Today was my first back-at-work day since the holidays; we took the week of New Year’s as a holiday, and Monday is our family day, so Tuesday is my Monday as far as work goes.

So I thought I’d start the year out right by sharing part of my to-do list with you. Along with some commentary.

1. Writing tasks

History of the Medieval World: finish maps.

My goal is to have every place that I mention clearly labelled on a map in the same chapter. It drives me crazy when I’m reading a history and can’t look at a picture of the landscape. I always wondered why most histories are short on maps, until I started doing them myself. They’re incredibly time consuming, and they make my brain hurt. For this finished map:
I consulted an assortment of maps found in a number of different books,
and drew a rough draft, which my collaborator Sarah Park then turned into an actual (readable) map. But neither one of us could find a map, in any of our books, which gave us the location of the Battle of the Fei River (even though it is described repeatedly as one of the “greatest battles in Chinese history”). As the Fei River is now dry, it wasn’t on any maps either. Finally I found a reference work that described the Fei as a tributary of an existing river, and with this as a starting place I used the descriptions of the battle to pinpoint the most likely place.

This sort of detective work is actually fun, but it just takes time, time, time. Also it can’t be done until the book is in final draft form, so we inevitably end up doing it on a tighter deadline than we’d like.

History of the Medieval World: finish timelines

History of the Medieval World: finalize illustrations

I haven’t yet decided what illustrations will make the story come alive. I LOVE sorting through illustrations, though, so I’m looking forward to this.

Finish Writing With Ease Workbook 3

Finish Writing With Ease Workbook 4

Writing out the lesson plans for these is a little tedious, but browsing through all the possible children’s books that I’ll use for base text is great fun.

Begin outline for History of the Renaissance

Er…not going to think about that one yet.

Start working on a fiction project before you forget how.

2. Farm jobs

Put new hardware on the barn doors

I love my draft horse, but he’s hard on doors. And gates. And fences generally. He just LEANS, and over they go.


Harrow pasture and replant

The Virginia Department of Agriculture says that one acre per horse is recommended for pasture. I have two horses and a pony on three acres, and they have eaten it down to dirt. Next month, they all get shut into the corral so that I can replant the pasture.

Get the farm surveyed.

Two of the property lines on this farm have NEVER been surveyed, a fact I discovered when my neighbor decided to walk his side of the line and pointed out that it ran right down the middle of one of our farm roads. I asked for some clarification, and got something like, “Well, the property line runs from that oak tree that came down in the hurricane of ’72 right down to the big rock that used to be right across from the east foundation block of the old barn.”


Note to self: CALL SURVEYOR. SOON.

3. General horrible tasks

Answer the 187 unanswered personal emails sitting in email box.

Actually don’t want to think too much about that one either.

Figure out why Blackberry does not work in U.K., as promised by salesperson.

Since this involves calling Verizon customer service, I’ve been putting it off as long as possible.

Sort through unsolicited submissions to Peace Hill Press.

If only, if ONLY people would send us stuff that we might actually publish. Note to aspiring writers: Check out the titles the publisher is already putting out. Chances are, they’re going to keep on doing the same sort of thing.

We have gotten a raft of totally inappropriate submissions (No, we’re probably not going to publish your magic-realism-basketball novel), and recently I figured out why. For some completely unknown reason (it probably involves a bored intern who had nothing else to do), Writer’s Digest listed Peace Hill Press as one of the “Hot Markets of 2008“–in other words, one of the best places for new writers to submit their work.

How on EARTH did this happen? We’ve never even published a title that we didn’t first solicit, and (as any aspiring writer who took the time to visit our website could tell), most of our titles were written by my mother or by me. I wouldn’t call that a hot market.

Second note to aspiring writers: Do your own research. (You might also consider cancelling your Writer’s Digest subscription and spend the money on chocolate or babysitting or paper instead.)

Revamp workshop descriptions for spring conferences.

This isn’t too horrible a task, but I’m kind of stuck on it. What new workshops should I offer at conferences this year? I’m open to suggestions.

I won’t bore you with the rest of my to-do list (“Clean out clothes closet.” “Update high school transcripts for kids.” “Take down Christmas lights before June.” “Buy castle in Spain and move there immediately.”).

Update tomorrow on the first of my 52nd books, which I found a little disappointing…

Showing 10 comments
  • Peter Lindstrom

    I am currently attending school to become a land surveyor and would help you out if you didn’t live in Virginia (I live in Minneosta) Its surprisingly common for property lines to have never been surveyed. I really look forward to the history of the medevil world. Approximately how long will it be until they are sold in stores?

  • Christina

    “How on EARTH did this happen? We’ve never even published a title that we didn’t first solicit, and (as any aspiring writer who took the time to visit our website could tell), most of our titles were written by my mother or by me. I wouldn’t call that a hot market.” Hilarious. I would love to meet you, because I think you write like you talk and it would be fun to put a voice with your words. And I think chocolate for breakfast is a fabulous idea.
    Your to-do list makes my head spin. I’ll be grateful to get dinner dishes done and a load or two of laundry washed!

  • Jeanne (cathmom)

    For the homeschool conferences:

    “The Benefits of Eating Chocolate for Breakfast for Homeschooling Parents and Children”

  • Lori

    Ooh, high school transcript info. Yeah, gotta add that one to my list as well.

  • Amy in MD

    Hello Susan,

    Your workshops are always so much fun and informative. I love your sense of humor. I have heard you speak a few years at HEAV as well your day-long workshop at the Smithsonian.

    I would love any workshop topics addressing 5th grade and above (even hearing your 5th grade to 8th grade WTM at the Cinn. or your Williamsburg convention would be wonderful – I couldn’t make it to Atlanta last year).

    The task has been a little more overwhelming this year having a 5th grader transition to the logic stage. Your book and resources continue to be wonderful tools, I just struggle with the mental pressure of being the one responsible for my children’s education, spiritual and life skills training in the higher grades.

    Your workshops are always so encouraging and always reaffirm/recast the vision of why I am doing this. Thanks for continuing to speak with so many other commitments. I am so excited about the Williamsburg conference. Can’t wait to register!


  • Janice in NJ

    Workshop Suggestion:

    Literary Analysis at the High School Level – goals and targets.
    1. What IS Literary Analysis – what are the “schools of thought” on this one, and where did they come from?
    2. What are the goals/best things to shoot for in high school? Broad or deep? Learn the terms? Learn to apply the terms? Enjoy reading? How many books per year are “good enough!?” What does a student really need to KNOW in order to do well in a college lit classroom? Where is the “good enough” bar?
    3. What IS a literary analysis WRITING assignment? Types? Length?
    4. etc…..

    I realize that you have written at length on this one. 🙂 And I realize that you have a terrific Great Books at the R level lecture available. But I would really appreciate your take on the “tools and terms” that a high school student needs in order to participate in this “world.” We ultimately read toward philosophy/worldview goals. But I still ponder about how much of this other “stuff” is needed for potential college/life tracks. (How much for a non-humanities major? How much for a humanities major? Where are the bars?)

    I’m rambling…. can you tell that I still can’t make CLEAR sense of this after all these years. I don’t even know WHAT I want the topic to be…. Could you nail this one down into a 45 minutes lecture that anticipates and answers my questions…. and pop me off a CD? 🙂

    I actually have worked out most of my “goals” for this one on my own, but I would have given BIG $$$$$ a couple of years ago if someone (a college-level lit teacher perhaps??? *grin*) could have wrestled this one down to goals and plans for me that fit on a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. 🙂 I guess I still wonder about how much is enough. 🙂

  • Robin of mytwoblessings

    Hi Susan,

    Speaking of emails, I sent you one to get set up as a contributor on the 52 books in 52 weeks blog. It’s hidden among those 187 unread emails sitting in your inbox. I resend again today and it will have today’s date on it. Didn’t like your book, huh. Good, will be interesting to find out what you thought about it. I didn’t like “wicked”, either. Too dark. Off to read a lighter fluffy one.

    Have a good day.


  • Colleen in NS

    Will PHP be putting more of yours or your mother’s workshops on CD to sell? I have enjoyed (and re-listened) to the 3 I have so far. I’d love to get to a conference someday.

    And, I ditto Amy in MD’s ideas for workshops. Have you done workshops like that already (partly why I asked if PHP would put more on CD)? Or even for high school?

  • Ginger

    Hi Susan,

    I caught you in Atlanta last July and have enjoyed this blog since then. My favorite entries have been the four “day in the life” glimpses of you homeschooling your own children. After being challenged by the highly disciplined framework in WTM, I found it so refreshing that your kids still forget what direct objects are or need a handful of M&Ms to keep going. I thought about it today as I was doling out chocolate chips. I don’t know what you might say, but I’d sure love to see a workshop along these lines. Or a future book.


  • David Bryan

    Avoiding actual work and somehow ended up here…

    I actually had to call Verizon about the GSM (Europe’s cell phone system) roaming capability when I first took my BB to Europe. The salesperson insisted it was all set up right. It wasn’t. I used Skype on my laptop to call tech support from Europe, and it took the actual Verizon tech support folks all of about 1 minute to fix…I suspect if you call them before your next trip they will have no trouble seeing and correcting the mistake. Unfortunately, I don’t know any way to test that they have fixed it outside of going to a GSM country, since it won’t roam on the US GSM carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile) even in areas where there is no Verizon coverage.

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