For the love of paper

Bella Grace magazine |
The very first time my name was mentioned in a newspaper was 1988. I was 15 and had won first place in a local painting competition. Seeing my name — and photo! — in the local paper was thrilling, and also a little embarrassing. But mostly thrilling.

The next time my name appeared was as a byline attached to an article in a national Sunday newspaper. I was 26-year-old mature student in the final year of a journalism degree, working as an intern for no money but a lot of experience. That first piece spun out into a regular weekly column and heralded the beginning of my short-lived but much appreciated career as a journalist.

Between then and now there have been many published articles in newspapers, magazines and websites. The loveliest thing is seeing my name in print never gets old — it’s always as thrilling as it was that first time. Obviously these days I mostly write here and I truly love the freedom to share whatever’s in my head or heart — I am the ruler of my own virtual queendom here and I like it! But there’s also a beautiful new magazine on the block and I’m thrilled — there’s that word again — to be a part of it.

Bella Grace is Stampington’s newest baby, a gorgeously tactile cross between a magazine and a journal. Imagine your favourites bits of the creative blogosphere mixed together with dreamy photography and inspiring words. As the internet takes over the world I’m glad there are still publishers creating magazines I can hold in my hand. I love my Kindle but I prefer paper books, and I adore Pinterest but I’d still rather collage images cut out of magazines. Bella Grace is now sitting in my pile of favourites, alongside Cereal, Kinfolk, Frankie and Flow. She’s a beauty :)


To celebrate the magazine’s launch I have a copy of the premiere issue to giveaway PLUS I’m adding THREE places in the September session of Journal Your Life which starts on Monday. So that’s 4 winners in total!

To throw your name in the hat, leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question: what’s your favourite way to get creatively inspired?

I’ll update this post with the winners’ names on Sunday and will be in touch by email to get your deets — good luck! xo

* And the winners are! Heather, Michelle, Francine and Danielle — emails coming shortly x

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On my bookshelf

On my bookshelf |
Feeling inspired by Jen’s recent book post I wanted to share some of the books that are dear to me. I own a lot of books and all of them have impacted me in some way, but these are a few of the non-fiction ones that changed me for the better…

The Book of Love and Creation by Paul Selig

Okay, this is where I finally step out of the woo woo closet. As I mentioned in my own book, I’m not a religious person but I’m definitely bit of a spiritual magpie. I bought my first deck of tarot cards in my teens and have been interested in all thing new age ever since. Out of all the metaphysical books I’ve read over the years, this is the book that’s had the most profound effect on me. There is so much love and wisdom, such gentle humour, such deep understanding, so many a-has… If you’re at all interested in personal growth and consciousness, read this book.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

When I grow up I want to be Anne Lamott. Out of all the writers-writing-about-writing books I have, Bird by Bird has the most dog-earred pages. Her suggestion to “write a shitty first draft” helps me to get over myself every time I sit down to write something. It really is a wonderful book about writing… and life.

Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner

Out of all my journaling books (are you sensing a theme here?) this one speaks to the way I use my journal to connect to my own innate wisdom — and that which is outside of me.

Selected Poems by Sharon Olds

When I started blogging back in 2006 I reconnected to my love of words in a way I hadn’t felt in all my years as a journalist. Finding my way back to poetry opened new doors in my brain, and it was Sharon Olds’ work that moved me the most. She writes about the guts of life. She just knows.

Creating Money by Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer

Another one to file in the woo woo category (my my, I’m really showing you all my knickers today!) but this book was another life-changer for me. When I moved to Bath in 2008 and was trying to rebuild my life, this was the book that helped me the most. It wasn’t even the ‘money’ part that drew me to it — it helped me figure out where I was going. It helped me get closer to my purpose. A few months later I created Unravelling and taught it as an evening class… and now I’m here. Magical book.

The Dance by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I loved The Invitation, but it was The Dance that pierced my heart. If you’ve read my book it won’t be a surprise to discover I love Oriah’s words — the way she weaves personal stories and realisations together was my guiding light as I did my best to create my own tapestry. We all have to start somewhere and she was a huge inspiration for me.

Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest by Christina Baldwin

It will come as no surprise that I love this book — frankly, it’s like journaling porn. A pleasure — pun unintended — to read and work through, with Baldwin’s help you will grow as a journaler and writer, guaranteed.

Companion Through the Darkness by Stephanie Ericsson

This is the book that kept me afloat in my first year of bereavement. Never has a book been more important to me than this one. These days I find I can’t pick it up as it connects me to my past loss so fast I have to sit down. Powerful and healing for those who need it.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

This list would not be complete without mentioning this one. It was the Artist’s Way that helped me reconnect to my creative side as I worked through my bereavement. Cameron’s genius Artist’s Dates got me out of the house and back in love with my cameras. Affirming and nourishing.

So there you have it. A few of my most treasured books.

What books have changed you for the better? Please do share!

There are lots more over on my Pinterest Book friends board.


The elephant in the room

There’s an elephant in the room that I have to address. I touched on it in last week’s post — that was my attempt to let a little steam out of the pressure cooker, but it’s still building and now I have to say something.

I have blogger’s block. More specifically, there’s stuff I can’t talk about on the blog and it’s blocking the way for any other posts to emerge.

As some of you have guessed already, it’s the dating. Not that there’s anything major to report in that area right now, but I’m so acutely aware that current and future dates will be able to read my blog (some have been clever enough to try Googling “Susannah” and oh, there I am, plastered all over the bloody internet for all to see). Being famous in my own virtual living room is proving to be as much of a hindrance as I feared it might be. I mean, there’s SEVEN FREAKING YEARS of archives to explore — it’s like handing someone my diary. And yet it’s not. This blog is the public face of the last seven years. It’s what i felt comfortable sharing with the world, and there is plenty I have not shared. But when you dive into the archives for the first time… it’s overwhelming. God, it overwhelms ME sometimes.

I mention this because I don’t want to leave you guys hanging, and even though blogs are more like online magazines these days, this space remains personal for me. I have no intention to fill the pages with guest posts and impersonal Tips for Fixing Your Life. I started blogging to chronicle my healing journey, and here we are, nearly eight years later, and things have changed. A lot. The healing journey has morphed into a life lived with intention and curiosity. I share my stories and experiences because that is what I know. And I do it in the hope that it might be useful to someone else, and frankly, because it’s helpful for me, too. There have been many moments over the years when I’ve wondered why I think anyone would give a toss about me and my journey. But then I only have to look at the majority of the books on my shelves to see that sharing stories and experiences is the language I understand best. Leading by example. Reporting back from the trenches. Yes and yes, I love all of that. The books that have had the greatest impact on my life are all personal tales from women sharing what they know. Writers like Julia Cameron and Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Dawna Markova and Ann Lamott. May Sarton. Joan Didion. Erica Jong and Natalie Goldberg. Diana Athill and Cheryl Strayed. Anais Nin and Sharon Olds. I’m not saying that my writing comes even close to the magic of this tribe of extraordinary women, but these are the writers who’ve inspired and supported me over the years.


I wrote the first part of this post yesterday. This morning I woke with a possible solution — perhaps it’s time to blank slate this space. To let go of the literal archives that weigh me down. I no longer need the ballast of my story to justify my presence here. As I wrote the book in 2011 I knew I was putting the past to rest; now it’s time for the blog to catch up. So as of right now I’ve started archiving the archives. 2006 has gone, 2007 is next. Then 2008. Maybe some of 2009. I won’t get rid of everything as there are still plenty of useful posts here, but I’m ready to let go of the heaviness of the story. It’s not me anymore and honestly, it hasn’t been for a long time. I honour the past — and yes, i still have my moments — but I am more interested in the future. And the awkward humbling reality of the present.


The Big Book Giveaway!

** UPDATE: comments are now closed — winners announced over here x

Oh my loves, I have something really delicious for you today!

This week marks the one year anniversary of my book baby being out in the world – one whole year! Can you believe it? To celebrate I’ve got some fun posts lined up for this week, starting with today’s Big Book Giveaway.

One of the most amazing things to have come out of the blogosphere in the last few years is a creative community of women sharing their lives and talents with the world. Whether it’s blogs, books, courses, coaching or art, I’m constantly inspired by these women and try my best to add something worthwhile to the pot, too. So rather than just giving away my book (how boring!) I wanted to put a spotlight on the books that have been birthed out of this community and give them away too. I reached out to my book-writing peers and they all replied with a resounding hell yeah! so here’s what we’ve cooked up…

For a chance to win one of the 21 26 beautiful books listed below just follow the instructions at the end of this post. BUT HERE’S THE BEST BIT! There’ll be one extra winner who’ll get bookbombed — one copy of every book will arrive through his or her door — bam!

Can you imagine it? 26 books all for you. 26 books to inspire and delight. 26 new book friends to be made.

If I wasn’t running this giveaway I would SO be entering it :)

Meet the authors

Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts

Cultivating Your Creative Life by Alena Hennessy

Creative Thursday by Marisa Anne

The Declaration of You by Jessica Swift & Michelle Ward

The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee

Brave Inuitive Painting by Flora Bowley

Daring Adventures in Paint by Mati Rose McDonough

Photo Craft by Susan Tuttle & Christy Hydeck

Decorate Workshop by Holly Becker

Zen Under Fire by Marianne Elliott

Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr

Inner Excavation by Liz Lamoreux

The Life Organiser by Jennifer Louden

Desire to Inspire by Christine Mason Miller

The Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond

A Field Guide to Now by Christina Rosalie

Your Other Names by Tara Mohr

This I Know by Yours Truly

My Heart Wanders by Pia Jane Bijkerk

Life is a Verb by Patti Digh

UPDATED! We have FIVE extra books!!

Instant Love by Jen Altman, Amanda Gilligan and Yours Truly

The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam

You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel

The Inside of Out by Jena Strong

Photographing Your Children by Jen Altman

How to play!

You can enter up to four times in the following ways:

1. Leave a comment telling us your favourite book from childhood

2. Pin the giveaway image with a link to this post (leave a second comment saying you’ve pinned)

3. Tweet it out (leave a third comment saying you’ve tweeted the post)

4. Share this post on Facebook (leave a fourth comment saying you’ve Facebooked)

Comments will close on Monday June 10th at 11pm BST and I’ll announce the 22 27 winners on Tuesday June 11th

Winners will be drawn at random — I’ll draw the bookbomb winner first

Good luck! xo

** UPDATE: comments are now closed — winners announced over here x

Ps. The majority of the books will be sent out by the authors themselves and the word on the street is they intend to include extras in the package… just sayin’ x