Tag Archives: novelist Sue Harrison

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – Part 26: One More Time – Second Draft

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-six:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 26: One More Time – Second Draft

You’ve just accomplished something that few people ever do. You’ve finished the First Draft of your novel. You’ve written it down on paper, or it’s on your computer, or floating around on The Cloud somewhere. I hope you treated yourself to a wonderful celebration.

I also hope you’ve completed that celebration, because the Second Draft looms large.

In my experience, the Second Draft is always easier than the First Draft; however, I’ve also found that each Second Draft turns out to be more difficult than I thought it would be.

Here’s why. When I complete the First Draft, I envision my novel as an amazing work of literature. I’m at the top of my form. I can hear the critics’ applause. Then I begin the Second Draft. The first chapter usually goes very well. Second, not quite so well. By the end of the third chapter, I’m winded. In the fourth, I’m horrified. This novel is NOT amazing. It’s not even CLOSE to amazing. Oh, rats, oh rubbish. The critics will boo and hiss. Oh my poor, poor readers — I’ve let them down eternally. *Sigh* *Whimper*

You get the picture. It’s not the rewriting that’s so tough. It’s the discouragement. I’m not perfect, and, far worse, neither is my novel.

I wallow in self-pity for an hour or two. Then I raid the cupboards for something fattening, and I eat it.

candies

 

 

 

Then I decide that none of that has helped my ego or the novel, so I do the brave thing. I go back and attack the Second Draft not as the wimp that I am, but as the warrior I intend to become, which means I don’t do the easy stuff. I don’t worry about typos, spelling, or even research. Second Draft is all about “major repairs.” I concentrate on two  areas — point-of-view-character development and plotline. I work chapter by chapter, and, within each chapter, I work scene by scene.

I ask myself these two questions:

1. Does this chapter or scene advance my plot onward and upward toward that far off eventual climax? If not, I chart out a quick outline of what I need to do to make the plot work.

2. Do my characters’ actions illustrate what the reader will eventually discover about those characters regarding their motivations,  emotional baggage, needs, and abilities?

Then I rewrite the scene or the chapter.

Over the years, I’ve adopted a “Second Draft coping mechanism.” During Second Draft, I seldom skip backwards within the novel to make minor changes in earlier chapters simply because in Chapter Forty-Seven or Chapter Sixty-Two I decided to add some odd little quirk. I leave myself a note within the manuscript. For example, [“Sue, go back and give Jorn unusually large hands.”] I do the same thing with areas that need more research. [“Sue, look up Eastern European elm trees — shape of leaves.”]

I’ve found that if I go backwards in the manuscript during the Second Draft to make minor changes, I tend to get caught in a loop, and I keep rewriting the same few chapters over and over again, because it’s easier than going on with the remainder of the novel to address plotline failures and weak characterization.

Yes, as I write the Second Draft, I’ll rearrange my words, shorten or lengthen descriptive passages, and sometimes throw in new scenes or new minor characters. Sometimes even a whole new chapter. Nonetheless, in my novels, Second Draft is all about admitting and correcting imperfections on the “big screen” of plot and characterization.

Question for you: Do you write your first draft by hand, record it as an “audible,” or do you work on a typewriter or  a computer? (There’s no wrong answer on this. Every writer should do what is comfortable for him or her. I’m just curious.)

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back April 23, 2015, for part 27.

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 25: The End

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-five:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 25: The End

You’ve worked so hard writing the first draft of your novel, and finally, finally, there you are — one last chapter left to go. After a marathon that has required every ounce of your strength and endurance, you can see the finish line.

You gulp in a deep breath, and, on a huge burst of adrenalin, you tie up remaining threads of the plot and proudly type those two words you have been striving toward throughout the whole, long process:

THE END

TaDa!! Celebrate!!

InflatableBalloons

I hate to burst your balloons, but, before you celebrate, you need to answer a few questions. If you answer “yes,” then you really have finished your first draft. If you answer “no,” you need to go back and work on those last few chapters. Groan!

Don’t get discouraged. Even if you need to rewrite, you can handle it. After all, you’ve already written hundreds of pages. This will be easy-peasy. Well, almost easy-peasy.

Let’s dive into those Before-You-Celebrate questions:

1. Last month we talked about the climax of your novel. Does your final page take place only a chapter or two after the climax?  Yes? Then hooray! If not,  you may need to shorten this after-climax portion. You risk losing your readers’ attention if you prolong the unwinding that occurs after the novel’s emotional high.

2. In your excitement at nearing the end of your novel, have you continued to show your scenes rather than tell them to the reader? It’s so tempting to rush through that last chapter.

3. Did you avoid the classic error of allowing one of your characters to indulge in a long-winded monologue to tie up any loose ends? Good! Then celebrate. If not, rewrite so that some of the information is doled out in a short scene or two, and any necessary monologue is brief!

4. And by the way, did you tie up all those loose ends? If you are planning a sequel, then a few loose ends are fine! If not, you need to weave them into the natural progression and outcome of your storyline.

5. Did you refuse to end your novel with a “Deus ex machina” scene? In ancient Greek plays, the endings were often based around a Greek god coming down in a “machine” (a basket hooked to a pulley system) to “magic” away all the problems. Don’t allow a contrived ending to spoil your previous hard work.

All right. Now, are all your answers YES? Hooray!! Then Celebrate! (And next month, we’ll talk about second drafts. Mwahahaha….)

Tell me about your first draft experience. Do you enjoy writing first drafts or is that the most difficult part of the process for you?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back March 26, 2015 for part 26.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 24: Way up High in the Sky

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-four:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 24: Way up High in the Sky

When my husband graduated from college, we decided to celebrate with a trip to the Rocky Mountains. As we drove west across the plains, we scanned the edge of the horizon for those fabled peaks, but mile after mile, no matter how carefully we looked, we couldn’t see any mountains. We did notice a hazy jagged band of white clouds, but we ignored them, until we finally realized that they weren’t clouds at all. They were the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies, not at the horizon as we had envisioned, but way up high in the sky. We were amazed!

800px-Mount_Massive (Photo by Rick Kimpel Jr., Common Domain)

As you know, mountain peaks and valleys are often used as a metaphor for the plot line of a story. When your readers approach the high climax of your novel, you want them to catch that same feeling of awe that Neil and I experienced when we first saw the Rocky Mountains. From chapter one, page one, you have guided your readers toward a moment of emotional intensity: joy or heartache or amazement or happiness or fulfillment. Carrying your readers to that high level requires a bit of magic beyond my ability to explain, but I hope the following tips help as you work to achieve that goal.

1. Your reader will not be lifted to a climactic level of emotion unless the character they love most or hate most is experiencing a similar emotional high or emotional release.

2. You need to ramp up the intensity of your novel through the rhythm of your words and the length of your sentences and paragraphs. (You might want to review Writing the Third Dimension #18, Tension.)

3. For the primary climax of  your novel, you should narrow your focus to the main plot line and the main characters.

4. The climax is not something tacked on or patched in, it’s the natural fulfillment of the plot line.

5.  And of course, you show, don’t tell. Nothing breaks the rise of emotion like a short, pat sentence as a substitute for action. “He released his anger.” “She would love him forever.” “The butler did it.”  ARGH! NO! Don’t tell me. Give me an action scene. Please…

I’ve had two very separate experiences when writing the climax of a novel. Usually, the words just flow, and the first draft, although not perfect, is better than I had hoped. But sometimes I have to write the climax again and again and again. How do I know when it’s right? It makes me smile, and it makes me cry. What better place for a writer to be than way up high in the sky, standing on top of the world, ready to give his or her readers the gift of tears, the gift of a smile?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back February 26, 2015, for part 25.

Sue Harrison: “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 23: Books, Books, Books!

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue.

** Note: Last year we took a break from WTTD in December, but this year Sue has prepared a special post which is up a week early to give you time to shop. Therefore, there is no post from Sue on December 25, the fourth Thursday of this month.

Now for the topic for month twenty-three:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 23:  Books, Books, Books!

To celebrate the busy, happy, and frantic holiday season, my 2014 Christmas card to you is a very short post about the question I’m asked most frequently by new writers.

The Question: What’s the one most important thing I can do to help develop my writing skills?

The Answer: Read!

booksSo, during this holiday season, which for me means a Christmas celebration and for many others means Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or even December birthdays, my suggestion is to give books — to others and to yourself! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Birthday, and Happy New Year!

Strength to your pen!

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back January 22, 2015 for part 24!

PS: If you need some book suggestions please check out my BUY THE BOOK! page, and my BOOK REVIEWS page.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – Part 22: Flying – By the Seat of Your Pants

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-two:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 22: Flying – By the Seat of Your Pants

My husband and I have major differences when it comes to attacking a project. He’s the plan-and-research guy. I’m the gal who starts right away and screeches to a halt in the middle of the mess to realize that I don’t know where I am or how I got there.

In the world of book-writing, these two approaches are generally labeled as Planner (or Plotter) versus Pantster. Pantster refers to”flying by the seat of your pants.” I’m a Planner with my research, which I define, lay out, and adamantly pursue. I also get to know my characters very well before I write their “stories.” However, when it comes to writing the story, I’m pretty much a Pantster. I love the creativity and freedom writing as a Pantster engenders.

IMG_05431(I AM glad my husband is a Planner, because he is also a pilot, and I DO NOT want my pilot to fly by the seat of his pants!)

If you are a Planner, you’re probably doing just fine with your first draft. You’re following your outline and you’re staying on track.

If you are, like me, a Pantster, you may have followed your creative urges and pushed your novel into an entirely different – or new and improved – plotline. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it may include painting yourself into a corner. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve spent a lot of time in that corner!

Experience has taught me a few tricks about agilely exiting from corners without ruining a great paint job (i.e., your new and improved plot line.)

1. Don’t get discouraged. Writing is hard work, especially first and second draft writing. Everyone needs to reread and edit, even Planners.

2. If you’re stuck, go back to the beginning of your novel and read what you’ve written. As you read, jot down the ideas, main characters, and developments in each chapter. Use only a few sentences per chapter.

3. When a chapter veers off in strange, unproductive directions (It doesn’t advance the plot.), note that, but don’t stop to rewrite at this point.

4. Read until you think your novel has reached the “Great Desert of Hopelessness.”

5. Stop.

6. Contemplate. Where do you want to go? If you don’t have the end of your novel rattling around in your head somewhere, this is the time to formulate your last chapter.

7. Write the last chapter. You will likely change this, but for now, in this painted-into-the-corner moment, it gives you a goal.

8. Again start at the beginning of your novel, and this time jot down any “travel” notes beside your chapter notes. How do you need to change this chapter to eventually arrive at your last chapter?

9. Rewrite. Don’t spend a lot of angst on wording or those bits of minor research you haven’t completed. You’ll have time for that later. Now is when you get the plot back on track. Don’t be afraid to cut bad chapters or rotten paragraphs.

10. When you’ve finished rewriting to your satisfaction, jot down where you’re going with the next series of chapters. I know that sounds like Planning, but it’s really only Reminding.

If you’re like me, you may need to repeat these steps more than once during the first draft, but it’s worth the effort! Keep writing!

Question for you: Are you a Planner or a Pantster? (Not only with writing, but in life, too!)

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back December 18, 2014, for part 23. (Note the change in schedule for that month due to Christmas.)

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 21: the Dreaded Pace Plague

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-one:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 21: The Dreaded Pace Plague

Last month we talked about decreasing the tension at certain points in your novel or your story (See # 20. Down, Down, Down) We included the unavoidable tension-easers like page breaks and the ends of chapters, and the scripted, necessary tension-easers that keep the readers “in” the story by varying the pace of the action.

IMG_1426Photograph Copyright 2002, Neil Harrison.

Today, we’ll discuss those tension easers that are NOT wanted. Most of these are self-explanatory and easily corrected if the writer is watchful. Here’s my list:

1. A difficult word or name.

If you’ve read my Alaska novels, you know that I’m incredibly guilty in this area. Most of the names of my main characters in these novels are Native words. I was aware of the negative aspect of this choice, but I decided the authenticity was worth it. Maybe I was right or maybe I was wrong, but if you elect to use difficult names or words be sure you weigh the consequences. They do slow the reader down.

2. A poorly constructed sentence.

One of the best ways to catch these in your writing — besides having a good editor — is to be sure one of your rewrites is verbal. When you stumble over your own sentence, you know it needs tweaking.

3. The author tells the story instead of showing it through the character’s eyes.

I could write a book about this one, so to shorten things up, I’ll just refer you to post #6 in this series, “20/20.”

4. Typos and grammatical errors.

A last careful rewrite, which I’ll discuss in a future post, is essential to eliminate this problem. Nonetheless, a few mistakes will still creep in. Most readers will tolerate those few.

5. Long passages of description.

Today’s readers prefer to have description offered in small doses. Cut, cut, cut! You’ll be able to give the same information via the more pace-friendly method of using a sentence on one page and two sentences on another, a phrase here and there.

6. Blatant preaching, even if the main character is the preacher.

Readers pick up a novel because they want a story. Let the story carry your theme and play out any convictions you are trying to address. Your reader will find it more convincing and you’re more likely to win a following for your second novel!

7. Non-visual writing.

If you can’t see it when you write it, close your eyes and visualize until you can. Then, write the scene.

8. Lack of sensory description.

Your readers want to know not only what your characters do but what they hear, taste, feel, see, and smell!

9. Long internal monologues by your characters.

What I said about preaching? Ditto.

10. Stilted and unrealistic dialogue.

Read your dialogue out loud. Everyone uses a different vocabulary for speaking than they do for writing. For your dialogue, use a speaking vocabulary. If you’re having trouble with a dialect or just everyday language in your dialogues, watch and LISTEN to a television show or a movie. Then write.

11. Factual errors in research.

Some readers care desperately about this and some don’t. I’m one of those desperate ones. Although I understand that mistakes happen, and the most carefully researched novels can have errors, a poorly researched novel can make me livid, especially if the errors are manufactured to support the author’s agenda. Do your research. If readers know you’ve done your best, they’ll forgive you for an occasional mistake, and author’s notes are a great place to ask for this forgiveness!

Well, that’s my list. Please add to it! I’d love your input.

Strength to your pen!

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back November 27, 2014, for part 22.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – Part 20: Down, Down, Down

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty: 

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 20: Down, Down, Down

In my last few posts, we’ve talked about increasing the tension in your novel or story, but you know that old saying, “What goes up must come down.” So today let’s talk about coming down off those tension highs.

1476101_10202851031740638_1363769618_n_002* photo credit given at end of article

Tension reduction isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes the writer needs to give his or her reader “a rest.” If the tension is too high for too long, it can wear your reader out. Too much tension can also rend the veil of disbelief. I’m sure that’s happened to you in your reading life, those books where you think, come on that’s way over the top. At other times, we urge our readers onto a downramp so we can gain enough momentum to swoop them up even higher a few paragraphs or pages later.

Like all tricks of the trade, easing tension takes on the added dimension of the artistic when it’s done effectively. First, let’s address that issue by listing two general classifications of tension-easers.

A. The unavoidable. The unavoidable includes chapter breaks, the turn of a page, or the finger swipe across the screen of your eReader. These are mechanical in nature and not of great concern. Often you can use the unavoidable moments of relaxed tension to your advantage. You might want to check back and read post #19 in this series, “By Hook, Not by Crook,” which discusses effective chapter breaks.

B. The desired. These instances of relaxed tension are the result of well-executed pacing and include the following:

1. A shift in the point-of-view character

2. The solution to a small mystery or a large mystery

3. The completion of a very tense scene

4. A short paragraph of back story

5. A sentence or two of description

The tension-easers in the second category — I’m sure you can think of others I haven’t listed — can be effective tools in any novelist’s arsenal. It’s really all about pace. I usually edit for pace when I’m working on the third draft of my novels, which is one of my “hard copy” reads. I three-hole punch the printed pages of my novel and put them in a binder so I feel like I’m reading a book. Then I get out my red pen! Here’s what I look for:

1. When I catch my mind wandering, I need to up the pace with more tension. (See post #18. Tension)

2. If I begin reading so fast that I forget I’m editing, my pace is probably fine. (My editing might need a kickstart, though!)

3. If a scene does not place a strong visual image in my mind, I probably need to pull back  on the tension and slow the pace with a tension-easer, usually a sentence of description or a very short bit of back story.

4. If I crack up at the implausibility of the scene, I need a change of pace. Often, it’s time to cross out then rewrite whole pages until I have reestablished a believable scenario and my upramp isn’t quite so steep.

I’ve purposely left out one huge category of tension-easers. Those we don’t want to include in our novels.  I hope you’ll come back next month, and we’ll talk about The  Dreaded Pace-Plague!

How do you adjust the tension or the pace of your novel?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

* Photograph, copyright David Massongil, 2010. Used with permission. Thank you, David, I love this photo!

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back October 23, 2014, for part 21.