On Writing

April Guest Writer – Susan Dennard – On the Art of Saying ‘No’

The first I’d heard of writer Susan Dennard was in an email blast from my alma mater (that’s such a bizarre set of words!), the University of Windsor. Turns out Miss Dennard is also a graduate of this post-secondary institution. And, like me, she did not get a degree in English! Marine Biology, folks. The woman has a Masters in Marine Biology! The email blast included a congratulations to Susan on her book deal with HarperTeen. I immediately googled her, found her delightful website and sent her a message.

That was back in August, 2011. I sent this wee little note:

Dear Susan,
I just wanted to say super congratulations to you for the amazing writing you’re doing, and the success you’re having with it! I’m a writer from Windsor and I saw the story on my Facebook that was written by the u of w daily news folks. 
I’ve posted a link to the story as well as to your blog on my blog to help spread the word. I’ve swam through your blog and I’m enjoying it very much. There’s a lot of great information and inspiration on it!
I’m writing my first YA novel…currently working on a grant application so I can get some money and take some time off work to finish it. Till then, it’s writing when I can…Life’s full for me…

I received a gracious response within a week that included this:

Good luck with your writing! If you ever have any questions about the YA industry, let me know!

Well, golly! Sister did not know what she was gettin’ herself into with that offer! I keed. I keed. But seriously, Susan’s speedy response and immediate offering of writerly support speaks volumes to the kinda rockin’ gal she is.

It’s been close to three years since we ‘intermet’ (get it? met on the internet?), and we’ve been in touch the whole time. It’s not just via email that Susan is a support in the YA world. She also blogs with the Pub(lishing) Crawl family (formerly Let The Words Flow) where she and many other talented, engaging writers share their insight, fears, dreams and writing life stories.

Here’s link to Susan’s first novel: Something Strange and Deadly

It’s a YA steampunk fantastic story that I couldn’t put down! After reading this I was ready to prance on the living dead in the closest cemetery!

Her second book, A Darkness Strange and Deadly, releases on July 23rd!

Her writing future includes releasing book three (untitled as of late) in the Strange and Deadly series, as well as this novella:

Furthermore, Miss Dennard is about to go on tour!! *woot*woot* Along with her YA gal pals Erin Bowman, Sarah J. Maas and Kat Zhang, Dennard will be doing readings, signings, and yes, even workshops for the Young Authors Give Back Tour. Will they be in your neck of the woods?

As you can see, Susan is quite the busy bee. Besides feasting on cookies, loving her hubby and pooch, oh and writing four books (*high fives all around*), Susan does no how to say ‘no’ when it comes sitting down and writing.

Saying ‘no’ is something I definitely struggle with. I want to be the best mom, friend, wife, sister and daughter I can be, which means I like to use my time for being with, and supporting all the amazing things my family and friends do. Add this to everyday ‘mom’ things that simply must get done, the time that’s left for actual writing is slim.

I’ve always wondered how other writers practice their art of saying ‘no’. So, I sent Susan the following:

I’m convinced that one of my main lessons in this life is working on the art of saying “no”. I’m terrible at it. Last year was an eye-opening year for me – and one that made me have to deal with the…detriment, shall I say…my complete and utter inability to say no even when my body and heart is telling me to. As a writer, we MUST say no to people/events/things in order to WRITE, right? So how do YOU say no – how did you teach yourself to say “no” to everything from reading a great book or spending time with your lover to a job opportunity or a guest post invitation? I think that writers would love to hear how you do it. I certainly would.

Here’s Susan’s answer:

Honestly, when I first got Vanessa’s email, I wanted to say “no” because I don’t have the time for guest posts at the moment. Deadlines, sequels, pass pages, future books, setting up events–these things are constantly on my plate (and I love that they are! That’s why I’m a writer!). But then I realized how awful it would be for me to say “no” to a post about saying “no”, so I did my best and came up with a brief (like, super brief) post on the subject.

The thing is, I definitely reached a point (right after my book released last summer), when I realized I was going to give myself a mental breakdown if I didn’t step back and start wielding the word NO. Specifically, I need to say “no” to the Crazy Interwebs. I had too many interview requests coming in–plus guest post requests, contest judge requests, giveaway requests, etc. In my attempts to keep up, I stopped talking to friends, to family, to my husband. I was going to the post office twice a day to mail out free copies of my book or signed swag for blogger giveaways–it was a huge drain on time and my wallet.

Then one day, it all became too much. I wanted to spend time with my husband and my family. I wanted to work on the books in my heart. I wanted to see my friends on Friday nights and spend Saturday away from my email. But I couldn’t do that AND maintain the same active online presence…So I said, “Bye-bye, internet” and “Hello, weekends.”

It was tough–I can’t lie. The urge to answer emails immediately was tempting. The urge to constantly check Twitter or my Facebook was just as compelling…but I didn’t. And the less I did it, the less I thought about it. Did my book sales suffer? Maybe–there’s really no way to tell. But did my happiness improve? You betcha! I finally had time to write and read and do all the things that make me who I am. And at the end of the day, I know my readers would rather have more books from me than a daily blog update.

Of course, I have a feeling I’ll have to slip back in to Super Online Lady once the promotion time starts for A Darkness Strange and Lovely, but until then, I am savoring my solitude and pressure-free internet commitments.


Thank you so MUCH, Susan for not saying ‘no’ to answering my question! It means the world (both the living and the dead! *wink*) to me that you took the time to answer. And I know that whoever reads this, will be thankful as well!



What is your ‘just say no’ process when it come to your writing life?

7 thoughts on “April Guest Writer – Susan Dennard – On the Art of Saying ‘No’

  1. The art of saying “No” usually boils down to scheduling. As unromantic and calculating as that sounds, it’s really the difference between motivated and inspired writing and writing that is feels like another chore. Let me explain. Draw up a schedule of the most important things in your day and that includes down time. This after all, is what keeps the creative juices flowing. When things come up, as they always will, decide whether you are willing to schedule the new task or invitation in place of one of the things already on your schedule. If it’s that important you will. If not, you will just have to say “NO.” When you look at your day from this perspective, it gets a lot easier.


    1. Eva,
      Well said. I make lists almost everyday. Essentially, they are my daily ‘priority’ schedules. I list what already needs to be done and I move from there. Scheduling in downtime…now that’s a great idea!


  2. I can’t get over the timing of this! About ten minutes ago, I got an invitation from ArtSpeak to continue the Writers’ Salons during the summer. Somebody else would facilitate (not Marty) and we would meet either once or twice a month all summer long. And that little voice in my head said, “No.” Whenever I try to ignore that little voice, it sets up such a tension in my body I know I’ll be doing myself an injury of some kind if I continue. Even if what’s being offered is something good and positive – like summer Salons – I need to listen when my intuition is saying, “No.” And I will this time.
    Thanks Vanessa and Susan for this timely reminder! 🙂


    1. I’m glad this helps you make a ‘no’ decision! I felt the same way when I received your email about the summer salons. Although it sounds dreamy, I just can’t swing it without losing more time to write.


      1. Read this quote from Ann Webster yesterday – “In some instances, saying no to someone else is saying yes to yourself.” I might change that to “In most instances…”


      2. I agree. It gets so difficult some days. Especially when the ‘yes’ is to sleep (which is what my body needs) and the ‘no’ is from my head, which always goes, goes, goes when it comes to writing!


  3. Keeping a balance is difficult. I had a wonderful prof. once, Homer Plante, who urged us to clean a space and then write. At the moment we are in the middle of a big kitchen/bathroom reno and I find myself looking at
    Houzz instead of writing. “Cleaning” this space so I can sit down and write is taking months. So, I am writing
    a kitchen reno piece from the perspective of our puppy, who has been chewing tool handles, plaster chips and
    any wood pieces she can find. I guess that’s how a writer gathers bits and works it. Somethings you can’t say no
    to… and a new kitchen is one of them! Thank you for this post, Vanessa. I love when you introduce other writers. Keep working on that novel; snag the time you need on a daily basis.


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