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Weekly Wrap: Hopeful.

By Posted on 15 5 m read 1.1K views

I’ve been juggling a little more than I’m used to lately. Both my boys are in play rehearsal right now (for different plays), and I’ve been trying to get ahead with reading and interviewing for LitPark. I want my plate to be clear when my novel edits come back from St. Martin’s. Which reminds me…. there are two people I enjoy working with so much: Regina Scarpa, my editor at St. Martin’s, and the remarkable Tommy Kane, who’s doing my book cover. I couldn’t feel luckier, and you will never hear me complain of being too busy. I like movement.


This week we talked about hope and hopelessness. It’s easy to fall into the latter when you’re a writer. Creating that story and getting it right is hard enough, but sending it out is the real whammy. Rejection can make you question your talent and your value. Sometimes you wait and don’t even get a rejection.

This past week gave me reminder after reminder of what makes me feel hopeful, and what I hang on to when times are tough: it’s the little things. I’m going to give some anecdotes from my week, and maybe you’ll see what I mean…..

I volunteered at the annual fundraiser gala organized by Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation. The foundation was created in response to 9-11 to encourage dialogue and respect between different cultures, and some of the folks I recognized at the gala included Dionne Warwick, Tommy Hilfiger, Tony Bennett, one of the Van Zandts, one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters, Paul Simon, Katie Couric, Montel Williams, and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees. I understand how people responded to 9-11 with bitterness and a desire for revenge. But every time someone responds to hate with love, it gives me hope.

As many of you know, it’s almost impossible to get me to sit down and watch TV. I have nothing against TV; it just doesn’t suit me, for some reason. I watched the entire O.J. Simpson trial when I was on bedrest with Bach-Boy, and ever since, I’ve hardly watched a complete show.

But this little anecdote is about watching TV because Bach-Boy pleaded with me recently to let him watch American Idol. He said all the kids and teachers talk about it at school, and he wants to be a part of the conversation. This required an extension of his bedtime, and also required me to watch the show with him because he wanted this to be family time. So we do that now, when we remember, and I try not to fidget or leave the room before the show is over. And if you’ve been watching, you know there’s this American Idol Gives Back thing going on, where you can call in to vote for your favorite singer, but your money goes to save kids from malaria and AIDS and poverty – and Bach-Boy wants to save those kids so bad. So Tuesday he talked me into calling in a vote, and I asked him which singer’s number I should call because I knew he was torn between Melinda and Jordin. And he said, “I want to vote once for every singer because then we’re not hurting anyone’s feelings and we’re saving more kids.”

Lindsay with a very shy Grant Bailie.

This week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, David Halberstam, died, and my most adorable friend, Lindsay, who plays with my hair when I talk (and I love that about her), told me a story about when she met him. I asked her if I could share the story here, and she said, Yep:

i met him once. it was at this weird thing i attended right after high school graduation where all these famous people were honored and high school seniors from around the country came to listen to them talk. we talked for a while and he told me that he had won every award his profession gave out, and that not one of them was worth anything. he told me never to do anything in order to win a trophy, and i would be okay. later in the conference i asked the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff what he thought about that einstein quote about how you can’t simultaneously prepare for war and encourage peace. he found me after and patted me on the shoulder and told me to keep quoting einstein. i remember we laughed about something, and i thought he was so warm and so funny, and how odd that he cared to spend twenty minutes talking to me when tom selleck was at the next table.

i thought he was a pretty magic guy. i knew he’d die and i’d end up telling someone this story, but i didn’t think it would be so soon, or in a car crash. i only have a picture he *took* of me, posing with dr. nancy wexler, this scientist who did most of the work leading up to the isolation of the gene for Huntington’s disease. i just got it out to look at it. i wish i’d asked her to take one of us.

It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but I need reminding now and then: It’s your heart that counts. If you measure success by how you treat people, you can have success whenever you want it.

Each morning, I like to see what Tommy Kane’s put up on his blog. I like how he can say a lot with just a few lines and words. There’s something pretty wonderful in sharing spontaneous, unpolished thoughts – maybe because honesty and personality tend to show themselves the most in first drafts.

Green-Hand‘s staying home from school, exhausted from last night’s dress rehearsal. That means a whole day full of the little, important stuff: reading together under a blanket, watering the garden, walking to the bakery, and sharing something with the dogs when we get back.

If any of you could use some hope today, maybe you could focus on the little things. Open the window, pet your dog, buy yourself a bouquet of flowers, give something to the charity of your choice, put on music that makes you weep so much you feel like you have company, and then put on music so silly and happy, you can’t help but feel a shift.


Thank you to everyone who answered the Question of the Week: PD Smith, Anneliese, David Niall Wilson, Clare Grant, A.S. King, Nathalie, Aurelio, *Joe*, Betsy, Richard Cooper, David Thorpe, Kimberly, Antoine Wilson, Tish Cohen, Carolyn Burns Bass, Jonathan Evison, Julie Ann Shapiro, Shelley Marlow, Mark Bastable, Terry Bain, Robin Slick, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Simon Haynes, lance reynald, Ric Marion, Lori Oliva, Gail Siegel, amy, Jim Hanas, and Jason Boog.

And thank you to Jolene Siana for her story and for kicking off such a great discussion! See you Monday with a new Question of the Week.

Oh, and P.S. – Amy Wilentz has a new web page and blog in case you want to visit or link her. Thanks!

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  • Nathalie
    April 27, 2007

    Concentrating on small things indeed. Like that mantra whispering at the back of my head and urging me to hold on because “it’s Friday, after all”. And now I know that no matter how horrendous the week has been or how bad today will be, in a dozen hours it will be over! (Joy, etc.)
    And the promise of figs in the air of the morning…

  • Jim
    April 27, 2007

    Sounds like a wonderfully enriching Friday for you and B-Boy, Sue. Thanks (as always) for brightening my morning.

  • David Niall Wilson
    April 27, 2007

    This week (the latter half) I get to concentrate on the joy of no longer being in college…all winter I was working to complete a degree I should have had 30 years ago..Wednesday I completed all work on both of my final two classes…and will soon get that silly AA that I never thought I wanted.

    But what I’m concentrating isn’t that. Good as that feels, my life/time/writing back is the thing that is coolest.


  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    April 27, 2007

    I thought I was the only one in the world who had never seen an entire episode of American Idol.

    Anyone here at LitPark going to the LA Times Book Festival at UCLA this weekend? I’ll be there Saturday and working in the California Writer’s Club booth between 12-2. Stop by and say hi if you’re there.

  • Susan Henderson
    April 27, 2007

    Well, I have to laugh at the short list of little things I’d planned today. Most were pre-empted by the rain. Then… well, I’m grateful I didn’t lose my house to a fire today; I only lost the oven. And my neighbor was great when I showed up at her house with Green-Hand, a doberman, a greyhound, and wearing nothing but a towel. This was all before the fire department showed up. And by then, I’d borrowed underwear from my neighbor, a shirt from her husband, and I used the towel as a skirt. Every tube that travels from my nose hurts like crazy from the smoke, but all’s well that ends well. Tomorrow I’ll try to do something about the smell of smoke and wet dog.

    Nathalie – Happy Friday!

    Jim – Enriching is one word for today. 😉

    DNW – Congratulations on your degree!

    Carolyn – I’m pretty certain Bruce Bauman will be at the LA Times Book Festival. And I’m thinking James Spring and Amy Wallen, too. Anyone else?

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    April 27, 2007

    Sounds like there’s a story here, Susan. What were you cooking in nothing but a towel? Can’t wait to read the unabridged version of this tale.

  • Susan Henderson
    April 27, 2007

    Nothing so exciting. I baked cookies and the oven kept smoking and setting off the smoke alarm. So after the cookies were out, I did the self-cleaning thing, thinking that would help, and jumped in the shower.

    My neighbor cooked us dinner tonight, which was sweet.

  • Anneliese
    April 28, 2007

    I love Lindsay’s David Halberstam story! (complete with that observation of Tom Selleck at the next table – ha!)

    RIP David Halberstam. 🙁

  • lance reynald
    April 28, 2007

    I love the fact that you trying to bake and do the June Cleaver Mom of the Year thing on Greenhand’s day home with you results in a firecrew… reminds me of a story I once heard about you and a cat.

    I’m glad you are all safe, fed and not charred…


  • Kimberly
    April 28, 2007

    this blog makes me nothing but happy every single day I am fortunate enough to read it!

    and if that’s not a cure for hopelessness…


  • Susan Henderson
    April 29, 2007

    Anneliese – I think Lindsay and David Halberstam came off equally awesome in that story. I should probably mention here that Mr. Henderson’s dog, Aka, once starred in an episode of Magnum P.I.

    lance – Yes, it really is classic, and don’t think the fireman missed their opportunity to tease me. It was all a little deja vu for me because I caught my kitchen on fire when I was a kid, too. Remind me – what cat story?

    Kimberly – Aww, sweet. Are you going to be able to catch the Brecht play? It’s fantastic.

  • lance reynald
    April 29, 2007

    this cat story:
    “Don’t Turn Out Like Me: A Troublemaker Starts a Family – synopsis.

    A five-year-old accidentally kills a kitten and brands herself a villain. As she grows, she hoards the secrets of her dark side, as if proving to herself that she is too reckless to be trusted with anything innocent or delicate. “

  • Susan Henderson
    April 30, 2007

    Oh, right! That cat in my memoir. And my track record!

  • M. Andrew Sprong
    July 12, 2008

    I hope the smoke damage wasn’t too bad. When I was a child, we had a fire in the kitchen which left black soot in the most unlikely places. When my parents sold the place twenty years later, we were still finding little spots of soot behind cupboard doors and under furniture.

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