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Question of the Month: Discipline

by Susan Henderson on January 3, 2011

Tell me what you plan to get disciplined about in the new year.

I recently took 40 days to concentrate on the new book. I didn’t exactly lock myself away, but I kept my FaceBook, email, and online time to one hour each morning. And now I  have the entire new book mapped out—plot, themes, character arcs, and so on. I’m very happy with the shape of it and with what I expect will be the pace of it. (If you’re a longtime visitor at LitPark, you’ll know exactly why I’m concentrating so hard on the bones of the story before I let myself loose with the actual writing!)

The flip-side to my taking 40 days was that I tried to be equally disciplined with vacation time. Of course I still take assignments for reviews and essays and book clubs during my downtime—I’m not in a position to say no to many things—but I’ve put the book away for now and will not work on it again until my kids are back in school.


Stuff to share: I have an essay over at BookReporter about the first book I was obsessed with (I mentioned this last month, but it didn’t go live until Dec. 31, so I can finally give you the link). I answered some fascinating questions over at Julianna Baggott’s blog, including ones about childhood, past jobs, and the publishing business.  I interviewed 9-time novelist Caroline Leavitt over at The Nervous Breakdown, where we talked about what a difference an attentive publisher makes, and of course we talked about her newest book, PICTURES OF YOU, which got a rave in Oprah’s magazine. (Thank you, Early Word, for linking to it!) Also at The Nervous Breakdown, there’s a podcast of me reading from UP FROM THE BLUE, and many thanks to the talented Megan DiLullo for adding the creative spark to it. There was an all-too generous quote by Tish Cohen in The Globe and Mail when they asked about her favorite read of the year. I seriously adore Tish and hope the good karma zooms right back to her. And last thing, later this month I’m going to West Palm Beach, Florida to participate in BookMania. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.


Seems like it makes sense to finish up by sharing books given and received over the holidays. I like to pick out my own books, and I get about 20 unsolicited books a month from authors and publishers, so my friends know not to add to my pile. However, I still got one book from Mr. H—THE SELECTED POETRY OF RAINER MARIA RILKE—and I’m very, very happy about it. And my brother-in-law gave the whole family I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT by Sir Terry Pratchett, which is wonderful… and darker than the others in the Wee Free Men series. Mr. H is reading this aloud to us, a chapter each night, because he does the accents right.

These are the books I gave as gifts: CLEOPATRA: A LIFE, Stacy Schiff; DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE UGLY TRUTH, Jeff Kinney; CUTTING FOR STONE, Abraham Verghese; THE RISE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Edmund Morris; A TALE DARK AND GRIMM, Adam Gidwitz; THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: THE EPIC STORY OF AMERICA’S GREAT MIGRATION, Isabel Wilkerson; X’ED OUT, Charles Burns; and SCOTT PILGRIM, Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Feel free to share your own lists… and don’t forget to answer to the Question of the Month. I want to hear what you’re up to!