Writers Have to Write

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Susan Coryell sharing a lifelong passion for writing and the long, winding road to publication.

Here’s Susan!

susancoryellWe writers know who we are; writers have to write. That about sums up my “Second Act” in life.

What happens when a full-time career/working mom knows she is a writer and feels the need to write with simply no way of making time to do so? I believe it was the late Erma Bombeck, a writer of humorous columns, who laughed at her own solution to the problem: “There is a lot of untapped time between midnight and five a.m.”

Not only was I an active working mother—I fancied myself the busiest mom in the East. Full-time public school teacher, department chair, soccer mom, Sunday school teacher, night-student in grad school, mother of three and wife of a small business owner (who worked 80-hour weeks)—to name a few of my titles. Oh, did I mention I was trying to write a novel?

Miraculously, I somehow completed what I now call my “Disney Novel.” The young adult mystery involved twin boys, one a pitcher and one a catcher, who telepathized their signals on the ball diamond. Though probably not publishable, the work proved to me that I could write a story consisting of 50,000 or more words—with a beginning, middle and end. You’d think I would have been satisfied, happy to prove myself and move on with life on Muppet Manor with my family. Right?

eaglebaitAlas, Doubleheader only whetted my appetite to write more, more, more. So, I began working on another young adult novel—this one an anti-bully book with a 14-year-old male protagonist. I worked only on my summers “off” from teaching—posting daily notices on my closed office door that suggested my kids should not disturb me unless they were “bleeding profusely.” It took three years to complete Eaglebait.

While sponsoring a middle school literary magazine at Columbia Press Scholastic awards (yes, I also was in charge of the lit mag at my school), I said to myself, “Hey, you’re in New York. Let’s try to find a literary agent.” Luck prevailed and on the second day at Columbia, I met a guy who knew about a great agency in Chicago for YA books . They took on Eaglebait, secured a contract with Harcourt, and my writing journey began to take shape. Or, so I thought.

Even though Eaglebait won some impressive awards, Harcourt pulled it after 14 months, with no explanation. And, though I had plenty of other writing ideas, I threw in the literary towel until retirement years later. It was just too difficult what with the children merging into teenager-hood.

But then…my Second Act!

Retirement to a lakeside cottage was a godsend for this writer. I mucked around for several years doing free-lance for a pittance and writing a lot of local press for nothing. Not that I was wasting my “talent,” but I longed to plunge into novel writing again. That’s where I am at my creative best. And so, I picked up on a mystery/Gothic idea I had contemplated some years back—adjusted the setting to fit my retirement locale—and I have never turned back. The Wild Rose Press published A Red, Red Rose in 2013 and the sequel, Beneath the Stones this past April of 2015. I am currently writing the third novel in the series—as yet unnamed. In between writing these cozy mystery/Southern gothics, I was able to update Eaglebait with cyber-bullying and publish it through Amazon in e-book format.


If there is a moral to my story, I believe it would be: Since writers know who we are and writers have to write, we must never lose faith; the window for writing will open somehow, some way, some time. I found my muse in the loft of a lake house 20+ years after my novel debut—a Second Act, for sure.

My heartfelt thanks to Joanne for inviting me to guest on her awesome blog!


A career educator, Susan has taught students from 7th grade through college-level. She earned a BA degree in English from Carson-Newman College and a Masters from George Mason University. She is listed in several different volumes of Who’s Who in Education and Who’s Who in Teaching. Susan belongs to Author’s Guild, Virginia Writers, and Lake Writers. She loves to talk with budding writers at schools, writers’ conferences and workshops. Her young adult anti-bully novel EAGLEBAIT is in its third edition for print and e-book, updated with cyber-bullying. EAGLEBAIT won the NY Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age,” and the International Reading Association’s “Young Adult Choice.”

A RED, RED ROSE, first in a cozy mystery/Southern Gothic series, was nominated for a literary award with the Library of Virginia. BENEATH THE STONES, the sequel, was released in April of 2015.

The author has long been interested in concerns about culture and society in the South, where hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. The ghosts slipped in, to her surprise.

When not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. She and her husband, Ned, love to travel, especially when any of their seven grandchildren are involved.

Where to find Susan…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Joanne here!

Susan, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Good luck with all your literary endeavors.


23 responses to “Writers Have to Write

  1. Pingback: Pearls of Second Act Wisdom |

  2. I really enjoyed hearing about your path to becoming the writer you are today. WOW….you were busy! I didn’t write while my kids were young, although I thought about it often. But, when my youngest was nine, I took a writing course while I was laid off from my job, and I then began pursuing my lifelong dream. No matter how we get there, you are correct, a writer writes! Great interview.

    • We writers are driven, Alicia. Thanks for your comments. I admire YOUR busy-ness with all the hats you wear–still writing prolifically! And so, we press on!

  3. Susan, your life sounds so like mine…at least up to the retired part! Working full time, class mom, Sunday school teacher, committee chairperson for this and that…husband, sons, and trying to write. Sounds crazy! My “boys” are grown now which makes it easier, but the full-time day job still claims much of my energy. You’ve given me hope though! Your books sound terrific.

    • Leah–Keep the faith. Your dream of having time will arrive before you know it. I loved my life as Mom/Teacher and I love being retired. Thanks for commenting!

  4. An excellent essay on your writing life, Susan, and one I can wholly relate to with my own life of writing, blogging, trying to keep up with the world of books! You have done an amazing amount of hard work writing and marketing and surely it has and will continue to pay off. I have your newest book on my kindle still to read this summer and looking forward to it. There is never enough time!

    • I appreciate your joining us, Susan. TIME–friend or enemy? I often wonder! Here’s to us writers with an eye on the clock!

  5. I’ve been fortunate to have been a stay-at-home mum and wife, but didn’t give in to my urge to write until six years ago. My second act started when the youngest went off to college three years ago (empty-nest depression hit me hard) and will be continued into adapting to a soon-to -be-retired spouse. Oy. Perhaps that’ll be my third act.

  6. Hi, Susan,

    I enjoyed reading your bio and we do have much in common. I have read your novels with pleasure, both YA and adult fiction. In fact, you are on my recommended list for summer reading on my Author Expressions blog today. Best wishes!

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