Category Archives: Susan Wittig Albert

February 20 – A Wired Life

by Susan Wittig Albert

From my journal, February 20, 2008 (published in AN EXTRAORDINARY YEAR OF ORDINARY DAYS)

Yesterday was not an ordinary day.

For the dozen years that we’ve been on the Internet here at our house in the Texas Hill Country, we’ve been on “dial-up.” I could grow old, very old, waiting for the monitor screen to fill.

But that’s changing. Yesterday, we had a satellite dish installed on the house and I am now plugged in to the wide, wide world. Now, the signal whizzes 23,000 miles up to the satellite and back down to my desktop in less time than it takes to type a sentence. Fully wired, always on.

So? Does any of this make me a better writer? Without a doubt. The facts I might be tempted to guess at if it meant a trip to the library (or even a trip to a bookshelf in the other room) are now as handy as a Google search. The writing is more richly detailed, more comprehensive and accurate, more up-to-date.

And having email makes it easy to reply to readers, a task that many writers have found difficult. In her journals, May Sarton complains bitterly about having to write (by hand) replies to “friends of the work.” In his memoir, LIFE WORK, poet Donald Hall says that he solves the problem by spending a couple of hours every evening dictating, then turning the dictation over to a typist. I spend an hour a day–sometimes morning, sometimes evening–cleaning up the email. Yes, it takes time. No, it’s not a burden. I’m just glad that there are people out there in the world, reading what I’ve written and caring enough about it to tell me what they liked–or didn’t. (Which they do.)

But now I wonder: am I am too dependent on the Internet? What would I do if it went away? How would I do the research, read newspapers, pursue information? Would I have to go back to using what we contemptuously call “snail mail”?

Hope it never comes to that. I wouldn’t care to responsible for what might happen.

Susan Wittig Albert is the best-selling author of four mystery series and several works of nonfiction. She founded the Story Circle Network in 1997.

January 2 – Here’s To You, Mom

by Susan Wittig Albert

The moment of birth, the beginning, requires patience, implies progress. You are not alone.–The I Ching

Today is my birthday, a special day for me. But it is also a day that I celebrate my mother, Amber Lucille Webber (1909-2000). My special day was her special day, too.

I was born in a busy Chicago hospital, just at noon on the second day of the brand-new 1940, with the world peering anxiously over the precipice of war. President Roosevelt had submitted a record-breaking $14-million defense budget while proclaiming U.S. neutrality in the worsening European conflict. The New York World’s Fair had opened to an astonished, goggle-eyed public. Gone with the Wind was the year’s leading movie, and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was on everyone’s lips. The average price of a new car was $766, bread cost eight cents a loaf, and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup was nine cents a can. The sun was in Capricorn, the moon was in Libra, and Aries was rising over the eastern horizon.

But my mother was not concerned with social or celestial events. She was doing the belly-work of birthing: pushing, panting, waiting, pushing again. Breathing with the pain, staying with the rhythms of breath and body, past caring whether her first child was a boy or a girl, so long as it was healthy.

Then the miraculous moment: “You came out kicking,” she always said, retelling with pride a story she told me so often that both of us knew it by heart. “And the nurse held you up, red as a raspberry, and you squalled, and she said ‘Listen to that voice! This one’s going to tell the world all about it!'”

And many years later, when my first book was published, my mother told that story again, and again and again, to anyone who would listen. “That voice,” she would say, shaking her head. “That girl–always something to say. Telling the world all about it.”

That was my birth, according to my mother. So here’s to you, Mom: my grateful thanks for your birthing work on that special day, 71 years ago, that brought me into the world, gave me a voice, and sent me off to tell stories.

Susan is the best-selling author of three popular mystery series: the China Bayles mysteries, the Darling Dahlias, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. With Bill Albert, she co-authored the Robin Paige mysteries. She has written two memoirs: Together, Alone, A Memoir of Marriage and Place; and An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days. She founded SCN in 1997.