June 6, 2008

The Writer

Filed under: — Susan Stevenson @ 7:49 pm

On my tenth birthday (my birthday falls 11 days before Christmas), I was gifted with my very first diary. It had a red cover that looked like leather, and came with a lock and key. I began writing in it immediately.

My first entries were simple sentences describing the life of a girl who had three younger brothers, a working father, and a stay-at-home mother.

On Christmas Eve, I wrote my first full-page entry. My parents were having a holiday party, and we were ordered to bed early. Because it was Christmas Eve, we were allowed to push together the two twin beds in the older boys’ bedroom, and all sleep together. We lay there in the dark, giggling and tickling, and imagining that we heard Santa’s reindeer on the roof. We were so excited about morning coming and being able to run downstairs and see what presents were left under the tree.

I heard music wafting up from the basement (the rec room, as it was called). It sounded like someone was playing an organ. I had asked Santa for an organ! Could it be that he had already brought it to the house? I tiptoed into the bathroom with my diary and my pencil and wrote furiously in that little red book about the organ I hoped I’d find the next day. I was right. There was an organ for me. It was a memorable Christmas for me… that Christmas of 1969.

But 1969 was even more memorable because of that little book with the lock and key. I began writing that year, and I never stopped. My diary became my closest confidante.

I have more than three decades of journals safely stored away in what I call my “memento boxes”. They chronical my journey through life with its ups and downs, heartaches and joys, accomplishments and losses. My last several years of journals were mostly kept via online venues – such as this blog, and my Alaska Journal. I do occasionally write long hand, but those entries are my most private writings and are sporadic at best. My everyday life is here – in cyberspace – sometimes shared with many; sometimes shared with only a few; sometimes shared with no one. Periodically, I convert my online writing to a pdf file and download it to my hard drive and burn it to a DVD. I’ve thought about printing it out and binding it, but I fear too many trees would lose their life!

I love to write. I love to move what I feel inside to the outside. Sometimes the words flow easily. Sometimes my fingers are ‘tongue-tied’. Sometimes I write very long entries, full of emotion and deep thoughts, and then delete them – feeling better just for getting it all outside myself.

Sometimes I see something, or experience something, and I can’t think of the right words to describe it. There are moments when I believe that the precise words haven’t been invented yet.

I don’t profess to be an expert writer. I don’t expect to find anything I’ve written published or offered for sale in a bookstore. I write because I enjoy it. I write because I want to leave a record of my everyday life for my sons, and maybe grandchildren someday.

I found a few pages from my mother’s high school diary a few days after she died. I don’t know why they were torn from the journal, or where the rest of the journal is. There were no deep dark secrets revealed, to warrant putting them away for safekeeping. They were the words of a 17-year-old “girl-woman”, who was flirtatious with the boys in her school, working at a dress shop, and staying out way too late on a school night.

And I cherish those creased pages; I cherish them because they paint a picture of my mother before life became complicated. She was just like any other 17-year-old boy crazy girl. So much more than “a mother”.

I hope that someday my writing will reveal the same to my sons.

โ€œYou have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, just as an intelligence without the possibility of expression is not really an intelligence. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.โ€ ~ Luis Buรฑuel


  1. Writing is a door that only you can open and walk through. On the other side of that door is a world that only you can enter. We don’t write for others, we write for ourselves too.


    Comment by Layne — July 29, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  2. Sue, Your written words paint a picture. They sometimes share your inner-most secrets, and they often times, I’m sure, are poignant enough to intrigue even their own author. To have learned to “sound it out” as a youngster was probably one of the greatest gifts that our Mom ever gave to me. The downside, though, is that poor grammar and spelling bug the heck out of me! The upside? Like you, I too love to write. Likewise, to read a well written narrative is a real treat for me. So when I read the descriptive prose about your travels, I am transported, if only for a few moments, to places I might only dream of visiting. Like Mommy, you give all of your readers a gift. It costs them nothing but their time to read and to dream. The dividends that your written descriptive’s pay are as priceless as the photographs that accompany them. Memories are as fleeting as the winds of life. With all of our technological advances, there is still nothing so timeless as the well written word. Kudos!


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Thank you, Mike. Your comment means a lot to me. I truly love to write – to somehow share what I see and feel with anyone who is interested in reading. Most of all, I hope that my words will bring a degree of peace and enlightenment to my sons when I’m no longer here.

    I’ve often wished that more people kept journals/diaries over the years, especially from centuries past. I suppose this is why I’ve always enjoyed the Little House books, and the Diary of Anne Frank. Those intimate glimpses into a life that was so different than ours, and yet so similar in many ways (emotionally), are real treasures.

    As for being transported to places you can only dream of visiting…. dream no more. You always have a place to stay if your travels ever bring you to interior Alaska and beyond.

    Love, Sue


    Mike Smalley Reply:

    I’ve already spoken to Patti about making that trip to Alaska, and its going to happen sometime in 2010. We’ll be enjoying a “destination wedding” in late June, followed by Michael’s wedding in early July (if my memory serves me correctly, July 10), followed by David’s wedding, in October (Again, if my memory serves me correctly, on the 8th ). We have been taking advantage of American Express miles, as well as United Airlines miles. The only thing that could possibly put a damper on our travel plans is the amount of time that I’m afforded by my employer to take off. The accumulation of vacation days occurs fairly quickly, but, it seems, my zest for travel occurs at a much faster rate of speed! So many places, so little time! ๐Ÿ™‚ Love Mike…

    P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! I have a new cell phone. When my old one died, it took to its grave all of my existing phone numbers. (Unfortunately, with the advent of cell phone directories, I no longer memorize phone numbers) Consequently, I don’t have either of your phone numbers…CALL ME!


    Comment by Mike Smalley — December 13, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  3. You’re a great writer. Thanks for sharing.


    Comment by Hayley — March 28, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  4. Hi Susan,
    I loved your write up. it gives an nice picture of Alaska. I am in love with this place ever since I remember. sadly have not had a chance to visit it yet.

    My question is a bit specific, I am not an American citizen but has a visa to visit the USA.
    if I am to plan a month long visit to Alaska(probably have to quite my job) how much would it cost me? or rather how much did it cost you for this entire trip.
    a break of expenses will be a great help for me to plan the trip in say 3 years. ๐Ÿ™‚


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Govind,

    The cost of traveling and staying in Alaska will vary greatly depending on your wants and your mode of transportation, lodging, etc.

    If you want to travel very inexpensively (after you pay for the air fare to get here and rent a car to get you around), you could tent instead of using a hotel. Or you could tent and use a hotel together. There are also hostels here that are quite inexpensive and another good way to visit.

    Once you have transportation and lodging, the other costs (food and entertainment) could vary quite a bit. You could eat cheaply making your own sandwiches, or dine in restaurants.

    Tent sites can cost anything from FREE to $25/night
    Hotel rooms in summer usually run about $125+/night, with most in the $200 range. Bed and Breakfasts might be a little less. Here’s the link for Alaska Hostels. They run anywhere from about $25/night.


    Gasoline here is currently about $4/gallon. Who knows what it would be in 3 years. Depending on how much driving you do, this could be expensive. If you travel to Alaska with a friend or friends, and split all these expenses, it will be less.

    I do most of these long trips with friends so that the expense to each of us is less. The trip up to Deadhorse cost about $100 in fuel (split between us) and $8/night for camping. Food was $20 for dinner one night, and the rest of the time we ate food we packed for the trip.


    Comment by Govind — July 23, 2013 @ 11:52 am

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