Susan Yost Filgate, Author & Book Designer
Susan Yost Filgate grew up in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Harrisburg. She is the youngest of two daughters. Influenced by her endlessly creative older sister, Susan developed a love for art and design at a very young age. As a child, she was always making something, whether it was a paper sculpture, an ornament, a clothing item, jewelry, or a painting. Her interest in writing started in junior high school, with poetry, journaling, short stories, and essays. She excelled in writing in high school and college, but always retained a deep interest in the visual arts and imagined she would one day pursue a career in the arts.
In 1976, Susan received a bachelor’s degree in art education from the Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA. She had a special concentration in museum education. Her main creative effort during those years was in soft sculpture; however, she also studied oil painting under the influential American painter and printmaker Harold Altman.
Soon after completing college, Susan moved to San Francisco where she met her future husband, artist and illustrator, Leonard Filgate. She worked as a graphic designer and as a museum docent at San Francisco’s de Young and Legion of Honor Museums. Eventually, she landed a job with Determined Productions, Inc. in San Francisco. (Determined had 80% of the rights for Charles Schulz’s Peanuts® characters as well as other licensed properties.) Susan became intrigued and inspired by the world of publishing, licensing, and products for children. At the time, she didn’t realize what a big influence this would eventually be on her future. Before that would be discovered, she took a fifteen-year detour into the world of litigation, working mainly as a paralegal for plaintiffs’ attorneys. (What she liked best about that job was the research and writing, although the writing of legal briefs was far different from writing for children.) Also, during that time, Susan and her husband had a daughter, Jessica. Susan was able to stay involved in Jessica’s education, working with her elementary school as an art instructor and with parent groups, all while maintaining a full-time job as a paralegal and assisting her husband in his pursuit of his career as an artist. She always maintained a strong desire to get back into her own art, which had evolved in the direction of writing. Up to and during that time, her writing included educational material, legal briefs, occasional magazine articles, a fantasy screenplay (one episode for a Warner Bros. series which, unfortunately, was canceled before her script was brought to the small screen), and stories for children.
Susan and Leonard often collaborated on story and illustration ideas for children’s book ideas. In 1997, they hit upon a winner. By 1999, Susan was finally able to leave her job as a paralegal behind and totally delve into the world of children’s books, art, and licensed products while living in Carmel-by-the-sea, California. Leonard and Susan had created the successful brand known as Rip Squeak® which allowed her to travel to book signings in various bookstores and art galleries throughout US, from Los Angeles to Massachusetts and Florida to Washington State and at trade book expos in North America (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Toronto) and in Europe (Bologna, Italy and Frankfurt, Germany.)
In 2005, the Filgate family moved to Fresno, California because they found an older Spanish-style home they fell in love with which had space for both a studio for Leonard and an office for Susan, as well as plenty of indoor and outdoor living space. In 2010, Susan took a position with the Fresno Art Museum where she is the Education Director, a position she finds both exciting and challenging. One of her favorite projects is curating an annual exhibition featuring renowned children’s book illustrators, created especially with children in mind. She and Leonard also continue to work on other literary projects, including Rip Squeak® projects.