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Weekly Wrap: We've Been Busy

by Susan Henderson on September 28, 2007

Welcome back to LitPark! And thanks for telling me your stories of burial grounds and yard sales and cattle drives and relocations and film making and book editing and guitar lessons and car shows and all of the many things you did over the summer that make you so interesting to me.

A lot of people have asked me, “How was Montana?” “How was Paris?” “How was the south of France?” And while I went to those places and had a wonderful time, my memory of this summer has been all about editing my book. I got my edits back in May. And several weeks later, when I was able to pull myself out of the fetal position, I went to work, unstringing all the beautiful sentences I thought were finished to do the tough work of trying to make the book bigger and better than the original.

Editing a piece of writing is very much like taking a knitted sweater and having someone say, “Only small changes, really. Just re-do this bit in the shoulder. And maybe use an alternating color every other row.” And you know very well that this means you’ll have to unravel the entire sweater to make those changes, and once you have a pile of yarn, you have to trust that it will be a sweater again. That it will be a sweater that blows the original out of the water.

Luckily, while I was still in shock and calling myself stupid, failure, mediocre, and other favorite pet names I like to use, Mr. Henderson built me the most awesome, secret office, where I am typing this very blog and also rebuilding the sweater, so to speak.

To get to my office, you have to go through a wisteria tunnel.

The office is hidden in ivy.

And it has a door that’s hard to come across.

Here’s the inside. That’s Jack, one of my dogs. I should straighten that lampshade, I guess.

Maybe you noticed the doll in the window. It’s my first Barbie doll ever, and I got it this summer from the very awesome Heather Fowler. She sent outfits, too!

I have to say I was tempted to cut Barbie’s hair and see what happens when you unscrew her head and stick firecrackers inside. Maybe this is why no one bought me a Barbie as a kid. (Did you know J.C. Penney sells Carol Channing dolls? Mr. Henderson actually does a spot-on imitation of Carol Channing.)

I sit at this desk for hours and hours every day. My desk is usually messier than that. And when I’m on a roll, there will be balled up pieces of paper all over the floor. (Man, I need some artwork on that wall. Over the couch, too.)

My mouse pad is a Roget’s thesaurus. I’ve had this one since high school and it’s falling apart.

I have the coolest view ever out this window. I should probably wash the window, huh?

There are little boxes all around, filled with whatever. This one has rattlesnake tails and bullet shells. Some have tampons and ponytail holders and gum.

This is a tricky section of the book, all laid out so I can see where the problem is. I keep that little bat-girl nearby because I think she’s made of the same stuff as the narrator of my book. I’ve tried to buy that print, but it’s sold out, so I’ve got my eye on Ray Caesar, and next time I love something, I won’t be so slow about it.

There you go – a quickie office tour. Mr. Henderson built the whole thing and painted it and put up the molding and sewed the curtains. It’s an absolutely awesome gift, and now I need to make good use of it and edit this little book the best I know how.

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Real quick, here are my answers to Wednesday’s Top 5 Question: Name 5 famous people you’ve met, and tell a story about at least one of them.

I decided to name some of the folks I was around the most growing up: Vint Cerf (Turing Award winner and considered the father of the internet, and now the “chief internet evangelist” at Google), Herb Simon (Nobel Prize winner, Turing Award winner, and considered the father of Artificial Intelligence), Bob Kahn (Turing Award winner and co-inventor of the internet), Raj Reddy (Turing Award winner; he was also awarded the Legion of Honor by Francois Mitterand, which is how I met the French president).The Turing Award, by the way, is sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize for Computer Science. In other words, I grew up around a whole lot of geeks.

Number 5 was not in my family’s inner circle, but I’ll tell a story for this one. When I was 17, I did my first-ever interview. It was in the West Wing of the White House with Jim Brady, a few years after he was shot in the head. We recently did a big clean-out (part of creating my new office), and I discovered a very humiliating cassette tape, which not only featured me giggling my way through the interview and asking completely inappropriate questions such as, How did it feel to get shot in the head? But after the interview was over, I apparently recorded myself singing my heart out – everything from The Carpenters to Teena Marie. Listening to this tape almost killed me out of sheer embarrassment. Here are some clips from my interview with Brady, talking about the Carter administration, and about Hinckley, and about butts.

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Thank you to my special guest this week, Dr. Dot, who is fun and lovely and created a great time around here with her Top 5 game. Thanks to everyone who linked to LitPark this week: Dr. Dot, Where’s Travis McGee?, and a.k.a. Si Ma Tian. And thanks to those of you who linked me to your Wikipedia pages: Josh, Maria, Tao, and Greg. Have a great weekend!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah R. Roundell September 28, 2007 at 4:16 am

Wow, your office is amazing! Mr H is such a sweetheart for doing all of that for you. I don’t think the window needs cleaning or the lampshade needs straightening as they probably help the creative juices flow, but you could use some paintings or interesting photographs. This was a great opening for the Park and I am so excited for next week!

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Kimberly September 28, 2007 at 8:24 am

Wow, Sue! That office rivals the treehouse in utter coolness! I have 973 M.A.T. posters left. Want one? :) Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you find your Christmas presents wrapped in them for the next 14 years…

Change of time, change of venue – wild horses couldn’t keep me away from Sunday’s gig! See you at 7:00 (or probably before for some post-train, pre-concert boozin’…)

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Claudia September 28, 2007 at 9:18 am

Hi Susan,

Just want to say how reassuring this post is to me. I’ve been working on some sample chapters for my proposal that need to be (approximately) doubled in length, and your sweater analogy is SO perfect! I mean per-fect.

Thanks!

And hey, I’m in Montana on Flathead Lake. I’ve been here since 1990. Where in MT were you this summer?

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Brian McEntee September 28, 2007 at 9:45 am

Those walls are awfully bare… hummm…

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Susan Henderson September 28, 2007 at 10:12 am

Sarah – Yep. He’s a keeper.

Kimberly – I’m so glad you’ll be at the show with us! And yes, the treehouse is way cool.

Claudia – Thank you! And I know Flathead Lake very well. We’ve eaten a whole lot of cherries by the lake! I was in Bozeman and Missoula this summer.

Brian – xo!

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Claudia September 28, 2007 at 10:28 am

Ah, Bozeman and Missoula — very hip!

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Michael D. Williams September 28, 2007 at 11:11 am

I love the box. I have a small buckskin bag that has the same kind of stuff. Rattlesnake rattle, rifle shells, buckeyes, rocks, a bucktail and arrow heads. When I find things that are special I put them in the bag, it’s somewhat spiritual.

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Lori Oliva September 28, 2007 at 11:56 am

Love your office! What a space. I’m sorry if you’ve been frustrated lately. Seeing your bulletin board made realize that I need one! Mr. H rocks.

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Susan Henderson September 28, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Claudia – Bozeman and Missoula are certainly more hip than Grass Range and Lewistown (other haunts of mine), that’s for sure.

Michael – I love random bags of stuff. Thanks for sharing the contents.

Lori – Frustrated is a very mild way to describe how this whole process has been going for me. Lance gave me some good advice – to go slow and stay focussed on something simple. It’s helping me a lot.

(Well, Robin, neither Adrian nor Ritchie got nominated for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame this year, but Nile Rodgers was sure one of the 9 to get a nod.)

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Susanna Donato September 28, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Oh, your office is great! Makes me want one. Wait, I have one, it just needs to be blown up (perhaps with an exploding Barbie head?) and reconceived.

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Gail Siegel September 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Your office looks so peaceful and inspiring. Thanks for giving us a peek.

I love your sweater analogy. PERFECT!!

And yes, a trip sounds wonderful. I hope it can happen… xx

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Claudia September 28, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Ha! Love the map, and I think even Polson (mine owne wee towne) is hipper than that.

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Lizzy September 28, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Wow, that’s quite an office! And the Barbie’s a nice touch. (If I were you, I’d take the head off, throw the head into some body of water, and give the body to a pet to see what it does. Yes, I did this when I was little… I was one cool little kid.)

And that’s one amazing treehouse. I always tried to get my parents to build my sister and I a treehouse, but it never happened. I love treehouses.

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James Spring September 28, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Wow. To all of it. But mostly to the new office. And a lot to the part where James Brady told you he’d have preferred to be shot in the butt.

Please post the Teena Marie tunes.

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Susan Henderson September 28, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Susanna – Ha! I know. It’s so hard to think of Barbie dolls without thinking up games of destruction. Oh, what it must be like to be born someone who is content to brush hair.

Gail – It’ll happen. Maybe AWP in NYC, we’ll come up with a plan. Also, did you know the AWP after that will be in Chicago? Whee! And we’ll take First Lady Obama out for drinks!

Claudia – Ha! Don’t get me started naming all the dinky, unhip towns I’ve been to.

Lizzy – Hey, awesome Lizzy, you’re never too old for a tree house. Put that right back on your wish list!

James – About playing the Sue does Teena tape: Bite me! About Brady, do you hear the weird seizure-like laugh on those clips? That was the hardest thing about interviewing him (besides my stuttering and not very ingenious questions). Whenever he said something funny, he tended to start weeping. And whenever he said anything very serious or poignant, there would be this laugh-attack. I didn’t know how to hold my face, so I played with all the teddy bears he had on his desk.

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Julie Ann Shapiro September 28, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Susan,
Ah…you have the dream writers cottage and a secret garden entrance. I love it. I hope you find some fun in the editing process.

Julie

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Patry September 29, 2007 at 12:02 am

Any green office that can only be accessed through a wisteria tunnel MUST be a place where magic happens, especially if dolls in cocktail dresses live there.
Good luck with the edits.

Meanwhile, I’m so glad to see the park has reopened!

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Shelley Marlow September 29, 2007 at 1:25 am

Beautiful, bella!
Come get some art from my show or home studio…
tomorrow’s the last day of the show… I think I emailed you.
rm#308 526 west 26th street

the art book fair is around the corner tomorrow, too.

I’m reading backwards this week, thanks to the full moon in Aries.

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Susan Henderson September 30, 2007 at 10:01 am

Julie – Thanks for reminding me to have fun. I totally forgot about that part.

Patry – I will take all the good luck you have to offer, Patry. And I’m so glad you’re here!

Shelley – Oh, I would love to, but this weekend has been all about my kids’ Beatles show. They did the first one last night at one bar, and there’s another show tonight at a different bar. (I’ll put up some video in a week or two.) Next show, definitely! Say hi to Martha for me.

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Lizzy September 30, 2007 at 10:51 pm

Oh, and might I recommend checking out Ryan Stiles (http://www.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Stiles)’s Carol Channing imitation? Pretty amazing.

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Daryl October 1, 2007 at 4:39 am

Love your husband, love your voice, and so glad you took the summer off from LitPark to regroup and make this feel like coming back to school to the greatest English teacher I’ve ever had. Really love your mousepad too but isn’t that hard on your wrist?

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Susan Henderson October 1, 2007 at 8:53 am

Lizzy – Let me see if I can get this YouTube to load.

Daryl – Aww, that’s the sweetest. And you’re right: using a thesaurus as your mouse pad is no good for your wrist, but I’m too lazy to go out and get the real deal.

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Betsy October 1, 2007 at 9:15 am

Oh my gosh, Susan, that is a dream office made by a dream man.
And I like the sweater analogy as well.

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Jody Reale October 1, 2007 at 10:25 am

I’m so covetous of your office I can hardly stand it. Oh, and that’s about the neatest corkboard I’ve ever seen.

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patryfrancis October 3, 2009 at 12:10 am

Love the office and especially your Jack. He looks so much like my much missed Jade.

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