terry pratchett

Question of the Month: Intimidating People

by Susan Henderson on March 7, 2011

Do you ever get intimidated by brilliant people? Tell me a story about it.

The one author I find truly intimidating is Terry Pratchett. Even before he was knighted, it seemed right to put the word Sir in front of his name. I just find his work—whether you’re looking at it from a bird’s eye view or sentence-by-sentence—to express more layers of wisdom, humor, and historical reference than I know how to juggle… and all of it without slowing down the plot.

I feel no jealousy toward Sir Pratchett; it’s more of an awe of the unattainable. And this makes his current struggle with Alzheimer’s all the more heartbreaking.  His open discussions about his disease, including his recent thoughts about assisted suicide, remind us that the window on his brilliant mind is closing, that we’ll soon be holding his very last book.

Alzheimer’s has struck close to home. My grandmother suffered from it even before her hair turned gray. And more recently, my first love’s father brought his own struggle with it into public view, documenting his descent both in books and on NPR. Tom DeBaggio, who helped Francesco and me make that sinking raft in the photo up above, died last week. There’s a very nice tribute to him by Melissa Block, and you can catch his earlier NPR pieces here: 1999200520072010.

I’ll post one more photo of Fran with my brother and my “other brother,” who, by the way, gets hung in the opening scene of TRUE GRIT. And maybe my point, if there is one, is that the people we admire, even if they are brilliant beyond our reach, are just as human. And the other thing is that many of the people we admire have no idea how important they are in our lives, and maybe we should start telling them. At the very least, we should eat more cake with our mouths wide open.


In writing news, I’ve spent the past 40 days digging deep into the new book, and I’m beginning to dream of it, too. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with characters demanding that I write something down. I love this part of the process.

There’ve been some nice reviews and interviews lately: Robert Gray talked to me about UP FROM THE BLUE’s readers over at Shelf Awareness, Meg Pokrass talked to me about mentors at Fictionaut Five, Williamsburg Regional Library blogged about my book here, Evanston Public Library blogged about it there, and then there were some really lovely print reviews for which I’m so grateful—Bill Duncan at The News-Review, Veena Sterling at the San Francisco Book Review, and Chuck Erion at The Waterloo Region Record in Ontario, Canada. Later this month, I’ll be in San Diego, talking with the wonderful Amy Wallen, first at SDwink and then at the Savory Salon. And how fun is this?! Very excited about my trip!

I’ll end with a celebration of my friend, Robin Slick’s book, DADDY LEFT ME ALONE WITH GOD, which is a roller-coaster ride full of rock stars, insecurities, and the terrifying task of guiding talented children through a golden, but potentially dangerous, opportunity. It’s a book that will break and then rebuild your heart.


Question of the Month: Library

by Susan Henderson on July 5, 2010

Tell me a story about you and the library.

I loved my little, underfunded library when I was a kid. It was always a thrill to see which picture books were pulled from the shelves and set up along the window sill. I found many of my favorites this way: Georgie the Ghost, Whistle for Willie, The Little House.




When I had kids of my own, I discovered the true glory of the library. Though our house was filled with books, everything I bought for them represented my taste. But when we went to the library—because it was free and we could check out stacks of books—they could takes risks. They could check out a book they knew nothing about or try out topics they weren’t even certain they’d enjoy. They could wander away from my favorite sections and find that the world of literature was much bigger than what I’d showed them. There was non-fiction, horror, satire, sci-fi. It was at the library that they discovered Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and my kids have been different—and very happy to be so—ever since.

Looking forward to hearing your own library stories. And if you have the time, I highly recommend this article by Carol Fitzgerald called Libraries and Librarians Are Endangered Species: What You Can Do to Help.