Author: Susan Breen

Susan Breen is the author of The Fiction Class and the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her short stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

A New Holiday?

I love Mother’s Day, but I also love the day after Mother’s Day. I feel like it’s a moment of Zen after a very intense build-up. I think the Monday after Mother’s Day should be National Take-a-Break Day.

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Truth, Lies & Alice Hoffman

I came across this quote from the great novelist Alice Hoffman and it nestled in my head. You know how you get these bits of information you can’t stop thinking about? It reminded me of something my oldest son Will once said to me. I was telling an anecdote about something and I was embroidering it. As one does. Because you have to if you want to make the story interesting, and he said to me, “Mom, you’re such a liar.” I was, in fact, lying, but with a purpose. The story needed a bit of shaping. I was not going to sit there and tell a boring story without any sort of a punch line. There was truth in the story, but it needed a boost. This is the same reason I wear make-up. By contrast, when I’m writing a novel, I’m trying to figure out the truth. That sounds sort of ponderous. What I mean is that when I’m writing fiction I’m trying to understand what characters are doing and there’s no point in lying to myself, even if the characters are lying. What do you think? Please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter?

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What I learned from George Saunders

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of getting an M.F.A. Spending a year or two focusing on my writing. Discussing writing with great minds. The push and pull of other students. It’s all so appealing, but unfortunately, when I had time, I didn’t have money. When I had money, I didn’t have time. And now I’m not entirely sure I have my wits about me. Why did I walk into that room?

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Twitter Tips

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an intelligent woman who turns to Twitter for information will soon find herself trapped in a sinkhole of despair.  (Hieronymus Bosch comes to mind.)  However, I’ve found that, by treading carefully, Twitter is actually entertaining. Bordering on inspirational. The key thing is to be careful about who you follow. Very careful! When I first joined Twitter, ten or so years ago, I was preoccupied with accumulating as many followers as I could. So I followed everyone. Everyone followed me back. Then I began getting really weird messages and I felt like I was hanging out with some very unusual people, and not in a good way. So I began to reevaluate. Cut back. Stop worrying about numbers and think about content. I winnowed down my list to people I liked. Some of my favorite tweeters: The Monty Don   He is the host of Gardeners World and his Twitter feed is filled with beautiful pictures of gardens. Reading his posts in the morning is like breathing in fresh air.  2. Deanna Raybourn She is the author of the Veronica Speedwell mysteries, which I adore. Her Twitter feed is entertaining and just a little bit […]

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Weird Facts (and how they help you write)

Weird facts about owls

One of the pleasures of being a writer is that it is my actual job to seek out weird facts. Sometimes I feel a bit like a jaybird, skimming through books and articles. Or eavesdropping. Or gossiping. Feathering my nest with all sorts of intriguing information. Will I actually use them? I just don’t know. When I least expect it, these facts pop out of my head. Or melt into my brain. For example, a weird fact about owls is that a group of them together is known as “a parliament.” According to chipperbirds.com, this is because owls are considered to be wise and intelligent. Like a parliament. Then there is the issue of the chocolate chip cookies. I was chatting with my son, who is living in London at the moment, and he informed me that when the French bake chocolate chip cookies, they don’t use brown sugar. (He sent me a recipe, so I can attest that this is true.) This weird fact stunned me as I have spent a good percentage of my life hacking away at brown sugar in a desperate attempt to make chocolate chip cookies. And more weird facts Then I was reading Midnight […]

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Agatha nominations

It’s Agatha Award nominating time, which means that people in the cozy mystery community are going through the books and stories we’ve read this year and cogitating over which ones we’d like to nominate. (Ballots are due in electronically by March 6.)

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NaNoWriMo Here I Come!

The first time I heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was some years ago, when I was teaching a Gotham Writers class in Greenwich Village. Teaching in the Village was a joy, and I’d always get there hours early so that I could wander around. One day I got caught in a terrible rain storm and went dashing into a little cafe and a man wearing a top hat seated me at a table. There I had the best bread pudding I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot, and in the years after that, I would often go to that spot, but the man in the top hat was never there again. Neither was the bread pudding all that good. That’s neither here nor there, except to say that during that class I had a student who was a good writer, except for the fact that she adamantly refused to use contractions. So finally I said, “You know, your writing would be a lot smoother if you would use contractions,” and she said, “I know, but I’m trying to increase my word count for NaNoWriMo.” I could not see the point, at the time, of forcing yourself to […]

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