Recent Posts: 10 Things I Did Wrong (and Right!) as a Debut Novelist

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Oh hey! It’s been a busy spring/summer/what season is it again? Recently, it occurred to me that I haven’t been keeping folks up to date on recent things I’ve had published around the interwebs, so here are a couple posts people seem to have found useful over at Litreactor.

The first has the clickbait-y title of “10 Mistakes I Made As a Debut Novelist“–basically because in the year or so leading up to the publication of my first novel, I clicked the hell out of links like that, but I still did all of these things. If your first book is set to drop sometime in the foreseeable, consider yourself forewarned.

One of the most remarked-upon items on this little list was “Assuming friends of friends would help.” Yeah, you know what they say about assuming…

On the other hand, the more time that passed since the publication of that novel, the more I realized there really were some things I did right. Unlike the items on my first list, these things were things I found in the sort of clickbait-y listicles that offer advice to debut novelists.

But those lists are so long that no human being could ever possibly do everything on them. (Still, being who I am, I tried, and to a certain degree, still am. What season is it again?) The items on my list, “10 Things I Did Right As a Debut Novelist,”are the things, out of all of those things, that actually made a difference. (Like, say, keeping my website up to date, as per this post.)

Debut novelists, learn from my mistakes! Benefit from my (hard-earned) insight! And keep on rockin’ in the free world. We need your voices and visions now more than ever.



Giveaway! Family Recipes & Stories

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Friends, I made a thing! And for a limited time, I’m giving it away: a little handmade zine containing the recipes, wine pairings, and family stories from my 40th birthday dinner party.

I have a tradition of serving five courses paired with wines for ten friends for my birthday–and this year, each dish was tied to a memory from my childhood, in connection with one of the five sides of my heritage (French, Indian, Portuguese, Lithuanian, and Norwegian).

I spent months dialing in each one of these recipes, testing variations, and in some cases, actually recreating dishes with my dad, though neither of us had more than a few notes (from my grandmother’s recipes) and the memory of exactly what each dish should taste like.

In this, I’m speaking specifically to pepper pot, a Guyanese dish that, to me, is the platonic ideal of a rich, spicy, slow-cooked beef stew, and to luchi, a type of (East) Indian fry bread that my grandmother filled with coconut and brown sugar. You’ll find the recipes for both in this little book, as well as the recipes for a delicious (and satisfying) potato-cabbage tart (or pie), my famous deconstructed borscht salad, and the dish that ultimately inspired this meal, La Boheme Seafood Bisque.

From the zine:

When I was six, my parents divorced and my dad returned [to the Caribbean] to work for Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Within a year or so, he met a nice Canadian lady who had recently divorced as well. It wasn’t long before the three of us had embarked on a grand adventure, sailing around the Caribbean, camping from FL to MI (I swam in all of the Great Lakes that summer!), and flying from Toronto to Edmonton.

Kathy’s apartment in Edmonton was located above a fantastic French restaurant, La Boheme. Everything was great at La Boheme, but the seafood bisque was such a perfect dish that I would try to recreate it many times over the next three decades of my life–and on Christmas 2016, I finally nailed it, the exact taste of that summer.

Preparing this epic menu and meal was such an amazing experience that I decided I had to share it, so I created an (extremely) limited edition zine with all the stories and recipes, along with some fun photographs.

At this point, just about half of these little booklets have been accounted for, so if you’d like one, send me an email ASAP! I’d love to drop one in the mail to you: susan [at] susandefreitas [dot] com


Some Thoughts on “Self-Promotion”

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I’m generally not into offering criticism of anyone but politicians on the Internet. But this post, entitled, “Try Hard in Clown Shoes,” mystifies me, and perhaps my thoughts here might be useful to other debut authors faced with the task of self-promotion.

The author of this article seems to hold that promoting your own work is embarrassing at least and debasing at most–that it’s “uncool” (because it’s earnest), and furthermore, a difficult thing to do as a woman–either because we’re not supposed to draw attention to ourselves or because doing so is actually dangerous in a patriarchal society.

All of which I can understand and appreciate, to a certain degree. But as someone with a background in marketing and publicity, I think this is the wrong way to approach the issue.

1) It’s not about you, it’s about others–it’s about service. I wrote a novel about eco-activists coming of age in the Southwest, and as an author with a small press (read: zero publicity), I consider it my job to reach the people who might want to read that sort of thing, the people who will see their own concerns and life stories reflected in it. (If I hadn’t written it, I would certainly want to know about it.) The woman who wrote this article wrote a book about chronic pain–which, you’ll have to agree, is a far more universal subject, and one much further down on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And yet she considers posting about her book on social media embarrassing and “uncool?” Think of how many people suffering in silence would take comfort in this book–think of how many of them would feel legitimately seen, heard, understood, would perhaps even physically benefit from reading this book. If that was my book, I’d be on a friggin’ crusade with it.

2) If you come from a place of service–moreover, a place of love–you don’t have to shuffle your feet as part of some fake Promotional Persona. My work stems from my love for the authors who’ve influenced me (Ed Abbey, John Nichols, Lydia Millett), for a particular place in the world (the Southwest), for the natural world (the high desert in particular), and for the people I’ve known (artists and activists). Really, it’s pretty simple–people who love what I love connect with my book. It seems to me that anyone who has gone through what this author has gone through and who loves the way she’s written about it would take up the standard of this book–they’d shout about in forums and Facebook groups, and they’d get it for everyone they know in similar straits. As would anyone who loves someone in chronic pain, right? No one would have to be fake about anything. (Also–if it’s uncool to care, I hereby resign from the James Dean club.)

3) Is it unsafe to draw attention to yourself as a woman online? Certainly, if you’re taking on Pepe-the-Frog MRA wingnuts/Sad Puppies/Gamergate dudes, or posting nudie pix. But drawing attention to your work as an author? I think that’s pretty much just expected. If you’re a woman who’s reluctant to do so, consider the fact that you might be responding to some trauma you experienced in a different sphere of life–or are simply acting in a conditioned way, per society’s shitty unspoken dictates to girls. Personally, I don’t think it’s that much of a risk to talk about your work online–unless you see the possibility of anyone criticizing you as a risk.

That said, I’m sure I’ll annoy some people with this post, just as I’ve annoyed some people by promoting my book (without having any idea I was doing so, because that is one of my superpowers as a geek). But if, having done so, I’ve helped even one person reluctant to engage in “self-promotion” approach the issue from a different, more comfortable, angle, you know what? I’m okay with that.

Yippee! I Won an IPPY

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What a thrill it was last night to have my pic taken last night at the IPPY Awards banquet at the Copacabana in New York! And how fun to spend the night with fellow award winners Aya de Leon (Gold, Urban Fiction, Uptown Thiefand Harriet Levin Millan (Bronze, Military/Wartime Fiction, How Fast Can you Run).

Hot Season picked up the Gold award for Best Fiction of the Mountain West–and I picked up the very shiny, surprisingly heavy medal pictured here.

My book designer, the inimitable Gigi Little, pointed out that my dress really went well with my book. Well, believe it or not, friends, that was not a coincidence–there’s very little in the way of glamor in the life of an author, so there’s no way I was going to let this night go by without a fabulous dress. =)

Photo credit: Aya de Leon