Susan Henderson SUSAN HENDERSON is the author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins, 2010) and founder of the blog, LitPark, a literary playground for writers.

Recent Work By Susan Henderson

I was barred from school for the day because I’d been biting again. Whenever I pressed my teeth into one of my classmates, my teacher stopped the lesson and called, “Tillie, Tillie.” There was always a struggle as she tried to wrestle the hand or arm from my mouth, but I held on—fighting until the last string of spit released—because I liked to leave a mark.

Here at The Nervous Breakdown, you’ve been tracking the journey of writing and selling your book. Why did you want to tell that story?

I wanted to give others a sense of company through what can be a terribly frustrating process. I’ve heard so many stories of writers with drawers full of rejection letters, who feel like Sisyphus forever pushing that boulder up the hill.

It helps, I think, when people shine some light on whatever path they took so others don’t have to feel like they’re walking blind. And I wanted to provide some sense of hope—that what looks like a long journey of failure and rejection and doors slamming in your face can lead you to that publisher who says yes.

Here’s a dog story my neighbor told me the other day.

My neighbor’s friend (I’ll call her That Idiot Samsonite Bitch for anonymity’s sake) lives in Manhattan.

That Idiot Samsonite Bitch has a big dog and it dies.

She calls the vet – Do they pick up dead dogs?

Vet says no.

She can’t bury the dog in her yard because she lives in Manhattan.

She doesn’t have a car because she lives in Manhattan.


She puts the dog in a suitcase and boards a city bus headed for the dump.

Maybe, like me, you’re thinking she could have tried another number before going for the suitcase, but she’s not you and she’s not me.

This is an older lady and she’s having trouble lifting the suitcase, when a guy offers to help her.

He asks, What’s in the suitcase that’s so heavy?

Embarrassed, she says, Computer parts, and the guy steals her suitcase.

Here, my neighbor laughs, “Isn’t that classic New York?” and I say “Yes,” but now I want to hear the happy ending.

Maybe I’m still a kid at heart.

I like to see a family of bears get a pesky intruder out of the house, a wayward son return home for a grand celebration, a feuding guitarist reunite with the band for one last show.

I’m thinking That Idiot Samsonite Bitch might break down in remorse, and the dead dog will get proper send-off with the NYPD playing bagpipes.

“And . . . ?” I say. “And what happened next?”

“Oh, she calls the police. They find her suitcase and the dog.”

“And then . . . ?”

“I don’t know and then,” she says. “It’s just a funny story.”

I’m thinking of a hot, dead dog bent in a suitcase and can’t remember the funny part of the story when I ask, “What’s the dog’s name?”

She says, “What?” like now I’m the weird one.


My husband, Mr. Henderson, is the type of guy who goes to the pet store and names all the pets.

Once he stopped in the middle of the highway to save a turtle.

If anything has fur on it, he wants to take it home.

We met when we were teenagers.

He was just learning how to reproduce paintings for theatre backdrops.

This is one he did when we first met.


He’s kept his old artwork rolled up in a corner at his office, where he’s a professor.

Some days, he brings our new rescued greyhound to his office.

This is Steve:


Pamela Anderson loves dogs like Steve.

When we got Steve, every vertebrae, rib and hip bone showed.

He has scars all over – some from collisions on the race track and some from sitting too long in a crate.

Until the day we adopted him, he’d never been in a house before.

He never played catch or rode in a car with his head out the window or had someone call him by name.

When you pet him, he leans his head into your stomach like he can’t believe it.

Steve likes Mr. Henderson so much, he whimpers when he’s gone.

Recently, Steve was having a day at the office when Mr. Henderson stepped out to meet with a student.

There was a bit of a panic:



Remember that painting?


And then Steve got up on the desk and couldn’t get down again.


Steve is learning that when we go away, we come back again.

He’s learning to climb stairs and he’s learning he has a name.

He’s learning not to eat things he finds in the kitchen sink, where he can reach flat-pawed.

He’s learning not to play with Mr. Panda because Mr. Panda belongs to our other dog.


He’s cool with both of our cats, but we keep a close eye because we don’t want him to mistake them for rabbits.


(I am not a professional artist, though I signed my drawing.)


I’ve already told you I like happy endings, so this story has one.

Actually two.

The first happy thing is that ripped paintings practically fit back together like puzzles.


And more importantly:


Steve is done with crate sores.