Photo of Susan Petrone

5 questions with… novelist and staff member Susan Petrone

Susan Petrone compares the feeling she got when holding a hard copy of her first published novel to holding one’s child for the first time. And, though she said she realizes it’s not quite the same, it still is “pretty darn good.”

“Obviously you have editors and publishers and art designers and all that stuff that goes into it, but you’re like ‘I made this,’” said Petrone, communications and dissemination specialist for the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN).

Petrone will experience that feeling once again when her third novel, The Super Ladies, hits bookstore shelves Aug. 14.

Her second novel published by The Story Plant, The Super Ladies explores the lives of three women who develop superpowers as they go through menopause.

While Petrone admits her novel includes some of the typical superhero tropes, she comes at them from a different angle. Most superheroes are male, young and muscular, she said. Her “super ladies” aren’t those things. They’re average women navigating major life transitions and, after an errant science fair project, develop their powers. One woman becomes indestructible. Another can light objects on fire. And the third gains the ability to turn invisible.

A launch party for Susan Petrone’s The Super Ladies will be held Friday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m. at Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights).

The powers become means to explore larger issues, particularly gender, and how having powers might change how females navigate the world, she said.

Exploring gender issues is a common thread for Petrone, whose last book, Throw Like a Woman, told the story of a single mother who realized that, when she thought about her ex-husband, she could throw a 95-mile per hour fastball.

Though the book tapped into Petrone’s interest in baseball, she also sought to examine female anger through a respectful lens, something she felt literature didn’t often accomplish.

“I find it fascinating just exploring issues of gender and power, maybe in a humorous way,” said Petrone, who is drawn to write about such topics both as a woman and as a mother to a daughter.

Petrone’s writing isn’t strictly rooted in fiction. She also ventures into the sports realm as co-owner of the ESPN SweetSpot-affiliated website It’s Pronounced Lajaway, with Stephanie Liscio (GRS ’18, history).

The Cleveland Indians-centric blog gives Petrone the chance to write about what she considers “the most perfect game ever invented.”

“I think good writing is good writing, no matter what the subject matter is. Good sports writing has a lot of the same elements of fiction as far as structure and voice and description, so they do have a lot in common,” she said.

She also incorporates writing into her job with PRCHN, where she gets the chance to help tell others’ stories and spread news about research on community-based participatory public-health programs.

“By trade, I’m a writer-editor, so I like my job because I get to do a little bit of everything—writing, editing, design, web development and talking to people,” she said.

Prepare for the Aug. 14 release of The Super Ladies by reading Petrone’s answers to this week’s five questions.

1. What do you like most about Cleveland?

I like that we have all the good parts of a big city, but without the traffic. You can always get tickets for the orchestra, you can always get Hamilton tickets, traffic’s not that bad, rent’s not bad, and yet we have magnificent cultural things—museums, the orchestra, theater, food—and we have fresh water.

2. What’s a hidden skill or talent you have that most people would be surprised to know?

I used to play baseball in a wood-bat pickup league. I used to be able to hit like a 60 mile-per-hour fastball, but I’m not sure I could anymore.

3. Who is the best teacher you’ve had throughout your education?

It’s a tie between Mrs. McBride, 10th grade English at Heights High School, and Mrs. Peterjohn, ninth grade English at Beaumont High School.

I loved Mrs. McBride because she let me do some independent work. So when other kids were doing these group presentations, she let me write a play. It was like, “Thank you for acknowledging that I want to do something else.” She encouraged independent learning and I appreciated that.

Mrs. Peterjohn was just one of those people who made language come alive. She taught me how to diagram sentences and took delight in the fact that I took delight in diagramming sentences.

4. What moment in history do you wish you could have experienced firsthand?

It’s tempting to just say Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, but if I could be me—dorky, nerdy book girl, writer girl—I always wanted to be alive in New York in the ’20s and ’30s and be part of the Algonquin Round Table and hang out with Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker and all those snarky people.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I like being part of a university that really cares about academics. They care about sports and everything else, but academics are clearly first. So you meet these wonderfully talented students. Graduate students come in and they all have these great hidden talents of design or video-editing. They get really great students here and it’s fun to be part of it.