Countdown to Muse 2019: Impossible Writing by Susan Bernhard

The Muse and the Marketplace 2019 kicks off on April 5th at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. This year’s theme is writing in a time of upheaval — whether such upheaval is personal, political, artistic, or all of the above. In anticipation of the conference, we’ve asked Muse 2019 presenting authors to describe a time when it was impossible for them to write, but they wrote anyway. How did they do it? What did they write? Our next presenter in the series is Susan Bernhard author of Winter Loon.



Five years ago, I was finishing my year in GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program. I’d revised my novel and gotten a final round of feedback from classmates and an outside reader. What was clear from those workshops was that I had relied too heavily on revelation to carry plot and that the novel was sagging.

I was gutted. An entire year spent blowing my novel apart and stitching it back together but somehow I’d missed this? Did I have no instincts as a writer? I would need to rewrite the entire first half to accommodate an unraveling that needed to take place smack in the middle. And, the first thirty pages had to get done quickly to submit to agents I was meeting with at the Muse.

I looked back at emails from that year to remind myself where I was and how I was feeling back then besides exhausted and burned out. And I think it was the support I got from friends in class, from the instructor, and from my second reader that made it possible for me to push self-doubt aside and to trust my story enough that I could get those first pages into fighting shape for the longer revision process.


You can catch Susan’s craft discussion, “Me, Myself, and I: Establishing and Sustaining First Person POV in an Entire Novel” on Saturday, April 6th at 4:30pm at the Muse. For all the latest Muse news, follow #Muse19.

Susan Bernhard is a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship recipient and a graduate of the GrubStreet Novel Incubator program. She was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and lives with her husband and two children near Boston. She is also a bookseller at Belmont Books in Belmont, MA. Winter Loon (Little A, December 2018) is her debut novel.

About the Author

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