jessica brilliant keener

Question of the Month: Renew

by Susan Henderson on May 3, 2010

Tell me about an experience that renewed your spirit, your energy, or your belief in yourself.


And if we’re talking of renewal, I have to tell you about my trip to Canada last month with three amazing writers. We left our homes feeling strung out, stalled with our current writing projects, and nervous about our careers in general. Not anymore. In just a few days, we were completely transformed.

We became confident, focused, and productive.

I love the picture up above because the snow was totally unexpected. I packed tank tops, shorts and sunscreen! That’s Tish Cohen on the left and Robin Slick on the right. Jessica Keener took the picture, and that’s her in the next shot, waving.


Let me try to sum up the trip in a way that might pass along some of the magic to you. We used an egg timer and wrote in one-hour spurts. (No internet! No phone!) We had three of these writing periods a day, and in between, we told stories and secrets. We laughed and vented. What we found is that our time relaxing together fueled our writingit churned up emotions and got us into storytelling mode. It reminded us of the things we’re passionate about. And doing focused spurts of writing turned out to be more productive than the marathon hours we were putting in at home. Who knew?

Besides friendship and discipline, we helped each other get rid of our pessimistic writing talk. It just wasn’t helping us get to where we wanted to go. It was tying up our energy and casting gloom on the future. When any one of us started to see ourselves as failures, to worry over past rejections or whether our current projects would make it, we heckled each other back into confidence and a sense of power. And where we really pushed each other the most was with our one sentence elevator pitches. We became convinced that it was no good to work on a manuscript until you could distill it into a single, exciting, action-based sentence. You have to know it’s an idea you can sell before you write it. And once you know the sentence that every action in the book will be reflecting, it’s so much easier to write!


If you want to hear the extended version of our trip, Robin’s got all the details.

But back to the idea of “renewal” for a sec because I’d like to announce that LitPark is about to undergo a transformation. I want something that’s more welcoming and less disorienting to first-time visitors. Also, I just want to celebrate the approaching publication date for UP FROM THE BLUE. So if the site’s down next month, be patient with me. I’m looking forward to showing you the big change!

I’m going to end with some very kind words from the wonderful NY Times bestselling author, Jamie Ford. His post is incredibly generous, and it cheered me to no end.