Well, I’m back from that alternate reality–the one where people keep buying me wonderful meals (thanks, Star and Jenny), and where all I have to do is walk through the streets of Manhattan, shop, drink coffee, and hang out at the public library meditating on medieval manuscripts. Yes, I’m sure I’d get tired of it if that’s ALL I did.

So after arriving Sunday night, I got up Monday morning to a beautiful clear sky, drank a big cup of coffee, and wrote for a bit.

The Upper East Side out my window

Then I hauled my manuscript, in its big cardboard box, out of my luggage and walked down to the Norton offices at 500 Fifth Ave. with it under my arm. (And it was heavy. I had offered to give it to my editor the night before so that HE could carry it down to the office first thing Monday morning, but he declined.)

500 Fifth Ave. is a huge building with something like sixty floors and four different banks of elevators.

Fortunately I only had to go up to the fifth floor (I’m not crazy about either small spaces or elevators, which means New York would not be a good long-term fit for me.) Anyway, I delivered the manuscript to Star, waved hello to Morgen (the assistant editor who helps him out), and went down the hall to meet with Louise Brockett, Norton’s publicity director who manages, somehow, to direct publicity while mothering four boys. We swapped condolences over the Games Workshop obsession shared by our offspring and then talked about various strategies for promotion–which I’ll describe in more detail as I work on the Author Questionnaire over the next couple of months.

Tuesday, I went down to the New York Public Library to apply for an access card, which allows me to use the research collections. Spent a good part of the day working on my dissertation, so that while it was beautiful and sunny when I went in:

it was dark when I came out.

Then I took a taxi down to Columbia and had dinner with my best friends from seminary, Tuck and Stacy; we realized while they were stacking chairs up around us that it was after midnight and we’d been talking nonstop since 7 PM.

Wednesday I had coffee with my agent, Rich Henshaw, and worked out deadlines for my next manuscript delivery–I have to write the history of the medieval world and my dissertation. Simultaneously. No problemo. Rich has promised to demand reasonable deadlines on my behalf.

Rich at coffee shop.

And then spent the rest of the day 1) examining medieval manuscripts back at the library, 2) eating a really PHENOMENAL late lunch at a French restaurant off East 64th, and 3) heading back to LaGuardia.

Now I’m working out a schedule to get the maps finished, research all the permissions for the illustrations (I have copies of several photos I’d like to include, but I have no idea who holds the rights to them), and writing to every publisher whose works I quote at length. If you quote more than 250 words of prose or 2 lines of poetry from any one work, you’re no longer covered by fair use and have to get explicit written permission from the rights holder–permission which usually costs anything from $10 to $300.

That’s not all that’s on the horizon: I need to outline the second history book and send the outline to Norton, and on Tuesday, I have to meet with my dissertation director and convince her that I can defend the thing in the fall. I’ll post an update early next week.

And in case anyone is wondering…I didn’t find a pair of shoes I liked. But I did buy a great sweater that went with the shoes I already own. 🙂

Showing 9 comments
  • Michael in DC

    Glad you’re back safely. Your blog is such fun to read! I’m glad to find you out in cyberspace tonight.

    Best Wishes,


  • leslie

    Sounds like you got to have some fun, even while working. How in the world do you home school and do all your writing, too? I barely have time to clean, do laundry, and cook meals!

  • Mindy

    Well, at least you don’t have anything to keep you too busy for the next year! 🙂 But, New York sounds great! Thanks for giving us a little snapshot.

  • Kate

    Your trip to the library – medieval manuscripts!! – just sounds marvelous. It must really be amazing to have access to things like that – what a true blessing.

    When you wrote, “If you quote more than 250 words of prose or 2 lines of poetry from any one work, you’re no longer covered by fair use and have to get explicit written permission from the rights holder–permission which usually costs anything from $10 to $300. ”

    Is that because it is for inclusion in a book? I am curious if it would apply if you were posting it to your blog, website, etc.

    Sorry you didn’t find the shoes, but hey, you were meditating on medieval manuscripts – something had to give!


  • Miz Booshay

    Welcome home Susan!
    Thank you for sharing your photos! I love the blue sky above 500 Fifth. “It was the nearest thing to heaven….” Oops…wrong building :o)

    Is the new Map room in the New York Library? I saw a short bit about it on television and the room looked glorious.


    p.s. looks like you got out of Gotham right in time :o)

  • Janie

    Bet you’re glad to have left NY when you did! I thought of you last night as the news declared the weekend’s NYC snowfall the largest in recorded history.

    Btw, Susan, I was thinking about this, too, yesterday. It seems like I remember seeing a few years ago that you require your W&M lit students to make a timeline throughout the semester. I would love to see a sample of a college student’s timeline. Is it remotely impossible for you to scan one (anonymously, of course) as a sample. I think that might help some of us tackle timelines in rhetoric stage.

    Thanks, and welcome home!

  • Beth

    I have to know…how do you get the homeschooling done?

  • Susan

    Teaching the kids is part of the pattern of our daily lives–we do it year round. When Mom’s out of town, the kids keep right on with the subjects that their father supervises; they work along on the material I’ve left for them; and they go on without interruption in the subjects that they do with tutors or correspondence course guidance . When we all go on vacation, or it snows, or everyone has the flu, we don’t do school at all; when you don’t take three months off every summer, you end up with a lot more flex time during the year.

    And in any case, the oldest two have started to do much more independent work, which is a delight to see. They’re developing an interesting in learning for themselves. (For part of the time, anyway.)


  • PRMama

    Thanks for the great insights into the *Day in the life of a writer*! You did a wonderful job of sharing all of the hard work and deadlines, as well as the fun travel and excitement. Well done!

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