Sued51's Blog











{December 27, 2013}   The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

The wording of the title seems to imply I have a definitive answer. Yet on any given day my answer might be different. My lack of conviction on this and other “favorite” questions has often felt like a problem to me: one that indicated that I had no core, no strength of conviction, or no knowledge of myself. I either assumed my lack of an answer was because I am too wishy-washy (when I was feeling bad about myself) or because I am too intellectually curious (when I’m feeling good about myself).

Many books have vied to be the answer to that question for me over the course of my life: Leaves of Grass, Wuthering Heights, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Gift from the Sea, Simple Abundance, The Artist’s Way…the list could go on and on because reading has always been a staple in my life. And I have always had this crazy concept of commitment when it comes to reading that if I start a book, I have to finish it. This creed results in my slogging through books at times (I have done this lately, making me think that I no longer liked to read).

Book cover for The Alchemist

Then the other day when I started reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. TODAY, this is my answer to the question/statement of this blog’s title. I know I’m arriving late to this party: the book was published in 1988, and the number of translations and books sold is staggering…but it is brand new TO ME. It came to me on a free table at work, and it appeared for me exactly when it needed to appear.

I have recently been in a dark place…a very scary place. For someone who has LOVED Christmas her whole life to want to turn her back on it forever, sleep through it (or skip it as John Grisham wrote — the comedy movie version of his book is what I watched yesterday trying to get out of my bad mood) is not a good sign for holding onto a joy of living. I was also finally considering giving up on this blog, one of the few things that has brought me joy and kept me going the last couple of years. But during this time I was also reading Paulo Coelho’s book.

This morning I read this:

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them…few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed to be a threatening place.

“So, we, their hearts speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.”

“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist.

“Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”

The alchemist then told the boy…”What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

When I read this, I recognized the place where I am; I could hear my heart again (which had become quiet) and I came back to the keyboard and back to the blog. I have read a lot of inspiring and positive blogs and books recently trying to light my way out of the black hole, but for some reason, this spoke to me in a way that nothing else I read did. I believe it is because it was what I needed to read and it was put there to help me on this part of my life’s journey.

Now I feel that it is fitting that the answer to the question, “What is the best book you ever read?” can change throughout your life. Because the best book you ever read is the one that touches you and communicates to you when you need it. Today I give a hearty “Thank You,” to the person who put this book on the free table to share it, to Paulo Coelho for writing it, and to the Soul of the World for communicating it to him.

P.S. As I sat down to write this, I realized this was also the topic of the Daily Post prompt today. It was my moment of clarity for what has been bothering me…if that isn’t a message from the Universe, I don’t know what is. 🙂




Writing In FlowMy morning routine includes reading a chapter of a book about writing and then writing my “morning pages” (as coined by Julia Cameron). I am currently reading “Writing in Flow: keys to enhanced creativity” by Susan K Perry, PhD. According to Ms. Perry, Key One is to Have a Reason to Write. In the questions at the end of the chapter she suggests that the reader examine his/her motivations for writing. She knows that her readers will find many. (I certainly did.) Her theory is that when you clear away the peripheral ones, you will get to the heart of the matter and learn a lot about how to foster flow in your writing.

It has always been easy to tell when I’m “inspired” in my writing vs. when I am not. It is as if I am a completely different person. When entering college I was required to write an essay to see whether I could opt-out of Freshman English. Unfortunately the topic was something I knew nothing about and had no interest in…so it was Freshman English for me. Once in class, we were able to choose our own subject as long as we followed the assigned format: comparison essay, descriptive essay, argumentative essay, etc.  Lo and behold, by the time I got to the third paper, my professor had written “A+” and a note that said, “Do you really belong in this class? See me.” Ah, the power of writing about something that interests me!

But I don’t want to depend on being “inspired” to write well, that’s why I am reading the book. So…what is my motivation for writing? I have loved books from the time I was a small child. Consequently I have always admired writers; it was always a club I longed to join. Also, one strong aspect of my personality is that I am a “communicator,” someone who is constantly trying to make sense of my world and interpret what I see, to create relationships between people and things that may not appear to be related (i.e., creating metaphors, the source of my poetic bent). And I want to connect with others, gain their respect, and have them appreciate what I have to say. But although I found many of my reasons have to do with connecting with others, I have written so much that no one has read: endless journals and poems that I haven’t shared. I’m thinking getting to know myself and being comfortable with myself is also an important reason that I write; it may be the bare bones reason, because even if no one reads what I have written but me, I still feel compelled to do it.

One of the most important things I learned from this exercise, though, had to do with a motivation that wasn’t there: making a living with writing. I’ve always struggled with that: making money by editing is one thing, doing it by writing is another. I have often felt conflicted, at times guilty, envious of others, and angry at myself for being a “failure” at making my writing “pay off.”  I often beat myself up about this “failure” and think that “I should” be making money. This exercise helped me work through some of those feelings. I simply don’t have the motivation for it. I am not a “failure” as a writer because I’m not making money at it. If I really wanted to make money at it, I would approach it differently. I would be writing what I think others are interested in; I would be doing research and treating it as a profession. I have to recognize that I am “choosing” not to make it a living at it.

I’ve got a long way to go with this book. I’m interested in what else I will learn about myself and where it will take me. My readers, have you ever REALLY explored your motivations for your passion?



{March 6, 2013}   A Writer’s Sense of Service

Julia Cameron's booksI have recently been rereading Julia Cameron‘s books to give my creativity a boost, but it’s also been making me think about being a writer with a “sense of service” or an “attitude of gratitude.” I decided that what I really like about Julia’s books is her teacher’s sensibility and her nurturing attitude. I’m not naive enough not to recognize that she’s trying to sell books, but I see some sincerity there. I think she truly believes in writing as the salvation and glorious gift it can be and wants others to experience that feeling. It lead me to thinking about being “of service” as a writer and what that means.

One of my coworkers writes poems for her church in her spare time. Her church publishes them in their program and sometimes they read them as a congregation. I think this is a wonderful use of her gift. This is her third Easter performing this service and if you think it is easy to keep seeing a topic in a new way and creating fresh material, then you haven’t tried to do it.

For myself, it has been most gratifying to me when I have been able to write a poem for a friend going through some kind of worry or difficulty: a death in the family or a sibling serving overseas. This is one way I can be “of service” as a writer.

How else can we be of service as writers? The most important way is to encourage and nurture other writers; this is what I feel Julia does very successfully. This type of service could be as small and simple as “liking” someone’s work on Facebook or a blog, or attending a poetry reading. If you feel confident and can take an interest, critique their work in a positive and constructive way. If you have extra money, you could purchase their book. Give them the kudos they need and deserve for completing such an undertaking.

Funny thing, though, I think a lot of writers, once they start to have a following forget what it was like to need that support. They forget what it was like to be someone struggling to find their voice, struggling to feel that what they have to say is relevant. Many writers write because they have a need to be heard. If they don’t feel heard, they give up, and I believe the world loses something important. We let jealousy stand in the way of being of service as writers. (See the video where Julia addresses this topic.)

I believe every writer, famous or not, has a duty to encourage other writers; they are performing a very important service if they do. So…you bloggers reading this…go out and like someone’s blog, comment on someone’s poem…do your part to keep the world writing!



{February 28, 2013}   A Poem on Poet’s Corner

Yesterday I had a poem posted on Poet’s Corner (click here to read it).

If you haven’t checked out the blog before, you should! They post a poem daily; many different poetic styles are featured. It’s a great way to discover some creative bloggers!



{February 23, 2013}   Book “Stories”

After reading a comment by Annina on my last blog on Book Care and a comment by Lingering Visions on another blog, I felt inspired to tell the “stories” of a couple of my books.

First of all, I’m a saver. (I prefer that term to “horder” or “pack rat.”) I love meeting people and consider myself blessed by all the wonderful people I have met in my life. But, as we all know, acquaintances come and go; saving things they gave me or wrote to me helps me remember them and their role in my life, however brief. I’m very aware, though, that a lot of this will be lost someday when my memory (and my body) is no more, and someone combs through and discards my belongings. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but it is reality.

So…I’m starting to allow some of my books to tell their own story. Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.

books, God Among the ShakersA one-time co-worker and friend wrote a book about The Shakers. We lost touch when she moved out of state. While going through some old stuff, I found a photocopied review of  her book, as well as a promotional card on which she had jotted a note to me. Instead of throwing these things out, I put them in the back of the book. As I continue to sort through my papers and saved items, I will find other things and add them (I know I have photos, cards, etc.) If I never tell anyone the story of our relationship, I hope someday that someone finds the “treasures” in the book and is interested in the story behind it.

John Adams, David McCulloughAnother book with a story? I have an autographed copy of “John Adams” by David McCullough. When the book came out, McCullough was reading from it at a nearby charity event. My employer’s president had purchased a whole table of tickets to the event. He was not able to attend, but he gave the tickets to our company librarian to distribute. The librarian thought the company book club members were the logical choice to receive the tickets; I was one of the lucky ones! Each table had one autographed copy of the book. At the event, a photographer took pictures of the attendees at each table, trying to sell the photographs. I did not buy a picture, but I have a xerox copy of our photo. I came across it in some papers and put it in the back of the book, along with a the ticket and brochure about the event.

The story is there if someone wants to piece the items together and read the clues. How about you? Do any of your books tell their own story?



{February 8, 2013}   Using Bookmarks

bookmarks, reading, books

Bookmark gifts

As you can see, I’m not talking electronic bookmarks here. I’m talking about those items that you stick between the pages of paper books. I have received many of them over the years as simple gifts, made of so many different materials: metal, paper, cardboard. The photo shows just a few; there are countless others still stuck in books that I abandoned mid-read. My bookshelves are probably full of twice as many.

So you would think I would use them, right? Nope…I’ve recently taken to using scraps of paper as bookmarks. I find myself writing down words I don’t know, or jotting down references and subjects that I want to look up later. The scraps with scribbles go into a small box on my desk for when I have some free time on the computer (which isn’t often, I must admit). I felt like I wasn’t getting enough out of my reading by skipping over words or using the context to guess at their meaning. I felt I was giving up opportunities to learn!

I’m wondering, how many of you still use bookmarks?




Poetry AnthologiesThe weekly photo challenge topic is illumination, but this post isn’t about the photos; it’s about illumination of the mind.

I recently borrowed Harold Bloom’s poetry anthology from my town’s library because someone in a poetry group recommended it. It has been a while since I have been in school, so this was a challenge for me. I love and write poetry, but nowadays I read modern American poets (most of whom are still living). The wonder and beauty of anthologies, of course, is that they expose the reader to a variety of poets and poetic styles, allowing him or her to compare them and choose new favorites — hopefully sending them off on a journey of discovery and learning. In this case, it actually sent me back to my own bookcase!

bookcaseMy office bookcase is chaos and a catch-all. It is also full of what I consider my “necessary” books: anthologies from when I was a student of literature. For the most part, I never read them straight through; I extracted different pieces for papers. Their purpose was to get a broad spectrum view of a time period or some other random criteria (women poets, American poets, etc.). As I read, “Till I End My Song,” I discovered different poems from familiar poets and poems from poets I had never read before. It also contained works by poets whose names sounded familiar to me, but just in a peripheral way; I had never sought out their work. I found a new-for-me (but dead) poet whose work I wanted to read more of: Stevie Smith.

One of her most famous poems is “Not Waving but Drowning”:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

and not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking

and now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

and not waving but drowning.

My interest was more immediate than an Internet or Library search: I went straight to my bookcase and …VOILA! Several of my anthologies contained poems by her. This was step one: after reading those I could decide if I wanted to turn to my library for a deeper look (the answer was “Yes,” BTW). I love being able to do that.

As an editor and reader I have always been in love with books. The day is yet to come when I will turn to a Kindle or a Nook, but I have changed my book buying and retention habits in recent years. I no longer keep novels unless they are first edition or signed, or I absolutely love the book. (Wuthering Heights will always have a place on my bookshelf!) I consider poetry books or short story anthologies necessary books; they can always be revisited at different times and bring different illuminations to a hungry mind.



et cetera
%d bloggers like this: