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One Foot in Each Book

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Ever feel like you’re trying to run in two different directions at once?


I’ve been heavy into research for my new novel. I’ve interviewed a locksmith, a storehouse manager, a ward charge, a ward attendant, a photographer, a graffiti artist, and more—all to find out about their experiences working at, living in, or exploring a now-abandoned psychiatric hospital.

That’s a picture of a key the locksmith brought to our interview.

But while I’ve been busy with the new novel, I’ve also been doing a number of book clubs and speaking engagements for THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS. Here’s a link to my interview with Helen Little at the iHeart Radio studio in Manhattan. And below is a photo from my talk at the Syosset Public Library.


I’m not a multi-tasker by nature, so this—splitting my attention, sometimes living out of a suitcase or running from back-to-back appointments—can be stressful. But I’m learning how to break out of my comfort zone and appreciate where it takes me.

There have been some wonderful surprises along the way, and I took screenshots so, later, I would know they truly happened.

Like this…


And, OMG, this…


I understand they are fleeting moments, gone even as I post this. But I believe in feeling gratitude for all the big and, usually, small delights that happen in a day—a dog wagging its tail, a stranger holding a door open, a neighbor slowing down to chat, a reader posting an enthusiastic review, a cool day after a heat wave.

It all matters.

Some thanks are in order… to The Writer magazine; 7:30 BookClub; My Life, My Books, My EscapeThe Coachella Review; Hers for the Reading; Book Beat; Syosset Library; A. F. Compson; Liz Morgan PR; Andie Behling; Alexa Melliot; Pookapyle; and Marilyn Cole.


As always, I’ll end by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post… though most of my reading lately is research for Novel #3, and I don’t post my research:

Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling
Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
Mary Morris, Gateway to the Moon 
Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
Dorothy Bryant, Confessions of Madame Psyche
Ari Folman and David Polonsky, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel


That’s it for now. Talk to me in the comments section about something that’s keeping you busy these days.

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  • Aimee Bingham Osinski
    September 2, 2018

    I’ve been volunteering for a political campaign, reading a lot and writing. I read The Flicker of Old Dreams. It’s fantastic. I am going to post about it soon! I can’t wait for your next book!

    • Susan Henderson
      September 2, 2018

      Oh, thank you, Aimee!!

      About volunteering and writing… is it helping your mind/spirit/writing to do both at once, or are you feeling squeezed for time and brain power?

  • Valerie
    September 2, 2018

    Talk to me if you dont mind about My Absolute Darling. I had a tough time getting into it. But I ADORED All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and many people have the same sort of criticisms about that that I did about Darling (that is, the child/sexual abuse). But a few people whose taste I trust (including you) have read it so I’d give it another shot, I think.

    As for what’s keeping me busy: all 4 back in school – oldest in his senior year, and littlest finishing 5th grade this year so have to decide on middle school. Spent yesterday clothes shopping with the four of them. Working like a crazy person, still playing hockey, and signing up for a master’s swimming program to try out….trying to wring the last drops out of summer by getting to the outdoor pools every day this long weekend.

    And looking forward to maybe trying to see you in October (bring Mr H with you!!)

    • Susan Henderson
      September 2, 2018

      So there are things about books I’ll say here, where it’s more private, than on a big platform like Twitter. In general, if I don’t like a book or can’t finish a book, no one will ever know because I don’t want to hurt a book’s sales, whatever opinion I had of it. But when a book is actually traumatizing, I think it’s important to talk about. And if this book hadn’t come so off the charts recommended by someone I trust, I would have stopped early on. In the end, I loved the story and the shape the author was able to bring to a hard story… and yet, I was permanently harmed by the book and wish I had protected myself better. I’m not in favor of people reading things that create or re-open wounds, no matter how profound (or whatever) those works are. So that’s what I think of it. There are some memorable scenes of Turtle and her friend/boyfriend that really stick with me. But I feel I harmed something in me that’s already sore, and so…

      Tell me about all the ugly and wonderful things!

      I miss those back to school days! David’s not coming to Pgh with me (he can’t get off work) but I refuse to leave before I see you! When CMU puts out a final schedule of activities, I’ll let you know where I’ll be and when I have downtime.

  • Gerard C Smith
    September 2, 2018

    Seems you are multi-tasking with good things. Enjoy, yours is a great privilege.

    We’re well settled into our new Aiken SC home now and all of the renovations are finished. At seventy-nine I’m swearing off installing chandeliers and ceiling fans ever again, but I’ll do whatever else needs doing when it is needed. But there’s not much required as our new house is essentially maintenance free when compared to our former home in a salt water environment.

    So, now I have time for some other things. I’ve started to learn French something I was to study in both high school and college but managed to pretty much avoid except for passing the tests and getting the credits. I joined the golf club and am playing three times a week. We’ll likely travel to England and France sometime in the next year. Meanwhile Mimi and I are getting to know the Aiken community.

    I’m still playing with The Back Of The Moon, noodling characters and settings but that’s how I go about writing. Some day enough will come together to allow a full draft. I’ll get there when time is right.

    So, I’m keeping busy as is Mimi. Having fun, living life. Here’s to you and yours doing the same.

    • Susan Henderson
      September 2, 2018

      You’re learning French?! I love that!

      Good to hear you’re both settling into the new community and relaxing more. The Back of the Moon is one of my all-time favorite titles. Enjoy writing it at whatever pace it comes.

      I’m traveling to Boston tomorrow to see my kids. So looking forward to a trip that’s not for work but all for pleasure!

  • Ric Marion
    September 2, 2018

    Yes, we do know busy. Just got back from a weekend in Allentown, PA. My cousin’s 50th anniversary party. All my brothers showed up and hours of laughter, stories, and love abounded. Wife and I drove our new car, came back through Canada – haven’t been there in years. Great weekend, great time.
    Now, have a month to get everything done before our 15th Annual Wine Trip to Traverse City with four other couples. We have matching shirts with little wine bottles on the sleeves to show how many years. We are blessed beyond words to have four other couples we can spend four days with in close proximity with nary a cross word or meltdown.
    Mom has rallied, confusing the Hospice folks. She continues to carry on, warm and safe, with no pain. Just hanging out, some days she calls me by name, some days she simply knows I belong to her.
    I find myself with extra hours every day. Filling them with writing, reading, and watching the world go by. Last night, checking the rain gauge, I heard a snuffling sound. To my right, not twenty feet, a fawn was fighting with flies. She looked at me, decided I wasn’t a threat, and continued kicking and snorting the flies away.
    Special moments in the back yard.
    I’m in a very wondrous time of my life right now. Bills paid, money in the bank, a wife who loves me, four kids doing marvelous things in their worlds. Extended family always happy to see us, nature at my doorstep. In the early morning hours, sitting on the front porch, watching the bats coming in to roost, the sun pink behind the clouds to the east, thanking the powers that be, karma, the Moon, everything for bringing me to this place. I am amazed.
    Susan, enjoy the time with your boys. Special memories to be made.

    • Susan Henderson
      September 2, 2018

      What a beautiful life you’ve built for yourselves. I always love to see the world through your eyes. It makes me slow down and appreciate the simple, often free things that are right there all the time. Your words about your mom are perfect: “some days she calls me by name, some days she simply knows I belong to her.”

  • marilyn cole
    September 4, 2018

    Imagine my surprise! Thank you for the mention, Sue! Very nice of you to do so. Truly enjoyed your book, the same as I enjoyed your debut novel. And within these walls, I can say that for someone who never followed the most popular, or dominant trend in reading, but rather devoured all physics–fiction and non-fiction (especially loved Alan Lightman)–and all Le Carré, Forsyth, Ludlum, and Clansy novels, and had started on Daniel Silva, and let me not forget the incredible Neil Gaiman through the years (The Graveyard Book, a favorite!…and how is it possible to write so much?…does he have a clone…or two?) as my reading choices, I found both Up from the Blue and The Flicker of Old Dreams totally enthralling reading, even suspenseful. They both totally drew me in. I want to check in from time to time and see how it went with Mary, while I wait for the big screen version. The Flicker… very much the writing, started getting me back to reading with ease, on the way of how I used to before the trauma of my daughter’s loss. So I doubly love it for that.

    On other fronts, still setting up the studio and the loft–rearranging it, again, to install a ballet barre. This year hasn’t been too easy between the move and, later, summer with the trip to the ER and lingering effects, and a leg injury right after, which actually had me in excruciating pain, not able to take a step. (Orthopedic doctor said absolutely no more kick boxing, jumping, or running…barre exercises, ok–I must do something!! He had said that before, but I didn’t listen.) Then, there’s my eternal mind battle of being pulled in different directions. I’m not someone who should answer your question, perhaps. Hahaha! But, approaching it in a calmer manner, and a lot had to do with (and since) the time you suggested to open the doors of the studio and go work on whatever I’m drawn to go that day, whatever it is. So, thank you! I needed to be given permission to not feel so guilty about not sticking to one project at a time until the end. Keith had tried, but I figured he’s biased…and a bit the same way. 🙂 However, not easy bringing the piano up to the second story loft as there is no elevator, so it remained in the living room! Maybe I should just say: yes, I work on different things concurrently, hoping to get any one of them to it’s conclusion…soon. And leave it at that. 🙂

    • Susan Henderson
      September 5, 2018

      David has similar taste in books, so I’m always grateful when he reads mine, knowing my books are shelved in a different area of the bookstore than he’d naturally go. Thank you for the kind words. And just so much love to you… I always feel Denise’s spirit alive in everything you do and say, and where you’re most tender and most strong. And she will be in the art you create.

      I was told the same about running–that my knees are simply not made for it and I have to find other ways to be active. I love that you’re putting in a ballet barre! I can’t wait to hear about the art you create in your loft. You are the only one with your unique life story, your unique temperament, and your unique straddling of art and science, so let your process come from your natural instincts and impulses rather than what you think others would do. That’s when you’ll create the art you’re here to create. xo

      • Marilyn
        October 24, 2018

        Came back to read this again.😊

        • Susan Henderson
          October 24, 2018


  • Billie Hinton
    September 12, 2018

    I feel impossibly busy these days with writing and farm/horses/gardens and family. I’m doing a Native Plant Studies certificate program with a university botanical garden, and loving the classes but they do add more to my already nutty schedule.

    The big news is that my son passed his Q exams and once that was off his plate he promptly got engaged! They are getting married in November. We’re all very happy and excited. I feel like I’m on a bit of a carnival ride with all that’s going on, but enjoying the whirl and spin as well as the days I set my feet down on the ground and focus on centering.

    So happy for your book and its path in the world! And have loved your photos as you work on the next one.

    • Susan Henderson
      September 12, 2018

      I love the title of your class! Let us know what you learn from it… not the nitty-gritty but big-picture.

      Congratulations on all your son’s exciting news! Thrilled for all of you.

Susan Henderson