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Question of the Week: Guts

by Susan Henderson on November 12, 2007

Tell me something you did that took a lot of guts.

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litpark kimberlee auerbach sings

Wednesday, Kimberlee Auerbach will be here for another installment of Writers Sing! Here’s what people are saying about her book:

“So fresh and original you don’t want it to end. An enchanting debut.”
Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth

“Frank, funny, and fiercely insightful.”
Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and Five Men Who Broke My Heart

“Warning: there will be times when you will be laughing so hard that you won’t
realize that you are also crying…. A shining example of what it means to be
humorously flawed and gloriously alive.”

Courtney Martin, author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters

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Thank you to Hillary Carlip, for introducing us!

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dave eggers edited best american nonrequired reading 2007 six-word memoirs

Random Henderson things: I just had a story picked up for an anthology called ONLINE WRITING: THE BEST OF THE FIRST TEN YEARS. It’s always amusing to me which pieces get selected and which get overlooked. And I also have something in THE BEST AMERICAN NON-REQUIRED READING 2007, which is out now. My piece is illustrated by my good friend, Brian McEntee. Check it out if you can. Finally, Mr. Henderson won the “Best of Show” award for his film, GHOST STORY. It was a unanimous selection, and this was at a film festival with a theme of psychiatric hospitals.

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Last thing: I was approached by someone about writing his biography. This is not something I have time for, but if anyone here (who has already done this kind of work with a reputable publishing company) is interested, drop me a note in this thread, and we’ll talk. Speaking Korean is a plus for this project, and there are likely some extremely high-powered folks who would blurb the book. Okay. Let me know, and thanks.

{ 142 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra Kring November 12, 2007 at 1:57 am

I’ve had to muster up the guts to get me through a lot of things—leaving a marriage I’d been in since I was seventeen, facing my worst phobia and flying for the first time, to name a couple—but what took the most courage for me, was going for my writing dream.

I’d been working at writing for years—practicing, telling myself “one day”—until the time finally came when I knew I had to go for it, or I never would. But I was terrified to try. What if I failed? My daydream of becoming a novelist was what got me through the hard times. If I was forced to live without that dream, then what would I have to cling to when I needed to believe that life would get better?

Finding the guts to go for it ended up being the hard part. I sold swiftly, and just finished my third novel. Now what do I cling to during challenging, painful times? The fact that no matter what, at least I have my writing.

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Daryl November 12, 2007 at 3:13 am

Walking away from my dead marriage in 1989 took more guts than anything else I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve had one relationship since then (that lasted 8 months) so braving a life alone has taken guts too I guess. At that time I also turned away from living a life in which I obeyed the whims of my evil step-father, by quitting my corporate job and enrolling in massage school. Life has been more difficult since then but I’ve become able to do the things I want to, not what others demand of me.

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Silvia November 12, 2007 at 5:21 am

Something that took a lot of guts? I’m a climber, so I guess every route I do takes a lot of guts. Sometimes every move I do takes a lot of guts. (For truth’s sake I must mention that I’m not very good at climbing, but I try).

On a different level, going to England on my own for university took a lot of guts. It wasn’t hard at all, it was brilliant and the number one experience of my life so far. But it was scary.

I’m well excited about Wednseday now, after seeing the title of that book: My life in Tarot cards. i can do Tarot cards and anyone and anything even slightly concerning Tarot fascinates me.

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Pia Z. E. November 12, 2007 at 8:53 am

I’d also have to say leaving my marriage, but even scarier was going back to the same marriage, hoping Malcolm still loved me, admitting I wanted to to stay put and love only him from then on.

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Betsy November 12, 2007 at 8:59 am

I’m not super gutsy. I don’t even like pepper. But I’d say… going up in the Eiffel Tower the day after I dreamt that I fell out of it.

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Nathalie November 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

Answering a question like that would be a good example…
I think probably walking out of my first love affair. It took me seven years (well no, not really but at least three of those) because I thought that would hurt him. In the end I realised that just waiting would hurt him more and I had to go for a blunt and sharp severing of the bond. BIG drama of course but I felt much better for it (and possibly eventually he did too). I think probably I only realized how much that thing was weighing me down from the feel of relief that flowed in afterwards.
Like I’d got wings again.

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Kimberly November 12, 2007 at 9:22 am

Answering this week’s question might be considered one of them…

I never really considered this gutsy, since it’s something I’ve done for most of my life (and a great many of us do every single day), but someone reminded me recently that exposing yourself to potential artistic/emotional rejection on a daily basis is really, truly brave.

But if we’re talking physically gutsy, when I was in seventh grade, Hurricane Elena blew through my hometown of Clearwater, Florida. My little brother and I built a sail out of wood scraps and black garbage bags and braved 45+ mile-an-hour winds on the back of his skateboard.

Gutsy? Stupid? Depends on your point of view, I guess.

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robinslick November 12, 2007 at 9:41 am

Walking away from a job I had over twenty years which paid six figures and was the only stable thing I’ve ever had in my entire life so that I could write full time.

I’ll let you know how it all works out but right now there’s a bowl of cat food with my name on it for breakfast…

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Betsy November 12, 2007 at 9:44 am

And I forgot to say Jeez Sue, more congrats on all the exciting news.

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 12, 2007 at 9:56 am

Being on the West Coast, I tapped into LitPark last night and read the question of the week. Then I promptly put my tail between my legs and ran. Your questions are getting harder and harder, forcing me to dig deeper, often into places I don’t like to go.

I suppose I’m lucky because I got to think about my question all night. Maybe I even dreamed about it, because I had a very weird dream about being captive by an anatomically correct robot that I tried to kill by shoving a steak knife into his memory banks, which only rebooted him to greater power and virility.

Oh yeah, the question. I think it takes great guts to give a fair and honest critique of another writer’s work. It requires guts to accept an insightful critique and apply it in revisions. I think I’ve done both of those to a gutsy degree. But that’s not what settled on my heart to share at The Park.

It takes guts to face one’s own mortality, and that of those we love. After nearly two months in the hospital with an undiagnosed condition, my mother’s body was resuscitated and put on life support after her heart went into V-fib. She never regained consciousness. When it became clear to me that she was not coming back, I suggested to my stepfather and my sister that we disconnect her from life support. It took several days for them to accept it, but in the end, we agreed. She died several hours after her breathing tube was removed.

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JeffBorden November 12, 2007 at 10:50 am

Faced the fact that I was full of shit and needed to change. Went to rehab and paid a Proffesional councilor to guide me back to the right track.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:28 am

I had a feeling this was going to be a tough question to answer because it made me want to run and hide, too.

Before I respond to all of your tremendous answers here, I just want to say how psyched I am about an interview I’m doing for LitPark. And it’s not just because of who this person is or that we’re going to do the interview in Hell’s Kitchen. But he’s so fiesty. Even setting a time for the interview has been playful, and I think something great will come of it that I can bring back here and share with all of you. Anyway, no more on this from me yet, but soon, and I’ll also give proper credit to the very cool person who introduced us.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:30 am

Hey, Jeff, welcome. The great thing about rehab is that you’ll also reconnect to the many ways you’re not full of shit. Sometimes you’re not as much of a screw up as you think.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:32 am

That’s damn hard to walk away from six figures, but I think it’s a slow and painful death when you’re not regularly hooked in to what you’re passionate about. This will be all good. And as long as you’re eating dry cat food and not the canned stuff, all is well. xo

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:35 am

Wow, that’s some dream.

And that’s some gutsy act of love you took for your mother. Now she’s free to watch over you.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:36 am

You said it about the vulnerability of being an artist and sharing your work. You should open your next movie with that skateboard scene. Seriously.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:38 am

I have always been the one to flee. It takes a lot more guts for me to stay put.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:38 am

Ha! I laughed so hard when I read the word pepper.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:39 am

Thank you. Did you knit the scarf and sweater you’re wearing in that picture?

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:42 am

I think it deepens everything when you go through a hard time with someone and you’re still together. It’s a whole nother level of trust and safety. It’s how it’s been for me, anyway.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:45 am

I didn’t know you were a climber.

Some friends of mine like to have tarot readers at their yearly Hanukkah/Christmas party, and even though I’ll tell people I don’t believe in all of that, I always make very different decisions in my life based on the readings.

Glad you’ll be back on Wednesday!

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Aurelio November 12, 2007 at 11:45 am

Moving to LA and putting myself through art school. I left home at 18 without a penny. I was scared and naive and alone and everyone, including my dad, told me I’d never make it. I had to believe I would and rely on my own relentlessness and work ethic. Now I’m trying to do the same thing all over again with a writing career.

I think it’s the long-term guts, the kind that is required to go on and on and has to be there every day that I aspire to, and admire in others.

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Aimee November 12, 2007 at 11:45 am

The most physically gutsy thing I’ve done was skydiving. I am terrified of airplanes and hate that I am terrified. So I jumped from a plane to give the middle finger to my fear. It was amazing and life changing. Two days later I left my oldest son’s Father because skydiving made me realize how strong and brave I could be.
The most emotionally gutsy was probably taking care of my Grandmother as her memory and body were crumbling. And then, having to tell my family that I couldn’t take care of her anymore.
I’m still kind of a mess over it all.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

I’m glad you’re following your heart.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:49 am
SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 11:50 am

I like that, about the long-term guts. I think you’re right, but I hadn’t thought about it before.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Aimee, tremendous. And why do I feel like your story will take a whole book to tell?

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Guys, sorry, there are issues with our host site, Vista Pages again. Maybe Terry can explain, but it’s beyond our control, and I’m sorry you can’t click on LitPark and get to the site right now. However, you can still go directly to the discussions:

http://litpark.disqus.com/question_of_the_week_guts/

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terrybain November 12, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I once switched the comment system on a popular weblog to disqus, much to the dismay of many of the members, and have stuck to my guns ever since. I’m not sure it matters, though, as much trouble as we’ve had keeping the website itself from utterly smashing against the rocks every twenty minutes or so. Hopefully a permanent fix is on the way. Stay tuned.

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lance_reynald November 12, 2007 at 3:07 pm

getting out of bed this morning…

on many mornings…

for life; I always strive to be fearless…

sometimes that works out ok, most times it just isn’t understood.

but this morning was a tough one.

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EllenMeister November 12, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Wowee!! Huge congrats to you and Mr. H. on all the successes!!! We have a lot to catch up on over lunch.

Also, Kimberlee’s book looks like a winner. It’s now in my list.

Regarding the guts thing. Joan Rivers once said that men think they know what courage is, but they don’t. Courage is making an appointment with the gynecologist … and showing up. I kind of agree with that. Anytime I go to the doctor I feel like I’m being unimaginably brave. I come close to fainting every single time. Yes, I’m that much of a wuss.

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Kimberly November 12, 2007 at 3:27 pm

It’s been reinvented for this novelly thingy I’m pecking out. That’s not to say that’s where it’ll end up, tho’!

(Wait a minute… shouldn’t I be on strike???)

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Dennis Mahagin November 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm

To quote a line from Cormac McCarthy’s
latest, greatest novel:

“I got up this morning…”

🙂

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Nathalie November 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm

That was a real story? I thought you had invented that wild tale…
You mad kids.

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Nathalie November 12, 2007 at 3:33 pm

I was glad to read that I wasn’t the only one.
Took me over 5 hours to get the guts to go inside myself and look for an answer…

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Jason Boog has some great links up about the writer’s strike. I know some of you lurkers here write/wrote for Law and Order, Grey’s Anatomy, One Life to Live, Six Feet Under, etc. If you want to speak up, I’m interested. Okay, here’s the link:

http://www.thepublishingspot.com/2007/11/three_ways_to_deal_with_writin.html

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm

I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Love you.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 3:39 pm

I hate doctor’s appointments something fierce. The only way I’ll go is if they send me a card saying when I’m supposed to show up….because I’m too afraid to call and cancel.

We’ll catch up lots and lots. Now I just have to find the scrap of paper that said the day and time. I remember the where.

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SusanHenderson November 12, 2007 at 3:40 pm

You can go ahead and name that popular blog so everyone knows how cool you are.

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 12, 2007 at 3:54 pm

This is powerful stuff. Story material, no?

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DarylDarko November 12, 2007 at 3:55 pm

YOU are in my heart… <3

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 12, 2007 at 3:57 pm

You know how dreams are? You keep flashing on scenes throughout the day. I think this dream is going to wind up as a short story.

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Betsy November 12, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Hee, not the sweater, but the scarf, yes!

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Amy November 12, 2007 at 4:49 pm

I really (really) needed to come over here today and read these comments. I’m in the middle of life upheaval right now: I’ve left a marriage, but am struggling with deciding whether or not to go back, and if I do go back will I be going back for the right reasons (and did I leave for the right reasons?). I have a career I like 4 out of 5 days and am good at, but not sure it’s really my life calling…and am struggling with the fears surrounding a decision to leave it (and where to end up). Thinking I want to throw it all away and travel around the world, but struggling with how to do that (and still eat).

It’s the Unknown that takes the most guts to face, I think. My heart tells me we’re all powerful beyond belief and more than we really know, but my ego is just so stinking LOUD as it drowns out that message in my head. I’m sure I’ve done a lot of gutsy things, but can’t seem to shake the feeling that there’s something much, much gutsier ahead of me that I’ll have to get through.

But I’m glad I read what was said here–I needed to know I’m not alone. Knowing I’m not alone always makes me feel a lot gutsier. : )

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dan November 12, 2007 at 4:55 pm

I stopped a fight on the street. One little shave-headed tween had a tall gangly tween down on the sidewalk outside a smoke shop and was kicking him in the head. Both of them had girlfriends who stood by impotently on stiletto heels, screaming. The smoke shop guy stuck his head out his shop door with an alarmed expression. Everything was so out of balance. I was coming home from work, carrying a big ungainly plastic sack with a humidifier in one hand and my messenger sack over my shoulder as well. I didn’t break stride or hesitate – for some reason it all felt very natural for me to walk over to the one kid who was whaling on the other kid’s head, hook him with one arm and all my momentum, and fling him across the sidewalk onto his ass. He could have had a knife but instead he just cursed me, turned and ran, with his moll teetering after him. I was shaking for ten minutes afterwards. I understand that later the dude came back, found the other guy still hanging around, and finished the job. At least I postponed it a little, I guess.

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Noria November 12, 2007 at 5:41 pm

When I was fourteen I chased down a couple of jerks who stole my little brother’s Halloween candy.

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Erin November 12, 2007 at 5:57 pm

I’m either gutsy, stupid or both.
I’m 26. I’m single. I’m breaking away from a church (to the everlasting chagrin of family and friends) that I’ve been immersed in my entire life. It is an excruciating experience on many social, psychological, and emotional levels. An experience that I would hazard to say cannot be truly understood by anyone who has not personally experienced it. At times it can feel like the absolute most liberating thing I’ve ever done, and other times it feels like the biggest mistake of my life.
It is a process that I would imagine has never happened all at once for anyone. It occurs more so in waves. I stopped attending church services a few months ago, but the service is a very minimal part of this religion. As is typical of religions, every aspect and decision of my life is predetermined by what I am told to believe. So, while not attending weekly worship services is a big deal, it’s not the biggest part about abandoning the lifestyle. I was catching the first wave of this process long before my inactivity. And right now, I’m in the middle of several waves – having already conquered some, and awaiting the amazing ride (or disastrous crash and burn) of the next…

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Aurelio November 12, 2007 at 6:13 pm

Moving to LA and putting myself through art school. I left home at 18 without a penny. I was scared and naive and alone, and everyone, including my dad, told me I’d never make it. I had to believe I would and rely on my own relentlessness and work ethic. Now I’m trying to do the same thing all over again with a writing career.

I think it’s the long-term guts, the kind that is required to go on and on and has to be there every day that I aspire to, and admire in others.

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Aurelio November 12, 2007 at 6:23 pm

How weird – I posted the same thing twice here because the first time I posted, it didn’t show up. I checked back later and it still wasn’t here so now I posted again, and then scrolled down and there it was ! I don’t have alzheimers, really.

This is why an edit button would be a good thing… hint, hint.

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gailsiegel November 12, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Wow, I will have to give this one some thought, given that I’m a coward.

But Susan, this is big news here. Who is publishing the web anthology? And non-required reading, that’s huge. You are on a TEAR.

I may not get back to this question tonight, because I can’t think of anything. But I will check in as soon as I do. xxGail

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troutbum70 November 12, 2007 at 6:28 pm

I was sitting at a traffic light when a man ran by my truck. Soon after seven or eight people ran by. I was watching, thinking what the f@#k. The man had run up an embankment and the others were starting to when the man turned and pointed a gun at the others. They scattered. The light changed and I drove across the bridge and made a u turn and drove back across the bridge parked my truck and started walking toward the chase. The man and the posse had crossed back to my side of the road and the man had turned again and pointed the gun. The others scattered. About this time I had begun to trot toward the man the closer I got the faster I got. He was still pointing the gun when I threw myself into him. He went down with me on top. I put him In a choke hold and laced up his legs and had him imobile. He kept scratching at me and I would tighten the hold on his neck telling him to stop fighting but he wouldn’t stop so I choked him out. The cops showed up about the time he went limp and handcuffed him. Apparently he had tried to car jack a woman in the mall parking lot. After the cops put him in the car they took my name and number but I never heard from them. Did it take guts? I don’t know. Or was it what needed to be done? I never thought about it, it just happened. I’ve always been one to throw myself into the fray, so I don’t know if it took guts or if it’s just part of who I am. The first time I let someone read one of my stories took more guts, the window to the soul thing. Anyway back in Denver for the week but in a different hotel…………

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jodyreale November 12, 2007 at 6:28 pm

Several years ago I was fired two weeks after a surgeon rearranged my knee for me in a big, big way. The gutsiest thing I’ve ever done was I didn’t do after that. I refused to hop (literally) right back into another crappy job after that. Cat food never tasted so good.
Jody
(And Susan, congrats to you and your fam on the outstanding accomplishments.)

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lance_reynald November 12, 2007 at 6:38 pm

thank YOU.

getting weepy here, and I don’t say it nearly enough but that thank YOU is from the core… in the time I have known you you have become someone I consider the best of friends…

Thank you for everything, everytime.

xo.

p.s… This interview you mentioned has me twisted with envy.

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lance_reynald November 12, 2007 at 6:54 pm

I have to jump in on this one.

hi amy.

that universe you mention…I’ve found that when you tell it what you want and expect of it, and move forward (in whatever direction that might be) it will catch you when you fall…

I KNOW the things you speak of… traveled those roads… you are good, your heart is true.

trust yourself a bit now and then…

in the time I’ve known you I’ve seen great courage. admirable courage.

thank you for having the guts to share here today… that in and of itself is HUGE…

you know how to reach me if you need somewhere, someone, something…

I know…

trust and focus on the universe setting things right for you.

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lance_reynald November 12, 2007 at 6:59 pm

lol……universe= unknown.

certainly you get my drift.

airport cocktails, anyone?

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chuckles November 12, 2007 at 7:32 pm

your choice does take deep courage, but in its way that courage is a form of faith – that you will still be able to find your place the universe without the rules and roles. It is a leap of faith to walk away, and experience overwhelmingly shows that, while there are no ultimate answers out there, there are a lot of really good perspectives. Good luck with your journey learning those of them that are meaningful to you. Take your time, do some reading, and let this unfold on its own terms. And good luck!

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A.S. King November 12, 2007 at 9:23 pm

Yeah – I would usually run from this question too, but I’ve been away from Lit Park for a few weeks and I really wanted to play this week! I think it’s hard to talk about gutsy stuff we did because a lot of people find it hard to say cool stuff about themselves. I’m one of those. So it’s short.

I moved to a foreign country, and lived self-sufficiently for a decade.

But I did it all to chase writing.

So I guess that’s the gutsy thing that made me gutsy enough to do the other gutsy stuff?

Amy

(p.s. – in real life I’m better looking & I don’t have the question mark on my head.)

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Kimberly November 12, 2007 at 9:38 pm

And you have the coolest website I’ve ever seen!!!

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Shelley November 12, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Susan, Congratulations on all of these successes!

Martha (my girlfriend) says about 90% of what I do takes guts.
I do not shirk away from the dying, nor the mentally ill.
Just doing what you believe in, in life takes guts, such as being an artist/writer.
I traveled to Siberia to meet shamans without more than a small Russian/English phrase book, winging it. Will tell you the full story sometime.

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gayle November 13, 2007 at 12:42 am

Wow–congrats on all the great news, Susan! If I wasn’t so crazy-busy, I’d ask about the bio gig.

You know this story, but I still can’t believe it happened, so I have to share it here. Last year, I took my daughter to an audition for a local production of Annie Get Your Gun. Hannah has been in plays since she was five (she’s 13 now) and I love supporting her passion. So I was sitting happily on the sidelines when one of the directors came up to me and said “As long as you’re here, why don’t you audition too?” And at first I resisted vehemently, saying that this was Hannah’s deal not mine, that I’ve never acted before or sung in front of a crowd in my life (I even get nervous singing Happy Birthday!) but he persisted, and Hannah tossed in her encouragement, so I finally decided to just get over myself and go for it. Maybe one day one of my characters will want to audition for something, I told myself, and if I experience an audition, I’ll know how to write about it. So I threw caution to the wind and found some hammy part of myself (not something easy for me to access) and–much to my continuing shock–ended up with the lead role. I almost turned it down, but then I thought, when will this opportunity come around again? How often do we have the chance to step outside our own box in such an outrageous way? So this non-singer, non-actor, shy girl became gun toting song-belting Annie Oakley. It was like a possession. I don’t know if I could do it again. I don’t know if I’d want to do it again. But I am so glad I gave myself over to the experience, found the guts, found the glory. And it was glorious indeed–glorious and scary and totally transformative.

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PD Smith November 13, 2007 at 3:35 am

Guts?

My first (gut?) reaction was that I had nothing to say as generally I’m a card-carrying coward.

But one thing occurs to me. I wrote a personal obituary of my father just a few days after he died in 2006. I found it incredibly hard but somehow it was important and necessary. (You can read it here if you’re interested: http://www.guardian.co.uk/otherlives/story/0,,1689599,00.html)

Not sure I could do it again.

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Aimee November 13, 2007 at 8:24 am

I think it took guts. I’d probably pee myself…or just try to hit the guy with my car.

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Aimee November 13, 2007 at 8:25 am

That is such a great story! I love it.

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Aimee November 13, 2007 at 8:33 am

Because you are a very wise woman. I am writing it for Nanowrimo.

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Shelley November 13, 2007 at 8:39 am

This is very touching, PD. Your dad sounds like a bold, fascinating guy!

I wrote a eulogy and read it for my father’s funeral. Reading it was a rite of passage. I’m back to thinking the hardest thing that happens is for the person who dies. We are left with sadness, but s/he had to leave.

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David_Niall_Wilson November 13, 2007 at 10:06 am

It seems like there are a lot of moments in one’s life that have to qualify for a post like this – and probably some where having more guts would have been a benefit to all involved. The things that come to mind are carrying on and taking care of the family after the birth of my youngest daughter – she managed to kick her mom’s insides pretty hard on the way out and caused a heart problem that hospitalized Trish for two weeks…a time during which I was the only anchor for her kids, my family, and a very tiny new person…we made it through fine, and Trish is alive, well, and a blessing.

I’d have to say that having the strength to pull out of the bad relationship that nearly ruined me about 8 years back – despite how easy it would have been to just stay and watch it crumble – felt like it wrenched the guts OUT of me, and was incredibly hard…but again, here I am, so….

Tough questions…

DNW

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PD Smith November 13, 2007 at 10:14 am

Hi Shelley & thanks.

I’m sure you’re right. I guess that’s one test of ‘guts’ we all have to face sooner or later…

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ErikaRae November 13, 2007 at 10:53 am

Fantastic. Thank you for sharing this!

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ErikaRae November 13, 2007 at 11:01 am

You weren’t whistling Dixie (love that phrase) – awesome web site.

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ErikaRae November 13, 2007 at 11:08 am

Oo -oo! Your post totally caught my eye. My last book was on this topic – it’s called “In a Handbasket: Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical.” I LOVE to hear fellow stories in this department. Shoot me an email sometime if you ever want to chat. I’m curious as hell. http://www.erikaraebooks.com.

In the meantime, best of luck to you. You’ve got quite a journey ahead of you.

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ErikaRae November 13, 2007 at 11:23 am

Once I thought it would be a grand idea to join Fight Night here in Boulder. I got into the boxing ring with the established female champion. I was scared to death. I am almost positive she was high on coke and if she didn’t have those big gloves on, she would have totally clawed my eyes out. I won.

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Gail Siegel November 13, 2007 at 11:35 am

I thought long and hard about this. I am assuming that for something to take GUTS, you have to be scared. And though I’m cowed by a lot of things, I wanted to honestly think about the hardest things, that got me sweating and jittery. And the experiences that did that to me most severly were the first few times I had to do tv shows or give speeches or speak at press conferences for my political work. I would have to absolutely shoot myself up with coffee first. I’d practice by scripting myself, and reading out loud. Now, 25 years later, I love reading to a group. But without those years when I had to do it for the camera if I wanted to keep my job, I would probably still be drinking some caffienated courage in order to get up in front of the room.

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Gail Siegel November 13, 2007 at 11:36 am

And hey, is that the Snow*vigate anthology? It’s going to be quite a crowd!

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Nathalie November 13, 2007 at 12:29 pm

That’s a great story!
You were right in accepting it: had you refused you would have regretted it all you life.

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Gail Siegel November 13, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Physical courage is something I lack. I could not do this. I bet Susan could, though. She is very tough, and STRONG.

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Gail Siegel November 13, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Amazing! What a terrific story!

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billie November 13, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I think when I was 19 and bought a one-way ticket to Paris – with no idea where I’d be living when I got there. Luckily I found a little room in a hotel that I could pay by the month and get a discount. I was so proud of myself – and then I tried to call home and couldn’t get a call through to the US. I spent that first night broken out in hives, and couldn’t get a call through to home for 3 days. It was the first time in my life I’d been truly alone and on my own, and while it was terrifying initially, it made a big impact on me and I stayed for four months. Cried when I left.

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Kimberly November 13, 2007 at 2:17 pm

I love, love, LOVE this story! Brava!

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 2:26 pm

I have a lot of catching up to do tonight. For now, I’m making a lot of progress on my book edits and have to go with the momentum.

Hey, if any of you have the time, I’d love for you to weigh in on this, either here or over at PW. Not many things piss me off. This one does because it’s about big corporate guys squashing the little guys:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6500454.html?desc=topstory

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A.S. King November 13, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Thanks a million! It took some guts for me to dump my so-called web designer ($500 late) and do it myself, but hey – what else would you expect from a self-sufficient tightwad?

We’re updating soon to include some recent good news…so check in again next month!!

Amy

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jonathan evison November 13, 2007 at 2:51 pm

. . . well, i walked away from a career in talk radio (albeit, i wasn’t exactly howard stern) in order to focus solely on novel-writing . . . it paid off (sort of)!

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lance_reynald November 13, 2007 at 4:57 pm

ha! I remember fight night, that thing was an ugly mess…
I always thought it would be fun though…
I can’t believe you did it!! That rocks!!

I think you just became like the coolest chick I know, you’re my new hero!!

xo.

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ErikaRae November 13, 2007 at 5:35 pm

Wow – that’s just rude. Hard to believe that they are so blatant in their attempt at upstaging. Hopefully it will backfire on them.

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Jordan November 13, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Oh my gosh, what a question. I think the only time I’ve mustered real guts have been moments of standing up for myself or someone else. Most significantly to my alcoholic godfather (who inspired this essay: http://www.stpetetimes.com/2005/10/09/Floridian/Awaiting_tragedy_s_fi.shtml) after years of taking his subtle, slimy mental abuse; speaking honestly and without censoring myself to my mother in therapy about what it was like to be her child in the years of her drug abuse…but in many ways i’m still a coward, though I strive to be a little bit braver every day.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Hey, I just got my copy of Non-Required Reading and – woops! – there is no illustration of my piece by the most awesome Brian McEntee because that, I guess, is going into a different anthology coming out with Harper Collins. Sorry and I’ll announce that one when it’s out. 98% of my brain is focussed on my book edits, and that’s not leaving a lot of space for keeping other things straight. But there are other cool people in this issue, like Jonathan Ames, Conan O’Brien, Miranda July, and Stephen Elliott.

Okay, I’m still working, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to catch up this evening. I have a stopping place in mind and I won’t let myself get off-track till I reach it. xo

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Sarah Bain November 13, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Well, yes, it is easy to hide behind this question isn’t it? It seems as if my life continuously points backward to Grace but there it is. The single gutsiest things I ever did was handing over Grace to my friend and Pastor when the two men came from the funeral home to get here. I could hear the three of them walking down the hallway away from me, with Grace in Beth’s arms, and I knew that it was over, that I was alone in the hospital room and I would never hold her again. And then, the next morning, I walked out of the maternity ward without my baby in my arms and some damn certificate with footprints and a lock of hair, hardly making up for the weight of her absence.

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 13, 2007 at 9:25 pm

I know there are many people wishing they could reach through the web right now to hug you, Sarah.

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Sarah Bain November 13, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Thanks, Carolyn. I might add that it’s been 4 1/2 years and certainly now I can see the gifts in her short, short life. I have a beautiful 20-month-old son, Sawyer, and I work now with families as they experience the loss of their child. We have come a long ways from that day and from that moment, of course, I still long for that daughter who now at 4 1/2 would be running next to her sister, Sophia, tugging at her hair, grabbing her dolls, and generally reeking havoc on her life.

As an aside, I grew up in Costa Mesa, two of my brothers went to OCC and several friends taught there and say hello to the sun and the beach for me. And congratulations on Buck! He’s a beautiful dog!

Sarah

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Ric Marion November 13, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Not sure how to answer this really – my day job is a salesman, i sell advertising to businesses. Cold calling takes guts, sometimes a return visit does as well. You never know what you’re going to find.

Case in point: Semi-regular customer, I hopped in, smiling, “how’s everything going?” Standard stuff. He bought, wrote me a check, but I could tell his mind was somewhere else. Finally, I said, “Everything all right?” He stared at me a long moment, then said, “This morning at breakfast, my fifteen year old daughter came down the stairs, threw an EPT on the table and asked, “Now what the F*** do we do?”

I helped the best I could but it was really hard putting on my happy face and walking into the next business.

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Darrin November 13, 2007 at 9:52 pm

That’s a depressing article, Susan. But thanks for posting.

How can Kirkus/NYIBC claim that holding their event on the same date as the Brooklyn Book Festival is NOT malicious (especially since they knew that the BBF already had scheduled that date )? Sorry, I don’t buy it. Sep 14th is obviously a great day to hold an event, but sorry boys, it’s taken! I had a table at the last BBF and it was one of the most memorable events in my writing career. If Kirkus gets their way, they could screw over many authors and small presses.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Bless, sweetie.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:44 pm

That is a tough, tough job. Especially if you call my house and interrupt my breathing.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Wow, that’s big, saying that to your mom. How did she hear it?

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm

It will pay off.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm

P.S. Terry, would you tell Jonathan how to post his picture?

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:51 pm

I was thinking maybe if enough little guys stood together and supported/advertised the Brooklyn Festival, we might do some good. It’s not about screwing the other one, but just not letting them pull people away from Brooklyn. We could advertise their authors and their festival and give no press whatsoever to the other. Then, those of us who can, can attend it, too.

It’s nearly impossible for small presses and small authors to make it, and everything they do is on their own money or the grant that took them hours and hours to write and years and years to win. I just don’t like to see this happen because what may be a small scheduling move for NYIBC is going to be devastating to the little guys.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Yeah. Poaching.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Aw, I love that story.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Might be. Once I sent in my bio, I dumped the note. Who else will be in this one? You, I hope.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:55 pm

You’ve seen me read in public. One paragraph and my teeth start chattering.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:56 pm

That is too cool. I wish Terry would set this place up so we can see photos in the comments section! If you happen to put a photo up on your blog, link it here.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 10:58 pm

I am STRONG but LAZY.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:01 pm

After I gave birth to Green-Hand (which almost killed me), I went for a checkup and the gyn said, “Your uterus is in a completely different place than it use to be.” And I was thinking, No fuck. I felt every minute of its relocation. Too gross for here? Sorry.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:03 pm

What an interesting guy!

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Brava from me, too!

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Maybe it’s a book to write? With the theme of what changes in your life when you just wing it?

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Amy’s great looking in real life, and everyone who went to the Backspace conference this summer can nod their heads.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:29 pm

Am I the only person around here who used to eat cat food for real, or is it all just a metaphor to you?

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:31 pm

You’re the guy I always hope is my neighbor. When we lived in Pittsburgh, our neighbor’s name was Hammer (yes, truly). And he beat up his girlfriend and drank too much, sure, but you KNEW if there was a fire or a robber or anything, he’d be over taking care of everyone and not even blinking.

HEY! THERE IS AN EDIT BUTTON! I JUST CHANGED “TAKEN” TO “TAKING”! IS IT JUST ME, OR DOES EVERYONE HAVE AN EDIT BUTTON NOW?

I hope it’s just me.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:34 pm

TEAR is one way to look at it. MONTHS BEHIND ON HER BOOK EDITS is another way to look at it.

xo

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:34 pm

You may just have an edit button now. Go see!

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Kimberly November 13, 2007 at 11:41 pm

it’s just you. poo

(correction – using the edit button) you can use the edit button if you’re looking at these in a certain way. but I promise not to say how here, or Strong Sue might get UN-lazy…

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:41 pm

That break must be affecting every corner of your life, and that’s hard, even if it turns out to be the best thing you ever did. I know people who’ve had to leave their families for one reason or another, and it’s a very complicated thing all on its own, not to mention all the reactions of other people you have to take in.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:41 pm

Allllriiiiight. I will always remember this about you.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:46 pm

This is like a great movie.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:49 pm

Amy, I’m so glad you’re here. You know what I’ve always believed – there are no wrong decisions. Whatever you choose, something good will come of it.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:50 pm

I love Cormac McCarthy.

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SusanHenderson November 13, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Well, now I have to put my hands in my pockets and look at my shoes for crying out loud.

xo

p.s. It’s not even the one you know about. Hmmmmm

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Ric Marion November 13, 2007 at 11:56 pm

I tried door to door – no way – I don’t like them either. I wanted a job where I could set my own hours, work on that rewrite if necessary without having to worry about a boss wondering where I was. Though I’ve found out that productivity goes up for both endeavors jointly. If I’m selling well, I’m writing well. Don’t have an explanation for it, but it does work. I only do business to business sales – small business owners are the greatest in the world.

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Joe November 14, 2007 at 12:24 am

As usual, another excellent thought provoking question devilish in it’s simplicity. I’m really enjoying reading the responses here.

I’m not a particularly brave person so sometimes it seems that everything I do requires guts. I have a terrible fear of public speaking so I decided to go to law school – setting me on a path of recurring terror every time I have to pretend like I know what I’m talking about..

But probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was to hold my mother’s hand as she died and say good-bye to her. I was her medical proxy during her battle with leukemia and in the final hours – I was the one who had to tell her doctors to stop taking extraordinary means to save her. I don’t know if that qualifies though since I don’t see any other choice I could have made. But that was definitely the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

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troutbum70 November 14, 2007 at 7:16 am

I don’t know, one time my neighbor racked pine neddles from the side of thier house that had fallen from my tree and filled my trash can with them. I was so pissed I dumped the can in front of thier door. Probably went a little overboard but they never spoke to me again until we were moving out. I’m a good neighbor now but I’ve yet to be messed with………….

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SusanHenderson November 14, 2007 at 7:58 am

That’s true for me, too. I put my blog on summer hiatus to focus on my writing, and found I got nothing done. As soon as I opened it up and started going to readings again, the writing followed.

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SusanHenderson November 14, 2007 at 8:02 am

You had the choice to pass the decision making on and you had the choice to not be emotionally present. I’d say you were gutsy. I’ve had animals die in my arms, and it absolutely breaks me. I can’t imagine what you went through.

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SusanHenderson November 14, 2007 at 8:02 am

Ha!

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A.S. King November 14, 2007 at 8:04 am

Dear Lord, Susan. What on Earth do I say to that?

Must have been all the homegrown spuds.

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johnguzlowski November 14, 2007 at 9:36 am

This is a poem about my mother teaching me about guts. She was 78 and I was 53.

My Mother’s Optimism

When she was seventy-eight years old
and the angel of death called to her
and told her the vaginal bleeding
that had been starting and stopping
like a crazy menopausal period
was ovarian cancer, she said to him,
“Listen Doctor, I don’t have to tell you
your job. If it’s cancer it’s cancer.
If you got to cut it out, you got to.”

After surgery, in the convalescent home
among the old men crying for their mothers,
and the silent roommates waiting for death
she called me over to see her wound,
stapled and stitched, fourteen raw inches
from below her breasts to below her navel.
And when I said, “Mom, I don’t want to see it,”
she said, “Johnny, don’t be such a baby.”

Six months later, at the end of her chemo,
my mother knows why the old men cry.
A few wiry strands of hair on head,
her hands so weak she couldn’t hold a cup,
her legs swollen and blotched with blue lesions,
she says, “I’ll get better. After his chemo,
Pauline’s second husband had ten more years.
He was playing golf and breaking down doors
when he died of a heart attack at ninety.”

Then my mom’s eyes lock on mine, and she says,
“You know, optimism is a crazy man’s mother.”

And she laughs.

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Gail Siegel November 14, 2007 at 12:25 pm

LAZY????!!!! You are incredibly productive for a lazy woman.

If you are lazy, then I am comatose.

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Susanna Donato November 14, 2007 at 12:42 pm

This is all fantastic. A friend tells me one of my defining characteristics is gutsiness. But in such mundane ways — I went away to school? I dropped out of school? I moved to New York? I moved back? (that was worse) I support my family with my own business? I try to squeeze writing in there? — it hardly feels like guts. I’m still looking for my *real* guts experience, I guess. Better start jumping out of planes …

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David_Niall_Wilson November 14, 2007 at 3:12 pm

I’m absolutely certain Trish could commiserate. She got the crap kicked out of hers…lungs filled with liquid. It was bad…frightening…and I’m just thankful (as I’m sure Mr. Henderson is thankful) that you both came through that experience healthy.

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jodyreale November 15, 2007 at 9:19 am

I’ll tell you if you make it a question of the week.

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troutbum70 November 15, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Me too…….

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SusanHenderson November 15, 2007 at 10:53 pm

I think one of my defining traits might be that, too.

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SusanHenderson November 15, 2007 at 10:54 pm

John, I’m glad you’re here. And thank you for this. Wow.

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SusanHenderson November 15, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Thank you, DNW.

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john guzlowski November 16, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Hi, Susan, thanks for the kind words. I came to your site because someone recommended your poems, but I haven’t been able to find them here or elsewhere. I’ve found a bunch of your short fiction (the one about the mom and daughter doing New Orleans is great), but the poems are ellusive.

If you could point me in the right direction, that would be great.

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johnguzlowski November 16, 2007 at 1:03 pm

I just figured out how to login!

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SusanHenderson November 16, 2007 at 1:13 pm

The poems are under my maiden name, which I don’t give out – sorry! But I haven’t written a poem in a looooooong loooooooong time.

Who’s your favorite poet?

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johnguzlowski November 16, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Hi, joe, thanks for the story. I was with my mom too, just the two of us at the hospice and I kept thinking I had to get up and leave, go somewhere else because it was hard being in the same room with her dying. My sister in fact chose not to be there. She didn’t want any part of it. I know that what you did took courage, and I bet that you would do it again if you had the choice.

I thought my mother’s dying was her final gift to me. She had taught me how to live, and at the end she wanted to teach me how to die.

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johnguzlowski November 16, 2007 at 1:53 pm

My favorite poet?

So many.

Whitman, Dickinson, Ai, Ray Carver, Randall Jarrell, Elizabeth Bishop, Plath, Frost.

I’m not even sure I have a favorite poet. I know I have favorite poems (frost’s home burial, dickinson’s i heard a fly buzz, Jarrell’s Losses), but favorite poets? Hmmm.

About your poetry, I do the poetry editing for an online journal called Scream on Line, and someone (an old friend of yours from looooooooong loooooooong ago?) recommended your poems to the editor, and he put me on the job. I guess I’m Jimmy Olsen to his Perry White.

But I haven’t found your poems. Only the stories. Which I like very much! And I asked the editor to maybe consider asking you for a story.

Take a look at the journal if you get a chance. Here’s the link:

http://www.thescreamonline.com/

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SusanHenderson November 18, 2007 at 7:47 am

I like Nikki Giovanni, Jim Daniels, Dylan Thomas, Cornelius Eady, James Dickey, Deborah Digges. You should track down Tiff Holland. She’s someone due to break out of the pack. If Virgil and Homer and Shakespeare count, I like them, too.

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johnguzlowski November 24, 2007 at 7:56 am

hi, Susan, i’ve been away with the holidays. I’ll track down Tiff Holland and get back to you. Thanks for the recommendation.

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terrybain November 26, 2007 at 3:14 pm

Um, that would be LitPark, of course. I wasn’t trying to be coy. I was… oh hell, maybe I was trying to be coy.

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