Susan’s biography – mostly in her words


Short Bio

Susan was a freelance writer, researcher and editor specialising in international development, medical fiction and local history. She published regularly in medical humanities journals worldwide and was President of Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health & Insight (BODHI) ( and from 1989 until her death in 2014. This gave her experience in overseas development.

Long bio

Act I. Childhood.

Scene 1. One starry night a few months before she was born, Susan Woldenberg’s mother, Irene Violet, sat on the front porch in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, craving ice cream and staring at the stars. Hence Susan’s love of sweets and her middle name: Starr.

Scene 2.

Later childhood in Southern California: fast forward please.

Act II. Peripatetic globe- trotting

Scene 1.

Susan seized experiences with both hands to provide later memories for when she’s drooling over her porridge in an old folks’ home.

Scene 2.

Susan dropped out (again), quit Hollywood television job and went to India in 1985. Met future husband, Colin Butler.

Act III. Tasmania

Scene 1.

Susan assumed mantle of DW (doctor’s wife) in 1991.

Scene 2.

Two more trips to India (one in 1990) resulted in formation of BODHI.

Scene 3.

The Woldenberg – Butler Roadshow perched in Campbell Town, Tasmania in 1992, where it stayed until 2009.

Setting: Small town, 850 people, millions of sheep in surrounding district, no traffic lights.

Scene 4.

While managing the medical practice for Colin, Susan found time to complete a university degree in history, work for BODHI and write and desktop publish Stories of Campbell Town and True Tales from the Roaring 40s.

* Stories of Campbell Town example Allan Bye took his Travelling Picture Show all round Tasmania for many years, including during World War II.

* True Tales from the Roaring 40s examples: death masks of the rich and infamous inhabit a Launceston museum, and more heads of animals amassed by a big game hunter into the largest collection in the Southern Hemisphere.

Scene 5.

Susan ventured into fiction in 1994 with her first short story. She kept her ears open at dinner parties and elsewhere and gathered enough medical tidbits for two volumes of medical stories. One, Secrets from the Black Bag, was published in December, 2005, by Royal College of General Practitioners Publications in the UK.

Scene 6.

Public health, climate change, recurring diseases: these were on her mind when she began More Stories of Campbell Town. Susan’s gardening buddy Fairlie Nicolson provided unpublished photographs and memories of her grandfather, Dr Walter Toft, who founded a progressive tuberculosis sanatorium in Campbell Town in the late 1800s.

Scene 7.

Rewind to the beginning: food. More Stories of Campbell Town and the cookbooks, Midlands Morsels and Heritage Highway Cookery, which honour the unsung cooks who keep the whole show on the road. The cookbooks feature recipes, photos and anecdotes from the 1800s to the current day … recipes from the 1800s, 1900s and 2000s, like Cinnamon Chocolate Meringues … yum … … And her detective novel, looking for a publisher: Just Add Nauseam, Death at the Dinner Party, set in present day Tasmania.

Scene 8.

Through it all, wild birds wing past and two pet sheep cud-chew outside the office window (looking at them now) … here come … A second volume of medical stories, and The AFTBACK Chronicles, wherein three stuffed animals — two bears and a Scottish terrier who belong to a young married couple — embark upon astounding adventures in their efforts to negotiate a bewildering world, all from the safety of the bedroom, with a little help from the Internet.

Act IV  Canberra

Colin and Susan then moved to Canberra, Australia’s capital. Colin became an epidemiologist and then a Professor at the University of Canberra. Before then he worked at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University. He specialises in global environmental change and human health, and in global food security. Susan completed a third volume of medical stories (Black Bag Fix) and does freelance academic editing and research.

BODHI is flourishing.


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