A Peek Inside the Writing Life

Craft books and novels in progress

What does this “living a writing life” look like in real time?

This week, I’m submitting a partial manuscript to two literary agents I pitched last year at my first Chicago Writers Conference.

Panera writing session

Getting the submission ready includes the following:

  • Knowing and following the guidelines given to me by the agents during my pitch sessions.
  • Ensuring my first 50 pages are formatted and the best they can be at this stage of my development.
  • Preparing a one-page synopsis. This is not an outline, nor is it enticing cover copy. A synopsis has to spell out what happens in the book, including the ending, while revealing the voice and flavor of the novel.
  • Including a well-written query letter along with the manuscript and synopsis.

Once I get that all emailed, I will note it on my submission tracking sheet then dismiss it from my mind and get on with finishing the rest of this draft. It can take months to hear back on submissions, even if they were invited!

Engaging means improving my craft. That makes me chuckle. It used to sound so pretentious to me when I tried to think it let alone say it out loud.

The reality is I do work at the craft. I read, study, ask questions, practice, read some more. I am in the middle of three different books on craft today. They are: Save the Cat, The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction WritingWriting 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling.

Engaging means reading as much fiction as possible. I’m enchanted by the idea of writing a real world story with hints of magic ala the very talented and successful Sarah Addison Allen.

Craft books and novels in progress

I’m working my way through all of her novels (just finished my third). Plus, she’s recommended a few of her favorite books by other authors, and I’ve tracked one down from an interlibrary loan: I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell. Reading this before bed each night.

Playwright Michele Lowe recommends that writers always have more than one idea or project to work on. She’s brilliant so I listen to her. I’m collecting ideas and snippets of scenes for what might be my next book-length project.

I’ve started researching and am in the middle of a fascinating book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by journalist Rebecca Traister 

The idea that there will be a next book feels like a gift I’ve given myself. Three years ago I wasn’t even sure I could finish one book.

I’m also planning ahead for the fall. I might take a class, go to a conference, or sign up for a retreat. For me,  I need to build in time and space for meeting other writers, talking books, learning from more experienced authors.

My vision of “living the writing life” means engaging in the world of writers and readers on as many levels as possible.

Last week I published a book review on Blogcritics.org and am preparing a list of interview questions for the debut author, Abbey Campbell Cook.

I met an inspiring young writer at a family graduation party in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. Ellie is 14 and a voracious reader and writer.

We talked under a canopy that provided scant relief from the blazing sun. We commiserated about the difficulty of creating interesting characters and working in solitude.

Last week, I received an email from an old friend who recently joined a writing group. We didn’t discuss writing, just exchanged book recommendations.  But there’s an energy exchange that takes place just knowing she writes!

This week I’m looking forward to a coffee date with a writer I met at a retreat last summer. She recently finished her first novel, and I was honored to get to read the first few chapters. More energy, more writing flow.

And I’m two weeks away from attending my second StoryStudio’s Ragdale Retreat.

A mentor of mine—a talented author and inspiring coach—recently recommended a list of short stories.  She compiled a curated list of stories with craft elements that shine in each. Can’t wait to get started on this!

Engaging means following the careers of other writers and supporting them whenever you can.

I’m eagerly awaiting Jennifer David Hesse’s first novel in July and have been sharing free bookmarks with my friends and family. Be sure to look for Book #1 Midsummer Night’s Mischief (A Wiccan Wheel Mystery). 

Midsummers Night Mischief

Living the writing life means making choices. I spent Sunday afternoon in Panera, wearing ear buds and flip flops (and clothes, I was wearing clothes), brandishing a purple flair marker as I went over what I hope is finally the final draft of my partial manuscript submission.

I could have been poolside with a margarita. And a part of me wanted to be.

Sometimes living the writing life means saying no to things (like hanging out at the pool). Twice this month, I turned down opportunities to write and publish (once for pay, once for a byline).

So I will miss out on those two opportunities. My time is limited. I have a day job and a family. To finish this novel, I have to focus.

Write where you are

Sometimes that means writing in the car, then walking in the nearby park

To make all of this possible, I continue to invest in my health and wellness. That means making room for life. For good food and movement and mindfulness.

All of that makes room for my dreams.

Long walks with a girlfriend or my husband or my son, walking my daughter’s dogs, doing pushups, sharing grilled chicken and an episode of American Pickers with my husband, talking to my mom on the phone, all of this is life.

Social media (will that be the phrase that sounds the death knell for all of humanity?) is both a resource and a drain for a writer. I belong to a few great writing communities online.

The best of these have provided inspiration and opportunity and are worth maintaining. It’s getting sidetracked on dancing puppy tangents that can suck away what little time I’ve carved out to actually write.

It’s also time to update my website, invest in new business cards and an updated author photo.

Deadlines approach for an essay I want to write and a residency application I’m nervous to submit.

Living the writing life means not being afraid to fail.

I know there are more of me out there, closet writers not sure they have talent.

You do. But it’s mostly about the work.

A brilliant author friend said during a recent conversation “if we’d known what was involved in writing a book, we never would have started.”

She’s right. But I’m ridiculously grateful I did.


4 Thoughts on “A Peek Inside the Writing Life

  1. Great post, Suzanne! Thanks again for the shout-out, and good luck with those agents!

  2. Elaine Richards on June 29, 2016 at 3:23 am said:

    So excited for you to finally get those pages sent! Thanks for reminding me of what I might/could be doing if I weren’t, er, ‘otherwise engaged.’

9 Books That Changed My Life – No, To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t on the List

9 Books That Changed My Life

9 Books That Changed My Life

Let me warn you before you continue reading: To Kill a Mockingbird is not on the list.

My family is full of reluctant readers, avid readers, fanatical readers, anti-readers. We’re a mixture, like society at large. In fact I’m married to a man of action who reads magazines and articles online but not many books.

Books inform my parenting, they impact my marriage, they influence how I relate to my siblings and friends and coworkers. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re much the same.

That’s not to say I follow a manual to operate as a human on a daily basis. My way of being in the world is more influenced by the wisdom of my elders sprinkled with liberal dashes of quotes, ideas,  and anecdotes from trusted books, along with the occasional visual aid. Sometimes, I’m not even sure where I read something but I quote it anyway.

So how do ink, paper and glue actually transform a life?

The following books did one of these things for me:

  1. Instilled a love of the written word or a particular author
  2. Provided insight on human development, including my own
  3. Inspired risk-taking and change (aka living)
  4. Stuck with me

That a made-up story could evoke emotion and temporarily remove me from the everyday turned me into a reader.

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare – I was an 8th grader from a blue collar family, and I was reading Shakespeare. I marveled at the double entendres, luxuriated in the language and understood the humor.  It made me believe I could operate in a world of books, it made me feel legit. Of course,  I came to realize and appreciate that some of the most well-read people, and definitely some of the most intelligent, do not have formal educations.

Anne of the Thousand Days by Maxwell Anderson – That same 8th grade year introduced me to the decadent world of the Tudors, political intrigue, murder, corruption, and told so much about the haves and have nots. This book was about discovery and adventure and betrayal and my own naivete. It shattered the myth of the happy ending.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Also in junior high and the first time I was lost in a thick, epic novel meant for adults. I would rush to finish chores and homework so I could get back to Maggie and her priest. That a made-up story could evoke emotion and temporarily remove me from the everyday turned me into a reader.

It was ok to seek, to question, and that both could be done without yelling

The Shining by Stephen King – The first time I was scared to death by ink on paper. Thrilling, intoxicating, foreboding. One of my favorite Stephen King-isms is that writing and reading are like ESP between the author and the reader. The writer is having these thoughts and then making you, the reader, think about what he wrote. This still gives me chills.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – The first time I saw logic and prose used to discuss something as ephemeral as spirituality. Far from convincing me to be a believer or a non-believer, it taught me that it was ok to seek, to question, and that both could be done without yelling and poster boards.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar  by Cheryl Strayed – Occasionally timing determines impact. This was a cold splash of water at the start of midlife. Life is hard, wah wah wah…GET UP AND DO SOMETHING.

That’s a lot to ask of a story and it made me careful never to dismiss fiction as mere entertainment.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. – Thoughts = Your Reality. My thought patterns were laid bare in this book and I was shocked. Can you say clueless? Less a self-help tome, this is more a call to arms about how we educate our children and perpetuate labels, especially on ourselves. We can substantially improve in anything with the proper mindset. I keep this in the bathroom in case I forget. I read it like I brush my teeth, in furious little bursts.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Another junior high influencer. Golding’s novel about boys inhumanity to one another showed me that a fictional tale could legitimately impact how I as a human interacted with other humans in the real world. The story of these castaways, their crimes, their fears, and their kindnesses, entertained, horrified and made me think. That’s a lot to ask of a story and it made me careful not to dismiss all fiction as mere entertainment; though I’m a big fan of reading for the fun of it.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott– I’ve decided to give the last slot to the first book I read by Anne Lamott. I read this the first time lying on my side, with my post-partum belly lying next to me like a little puppy (to paraphrase from one of my favorite passages). Reading her words slayed me. They made me identify, which is the point of all stories. They taught me about voice. They comforted me. It’s a skinny book and it pulled its weight. Maybe more importantly, this book introduced me to Lamott whose other books were instrumental in claiming the title of writer for myself. For that reason, this edges out a gazillion other novels, memoirs, or self-help books I could have listed.

Books not only changed my life, they inform my parenting, they impact my marriage, they influence how I relate to my siblings and friends and coworkers.

So that’s my list this week. It’s heavy on adolescent touchstones and mid-life signposts. These floated to the surface when I pondered today. If you were to ask me again next week, most likely the list would change.

What’s on your list? Share your life-changing books (include why) and I’ll put your name in a drawing for one of the books listed above or in the comments! But you’ve only got this week to do it. Please feel free to share and encourage others to comment for their chance to win.

P.S. Dirty little secret: I’m not opposed to having To Kill a Mockingbird on anyone’s list. It’s just that I never had to read it in school and I can’t remember if I’ve ever actually read the whole thing! Whew, that feels better. Glad I got that off my chest.

6 Thoughts on “9 Books That Changed My Life – No, To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t on the List

  1. Barbara Armstrong on March 25, 2016 at 7:02 am said:

    My favorite book was, as you know, Gone with the wind! It was my Thornbirds” of the day for me. I rushed home from my blue collar job and was transported to my heritage, and sooo much more. I was learning about how strong a woman could be, how wrong it is to think of only yourself, romance, history, and so much more. All from a novel. You put it soooo well !!!! XOXOXO

  2. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It opened my inner eye, giving me the opportunity to see the reality of my life, not the fabrication I’d created.

  3. Wow, I love this. What great insights! Out of curiosity, have you reread any of these books (other than Mindset, which you mentioned)? Or was one reading enough?

    I think books inform most aspects of my life too. And I definitely agree that fiction is more than just entertainment. Making a list of special books is hard for me, though. I’m not sure why. Maybe because there are too many to remember. LOL. I’ll give this some thought, though!

    • Good question, Jennifer – Yes, I’ve re-read a few of them. Lord of the Flies was assigned to my children and I read along with them. The Shining I go back to every five or six years and just marvel at King’s ability to convey a mood, setting, personality quirk, etc. I’ve given away at least six copies of Tiny Beautiful Things to important people in my life. Just this weekend my son asked to borrow Mindset but I’ve made so many notes in my copy (plus it’s autographed by Dr. Dweck!) that I ran into a bookstore to pick up another for him.

      I agree it’s hard to narrow down the choices so I tend to pick what keeps floating to the surface and these all left indelible marks! Would love to hear yours 🙂

Book Review: Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O’Connor

Murder in an Irish Village jacket

Murder in an Irish Village jacket 

“If Janet Evanovich and Maeve Binchy wrote a book together, Murder in an Irish Village would be the result.” ~ Laurien Berenson, author of Live and Let Growl

I was fortunate to read an early draft of Murder in an Irish Village,and despite a busy schedule, finished it in a day and a half. If you love mysteries with heart, humor, and a world you can get lost in, you’ll look forward to the next installment of the series. 

Carlene O'Connor headsho

First-time mystery author Carlene O’Connor shares her love of storytelling and an affinity for the Irish countryside in Murder in an Irish Village (Kensington Books, 2016), the first in a planned series featuring Siobhan and her raucous, engaging brothers and sisters.

The fiery redhead navigates guardianship of her siblings and a hint of romance with a local police officer while trying to carve out a semblance of normalcy for herself in her home village of Kilbane, County Cork.


Niall brought his face close to hers. She stood her ground despite desperately wanting to back away from him.

She’d never seen such a look in anyone’s eyes before. It was as if he was pleading with her and threatening her at the same time. Like a wounded animal you feared would tear into you the minute you stepped in to help. She was trapped.

“I need ten thousand euro.” Niall inched even closer.

They barely had a thousand euro in the bank. Not that it mattered. She wouldn’t give Niall Murphy the lint from her pocket.

Siobhan O’Sullivan is doing the best she can. Barely a year has passed since her parents died in a car accident, leaving her to run the family bistro and look after the rest of the O’Sullivan Six. James, the oldest brother, is only a few months sober and their four younger siblings depend on them for just about everything.

When they wake to find a man sitting in their bistro dining room with a pair of scissors sticking out of his chest, the future of the restaurant is as unsure as their own. Siobhan has already sacrificed her scholarship to Trinity College and now risks her own safety to help track down the killer, protect her siblings, and keep the doors of Naomi’s Bistro open.

O’Connor has created an enchanting village filled with colorful locals, each with their own distinct roles to play. The engaging characters include Siobhan’s siblings who add warmth, laughs, and more than their own slew of problems to her already burdened shoulders. Amateur sleuth Siobhan faces these challenges with believable determination, a fiery wit, and more than a hint of charisma.

The fictional town of Kilbane is rendered in breathtaking brushstrokes of blue skies, rolling green hills, historic ruins, and the authentic dialogue of its inhabitants. Carlene O’Connor writes with humor, an obvious love of her chosen setting, and a deft hand at plotting. She strikes just the right balance between a fully fleshed out world and brisk pacing.

Readers and armchair sleuths will find solving this crime challenging. Luckily, they’ll enjoy the journey as they meander the lanes and fields of this walled village, and will eagerly await the next adventure of the O’Sullivan Six.

For more information on author Carlene O’Connor, you can read my interview with the author here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and her website.

2 Thoughts on “Book Review: Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O’Connor

  1. Kim Samudio on February 26, 2016 at 2:27 pm said:

    I wanted to read this as soon as I saw the reference “heart, humor and a world you can get lost in”, especially if that world is the Irish countryside! Great review, love the details – I will be reading soon!

Interview: Lene Fogelberg, Author of ‘Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir’

Lene Fogelberg

Lene Fogelberg

I met debut author Lene Fogelberg on Twitter. If you’re an emerging writer and you haven’t found Twitter yet, I recommend checking it out. I’m thrilled to host Lene on her publication day! Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir (She Writes Press, September 2015) is available through all major outlets.

Lene Fogelberg grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of her native Sweden. She lived a fragile physical existence with an undetected, and therefore untreated, fatal congenital heart condition. A dangerous and daring move to the United States takes its toll on her health but also provides the keys to her survival. Beautiful Affliction is a lyrical blend of literal heartache, love, and perseverance. The full review of Fogelberg’s debut memoir can be found here. She currently lives in Indonesia with her husband and daughters, and is working on a novel.

Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir by Lene Fogelberg

Congratulations on the success with your first book! How did you decide to take on the project and can you share your experience looking for an agent/publisher? What’s surprised you the most about the road to publication?

Thank you! I am very excited to see my story in print and to share it with the world. It was a difficult decision to come to, but I am happy I have reached this place of my journey. I think my story is unique in that many people who have experienced something similar did not live to tell their story, so I feel some sort of responsibility to speak up.

Being a Swede, living in Asia, the whole American system with agents seemed like a crazy jungle to me. Nevertheless I dove into it and made some great connections. I sent letters all over the place and contacted everyone who seemed nice. That is how, four months into it, I had three contracts from publishers in my inbox, and two agents considering my manuscript. But Brooke Warner and She Writes Press blew me away, with their gorgeous books and professionalism, and as soon as Brooke sent me an e-mail telling me that she wanted to move forward with my book for publication, I did my happy dance and accepted.

I have been surprised many times, by different aspects of the road to publication. Now I feel like I really didn’t know much when I started out! But I am happy I persevered and I have been trying to learn and adapt along the way.

How did you decide on the title and who designed the beautiful cover?

Originally I wrote the book with the working title The Cicadas, but my publisher wanted to change it. We came up with at least fifty titles before I spent a whole weekend soul searching to find the core of my story. And suddenly it came to me: Beautiful Affliction, which captures the two sides of my story; the struggle, the fear and the pain, and also the beauty, the unbending love and the miracle of it.

Cover designer Julie Metz, who is also an author, designed the cover and I am tremendously happy with it. I think the cover captures my story perfectly, although I have to confess I was a little shocked initially. I love the torn paper heart, the stitches and the random letters in italics, reminiscent of an irregular heartbeat. The irregular letters are featured throughout the book, which ties it all together wonderfully I think.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing the book for you? Do you love outlining, revising, or is the first draft your sweet spot?

The most difficult aspect was living it. And after that I was just so grateful to be alive, I didn’t think for a second I would write my story, or that I could write it. Not until three years after my heart surgeries, and after we had moved back to Sweden from the US, did the thought take hold, that maybe I should try to write it down. But when I started writing, it all sort of came out, and once I started it just had to be written. We moved to Indonesia in the middle of the writing process and a big portion of the book was written in hotel rooms and temporary housing in Jakarta, when all our things were shipped in a container and we lived out of suitcases. I had my family, my laptop and some clothes, but that was all I needed. I wrote and cried and figured out something to eat for my family, basically, for weeks and weeks. It was like a writing retreat!

We know once you release a story into the world, the reader makes it their own. What would you most hope readers take away from Beautiful Affliction?

I hope to share a sense of awe for life, for the miracle that it really is, and the beauty that can be found in unlikely places, as well as the beautiful pattern our lives can shape, even though when we are in the middle of it, it might seem like a huge mess.

Life of Pi

What well-known author would you choose as a mentor if you could? Along the same lines, what book (fiction or non-fiction) has most greatly influenced your life?

I would love to discuss writing with Yann Martel. I found his book Life of Pi in a corner of a bookshop, only its spine visible on the shelf, and two or three copies of it. This was before it was everywhere, and long before the movie. I pulled it out, read the book description and knew immediately it would be magical. I just fell in love with it and it’s one of the books I have given most thought to, even long after I finished reading it.

Do you have a regular writing practice?  How do you fit writing into your life as a parent, wife, etc.? Any writing rituals, favorite pen, chair, or beverage . . .

I usually write when my girls are in school. If I am in the middle of something and get hit by an idea, I can be seen running back to the laptop for the rest of the day, but mostly I try to fit my writing into the school day schedule so I can be there for my family in the afternoons and evenings.  I always write directly into a document on my laptop and I listen to music, from classical piano, to Coldplay, and everything in between. My girls are great at suggesting new music.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel that takes place here in Jakarta. It is a hilarious and heart-breaking story where I combine the ancient myths of Java with modern society and where East meets West. The first draft is basically finished.

Any favorite reads you’re looking forward to or have enjoyed this year?

I am looking forward to fellow She Writes Press authors getting published this fall; I have a huge pile of books to read!

As a debut author, what is the best advice you received? Any advice you didn’t act on?

At some point I heard about a study, where they tried to get to the bottom of why certain people were successful, and what they supposedly found out was that successful people had a common habit of actively seeking out advice from people who were ahead of them in their profession. This has stuck with me, and I have sought advice from coaches and editors, and it has made a world of difference to me. I have learned so much and I love that feeling; of growing, of learning. So the best advice I got was from that study, to not merely accept advice, but to seek it out from people you admire and to act on it.

Get to know Lene:

Favorite scent?

Lavender, Frangipani flowers and Balinese incense.

Favorite indulgence food?

Swedish cinnamon rolls that remind me of my childhood, and apple pie, for the same reason.

What’s your go-to splurge item?

Handbags, beautiful coffee table books, and handicrafts such as Indonesian carved wood elephants (I have five).

Favorite song to sing out loud?

“Human” by The Killers: “…my sign is vital, my hands are cold, and I’m on my knees, looking for the answer, are we human, or are we dancer…”

A celebrity you’re dying to meet?

Oprah of course!

Most important holiday tradition?

The traditional Swedish way of holding hands, singing Christmas carols and dancing around the Christmas tree has been expanded in our family to dancing through the whole house. Our kids make sure we dance through every room, before we are done.

Divulge one: bad habit or secret phobia

I have a secret spider phobia, well perhaps not so secret to my husband, who has to catch the spiders! Here in Indonesia we have spiders as big as the palm of my hand. Within seconds of entering a room I have scanned the floor and every wall for spiders.

If you could go pro in any field (other than writing), what would you choose?

Artist. I loved to paint big paintings and even sold some through a gallery. But eventually I got breathless and exhausted while painting and I had to give it up. It became too hard to hold up the brush to the canvas, it sounds crazy, but that’s how weak I was because of my undetected congenital heart disease.

Lene’s Top 3 Commandments for a happy life?

Things will work out (and if they don’t, you’ll be ok anyway)

Communicate! (People can’t read your mind)

Show kindness (everyone is fighting a hard battle)

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Last but not least, any tips for beginning writers?

Seek advice and feedback on your writing from the best sources you can find and read a lot of different books. There is always something to be learned from every kind of book, just as there is always something you can learn from every person you meet.

You can find out all about Lene on her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Check out this wise and inspiring interview from award-winning author Marly Youmans.


3 Thoughts on “Interview: Lene Fogelberg, Author of ‘Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir’

  1. Yes! That was great advices for all of us, not just authors/writers! …”to seek it out”…. I especially liked that one. Very interesting interview, thank you!

  2. Pingback: Publication Day! - Lene Fogelberg

You’re Asking the Wrong Questions

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman

How do you know when you’re done with a story?

I may be the only professed Avid Reader (yes, in all caps) to have no physical memory of devouring To Kill a Mockingbird. With the publishing world atwitter at the release of Go Set a Watchman, both novels are making headlines again.

On returning from a 3-day writing retreat last night, I was excited to dig into my latest issue of Entertainment Weekly with X-Men Apocalypse on the cover and my favorite sections–The Must List and, of course, the book reviews.

X-Men Apocalypse

Several days of intense workshops, emotional sharing and connecting with other writers had me a little wrung out and some light reading for fun was just the thing I needed. I grabbed a wine cooler, Jamaican Me Crazy, and plopped on the chaise lounge under our giant Silver Maple in the back yard.

Sidenote: Should my husband and I ever divorce, it will be due to whiskers (I hope they’re whiskers) in the bathroom sink or too many cinematic iterations of the X-Men. I am so sick of this franchise.

When I eventually reached the Books section, Reviewer Tina Jordan had the following to say about To Kill a Mockingbird which was originally carved from the larger manuscript that became Lee’s new novel:

“Lee’s formidable editor, Tay Hohoff, read the manuscript and said something along the lines of ‘The flashback scenes, where Scout is a  young girl? That’s your novel. Forget the Jean Louise stuff.’ Hohoff spent years coaxing these bursts of genius into a very different book. That kind of artistic nurturing has all but disappeared from publishing.”

To Kill a Mockingbird

My reaction was maybe the illustrious editor coaxed  To Kill a Mockingbird out of Lee, but maybe it wasn’t the story she wanted to tell.

Not 24 hours earlier, I was standing in the oak-paneled living room of Ragdale House with our teacher for the weekend, Author Patricia McNair. We were discussing a flash fiction story I’d shared during the group readings that evening. With a few other writers, we talked about MFA programs, students, how to get to the meat of a story, etc.

I wanted to know if I’d done the story right. Did I pull it off? What I really wanted was for the teacher to tell me “Yes,  you did a flash fiction piece correctly. You may now submit this because it is done.” Not…going….to….happen.

I do not know the history of Harper Lee’s relationship with her editor. It’s possible, after her editor was finished with the manuscript for To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee lay prostrate at his/her feet thanking the editor for coaxing exactly the book she was hoping to write. Though the review referenced here for the second novel refers to it as being “all about the money,” Lee’s first novel is revered.

If we believe all the author acknowledgments in all the novels on bookstore shelves, writers love their editors. Editors are an invaluable resource to writers, but writers have to write their story. I write my story. Harper Lee wrote her story. You write your story.

Often, we’re asking the wrong questions as writers. We’re asking, “how do I do it?” or “what do I need to do to get it published?”. I was asking the wrong question about my flash fiction piece and maybe a lot of my writing.

Patty suggested writers ask themselves: Does this say what I want it to say? Does it convey the mood, the character, the sense of a place I was going for . . . and if not, why not? What if my character tried this instead? Are there paths I haven’t explored?

Ragdale House photo by www.Ragdale.org

Ragdale House: A whole separate post for this!

Constantly seeking feedback, or feedback from the wrong people, can do our stories more harm than good. If we’re lucky enough to have a mentor or access to professional editing, we would be foolish not to take advantage. But we have to trust our own voice and commit to working with a piece until we have said what we wanted to say.

This takes practice and perseverance. If the days of “artistic nurturing” are gone from publishing, we’ll just have to nurture ourselves.

How do you approach rewriting your stories? How do you know when you are done? How do you nurture your writing life? Am I the only one who can’t remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird?



Comments are closed.

What We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer

open books Chicago

Open-Books author event

Wine and Books, Books and Wine. Beautiful words together or apart. I’m thrilled to be part of

“What We Can’t Wait to Read this Summer”

wine & books night @Open Books

Think of an “Ultimate” book club where four Chicago authors (Suzanne Brazil, Sara Connell, James Kennedy, Ross Ritchell) will share their “Top List” for summer reading followed by wine, light snacks and discussion/mingling with the authors.  The event is being hosted by Open Books (Awesome new West Loop Space).

open books Chicago

Bring a friend or group and join us for an inspiring and entertaining evening celebrating books, summer reading and our obsession with a great story!

The event is open to the public, to register, call or email:

tel  312.475.1355


Event is free. Wednesday July 1st6:00-8:00PM

2 Thoughts on “What We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer

  1. Sounds fun!! Sadly Chicago is too far for my little stumpy legs to manage. 😉 Good luck with it though, Suzanne! <3

    Lazy Hedgehog x

Are YOU Facehooked®?


Check out my book review of ‘Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships and Lives’ by Dr. Suzana E. Flores.  You can find it on Blogcritics.org or at the Seattle Post Intelligencer!FACEHOOKEDeCover

Check back soon for an interview with the author on the project’s origins and her advice to aspiring authors!


Comments are closed.