Did you ever happen on a phrase that suddenly kicked something off in you, way outside its original context? That’s happened to me more than once–most recently, when I was interviewing Janet Tyson about her work on Elizabeth Blackwell, the historical character in Hemlock. Janet began her research project in her mid-60s, she said, so she have something that would keep her “engaged and productive” for the rest of her life.
That phrase–engaged and productive--resonated with me. Over the past five decades, I have had the good fortune to publish more than my share of books with a number of traditional publishers and under my own imprint, in print, pixel, and audio. I’m in my mid-80s now. I’ve been thinking that it’s time to retire from long-form work–novels, that is. I don’t want to end a career as Agatha Christie did, with books that dwindle down because the author is running out of passion and purpose.
But I’m one of those writers who (as author friend Judy Alter says) can’t not write. If not novels, what kind of writing and publishing will keep me engaged and productive as long as I have the wit and attention and health to manage it? In what forms, what formats, what media? And how to stay engaged with readers, as I’ve done in so many book group sessions? I love my WordPress website, but it’s not easy to connect with readers here. WordPress does not lend itself to extended discussion, chats, or podcasts–things I’d like to play with.
So when I discovered Substack, I began to think how I might use it as a way to create the kind of participatory community I had in mind. I’m calling it Place & Thyme (with a hat tip to Andrea Grimes, who suggested the title and has been a helpful and supportive mentor throughout this process). The full site isn’t ready for prime time yet, but you can get an advance peek of the planned schedule here. Those of you who have been coming to susanalbert.com to read the monthly All About Thyme and LifeScapes will still find them here, as usual. But you can also find them at Substack, free. Plus (for supporting subscribers) two additional monthly posts–the familiar BookScapes and the new Senior Chronicle, in addition to discussion, chat, Q&A, and short fiction and serial fiction. I am super excited about this, because it will give me a wider playground for my writing work (which is really play, you know). And more opportunities to connect with you.
To answer the question you have in the back of your mind: what about books? You probably know there are more coming: Someone Always Nearby: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe and Maria Chabot (Nov. 7) and Forget Me Never, China Bayles/Pecan Springs #29 (next spring–no webpage yet). After that . . . well, I (almost) never say never. But I’m looking forward to more short fiction, especially to playing around with the Dahlias and with stories like the ones I wrote for An Unthymely Death years ago. It’ll all start happening on September 4. I hope you’ll be with us.
So before you forget it, click over to Place & Thyme and take a look. Subscribe (it’s quick, easy, free), and you can be a part of whatever we’re doing. You might also take a look around Substack. Some of the best writing on the internet is going on over there. Whatever your passion and purpose–whatever keeps you up at night or makes you late for dinner–you’ll find something to feed it.
Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
Bilbo: I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner―
Your turn. All civil comments welcome. I join in as I have time and something to add to the discussion. If you have questions about the Substack payment structure, see Maryellen’s question below.