Question of the Month: Makeover

by Susan Henderson on August 2, 2010

Tell me about you and a makeover. It could be about a drastic haircut, a house renovation, a life change, or something you’re still only considering.


Much has happened since my last blog post—Holland, Australia, and New Zealand bought foreign rights for UP FROM THE BLUE, and I’ve been busy doing interviews, all airing closer to the book launch in September. I also had two big makeovers, one planned and one very much unplanned.

Let’s talk about the planned makeover first. You’ve probably already noticed the big change in my website. This makeover is the fabulous work of Shatterboxx. We talked about making the site simpler, cleaner, and more book-centric, taking color themes from the book cover. I also wanted to make sure anyone brand new to LitPark wasn’t disoriented by too many things to look at or click on, and I didn’t want people to feel intimidated by the close-knit community we’ve built together.

I was nervous about making the change. LitPark has had a certain look since 2006 when my friend, Terry Bain, first helped me put the site together, and I’m fond of the memories and friendships born of the original site. But the desire to mark a new phase in my life was stronger, and I love the final result. Click around and see the changes. Let me know what you think.


Now to the unexpected…

One thing that got lost in the move: hundreds of photos posted on the blogs and interviews. And I had begun the slightly insane process of finding and reposting those photos when my computer started acting funny.

About a week and a half ago, internet pages started loading slowly. I was getting that spinny wheel a lot and having to do force-quits and restart my computer. A few days later, things were even slower, especially when opening word documents, and the force-quit command no longer worked, so I made an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Mac store. The day after I made the appointment, my computer would not restart at all. Please don’t ask me if I back up my work—for example, those years worth of photos, my address book, my iTunes, my publicity and marketing plans for my book, not to mention the memoir and the next two novels I’d written.

The Genius Bar has always been an amazing experience for me, how quickly they fix everything, and for free. I took my laptop to my appointment expecting all the problems to go away. They looked at it for a bit, then plugged it into to a yellow box of some sort with the unsettling word, Triage, on it, and in a little while they told me they were seeing “zero data” on my hard drive.

I have pretty much been in a strange, protected state of shock since they said this, taking the hard drive from the back of my computer and handing it to me in a little plastic bag. I can’t really let my mind take this in right now, and I’ve since sent the hard drive off to a company called Mac Medics to try to recover the missing information. I’ll let you know how that goes.

But this brings me to my unplanned makeover. My wake-up call. I’m learning that too much in my life is chaotic. The way I write. The way I store my information. The way I keep my house. The way I schedule my day. Like my new website, I need to be cleaner, uncluttered, more focussed, more organized. And I need to learn to back-up my work.

Please back yours up today.

And now, enough about my makeovers. Let’s hear about yours!

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Colin Matthew August 2, 2010 at 1:12 am

Once in high school (because high school is the time when you do this sort of thing) I bleached my hair blond and dyed the tips black. It was pretty awesome looking when I spiked it with too much hair gel. After my brown roots started showing again, not so much.

I like the new design of your site. It’s much more streamlined and clean looking. I recently redid the format on my site too but that was because I was annoyed with the current format.

As for backing up data, I have a special gmail account set up just for that purpose. I e-mail me copies of my writings as I complete chapters/drafts/etc. I also have a flashdrive devoted solely for backing up my writing too.

I look forward to reading Up From The Blue. It’s next on my list.


Susan Henderson August 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Blond with black tips actually sounds pretty great. Maybe it’s time for another wild haircut for you?

Let me link up your site so others can see the new design:


Billy Bones August 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Mr. Lincoln shaved off his mustache only twice. The first time, Mrs. Lincoln was terribly freaked out. So much so that she wouldn’t look at him until he grew it back. (This was early on in their marriage and she had never seen him mustache-less.) The second time (many, many years later) it took two weeks before Mrs. Lincoln noticed.

Mr. Lincoln is an avid backer-upper (one might even say paranoid). He backs up manuscripts using iDisk and his Airport also automatically backs up his computer every few hours.


Susan Henderson August 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Oh, I love the mustache story… and very funny about Mrs. L not noticing for two weeks. That belongs in a book!

What is Airport? So far I’ve heard of Time Machine, Carbonite, and Mosey, and I can’t decide which is right for me–though I like the idea of it all happening automatically and at paranoid intervals.


Billy Bones August 2, 2010 at 1:57 pm

An Airport is the Mac version of WiFi. Our version is called Time Capsule. It comes with 1 terabyte (1,000 gigs) worth of backup space. Time Machine requires an external source for storing files. Our files are automatically backed up in the Time Capsule.


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm

We looked into all of that and decided on a program called Mozy. Everything is now backed up on my new system–of course, it’s only two days worth of work!


Billy Bones August 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

But brilliant, I’m sure. Like all the rest, which will come back to you sure as waves wash shore.

billie hinton August 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I’m in a sort of make-over right now – going through the cupboards, shelves, drawers, closets, corners, surfaces, etc. of house and barn, just one or two at a time, as I can fit it into my day, assessing what we really need, how it should be arranged in the space, and then doing that.

Most recent example: the longest section of counter in the kitchen is beneath all the food cupboards. I had a big row of cookbooks “shelved” under the cupboards, a huge espresso/coffee maker that no longer worked, so we were using the coffee maker side to manually drip the coffee, a popcorn maker, some colorful bowls that were mostly hidden by all the previous stuff listed. I also had bottles of wine there, a big bottle of balsamic vinegar, and there was almost no actual counter space left.

The worst thing is that the crazy coffee making routine was making good coffee but every single morning I had to wipe up coffee from underneath the machine b/c even though we were using it with no power, manually dripping directly into cups, somehow some of the coffee was leaking from within and draining out the bottom.

I’m embarrassed to say I have put up with this mess for months and months.

I moved the cookbooks to a much better location, took the espresso machine to the dump, found new storage space for wine and special vinegars, and arranged popcorn maker, blender, and mixer in a nice spacious row along the back area of the counter. Now the colorful bowls I like to keep stacked out because they’re so pretty actually show up, there’s plenty of work space, and getting into the food cupboards is much easier.

I still need to sort out coffee making, but for now I have a streamlined drip set-up that works until I find what I want permanently.

It’s crazy what we’ll live with because we simply can’t take time to create something easier, more beautiful, and in many cases *less* than what was before.

I’m enjoying this process of clearing/making over immensely.

And I just hit my back-up in honor of you and in hopes that all your data is retrieved. I was in line for just such a scenario until a couple of years ago when I shifted to an iMac desktop and my husband demanded that I set up an external hard drive that automatically backs me up every hour. (he’s a software architect and my tech support, and he had NO desire to be around the day I lost entire novels because I hadn’t backed up the system) I’m using Time Machine with a LaCie external – and a few months ago I had the exact same symptoms you describe – lots of the spinning wheel, slow, then unexplained crashing – and then nothing. But that LaCie was there, and had everything up until the last 30 minutes before the last crash. As it turned out, I hadn’t made any editing changes those last 30 minutes so lost nothing! Husband replaced my hard drive in the Mac, and got all the data from the LaCie.


Susan Henderson August 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm

We must have similar DNA because your description of your cupboards could be a description of my cupboards. I’m actually taking advantage of having lost everything and just got back from the drugstore with a stack of folders. I’m going to learn how to label and store things like a normal person.

I’ll look into LaCie.


Melissa Sarno August 2, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I like your new website makeover. And I’m very sorry to hear about your computer issues. I hope you are able to recover some work. I’m bad about backing up on an external hard drive , so I usually back things up by e-mailing the documents to myself. That way I can retrieve them from anywhere.
I am in the middle of a bookshelf makeover actually. My shelves are full and books are currently stacked in piles and stuffed in duffle bags from various moves. It’s very chaotic. So I’m on a major bookshelf hunt to organize it all.
I’m also considering getting bangs. 🙂


Susan Henderson August 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Getting bangs is definitely easier than growing them out! I get stupidly excited about bookshelf makeovers. It’s so fun to pick which books should go next to each other and pull the spines all up to the edge of the shelf. Good luck with it!


Kimberly August 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I do makeovers all the time. But I’m an air sign and can’t have anything stay the same for too long. I crave change. So rather than a laundry list, I’ll tell you about when I started dying my hair red.

About five years ago, I went from a natural honey blonde to a coppery auburn and for weeks afterwards, had trouble recognizing myself. Every time I caught myself in a reflection – be in in a mirror, or simply walking down the street – I freaked out. “Who *is* that girl?,” I’d say with a jump.

Now I can’t recognize myself without it.

Love the site redesign and simply cannot wait for September!!!


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I’m the same way. I love change. I love to move furniture around, I love to try things I’ve never had before.

I love your hair. It’s gorgeous and bold and funky… perfect for a famous screenwriter and film director.


Lee August 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Love the cleanliness of your new site!
I really liked your old site too, but this is much easier to navigate and the colors ar every refreshing.
As far as makeovers– I think I try to do at least a small one every day; you know, change something I don’t like, or try on a new improvement, etc.
I still suffer moments when I recognize the original me in the ongoing chaos, but sometimes that is very comforting– much like visiting your favorite, familiar literary webiste for the first time. 😉



Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Ooh, I like that… making a small change or improvement each day!


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Here’s a happy update on one part of what was lost from my hard drive. Everything is still with Mac Medics, so nothing to report there. But I did get in touch with iTunes and happened to be talking to a tekkie there who was also… a writer! He did me a great big favor outside of the bounds of my iTunes agreement and restored everything. Couldn’t have been nicer, and I told him to hold on to my contact info for when he needed a favor in the writing world.


Jessica Keener August 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Sue-I love your website makeover. Very clean and easy to see.

I live in a state of makeover or so it seems. In the concrete world, I am planning to redo our second bathroom. Less concretely, I am trying to makeover attitudes that have dominated how I approach things that scare me.

Congratulations on all your great news. Up from The Blue is a beautiful novel that I will read again and again.



Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Those attitude makeovers are hard, especially in this business where trying to develop a positive outlook can feel delusional. Try this: Come up with a list of 10 or 15 things that are positive about you and your writing. Use things others have said about you, like those comments on your blog. Then post those in the place where you do your writing, and don’t begin the day without reading those words out loud. It may take weeks before you believe those words, but say them anyway.


Jessica Keener August 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Sue. Funny you should say. My desk and one office wall are decorated with papers full of quotes from people. I do look at them all the time and they comfort me.


lance August 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm

(funny thing about backups…for some reason this response wouldn’t take a moment ago…lol)
great site redesign.

I backup to an external drive, a cheap flash drive for each project and email to a gmail account that is secret and exclusive to notes and whatever I feel the need to email to myself… overkill, perhaps.

ugh…makeovers seem constant. no matter what I do, I seem to happen into what seems a lifelong struggle with them.

my favorite was right after I moved to Portland. I’d sold Pop Salvation and was starting the rewrites of it. I felt bold and accomplished. Empowered. I decided that I’d earned some kind of right to express myself however I wanted… The hair became white blond with a cobalt blue chunk in the front… the haircut was a perfect realization of what I’d always envisioned being “just right” for me. everything about it made me happy. it was what felt like the most genuine expression of self I’d ever pulled off.

then, the comments came…

“it’s a cute haircut but don’t you think it should be one colour?”
“why is it blue?”
“I like you better with it natural.”
“so, it’s blue hair now, eh?”

passive aggressive disapproval…

and in one of my weakest moments of approval seeking that I’m still rather ashamed of… I cut it all off and dyed it a mousy middle brown just so I’d stop having to smile my way through people hurting me…

so yeah, makeovers are a mixed bag.


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Well, first-off, let me link your book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet:

That’s really funny about rebelling with mousy brown. Sorry for the haters, passive-aggressive or not. I think you look great in every haircut, and I love seeing the changes.


Jael McHenry August 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Susan, As soon as I saw the awful news about your crash I plugged in my external hard drive and started the back-up process. I have an automatic backup set to run every night, but it doesn’t work without the external drive plugged in, and I’d gotten lazy. NO MORE. I very much hope you get every single solitary file back, and your experience definitely gave me the wake-up call I needed.

The site looks great!


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Thanks, Jael! And I’m so glad to know you’ve just backed up your hard drive. I don’t want anyone else to know what this feels like.


Amy Wallen August 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Oh makeovers! First, I love yours, Susan. Sleek! Good luck on the recovery. I lost everything on my computer about two years ago (also love Mac!). Ugh, I relate.

My first makeover was at the Merle Norman Cosmetics store in Bartlesville, Oklahoma when I was in high school. I sat in the pink velvet chair in front of the big mirror and knew my life was about to change. After dabbing on this, and smearing on that, the Merle Norman makeup artist said, “Did you know you have a DOUBLE set of eyelashes?!” Perhaps that was all she could find to flatter me with, but it was enough. I ended up buying over $50 (for a 17-year-old in 1981 that was probably like $500) worth of make up supplies, e.g. masks, creams, eyebrow pluckers, eyelash curlers (if you have a double set, you better keep them looking good!). I got home and laid out all the new pink tubes and bottles of stuff on my bathroom counter, looked at the goops and gels and realized none of it would make any difference in who I was. I’d been had. I laid down on the fuzzy blue tub rug and cried. Cried that I would always just be me? I don’t know, but I haven’t worn much make up since. Although I never leave home without putting on a little mascara.


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Oh, yay, I was hoping to hear about a mall makeover, and this story is exactly why I adore you.


Amy Wallen August 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I think Adam is more than making up for my disinterest in make up.


Susan Henderson August 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Ha! I love boys in makeup.


Nathalie August 4, 2010 at 5:52 am

I don’t do much in the way of makeovers. The most drastic thing I have ever done was having (twice) hair I could sit on cut down (to only slightly above the crew cut level). It was a major shock for the engineers I work with (most of them men. They still talk about my long hair with trembling stars in their eyes! ) and each time a liberation for me.
In fact, since I last did it (seven years ago) I have not let my hair grow back (as I used to do) and kept it short, since this is much more suited to Italian weather than long hair (regardless of what Italian girls and women may think on the subject).


Susan Henderson August 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Wow, that’s pretty drastic. Your hair looks so great short, I can’t even imagine it long enough to sit on. Link a photo!


The Writer's [Inner] Journey August 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

It’s lovely…and now the words shine more than ever!


Susan Henderson August 4, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Thanks, Meredith!


Susan Henderson August 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Update: Mac Medics just called. They did Tier 1 of their recovery and found only corrupted files. On to Tier 2…


Bernice August 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I’ve learned makeovers come in many ways. I had a forced one when my husband left me. Not that I’m complaining. But it forced me to rethink everything about my life and what’s in it. Now every time I think I need something, I really don’t. People are included in this too. You know the toxic ones who feed on you until you have nothing left and then try to come back for more.
Chaos is something I’ve always had to deal with, personally and materialistically. Now at the age I’ve reached, 45, it seems that you kinda thrive on it or it eats you up. I have finally reached the place where my “stuff” and that of others must go. 1-800-junk will be coming soon as well as multiple trips to the Goodwill. I have to let go of this or it will rule me the rest of my days!


Susan Henderson August 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Trauma sure has a way of teaching us what’s most important. I’m so glad you told your story, Bernice. I’m excited thinking of that truck pulling up to your place and hauling away the junk. Then buy yourself some flowers and celebrate all the good that’s left!


Z. Aguado August 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I have been in constant relocation for thirteen years. During all of my country-to-country moves, I was forced into make-overs: homes, friends, environment, weather. After each new home, I would look inside my ‘home’ from the front door, scrutinizing my design. Even though the furniture was always the same, I had always thought my personal style was a bit too cluttered, maybe eclectic, but really a bit too much. Granted, I had not liked most of the places we have lived, and masqueraded my surroundings with lots of pink paint and too many interior plants, as if to side-track my own eye from the reality I was living.

But I had always had an idea of how I wanted to live some day. I dreamt of enjoying a place with history, with coolish weather, and I knew where I wanted to go: home, asking myself if one can really go back home more than a decade later and start, again.

It happened and when I returned here, I gave little thought to design. I just thought, ‘Well I’m here, so I’m going to start living’. The first thing I did was find a house with my sensibilities: chimneys, light, wooden floors. I filled it with furnishings from our travels. We also made new purchases, and made them colorful and when everything was nearly unpacked, I filled all of the vases with freshly cut exotic flowers and if those vases are empty, I feel something is missing. The thought evolved, as I continued my design, that while the space was filled to my aesthetic, it was surprisingly austere. A surprise for me. I was making-over my new life in my favorite city, a dream of mine and the lines are cool, the back-drops a soothing white. All of the furniture, purchased throughout the years, nicked with the scars of moving trucks, fit. Everything seemed right.

Returning to live in this part of the world, I have found it is not possible to make-over anything, but rather, when one makes-over he/she is forced back into the basics, the minute essence of ‘stuff’ the magics emotion. Really, you are just brought back to yourself, ultimately a courageous move. You can go back home. Evolution is not pretty packaging or modern new things, it is an honest return. Right is the word that comes to mind.

And so with this, I congratulate you, Sue. Your ‘new’ site is what it ought to be, an evolution to the self. Many best wishes for its succes and, a big hug.


Susan Henderson August 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Zett, I love that you finally landed in the place that feels most like home. And what a thought… to just start living! Simple and profound.

There’s something unique about people who move a lot, and particularly people who move from country to country. It seems to clarify the qualities that are most true and constant in yourself and others.

Thank you for this. I feel like you gave me much to think about this morning. xox


Despina Yeargin August 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Susan, check out It will take 2-3 days, depending on what you’re backing up, to do the initial back up, but then only minutes. You can set it for daily, weekly or whatever. 🙂

Makeovers, eh?

Back later with that one.


Susan Henderson August 9, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I got Mozy a few days ago and I love it… it’s so easy!

Can’t wait to hear about your makeover, especially now that I know it will be on the fly!


Susan Henderson August 11, 2010 at 7:13 pm

MacMedics is sending me a disk of everything they were able to recover. Which is at least something! Total: $512.


Susan Henderson August 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Another job for cool creative types living in NY:

Documentation Specialist – Education Programs
The Metropolitan Opera Guild;
New York, New York, United States
Salary: Low $30s


Susan Henderson August 17, 2010 at 12:59 am

Update on MacMedics…

The short version: They. Are. Awesome.

The recap:

My computer was acting funny (freezing, needing to re-start) and after a couple of days of that, wouldn’t restart at all… blank screen.

Took it to Genius Bar at the Apple Store. They did various things and told me they found “zero data” on my hard drive. They put in a new (blank) hard drive and gave me the bad one in a little bag.

What I lost: my memoir, the next two novels, six years of photos of my kids, my iTunes, address book, interviews, reviews, etc.

We sent the bad hard drive to Mac Medics, who specialize in data recovery but made no promises.

After “Tier 1” recovery, they found only corrupted files, nothing recovered.

After “Tier 2” recovery, they found everything they could and sent it back via a “G-Drive Mini.”

My 14-year-old had to show me how to figure out this G-Drive and absolutely EVERYTHING is right there, right down to my sticky notes!!

Total cost, including shipping and G-Drive Mini: $512. 15


Dana Stibolt August 17, 2010 at 1:57 am


Thanks so much for your mention for my company, MacMedics both here and on Twitter. I could go on and on about backups. Rule number one is you always have to have your data in two places. The other important thing is that to be a “real” back up, it must be automatic.

I would be happy to chat with any reader of your Blog about setting up a back up for them. They are SO easy to set up these days. You can get one cooking for as little as $130 bucks. I have ways to set them up for old Macs, new Macs, desktop Macs, or portables Macs. And, in fact one back up is often not enough.

You data recovery was a tad rough. To the lay person it would have looked pretty hopeless, and on first glance to us, it looked pretty bad. Thank goodness that our techs care so much, and they really hate to give up on a case.

e-mail us, and we’ll send anyone reading this, our free Time Machine White Paper. Call or e-mail and let us help set up a back up for your Mac. We can ship you a drive and even log onto your computer via the Internet to get you all set up.

See my companion website for more info on our 5 rules of data preservation and protection.

Dana Stibolt


Susan Henderson August 17, 2010 at 2:24 am

You guys are my heroes!


Susan Henderson August 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm

More jobs… go get ’em!

Volunteer Services Coordinator
Artists Striving To End Poverty
New York, New York, United States
Salary: $15-20.00 per hour

Government Relations Intern
Public Theater
New York, New York, United States

Coordinator, Member Events and Services
American Ballet Theatre
New York, New York, United States

Assistant, Capital Campaigns/Special Projects
Carnegie Hall
New York, New York, United States

Events Supervisor
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Salary: Salary is approximately $40k per year

PT Leadership & Youth Activism Facilitator
Sadie Nash Leadership Project
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Salary: $800/month


Juanima Hiatt September 10, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I soooo feel your pain on the back-up situation. I, too, have lost everything before, and it’s heartbreaking. I’m so sorry about your pictures. I’ve now backed up all of mine onto a flash drive! And your memoir!! And two novels!!! ACK!!! What tough lessons we must learn sometimes. Well…. I hear when that happens, the books are always better the second time. Might just be three bestsellers that come out next time around! 🙂

My one major makeover is the worst makover in history. I had just found out I was pregnant with my first child and decided to get a new hairdo. I’ve had long hair ALL my life, except when I was 3. 🙂 I went into this place known for “new looks,” and I thought layers to my long hair might be nice. Instead, two fast-talking male stylists spoke of how amaaaaazing and sexy a short style would look. I said NO WAY!!! Guess what… they must have been deaf. They cut off my hair. And they didn’t just make it short – they made it PIXIE-short. Half an inch long all over with some wispy bangs. I cried. A LOT. I was blessed with super thick, coarse, unruly, frizzy hair that is impossible to grow out (and only works with the weight of long hair). So it has taken me 11 years (2 years in which hats were my best friend), but my hair is now jaw length (and a lot thinner – wah!). But I’m on my way!

Love the simplicity of your site, too, by the way. 🙂


Susan Henderson September 11, 2010 at 1:08 am

Juanima, I love your pixie story. And I understand oh so well about hair that only works when it’s heavy or under a hat!

I’m so glad to say that the amazing Mac Medics were able to save my hard drive(!!), but I’ve learned my lesson, and I back up like a maniac now.


gloria byron October 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Im just trying to tell susan how wonderful and amazing her book ..up from the blue…was for me …I was personally touched with each turned page of this amazing book…I finished the book like in two days ….for me it was poignant (hope i spelled that right), bitter sweet, and described such deep sadness but also Tillie’s courage and constant hope….Im still thinking about it and feeling the emotion that was so effectively written about the characters in the book….This book tops so many books ive recently read ….I want to tell Susan thankyou for this wonderful story and that I hope she is already writing her second novel …I wait with anticipation…hope its not too long ….


Susan Henderson October 23, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Gloria, Thank you much for this note. It means so much to me. 🙂


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