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In With the New, Not Quite Out With the Old

The wall next to my writing desk, New Orleans

I finished writing Holding Fast a year ago. It's hard to believe how much has happened since, from publication in October to book-signings in favorite bookstores to a feature in the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans newspaper; not to mention connecting with so many readers, which has been awesome. While I was writing, post-it notes covered the wall next to my writing desk: ideas for scenes, inspirational quotes, themes. As I begin work on my next book, two notes from Holding Fast remain.


It took some  years, and many writing workshops, before I understood that a main theme of the book was leaving conventional life behind. Once I put that note up, it never came down. If whatever I wrote didn't pertain to it, it couldn't be in the book.


Jerry Saltz, in How to Be an Artist, says "Find your own voice. Then exaggerate it."(p. 49). When I asked a writer friend for feedback on the initial draft of Holding Fast, she said, "I want to see more of you in there." At the time, John, Kate, and I were living in Florida. We had enrolled Kate in a regular school, and Kate and I would have the "normal" lives we craved after three years on the water. We had a pretty house in a suburban community with a vibrant downtown and a gorgeous white sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean.


Yet I was miserable. I was away from family and friends (John didn't want to return to the Northeast). I had little in common with the neighbors and hated the locked gates of our development clicking behind me each time I drove in. I cried each night. While writing, I imagined myself on a rosy version of Laughing Goat sailing in ever-sunny seas. I wasn't sure what my friend meant about putting more of myself in.


I gained more insight as time passed and eventually, I was able to reflect back, to find my own voice. I love Saltz' notion of exaggerating it: for those of us who come late to expressing ourselves, what seems like exaggeration is most likely simply an acknowledgement of truths already there. It was hard work but has opened up my life up in ways I could not have imagined, for which I'm grateful. 


Finally, if you've read the book and haven't left a review, please do so. It helps with Amazon's algorithms. Simply click below, and scroll down the page to "write a customer review." One sentence or a couple phrases are fine!




I also wanted to let you know about a wonderful new website, Shepherd, which Ben Fox started and as he says, is like wandering around your favorite bookstore but reimagined for the online world... along with notes from authors pointing out their favorite books. Here is a link to my page, where you can also buy my book!


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On We Go

Coffee Cup 2019, created by Betsy Lody



The blue cup above is a treasured Christmas gift from a potter friend. John, my husband, passed away in 2016, and I moved to New Orleans soon after that. When I got home from a Christmas lunch in 2018 and opened my friend's gift, I was stunned. I had shared sailing stories with the group over the years, including John's mantra, "On we go!" as we sailed through squalls, made our way through reefs, and pressed on even when it got rough and we were miserable. Seeing the cup, I gasped, sobbed, and smiled. It was perfect, reminding me of love and tenacity. 


Holiday gifts used to fill me with dread. My mother once gave me a Chanukah card with an article folded inside about children who didn't visit their parents enough. On my 25th birthday, after I had started a new life with John, madly in love and living on a ferry boat, she sent an old gray bathroom rug with a ragged hole cut in the center, and suggested I wear it as a poncho.


I'm so grateful for the love and support of the people in my life now, and for the outpouring of support from readers. This year, I got a new grandson and the book I had worked on for so long was published. Years ago, I could never have imagined that my life would take these wonderful turns.


This year, I'm spending the holidays with my daughter in Vancouver, Washington, and delighting in my eleven-month-old grandson. All of his grandparents will be here (John's here in spirit) and he will be awash in love, as it should be. 


Holidays can be difficult, especially after loss, but they also bring the opportunity to acknowledge the wonders in your life. I wish you all a serene, loving, joyful holiday. On we go!



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Celebrating Unicorns, Friendship and Surprising Yourself

Celebration in the Oaks, City Park, New Orleans, December, 2021

During the holiday season, New Orleans' City Park lights up with unicorns, Santas, peacocks, fleur-de-lis, and other festive decorations like the steamboat above, a replica of one that plies the Mississippi River. I'm heading to the Pacific Northwest next week to visit my daughter Kate and her family for Christmas and enjoying a few Christmas traditions here before leaving. 


One tradition I love is going out with a group of close friends for a holiday lunch. We met shortly after I arrived in New Orleans five years ago and sometime after that, a few of us formed the Anarchist Book Club. Our friendship grew and we took road trips to Montgomery, Alabama, to see the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and to the beach. One of us passed away this year from cancer. On the way to visit her in a hospital in Houston, we stopped for gas at a truck stop and bought her a glowing doll that that eerily transformed from Jesus into Mary and whose eyes seemed to follow you; it was just right for our spiritual, irreverent friend. I've never particularly seen myself as a badass, but with this group of women, I have surprised myself.


Writing my book has led me to surprise myself in other ways, too. Managing my time and working towards a goal have not been areas in which I've excelled in the past. Nearly three years ago, I urgently desired to finish this book that I had been working on for so long. My husband John had passed away a couple of years earlier. One night out at dinner with Kate and my son-in-law Alex, I expressed my frustrations. Alex is an entrepreneur, the CEO of a company of engineers, a terrific manager, and he offered to be my accountability person. We've worked together on it now for almost three years, making goal after goal, though I certainly have a ways to go. We have become personally closer, too, which means a lot to me. As he said the other night, "Not many mothers-and-sons-in-law could do this successfully!"


The holiday season brings out other feelings, too, like how much I miss John. I'm coming to accept that the sadness I often feel at this time of year is simply a part of the season for me.


Before signing off, a couple of bits of business:


If you have not yet reviewed Holding Fast on Amazon, please review it! It helps tremendously with Amazon's algorithms. It's easy to do by clicking below, and scrolling down the page to the customer review section:




A number of people have mentioned that they are giving Holding Fast as Christmas presents. If you are doing that, or would like to, I would love to send you a thank-you postcard. Please email me a copy of the receipt and your mailing address to my email address, susan@susan-cole.com.


I'm very grateful this year for all of you, and wish you a holiday and a year full of joy, peace and good health. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below if there's anything you want to share about this time of year.

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The Curious Incident of the Foot in the Night

Susan at Garden District Books November 17th

I had a great time at Garden District Books the other night reading from Holding Fast. The Q & A was really fun, with questions like: how did I handle not having a fixed address given my need for stability? what was my most frightening moment? what did Kate think of the voyage then and now? My favorite part of the book being published is connecting with readers.


The day Holding Fast was published, October 19th, I floated home from the launch party. I had accomplished something that I had wanted very much. In my early life, after my father passed away, I stopped dreaming for myself; it was too painful, reminding me of how much he had loved and encouraged me. When I got together with John in my twenties, he dreamed of sailing away. He kept following that dream, and eventually, in our late forties, we sailed off on Laughing Goat with Kate. John's tenacity made a dream happen and his example showed me the way.


I woke up during the night after the launch party and my left foot was throbbing and sore. The sensation reminded me of cartoons where a character's heart throbs outside the body, ba-boom, ba-boom. For the next couple of weeks, I couldn't put my full weight on that foot and I stepped gingerly. The sensation continued until the day after the reading at Garden District when I got a massage. The masseuse had studied Eastern techniques and told me that the aching spot was linked to the heart. 


My heart is with John on Laughing Goat, on our last boat, Smooch, on all the earlier boats. Our wild adventures were filled with hope and possibility. I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to share the experience in Holding Fast.









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Max as Harry Potter on Halloween, New Orleans

This year, the book I'd worked on for fifteen years was published and my first grandson was born. Progress has never been a straight line for me. After my dad died when I was young, I stopped dreaming. I didn't do it on purpose but without him, it was all I could do to keep my head above water. I began dreaming again when I fell in love with my husband John in my twenties. I went on to have my daughter Kate late in life, sail on an amazing voyage, and write about it.


Dreams do come true. I am in my 70s working on my next book. My daughter and her husband brought my grandson Max to New Orleans for a visit last week (they moved away last summer). I signed a book to Max to read when he gets older. I hope his dreams come true, too.

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Book Launch Party!

Book Launch Party at Blue cypress Books in New Orleans

Thanks so much to everyone who came to celebrate the publication of my first book, Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss last night at Blue Cypress Books. The bookstore sold out of my book! It was great to see old and new New Orleans friends and to hear from out-of-town friends and relatives who watched on the livestream. I especially enjoyed the question-and-answer period. Kate was seven when we left and someone asked about Kate's perceptions of the voyage. I told them about her cabin in the forward part of the boat, a cozy vee-berth at the bow where she was surrounded by her books and stuffed animals. At one point on the voyage, though, John and I were distressed to hear her refer to it as the "death cabin." Kate was listening to the launch party on livestream from her new home across the country and when I couldn't remember why she referred to it that way, she said, "The Titanic." The movie had just come out when we left on our voyage.


It was a really special night for me, and I'm still taking in that my book is in the world, people are reading it, and perhaps finding their own stories in it. 


If you missed it, you can watch on youtube  Susan's Book Launch Party. Next week on October 27th, I will have a book-signing at Garden District Books, and all are invited. More information on that will follow. 

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Letting go

February 2020, Susan sending the manuscript to final draft beta readers.

On Tuesday, Holding Fast will be officially out in the world. There will be a launch party that night at Blue Cypress, a lovely bookstore in New Orleans, with friends and cake. I'll float on the love, warmth, and friendship in the room, and in the spirit of those watching online, or who are no longer here.


When I finished the final draft last year, a good friend asked if I'd be willing to let her book club read it. We were ending a meeting that had nothing to do with writing, but in my image of the encounter, I'm clutching a thick manuscript of Holding Fast tightly to my chest, saying "Nooooo!" as though she'd asked me to hand over my newborn baby girl to a bunch of strangers who would then run off with her. At that point, no one beyond my writing instructors, workshop classmates, and a few close friends had read it.


I remember when my husband, John, was ill and a wise shrink-priest in Merida, Mexico, where we were living at the time, told me that all of our adventures, the sailing, our lives together, were not gone, that they were alive inside of me. 


I said yes to my friend reading it in the book club and it led here, to the book being published.


It's hard to let go, but it is all still alive inside of me.





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Pre-order Today!

I visited the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon, last week and came upon lovely, peaceful scenes such as this stone garden. With the book coming out soon, and all the attendant activity, it is nice to keep that stillness in mind.


If you were planning to pre-order Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss on October 12th, order your copy today! Simply click on the link below. 




Holding Fast is a story of leaving everything behind to follow my husband John's dream of sailing away. Many people dream of escape but few actually go. 


My journey took me from the glitzy world of Madison Avenue advertising to riding out Hurricane Mitch, the largest hurricane on record at the time, on a sailboat in Guatemala. I didn't want to go in the first place but ended up on a life-changing odyssey. 


Holding Fast will be released on October 19th! As soon after reading it as you can, please post a review on Amazon! 


In addition, I am sending a signed custom bookmark to the first 100 readers who pre-order on the 12th (today)! All you would need to do is forward the Amazon order confirmation dated 10/12 and send an address to mail it to susan@susan-cole.com. 


It's been a long and winding road to finishing the book and getting it published. I'm so excited that the book is finally almost here, and I'm grateful for the outpouring of support. Thank you! 


As John would say, on we go. 



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Pre-order Holding Fast on October 12th!

My granddaughter after receiving an early copy!

One more week until October 12th!  

If you are planning to pre-order Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss, please pre-order on October 12th! I'm thrilled whenever you order, but if everyone pre-orders on the same day, October 12th, it will help my Amazon ratings.

Holding Fast is a story of leaving everything behind to follow my husband John's dream of sailing away. Many people dream of escape but few actually go. 

My journey took me from the glitzy world of Madison Avenue advertising to riding out Hurricane Mitch, the largest hurricane on record at the time, on a sailboat in Guatemala. I didn't want to go in the first place, but ended up on a life-changing odyssey.  

"A wife follows her husband to sea and finds herself along the way in this memoir…A perfect, realistic counterpart to Amity Gaige's Sea Wife (2020), Cole's moving memoir is emotionally astute, and her use of excerpts from the Laughing Goat's log provides welcome insights into John's perspective. Vivid characterizations…The author's voice is so assured…"   

 —Kirkus Review

Only seven days to go!

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Behind the Book Cover

Benedetta C. Vialli (Benedetta C. Vialli), a marvelous illustrator from Italy, designed  the cover. She had designed a friend's book cover (Susan Landry), and I love her work.


When she asked for my ideas, I mentioned blue, the sea, a boat, and maybe a way to show something about my relationship with my husband, John. Although Benedetta and I communicated about a few details over the next weeks, she offered no hint about what she was coming up with. I was dying to know and also at peace not knowing. 


A few weeks ago, while visiting my daughter Kate in Vancouver, Washington, I was watching my grandson play in his room before a nap and scrolling idly through my inbox when Benedetta's initial cover sketches landed like a bolt of lightning. 


The sketches deeply touched on my feelings about our voyage, and John, Kate and me. When John passed away five years ago, I was working on an early draft of the book. I didn't yet understand that although our voyage was the backdrop, the story was really about our relationships, and how we all changed. John had a great visual sense and I was used to relying on him to choose images or colors. As I pondered which sketch to choose, I knew pretty quickly which one I wanted. I think he would be happy with what I chose.


I'm very proud to introduce Holding Fast's cover! 



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