Susan Orlean has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, and has contributed articles to Vogue, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside. Susan Orlean is the author of several books, including The Orchid Thief, a profile of Florida orchid grower, breeder, and collector John Laroche. The book formed the basis of Charlie Kaufman's script for the Spike Jonze film Adaptation. Orlean (portrayed by Meryl Streep in an Oscar-nominated role) was, in effect, made into a fictional character; the movie portrayed her as becoming Laroche's lover and partner in a drug production operation, in which orchids were processed into a fictional psychoactive substance. She also wrote the Women's Outside article, "Life's Swell" (published 1998). The article, a feature on a group of young surfer girls in Maui, was the basis of the film Blue Crush.
In 1999, she co-wrote "The Skinny: What Every Skinny Woman Knows About Dieting (And Won't Tell You!)" under her married name, Susan Sistrom. Her previously published magazine stories have been compiled in two collections, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere. She also served as editor for Best American Essays 2005 and Best American Travel Writing 2007. She contributed the Ohio chapter in "State By State" (2008). Her most recent book is Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.