Weekly Wrap: We Are Gutsy

by Susan Henderson on November 16, 2007

Here’s the view out my bedroom window when I woke up this morning. When did the leaves go yellow?

litpark view out bedrom window autumn

I have not slowed down to notice these things lately. I’ve been pushing so hard with work that I’ve been rushing meals, rushing past friends, yelling, “Sorry, I don’t have time,” rushing past beautiful sunsets, rushing tuck-ins with my kids.

My whole life, I’ve been called gutsy, strong, fiesty, focused, high-achieving. I could give you a whole mess of stories about being bold or fearless. It’s my nature, so it doesn’t really take so much out of me. But I realized I cannot think of one story where I’ve stood up for myself when I was wearing thin and said, “I can’t do it.”

So, here is my big gutsy act: there is no blog today, and I’m not going to comment on individual notes on this post even though I will love reading them. I’m taking myself off the hook because I’m wearing thin and because – if I can focus like a monster on my edits right now – I can have time with my kids after school. They need me, and I’ve been missing them.


Thank you for your beautiful stories and to Kimberlee Auerbach, the tender reed, who sang for us. And thank you to everyone who linked to LitPark this week: Mary Akers, Robin Slick, Ascender Rises Above, Kimmi’s MySpace, and freezejas in the stream. I appreciate those links!

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

AscenderRisesAbove November 15, 2007 at 11:45 pm

aww; thanks for the link back at ya 🙂


lance_reynald November 16, 2007 at 12:59 am

nice blog.
go play in those leaves, the crunch is awesome.


Nathalie November 16, 2007 at 3:46 am

Enjoy your time off then!
I am sure your family will be glad to have got a bit more of you back.


robinslick November 16, 2007 at 8:06 am

Good for you, Susan. And after all of the good news you’ve received lately, you deserve a day of r&r enjoying this gorgeous fall weather. We have brisk autumn temps in Philly today and I’m going to venture outside for the first time in a couple of days myself to enjoy it.

Okay, ready for my latest tale of six degrees (or is that three degrees?) of separation with Susan Henderson? When I read about the Speak and Spell thing, something jogged my memory…like, I know who invented that or had something to do with it so I had to hit Google. While this person is not your dad, I found what I was looking for right away and shivered at the coincidence. Does the name Reed Ghazala mean anything to you? Here’s the link to his site: The reason I know of him is that he’s worked with Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson. Pat is King Crimson’s drummer and will be touring with Adrian Belew next year when King Crimson re-forms for 10 reunion shows. Pat and Eric are great friends and just did a gig together in Seattle.

How freaking weird and cool.

Have an awesome day and enjoy your weekend! And if you do come in and comment at some point this weekend, I have a question. Are your edits for your recently sold book or have you already moved to edits on book two? And is book two sold? Come on, spill!


Yun November 16, 2007 at 8:31 am

we are in sync, Susan. I have called in at work today to say I’m taking the day off, and am full of anticipation of the blank day ahead of me. The biggest plan is to make a slow pot roast that will cook all afternoon — that’s about the pace I’d like for today.

Have a good day — it is well-earned. And thanks for the book! It has confirmed that the church next to our apt. bldg was indeed where Al Capone got married. Cool, huh?



SusanHenderson November 16, 2007 at 8:32 am

I’ll ask him when I go home for Thanksgiving. I’m also thinking maybe little Stevie Jobs was on that project. Or maybe he did NeXt. My memory of my childhood is flooded with random robots and microchips and names of projects I never really understood.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


troutbum70 November 16, 2007 at 8:55 am

A day off cool. I’m home and not leaving. Now if my phone would stop ringing. I should just turn it off……..


robinslick November 16, 2007 at 9:11 am

Ha ha – and I live literally one-half city block from the (shut down jail except that’s it’s been historically certified and now a museum) Eastern State Penitentiary, where people now pay to view Al Capone’s jail cell.

Day off here, too, though NANO is still looming but guess what, kiddies, this week’s NANO PEP email will be from none other Neil Gaiman himself.

Sue, I know you will want me to copy it and post it here, yes?


Kimberly November 16, 2007 at 10:21 am

Enjoy this gorgeous, gorgeous New York day! (I trust it’s as pretty where you are as it is where I am; probably prettier, even…) And we’ll make a date for that tarot session & reading soon!


Kimberly November 16, 2007 at 10:24 am

HA! I thought of you when I saw that a love note from NG was looming on the horizon!

BTW: Did it make you feel as good as it did me to know that we are both ahead of Sara Gruen in our word counts? 🙂 It’s the little things that spur us onward, right?


Aimee November 16, 2007 at 11:18 am

Enjoy. You certainly deserve a break. I’m taking one too. Kids are home from school and we have no appointments, no rushing. So they had warm cin rolls for breakfast and we just might eat pop corn for lunch. Who knows. I’m also going to try and figure out this blue man thing.


chuckles November 16, 2007 at 12:28 pm

wow, this is fortuitous. I’ve been feeling all stressed that I didn’t have time to type up notes, write a proposal, get a story on my blog, do some research, and still attend a commission meeting and get my regular work done… now you’re showing me that most of that pressure was coming from me and all I have to do is not buckle to it. It seems so hedonistic! I love it! Thanks!


robinslick November 16, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Yeah, it made me feel good until I remembered she just got a five million dollar advance for her NANO book so trust me, she’s under no pressure to finish by November 30 like us plebs…ha ha…she’s just under the slight pressure of having to produce another masterpiece like Water for Elephants!

No pressure there…

Yeah, a love note from Neil will be nice but it’s hard to take advice from someone who has his own writing cabin for f*cks sake. I’m trying to write at the moment with my son practicing drums next to me and my daughter yelling out orders (Do we have tomatoes? Do we have whole wheat pasta? Where is it, Mom, I can’t find it) from her command central in the kitchen while I am stoned out of my gourd on blood pressure and other assorted meds attempting to stay upright at my desk….

Just passed 26,000 words though so as long as I can swing another 700 words or so, I’m still on track…


Kimberly November 16, 2007 at 2:42 pm

You can always hide out at Chez Kimberly for the long Thxgiving weekend… no tofurkey, tho’ – just red wine, a warm fireplace, snuggly kitties and all the quiet you can possibly stand… 🙂

Oh, and pie. Lots of pie. I love pie.


robinslick November 16, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Hey, what happened to my head – was I kidnapped by the Blue Man Group? The question mark is very appropriate…it’s exactly how I feel…who am I…where am I, etc.

Oh, Chez Kimberly sounds unbelievable. I wish I were there now. Round two of stressful Friday is about to start…kiddies left, now the significant other is on his way home and he’s had a bad day. Lovely.

Yeah, pie sounds good. You ever eat at Bubby’s in Tribeca? Oh my god…the pie, the pie…


Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 16, 2007 at 8:29 pm

To blog about not blogging is blogging. Well done, Susan. That took guts, because we know how much you love doing this. And you know how much we love you doing it. So yeah, that took guts. ~!~


lance_reynald November 16, 2007 at 9:30 pm

wondertwin…check your email.


robinslick November 17, 2007 at 8:09 am

Lance! I saw your blurb and just read your blog! What does this mean? C’mon, you have to share with your friends here. It sounds like you are about to embark on one hell of a journey….

(or you can just email me…haha…)


maryanne Stahl November 17, 2007 at 9:22 am

Susan–go outside and jump in the yellow leaves!



robinslick November 17, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Okay, Susan, here is something I know you have been waiting for with…well, okay, so you haven’t been waiting at all, but you are going to than me anyway for this. Here is Neil Gaiman’s love note to those of us struggling to write a 50,000 word novel this month, which I just received in my email (along with 1,000,000,000 other Nano writers, but I’m pretending it was written just for me):

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.

That’s how novels get written.

You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.

The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

So I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.

Pretty soon you’ll be on the downward slide, and it’s not impossible that soon you’ll be at the end. Good luck…

Neil Gaiman


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Aww, this is so comforting. And imagine, Neil Gaiman calling his agent in a panic, too. This, along with my lunch with Ellen Meister the other day and my own panicked emails to my agent, just might put me into the homestretch on this book.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Maryanne, it’s great to see you here!


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:12 pm

I just read his blog, too. Hmmmm.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:12 pm



SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:14 pm

It was a great day of focused work on my book (I got so much done!) and then when my boys were home, we had a fire and read (Wayside School Is Falling Down) and just slowed down. It was great.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:15 pm

Maybe it’ll work the same for you, but I found that taking a little time off gave me my edge back.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Yeah, let’s get rid of all these little blue men. Looks like you were all cranked out of a factory.

Nice on the cinnamon rolls.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Yes and yes and yes. Hey, maybe Kimmi wants an invite to your film’s premiere?


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:18 pm

Yay! You put a photo up!


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:20 pm

What cool trivia, and especially knowing how you’re tied to Robin’s trivia.

I hope you had a great (well-deserved) day off!


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Kimberly is a fantastic cook.


Kimberly November 17, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Every time I dump a new total in my nano box, thinking I have finally caught up to you, there you go besting me by at least another 600 words!!!



I declare a WORD WAR!!! (click to see the widget in action)

ps – Nathalie is kicking all of our butts, she’s already over 40K!


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Oh, and the edits are for the novel with St. Martin’s. It’s finally starting to come together. The next book is done, but it says in my contract that I can’t shop it until 90 days after my final edits are in, and SM gets first rights of refusal on it. I have a grand idea for book 3, but it’ll be a while before I can even let my head go there.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:24 pm

They were very glad, and they noticed the difference.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:26 pm

I love the sound and smell of fall leaves so much. The strange thing is everyone gets these leave blowers now and they kind of vacuum their properties of any evidence of fall.


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:27 pm

This is a great link. I hope some of you have time to click on it:


SusanHenderson November 17, 2007 at 10:28 pm

P.S. Robin, did you notice you now have an edit button?


Carolyn_Burns_Bass November 17, 2007 at 11:48 pm

Wow, Robin. Thanks so much for sharing Neil’s letter. I’m not signed up with Nano this year, so I didn’t get this.

I have my own challenge to get my novel revisions done this month. (BTW, check the Writing Samples forum at Backspace. I started a new thread for Sexy Scenes. Of course, I was the first to post. Have you got any? 😉


troutbum70 November 18, 2007 at 1:35 am

It was hard to find one that fit……….


chuckles November 20, 2007 at 2:04 am

I like to answer quizzes like this right off the bat, as if my first idea were likely to be my best. This time though I just couldn’t. I could barely focus on the question, really. I would begin to consider it and my mind would just push the idea away, like one magnet repelling another. It was hours later I realized that I probably was resisting admitting to myself that I do not seek comfort, do not give myself leave to cry or feel overwhelmed. I can empathize like a sonofabitch, crying at hallmark commercials or perfect sunsets or maudlin crap like that – but when it comes to my own life, I don’t think I give myself that permission. For support, I turn to myself. More often than not I somehow find strength and resolve that I had overlooked before, and that has gotten me through most of what I call my life so far. As for the rest, I am thankful, this thankful season, for a very patient wife who has buoyed me more than I can ever know for more than 20 years.


SusanHenderson November 21, 2007 at 7:21 pm

I asked my dad about Reed Ghazala and his name didn’t ring a bell. Apparently, my dad was involved in funding the speech research they used, so he knew the Texas Instrument guys who were the principle designers, but he didn’t know everyone on the project.

I’m in Virginia now. I just tried half a teaspoon of $250 balsamic vinegar. Who knew there was such a thing?


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