I found it even more difficult to be an effective writer-executive producer as well as a good mother, so when the show was cancelled, I took a hiatus to raise my children.  During that period, I managed to write a book about surviving a daughter’s adolescence called “When We’re in Public, Pretend You Don’t Know Me,” but my primary artistic outlet remained sewing for my kids. This resulted in some lovely outfits and insane Halloween costumes, such as Roman Legionary armor made out of hand-riveted aluminum flashing. I began to salivate at the prospect of cruising Home Depot for new Dremel attachments.

Now that my children are too old for Mommy-made costumes, it’s time for me to return to my writing.  I’m in the process of developing a TV show as well as formulating a novel and a screenplay. But I know myself too well to believe that writing alone will make me happy, so I’ve recently found a new obsession:  shoe-making. Maybe at some point I can make that pair of Roman Legionary boots I wished for several years ago.