June 2011

The Internet-Free Summer Vacation

by Susan Henderson on June 15, 2011

So I got a big talking-to from a couple of the people who care about me the most. The gist of it: I take on too much at the expense of my own work and family. There are only so many hours in the day.

Say a writer is supposed to meet a deadline and that requires focused work as well as tons of in-depth research. And let’s say that that writer’s kids are growing up before her eyes, and she wants badly to spend all of her free time enjoying the summer with them.

The problem? It’s saying those are the priorities but spending time interviewing authors, reviewing newly published books, blurbing galleys, trying to read and promote everything her friends write, and basically saying yes to things that can only happen if she pulls time from her family and gives up on the idea of making her deadline.

You know I’m talking about uncomfortable stuff when I start writing in the third person.

I’m learning to say no to requests from other writers and publicists and publishers, but it fills me with stress, and saying no takes more time and headspace than you think. Imagine you get twenty, fifty, one hundred such requests a week… that’s a lot of delicate, guilt-ridden conversations with people who are disappointed in you!

And so the radical solution is that one of those people who cares about me the most plans to take custody of my laptop for the summer and will keep it safely locked in a drawer at his office. All writing will be done by hand or by typewriter. There will be no email, no FaceBook, no Twitter, no blog.

But there will be a birthday party for the now-14-year-old, there will be a music tour for the 15-year-old, there will be a trip to Africa, there will be barbecues, there will be teenagers playing music in the basement, there will be dogs chasing after balls, there will be weeding in the garden, and there will be walks in the evening when the weather has cooled.

The more I think of unplugging, the more I love the idea. Maybe some of you will decide to do the same. Until then, I wish you all the very best of summers with family and friends and the pursuit of your passions. And I look forward to catching up with everyone once my kids are back in school this fall. xo

P.S. If you’re in Brooklyn Wednesday, *July 6th* (correction!) at 7pm, I’ll be reading for the LargeHearted Boy Reading Series at WORD bookstore with the amazing Caroline Leavitt. I would be thrilled to see you there!

P.P.S. Many thanks to Suzanne Beecher for featuring my book at Dear Reader. I am beyond honored to be included.

And with that, I am closing the laptop and unplugging.


Question of the Month: Work in Progress

by Susan Henderson on June 6, 2011

How’s your progress going? Are you outlining? Winging it? Do you set mini goals for yourself? I’d like to hear how you’re approaching your work in progress.

As UP FROM THE BLUE continues to have a life of its own (that’s the cover of the Dutch version that was just released in May), I am busy with the next book.

I’m taking a different approach this time. I’m outlining and focusing on the plot, working out all the knots that are easier to spot when the action is condensed. I’m doing this to avoid the kinds of trouble I had editing the last book so that I don’t have to unstring it once I have scenes and sentences I love.

This is where I am in the process. That mess to the right is research.

The voice for this book is starting to pipe into my head with real clarity, and this character wants badly to begin narrating the story. But I’m not allowing that just yet. I’m determined to nail the twists and turns of this plot before I let myself  loose to do what I love the most: dive deep into the human heart, find the language to describe what I find there, and discover the many surprises that, despite all my planning, won’t reveal themselves until my characters lead me to them.

So I’m here in my office (the awesome quilt is from my mom) and working away. Can’t wait to hear how your projects are going!


In other news, I had a great time at the Backspace Conference on a panel with my editor and my agent, where we discussed literary fiction and the chemistry required to work well as a team. UP FROM THE BLUE had nice reviews in both The Daily Mail and The Sun (the two biggest-selling papers in the UK), as well as the Dutch magazine, Libelle. And closer to home, thank you book bloggers StacyknowsBookBelle, Her LucidityMikel K at the Open Salon, and Betsy’s Book Club for reviewing my book—cool sites worth checking out! Finally, not to leave out my kids: They just finished their final exams, played a killer talent show (guitar and keys on Dream Theater’s Dance of Eternity), and are now enjoying a much-needed summer break.

Ooh, one last thing: If anyone is looking to redesign their websites, I can’t recommend Shatterboxx enough! I asked them to simplify my site and make it match the colors of my book and make it easy for newcomers to find their way. Check out their page and you’ll see how varied and uncluttered and truly artistic their ideas are. (They also have a design blog!) And if you’re interested in what you see, tell Jamie and Nicole I sent you so they treat you extra nice!