One Writer’s Journey

September 4, 2017

Labor Day: Taking time to recharge

I hope everyone is enjoying Labor Day weekend.  No parades for us.

The boys have the weekend off so we spent a few days in the country.  Spending time away from the city is a good thing.  It reminds me that not everyone has access to wi-fi 24/7 and some people living place with patching to non-existent cell service.  Yes, indeed.  There are places in Missouri without reliable cell service.  We call them mountains and while they don’t rival the Rockies they do block a cell signal especially when all of the trees are leafed out.

When you living in the city, you tend to think of highways as 4 to 8 lines, divided, and, of course, paved.  We drove highway DD Sunday.  Two lanes in the wide places and no center stripe because a large portion is unpaved.

But I saw an amazing cow.  I think it might be a longhorn and she had the cutest calf.  The photo isn’t great but all we had handy were our phones.  The white blob is the cow.  The little brown and white spot behind that?  The calf.

Take some time off every now and again and explore somewhere you’ve never been.  It doesn’t have to be far from home.  It just has to be a new experience.  You never know how these things might find their way into your writing.  And even if they don’t, you’ve taken a day or three off to refuel.




November 25, 2016

Holiday Writing: Do You or Don’t You

pumpkin-pie-1041330_1280With Thanksgiving behind us we are heading hard and fast into the holiday season.  Decorating. Shopping. Events and more.  How does a writer find the time to write?

For some of us it isn’t entirely a choice.  This is how I keep the lights on.  I like electricity and water and all the other utilities and food is amazing too.  Since none of this is free, I have to work.  In the past three days I have agreed to write another series book for Red Line. It isn’t nearly as long as the majority of the books that I’ve written for them so I suspect that it will be due before Christmas.  I also just received a rewrite request from e-future in Korea for the early reader that I sent them.  I write to pay the bills and I also write because I have editors who want my work, but even if you are still trying to break in you should keep writing too.  Here are a few tips.

  1.  Decide to write.  I know it sounds goofy but step 1 really is making the decision to do it.  And thinking “I’ll write if I can find the time” is not what I mean.  Decide that you will write.  Set specific goals.
  2. Be realistic.  This is a busy time of year so be realistic about what you can get done.  You may not be able to draft a chapter but what about a page or two?
  3. Train your family.  It may not be easy but if someone interrupts you, send them on their merry way.  Seriously.  My son learned early on that he could come get me “if it is on fire, has stopped breathing or is bleeding.”  Of course that means he didn’t come get me when he knocked the mirror off the wall but no system is perfect.
  4. Do the holiday thing.  Don’t pass over the holiday fun.  After you’ve given yourself time to write, celebrate.  You need to recharge your creative batteries!

Now that I’ve met my writing goal, you’ll have to excuse me. There is Thanksgiving dessert with my name on it.


May 31, 2016

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:52 am
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Eagle close up

Photo by my son, Jared.

I hope that you plan to take some time off today since it is, at least in the US, Memorial Day.  I’ve been keeping up a ferocious work schedule so I’ll be spending some time with my family today.  That said, I had to tell an editor “no, I can’t have it ready that soon” to get this time off.

When an editor comes to you with a request, you don’t have to say YES to it as is.  I have writer friends who have asked for more pay.  I’ve refused to hand over certain rights. I’ve also asked for deadline extensions.  The funny thing?  When I ask for a bit more time, the editor generally gives me more than I requested.  Fine.  I’ll take it!

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend another day off with my family.



May 6, 2016

Deadlines Dead Ahead: Don’t Forget to take a break and recharge

air plants 2As you read this, I am most likely at the doctor’s office with my Dad.  That was the plan long before I had three deadlines on the calendar (picture book, nonfiction chapter, nonfiction outline).  To put it mildly, days like this are interesting.

Some people deal with these kinds of days by putting their butt in the desk chair and not getting up until they’re done.  Yeah, I’m not really one of those people.  The picture book and the chapter were largely done.  That just meant fine tuning them.  The outline was rough and by rough I mean frightening.  I’d work for a half hour or so but then I’d need a break because I had a problem that I had to consider.


As you may already know, I like to make things.  I like to work with my hands and have something at the end of it.  Earlier this week, I got a package with 18 air plants.  That’s more than they were supposed to send so I wasn’t really ready for them.  My solution was to hang the plants in wine glasses.

That means that my work day looks something like this —

8:30 – 9:00 rewrite 3 spreads.

9:00 – 9:10 cut the string for a holder

9:10 – 9:45 finish rewriting the picture book

9:45 – 10:00 start tying knots and stringing beads

10:00 – 10:30 outline two chapters and so on

This might not the best way for you to work.  Maybe your a butt in chair kind of person, but I’ve learned that butt in chair doesn’t work for me.  If I know I’m going to be there for 90 minutes, I can afford to goof off.  I know, I know.  Self-defeating.  But if I’m only in the chair for 20 or 30 minutes, I better get my butt in gear.

And those breaks?  I get to do something that helps me recharge my creative batteries.  In the long run, I’m much more productive when I take the time to creatively goof off.  What works best for you?


February 12, 2016

Color our collections

CFriday Funonsider this a Friday Fun post.  The first week of February was “Color Our Collections,” a time when many libraries and museums made PDFs of various parts of their collections available for download.  Although the event itself is technically over, the PDFs are still available.  The variety is amazing.

I love the selection from the Biodiversity Heritage Library with its bones, plants, flowers and wings.

There’s also the Harvard History of Medicine coloring book which includes a phrenological diagram was well as a Chinese surgical etching.

James Madison University digitized a selection of children’s illustrations including pieces from various Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

Marquette University Libraries selected a series of book plates that are amazingly detailed.  They aren’t round but remind me of mandala in their intricacy.

The American Philisophical Society chose pieces that range from fairy tales to fashion plates.

Monroe Library at Loyola transformed over 30 bird illustrations by John Gould into black and white.

If you love historic etchings, check out the Penmanship Coloring Book produced by the University of Scranton.

Obviously, I could go on and on.  To find these materials you can start with this article at Open Culture.  You can also Google “Color Our Collections,” but if you do be prepared to spend some serious time clicking on links, downloading images and coloring, coloring and coloring some more.




December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:06 am
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Grandma Bradford's Christmas Angels.

Grandma Bradford’s Christmas Angels.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!   To those of you who celebrate, I hope you are having a peaceful and love filled day.

My son has been off school all week and goes back next week.  Although I’m blogging and reading for my next project, I doubt that I’ll get much else done but that’s okay.  We all need down times so that we have experiences about which to write and the energy to do it.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I know the house will be full of boys at least twice but probably more often than that.  They’ll inspire me in many ways, which is fortunate, but I’ll also have to feed them!  As grandma would say, they eat like a mess of field hands.

I hope you all get to spend some time with the field hands, boys and loved ones in your life.  Read, play games, cook, do whatever recharges you and readies you to write.

That way you’ll be ready to get to it in 2015.


September 1, 2014

Labor Day: Taking a Break

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am
Tags: , ,

Tools that you needAre you working today or taking the day off?  Ironic though it may seem, I’m taking Labor Day off — more or less.  My husband is home from work and my son has the day off school.  We were going to drop a new bed into our pick up.  It is a 1964 with a wooden bed, but before we can put the boards in place, we have to oil them.  Storms are predicted for today and our humidity is as high as usual.  We have two choices — fight the fact that the oil won’t dry under these conditions or do something else.

What does this have to do with writing?  Sometimes you don’t have what you need to make a piece work. There may be a reading that hasn’t come into the library yet.  Or there might be a plot point that you need to work through, but you believe that you have to write every day.  It’s what real writers do.  So instead of taking the time to get the materials together or puzzle through a problem, we sit at the computer and beat ourselves up.

I’m giving you permission to make a choice.  Struggle to get something done even though conditions aren’t favorable or go do something else.  This something else might be to read an industry publication, find a new market for a story that is ready to go, or take a walk and think about that plot problem.  The choice is yours.

Do a good job later or do a rotten job now.

Me?  I’m going to the movies with my boys.  Then we’re going to rearrange a few things in the family room.  We are not going to touch the pick up, not today.



March 26, 2014


ReenergizeRecently, Margo Dill posted about how stressed she was because her book was launching, thus the launch party was this week, her daughter was sick and their house had finally sold.  “How,” she asked, “do you deal with the stress?”  Everyone gamely offered up suggestions.  In horror, I read “Get your husband to take you out for dinner…”  No!   Don’t go out.  You’re already stressed.

Sorry.  That’s just the introvert in my raging at being drug out with people when I’m already maxed out.

The first step to reenergizing?  Figuring out if you’re an extrovert (I actually live with one) or an introvert (me, me, pick me!).  Warning, you can genuinely like people sometimes and still be an introvert.  An extrovert can be quiet.  To decide which you are, look at where you get your energy.  As much as I like being around people, I am truly an introvert.  When I’ve had enough . . . let’s just say that enough is enough.

My methods to recharge probably only work for introverts.  Do something nurturing and quiet.  For me, this can mean knitting while I listen to music or an audio book.  Or I walk on the treadmill and read a book.  But my absolute favorite?

Pajama Day.

Pajama Day is pretty simple.  You spend the day in your pajamas.  You don’t do things that you have to do.  You do things that you want to do.  You don’t have to stay unplugged all day, but start the day that way.  Do not check your e-mail.  Do not go over your manuscript one last time.  That query letter?  Back away!

I generally lay claim to the sofa in the living room.  It’s long enough to stretch out on, the cushions can be rearranged for maximum comfort and there’s no TV.  It is also a supremely sunny room, bright and cheery.

My next pajama day is scheduled for April 5th.  If you drop by that morning, I will be in my pajamas.

For more on how to deal with the stress of writing and life, see my post today at the Muffin.


February 17, 2014

President’s Day

PresidentsHappy President’s Day!  In spite of the many snow days we’ve had this winter, my son has the day off so we’ll be spending some time together today.  Why?  Because we all need to take the time to recharge our batteries.

One of the ways that I like to do this is by reading great books.  With that in mind, why not pick up one of these books about a US President?

  • The Many Faces of George Washington by Carla Killough McClafferty shows us why we need current source materials to show the latest and greatest information that is available about these and other people.
  • What To Do About Alice by Barbara Kerley isn’t exactly about Teddy Roosevelt but it does give you a good idea what it was like to grow up in the Roosevelt household.
  • The House that George Built by Suzanne Slade gives us a inside look at building the White House and laying down the ground work for future presidents and it is done in a House That Jack Built rhyme.
  • You’re On Your Way Teddy Roosevelt by Judith St. George has always been a favorite because it introduces us to a side of this rough and tumble President that few people today remember.

If you have a favorite I didn’t include, be sure to tell the rest of us in the comments below.



January 9, 2012

BIC or Take a Day Off?

What do you do when you hit a writing wall?  Do you advocate BIC (butt in chair)? Or do you take a day off?

I make my living as a writer, so I write almost every day.  But sometimes I come upon a day where the words simply will not flow.  Do I keep my butt in that chair?  Sometimes.

Other days — I take a Pajama Day.    See my post on the Muffin to find out just how wearing my pajamas can pull me out of a writing funk.


P.S.  I’ll write about my goals for the week tomorrow.

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