November 2007

Weekly Wrap: The Murders We Remember

by Susan Henderson on November 30, 2007

I’m not quite sure of the meaning in this story I’m about to tell you. But back in third grade or so, when I was the girl “least likely to comb her hair,” another classmate asked me to sign a petition to save a murderer from the death penalty.

The murderer was Gary Gilmore, and the petition said that he absolutely must not be killed, etc., etc. I’ve always been a skimmer. I signed immediately.

That I’d never heard of this guy didn’t matter. I liked the idea of standing up for something. All day, we chanted “Save Gary!” And we bullied people into signing the petition and downright hated them if they didn’t sign at all.

Between the chanting and the tattlers, we were called to the principal’s office, where we were told not to bully, etc., etc. (You can skim when you’re listening, too.) And there, we also found out that this guy, Gary, whose name we’d been chanting all day, had actually been executed weeks earlier.

I didn’t even know who he was or what he had done to get on Death Row.


Before I get to my Top 5 answer, I just want to acknowledge the roller coaster this week has been – going from your stories of murder to fond (and not so fond) memories of parents to feeling the impact of friends struggling with scary things. I didn’t intend to send everyone up and down, and I’m sorry about that. But if I’m going to ride a roller coaster with anyone, I’m glad it’s you.


On to the Top 5. First, I want to thank the oh-so-lovely Chuck Collins for being here to play with us. I have been rooting for Chuck for many years now, and I hope he gets the notice he deserves for his fine storytelling and huge heart.

So, Chuck asked everyone to name their 5 fondest memories with their folks. Here’s my answer:

Like many of you, I had trouble coming up with 5 distinct memories, but in my case, it wasn’t because there were not many to pick from. It’s just that, when I thought about growing up in my family, I realized something that has turned out to be very important to me. There were not “big moments” and “big memories,” so much as there were some key things I experienced consistently and in quiet ways. I think what my family did well, and what I try to remember not only with raising kids but also with being married and being a friend – is it’s not the stand-out moments that sustain a relationship but what you get on average days.

So instead of telling a story of me and my Dad earning a feather for singing together at an Indian Princess’s meeting, I’ll tell you that every single day he was dutiful and completely self-sufficient. What did this mean to me? It meant I knew that whenever I was with my father – whether we were camping in the rain or ice fishing or repelling or waiting out a power outage, I was always perfectly safe. He could handle any situation, and I could be the kid.

And my mother, instead of telling you about the matching bracelets we got after her best friend died, I’d like to say that the greatest gift she gave me was the feeling of being loved. Every stage I went through with hair styles and melodramatic writing and the grand and uniformed pronouncements I had about the world, she was just genuinely interested and encouraged me to express my style and my opinions. I never felt judged or small. I felt enjoyed and free.

This is probably my favorite photo ever. It’s my mom, last week, over Thanksgiving break, and Bach-Boy hiding his face in her arms because he doesn’t want his picture taken. And what’s so great about this picture is you can see my kids are getting that same thing from my mom that she gave to me.


Thanks to all of you for being here this week. I’d like to link two stories that got buried in the comments section: this story by Gail Siegel, and this one by Pia Ehrhardt (if the link doesn’t take you straight there, look up Pia in the contributors section and then click on October). Finally, thanks to everyone who linked to LitPark: The Publishing Spot, Wish It Were Fiction, and Aimeepalooza.


Top 5 with Chuck Collins

by Susan Henderson on November 28, 2007

Name your 5 fondest memories with your folks.

This question is for all my readers. But Chuck Collins will kick things off with his answers. Who is Chuck Collins? He is the host of The Radio Murders. And despite being a Browns fan, I like him a whole lot. Here’s Chuck….


Mom and Dad were terrific parents and wonderful people. I wish I could be so firm in my beliefs and committed to doing what is right.

5) How Dad handled being told that his young family could not stay at a Missouri motel in 1961; no coloreds allowed. He said, “Thank you. We will find a better place.”

4) Mom swooning over meeting Larry Doby in our dining room. She had to lean on the door jam.

3) The time I slipped on a rock on the shore of Lake Erie and Dad waiting just long enough to see if I would remember my swimming training. I didn’t, and he pulled me out like a two-pound perch.

2) Dad addressing a group of staff and counselors at the learning camp that was one of the projects he managed. He looked so in control!

1) Mom chasing a black bear away in Yellowstone Park. “You aren’t getting near my boys, Mr. Bear!” She used a frying pan.


Chuck’s Bio:

Quick, talk about yourself!

Most people would stumble around and feel very uncomfortable. Not me. I like what I do and who I’ve become. Sure, I could lose a few pounds and maybe take a lesson from Sting on those hours-long sessions he used to brag about. But aside from that I was dealt a pretty good hand.

Everyday, in two different radio markets, I have the chance to let strangers get to know me. At least they hear me and make up their own minds. I’ve been a broadcast professional for almost 34 years and still love it. They have to tell me to go home after a twelve-hour day, it is that much fun.

In 2001 I took the money and ran; granted myself a sabbatical to write. I didn’t know what I was going to write, I just knew I wanted to do it. The result is The Radio Murders. I am very proud of the effort, though I know there is still much work to do to chisel these six volumes into commercial successes. Like most of you, I am not willing to let the characters and the worlds that populate this work fade.

Susan is one of those people. She is like Rowdy Yates with all the tools needed to corral unruly, often undisciplined talent and keep us on the trail. A whip is not out of the question.

For that I am eternally grateful.


Thank you, Chuck. I just put whip on my Christmas list.

Okay, your turn! And after you play, go check out Chuck’s website and also make him your MySpace friend.


Patry xox

by Susan Henderson on November 26, 2007

One of the nicest people I know, and I just want to say publicly how much I adore and admire her.


Question of the Week: Murder

by Susan Henderson on November 26, 2007

Tell me about a murder that had a real impact on you.


Wednesday, Chuck Collins of The Radio Murders will be here to play Top 5 with you. He’s a kind-hearted, talented guy who is long overdue for a break in this business. I hope you’ll stop by to meet him.


Weekly Wrap: The Shoulders We Cry On

by Susan Henderson on November 23, 2007

I’m guessing I’ve had too much champagne to type for my blog. Oh well. The problem with being your own boss is you just do whaever you feel like doing.

This is a picture of some butter my dad made. You’ll understand when you get to the end of this post.

I’m sitting here, wondering if I should tell a story about how long it’s taken me to learn how to cry, or to cry in front of others without being ashamed, or to learn how to accept comfort, which is kind of an ongoing struggle for me. I’m considering naming the incredible friends I have and the ways they’re there for me. I have phenomenal friends who believe in me much more than I believe in myself, and I am so grateful for each of them. I’m considring telling you about my mom, my husband, my agent, who are kind of superheroes to me.

But what I’m going to do is link back to this week’s interview with Porochista Khakpour because I have a feeling a number of you were on the road when it went up. And if you haven’t read the interview, I think you’ll be surprised how much her story might transform you. Because Porochista is not just on LitPrk for writing a great piece of literature, and she’s not just here because her book tells an important and surprisingly humorous story of Iranian-Americans living in post-9/11 paranoia. But she’s also here because her story about the despair of rejections and the fear of attending her own readings is a great reminder that even those who’ve made it know what the rest of us are going through. There are many wonderful things about being writers and artists, but there’s also this part that all of us know too well, and Porochista is with you here. And she rescues greyhounds, so I kind of love her forever.

Even if I didn’t have too much champagne, I’d tell you how much I love Porochista.

And all of you.

I would tell you without typos.

So, go back and read her interview and let it heal and recharge you. And leave her a comment. And buy her book if you want a guaranteed good read. Check out her blog, all of that.

You can read it on the treadmill as you try to lose all the weight you gained this week.

Speaking of which… many of you know, I’m in Virginia, spending Thanksgiving with my folks.

This is the house I grew up in. This is the view out the dining room window.

My dad is an awesome cook. He’s an awesome, high-maintenance cook. For just one small example, he made his own butter to coat the turkey. The butter has shallots and herbs and garlic and wine in it. Everything he does is like this, and from scratch. We just sit around and wait to be served.

So we sat around talking and we watched “Bustin’ Loose” (God, is there anyone sexier than Richard Pryor? The answer is, Of course not.) Tomorrow, I’ll regret not waiting till I sobered up to type this because I know it will be wordy. I’ll worry about that tomorrow.