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Stepping Out of the Writer’s Cave

By Posted on 6 3 m read 205 views

Are you someone who tends to disappear when you’re deep into a writing project?

I definitely hole up in what’s known as my writer’s cave. And, for what feels like an eternity, that’s where I’ve been, immersed in the world of my latest novel.

It’s taken longer than I thought to wrangle this new book into shape. (Progress update coming soon!) But now I’m stepping out of my cave on wobbly legs, blinking against the bright daylight.

First stop: Vietnam. Mr. H and I took both kids and their partners to visit family there.

I felt slapped awake by the change in weather. And the wild art of safely crossing the street forced me out of my head and into my body.

I’ve pasted some photos here of Sa Pa (slippery rice terraces, a water buffalo, a woman with blue hands who braided stalks of hemp as she walked, and occasionally stopped to pull me from the mud), …

Ha Noi (Hang Bac Street and squid on a stick), …

and Ho Chi Minh City (post office, jeans factory, my favorite lamppost at the Buu Long Pagoda, and the much-visited noodle cart outside my brother-in-law’s apartment).

Back in New York, it’s soccer season. We hit every NYCFC home game. I love Los Templados, with their constant drumming and singing. It’s so different from the cave’s quiet, where victories and defeats happen alone. At the stadium, we’re in it together—crying out in suspense, frustration, and ecstasy.

Today’s cold and rainy, but I’m seeing purple crocuses all over the place and birds gathering at the feeder. My dogs are going wild with the smell of spring, and I’m glad to be out of the cave!

Before I go, I want to invite you to my reading on Tuesday, March 26, 7pm at Joe’s Pub in NYC. It’s been a long while since I’ve read my work in public, and I’m excited to be a part of Generation Women’s upcoming show! The theme: “It’s a Living: Stories about Work.” I’m a little nervous about standing before an audience again. But this is why we write, isn’t it? Not to be alone with our stories in a cave, but to use them to connect, to be part of something bigger.

UPDATE: It was a sold out show, and I’m allowed to post only my reading. But I encourage you to find the link to the whole show over at the Generation Women website and hear the incredible range of stories!

As always, I’ll end by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post:

Ed Yong, An Immense World
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Children of Time
Roxana Robinson, Leaving
Claudia Rankine, Plot
Ben Okri, Astonishing the Gods
A.K. Small, If I Promise You Wings
Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Pedro Lemebel (translated by Katherine Silver), My Tender Matador
Jim Daniels, Comment Card
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Tracy K. Smith, To Free the Captives
Kwame Alexander, This is the Honey: An Anthology of Contemporary Black Poets
Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck
Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Trevor Noah, Born a Crime
Neil Gaiman, Stardust
Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life
Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Claudia Rankine, The End of the Alphabet

And a few re-reads (usually this means I’m studying something—POV, pace, transitions):

Christina Baker Kline, Orphan Train
Earnest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Let’s hang out soon. Whether I see you at Joe’s Pub or here in the comments section, I’d love a story about your writer’s cave and how you navigate the world outside it.

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6 Comments
  • Maury Gruszko
    March 24, 2024

    Reading your words is *almost* the next best thing to catching up in person, but wow did you pack a lot of life into these sentences that always have your voice — no mean feat and like flowing down a river through a landscape one’s only too glad to traverse. I have plans on Tuesday night but hope the livestream will be recorded and available for watching at another time. Until soon I hope and further hope for the cave to be a fruitful sanctuary.

    • Susan Henderson
      March 24, 2024

      So good to see you pop in! We definitely need to catch up in person… soon, okay?

      • Maury Gruszko
        March 24, 2024

        Absolutely! I’ll look forward:)

  • Maury Gruszko
    March 24, 2024

    Reading your words is *almost* the next best thing to catching up in person, but wow did you pack a lot of life into these sentences that always have your voice — no mean feat and like flowing down a river through a landscape one’s only too glad to traverse. I have plans on Tuesday night but hope the livestream will be recorded and available for watching at another time. Until soon I hope and further hope for the cave to be a fruitful sanctuary.

  • Ric Marion
    March 25, 2024

    First off, Happy Birthday!! Mine was 10 days ago and I celebrated by buying a cemetery plot for myself and my wife. Yeah, kinda morbid, weird, whatever. More insurance against my ashes ending up in the back of one of my kid’s hall closet than anything else. Wanted to give them a “oh, that’s what we need to do next” moment.
    Spring is trying to come here to the Midwest after a stunningly warm easy winter. Redwing Blackbirds are back, mating calls heard along the river, green stuff peaking out from last year’s leaves. The cycle of life – all good. A new granddaughter, Raine, arrived end of February.
    We’ve been sports fanatics the past couple of weeks watching the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies make it to March Madness and then pulling off a stunning upset of powerhouse Kentucky. So much fun for my alma mater – as well as two of my sons, one of whom was actually the mascot for a couple years.
    Your reading list was interesting – hard to believe you hadn’t read Atlas Shrugged before. And, I was not impressed with Sally Rooney’s latest offering. It almost felt as though, after the first two books, she has run out of things to say. But, that may just be me.
    Spring is coming, Full Moon tonight, family happy, healthy, and growing, I guess I wasn’t expecting to be this content with my life at my age. The Universe is full of surprises!

    • Susan Henderson
      March 25, 2024

      Awww, thank you. And happy belated birthday to you!

      You absolutely have to write an essay about how you celebrated your birthday!

      I had to look up the Redwing Blackbird because I’ve never seen one. Beautiful! And love the description of them calling over the river. We have lots of cardinals, sparrows, a few woodpeckers, my favorite–the house finch, and my least favorite because they’re so pushy–starlings.

      Love your March Madness story, especially about your son being the mascot! I feel the same about this book of Rooney’s. And Atlas Shrugged is, one, verrrrry long (over a thousand pages) and, two, not normal reading for me. It’s one of those books, like Orwell’s 1984, that’s referred to so often. I’ve heard the book used as short-hand to describe everyone from Steve Bannon to different members of the Supreme Court, and I wanted to understand the references by drawing my own conclusions.

      Congratulations on baby Raine! Glad you’re here. 🙂

Susan Henderson