Question of the Month: Celebration

by Susan Henderson on February 18, 2018

Tell me how you’ve celebrated big moments in your life, whether it’s a book launch, a birthday, a marathon run, a clean bill of health, a sobriety anniversary, weight loss, or any other hard-won accomplishment.

feather duster

I’m not actually very good at celebrating. The above picture is how I look when I try to party. Unsure. Off in the back corner of the room, awkward and alone.

I’m not much into whooping it up. In school, I didn’t dress up for St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween. I didn’t cheer at pep rallies, though all students were required to go. I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. I find it all tiring, burdensome—a real stretch for my personality.

But March is the month my new book goes out into the world, and I worked too hard on it not to acknowledge its birth. So while I suck at parties, I’m always willing to try something new. If you have ideas about how to celebrate, put them in the comments section. I will at least think about trying them!


As far as my book launch goes, it will be at The Turn of the Corkscrew on Long Island. You can RSVP here. They are a block and a half from the Rockville Center stop on the LIRR, and they have a fantastic menu. And wine! I will be gloriously happy to see you there.

MP28205_FlickerofOldDreams_event_IG_2 copy

If you want to help this little book’s trajectory into the world, here are some things you can do: Pre-order or buy on the launch day (it’s all about first-day sales). Post photos of yourself or your pet with the book. If you go to an event, post photos of yourself and the book while you’re there. And if you like what you read, tell others or post reviews on social media.


All of that said, if you have been on this long journey and have yet to celebrate a finished manuscript, an acceptance letter, or a book launch, what I’m posting below is for you with love, because this has been a long journey, and so much of it has felt like failure. Keep hanging in there and keep sending out your work!

Rejected but Not Defeated

Career Day

Who Owns Our Truths?

At What Point Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

I’m going to leave you with a few hopeful thoughts—and yes, I’ve shared them before because they’ve buoyed me through hard times: Harper Lee only wrote one book (To Kill a Mockingbird). E. Annie Proulx published her first novel (Postcards) when she was 57, Frank McCourt published his first (Angela’s Ashes) at 66, and so did Karl Marlantes, who worked on his (Matterhorn) for 33 years.

You still have time to tell your stories.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Billie Hinton February 18, 2018 at 1:58 pm

First, huge congratulations on this new book coming out! I am poised to buy it on launch day and can’t wait to read it.

There are photos from my childhood showing how stricken I was at larger parties. I think there is one photo of a very small birthday party that included three or four good friends and I was smiling in that one.

I still prefer small celebrations with immediate family including our animals, but every now and then something warrants a big bash (son’s graduation from our unschooling “high school” which was more a rite of passage than anything, and his graduation from college). I enjoyed them but then I wasn’t the center of attention. 🙂

There’s something I especially love about having my own private celebration for personal achievements and to mark completions. Maybe take a little trip (a special walk, a drive someplace you haven’t been in awhile and miss, a bigger trip, a train, to some place that’s meaningful to you and your book journey) or set up a little “party for one” in your writing space. I remember when I finished the final final edits on my first novel I was in my office, it was late in the evening on my writing night, and I had the windows open. I lit a bunch of candles and made tea and had a little fancy piece of chocolate. It was perfect. When that same novel found its first agent my writing partner came to the same office with a bottle of wine and we sat and talked about all the incarnations of the book and how it had grown over the years into what it finally was. I think that was the best book celebration I have ever had.

On a more public note, will you be touring with this new book? I would so love to hear you read from it! Will keep my eyes open for any possibility to do that. 🙂


Susan Henderson February 19, 2018 at 12:19 am

That’s wise, remembering how a small gathering feels so different from a large one. And I love your private time with windows open and a taste of chocolate. Going to steal that idea.

There’s no official tour and not all the dates are solid, but it looks like, outside of NY, there will be L.A., San Diego, St. Charles and Columbia (Missouri), Baltimore and Annapolis, Cleveland, and Boston.


Jennifer Hautp February 18, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Sue, thanks so much for this post. I also approach celebration with trepidation, as if I might jinx the success by acknowledging it. As a freelance journalist for 25 years, it wasn’t unusual for me to pitch several story ideas to six or eight editors at one time. Rejection and acceptance were both part of the job. I became emotionally detached to both by necessity. When my novel finally sold last February after more than eight years of submittals (in different forms), I was relieved. I was grateful. I was thrilled! And yet the idea of “celebrating”… I’m still working it out. It makes me a bit uncomfortable.

My book launch party is April 5th (in Seattle) and my intent is totally to make it a party, a celebration with friends and readers interested in my novel. Before that, though, I want to do something private just for me, that doesn’t depend in the slightest on the approval of others. I’ll let you know what I come up with. Thanks for getting me thinking about this!


Susan Henderson February 19, 2018 at 12:14 am

Yep, you describe it well. It’s that I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know how to let go and feel jubilant. I’m too used to being cautious about hope and guarded for rejection.

I like the idea of doing some private acknowledgment and then trying for a public celebration. When we’re in Missouri for Unbound, let’s celebrate somehow. Maybe desserts and toasts. Maybe a long walk or taking part in some funny local attraction.


Kim Chinquee February 18, 2018 at 11:38 pm

Oh, Sue. I love this photo. I think the best celebrations include doing something special for yourself, the things you love. You have a lot to celebrate–and you will have many more. I have a hard time celebrating too, but sometimes, for me, just a simple run is a type of celebration. Sometimes being alone. A bubble bath, a walk in the woods. Whatever nurtures your soul and allows you to realize what you have accomplished. Being you! I can’t wait for THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS to be out in the world. I love this book so much. Thanks for this post. xo.


Susan Henderson February 19, 2018 at 12:09 am

Thank you for being so good to this book and to me. I like your ideas of nurturing. And I like the idea of a run, though I may make it the longest walk ever. It’s what rejuvenates my body and releases stress from my head. And I’m taking the bubble bath suggestion, too! Might go shopping for a special scent! xo


Susan Henderson February 19, 2018 at 12:09 am

Also: So glad we’ll be reading together soon!!


Kim Chinquee February 20, 2018 at 2:02 pm

I love this! Ah, a long walk and a bubble bath! Miss you. And I can’t wait to read with you, too! xo.


Ric Marion February 19, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Wow! I have no idea what I can bring to this conversation. After all these years, I still don’t understand how some folks really don’t want to be the center of attention; they want to sit in the back, hoping they’re not noticed. The whole concept is alien to my walk through life. I don’t want to be in the chorus line or the choir – if I’m not the star or the soloist, I’m not interested in taking part.
Mom – oh, yes, we’ll evoke Mom again – has a saying, “It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.” Just recently, I discovered Mom repeated it regularly but didn’t attribute it to the real author. Mae West. It would be like Mom to think she’d thought it up herself.
Back in the day, when I was doing PR work, I would run across a client whose success needed to be triumphed and they would demure, not wishing to be the star, not wanting any recognition at all. This will make it hard for your publicist to do her job.
Anyway, you don’t come across – through this blog and other things you’ve done – as the wallflower you claim to be. Most everyone is uncomfortable in new situations, with new people, unsure of what to do, how to react. I’m certain you’ll be just fine, step up to the mic and wow the audience – whether it’s three people or a hundred.
Celebrate in any way that fits your comfort zone. The bubble bath, wine and chocolate all sound great and will allow you to lean back and savor the accomplishment of a long sought goal.
Just know, the rest of us are out here celebrating with you, and wishing you the best.


Susan Henderson February 19, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Ahhh, guilt works with me… your comment about not making my publicist’s job hard for her definitely motivates me to try harder. I’ll have to summon my inner-Mae West! (Wonder if I have one?!) And thank you for celebrating with me. 🙂


Janet Clare February 20, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Lovely words and a grand conversation. Allowing people to celebrate you is a bit different and you so obviously deserve it, so perhaps it’s best to relax, let it all in and enjoy.
I will have a first book launch in December and I’m determined to celebrate with a party for all my wonderfully supportive friends, (to celebrate them!) and, not least because, hey, I’ve survived!
Big congrats to you, Susan. I’m so glad we’ve become digital friends!


Susan Henderson February 20, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Whoa, Janet, I think you’ve given me the answer! One is to let in others’ joy… I hadn’t even thought of that! And the other is to celebrate the support and the journey that we’re all a part of together. This actually brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for this profound perspective!


GC Smith February 26, 2018 at 9:46 pm

Celebrate with Mr. H. and maybe your kids. I suggest lobster tails with champagne. Maybe a strawberry cheesecake afterward.

We’re celebrating. We sold our house in Beaufort SC and bought another in Aiken SC. We’ll move on or about April 10. New adventures.


Susan Henderson February 27, 2018 at 11:09 am

Oh, this is exciting that you’ve got a move date! Look forward to hearing all about it!


Ian Cochrane March 18, 2018 at 8:43 am

Lovely picture!
Celebrating the big ones? A deep breath, for the next step is another adventure.
We simply keep writing, there not being another option.


Susan Henderson March 19, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Ian, Thank you for this reminder.


Ric Marion March 19, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Well, that was fun!
Review up on my blog.

Love ya,


Susan Henderson March 19, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Ric, THANK YOU! So grateful for this (and for your placemats)! You totally made my day. 🙂


Mimi March 28, 2018 at 7:50 pm

I could find no other place to contact you, but I just finished your new book. I will be telling everyone I know about it – and I am a daily volunteer at my library that is open 7 days/week, pulling all the reserves/or the “hold list” as we call it. I saw your book on the new fiction shelf and immediately grabbed it, just by looking at the cover and reading the inside cover. Your writing is truly exquisite, inspirational, haunting, and so many more adjectives. It brought smiles to my face and tears to my eyes. So many people at my library ask me about good books I have read, and now I have another to add to my list. Here’s hoping you have only begun your journey with this second book. I look forward to reading your first.


Susan Henderson March 28, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Mimi, I’m so very grateful for you note!! And anyone who volunteers at a library is at the absolute top of my list of humans. Thank you for making my day. 🙂


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