Portrait of the artist as a young woman

April 01, 2007

It’s the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book. My debut novel was published in April, 1987.

At the time, I was writing two types of fiction. The G.A.N. (Great American Novel) and romance novels. Here is my first author photo. Jay took it with his ancient Nikon SLR and the reason for this Goth-in-the-headlights look is that I was trying to resemble a Serious Novelist who can’t be bothered to straighten up her bookshelves or smile. me, 1987The dress has literary significance, which I was sure readers would notice. I bought it in San Miguel de Allende, where we went one year because there was a reference to it in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Back then, we were scraping by on teachers’ salaries, our daughter was two, we had been married nearly seven years and it appears I had no budget for getting a haircut. I probably didn’t have the time, what with the baby, husband and job. My writing time was restricted to nine to midnight every night, and I wrote two books a year that way. (This might explain why my daughter is an only child.) I wrote my first drafts in longhand and typed them up on an ancient Olivetti manual typewriter. After finishing two manuscripts that way, I upgraded to a Sears “Correct-O-Ball” electric typewriter and wrote the next one on that. I tried some sort of computer called an “Adam” which saved its data on a cassette tape and it was a godawful machine. But I sold that book and a few more and got a decent computer made by Bell that had a program called “WordPerfect 4.2” on it.

SWHere I am 20 years later, able to afford help with the hair, makeup and photographer (and much more in need of same than the girl above). I’ve given up trying to be serious, and it’s working well for me. Some things that haven’t changed–I still write in longhand on the same kind of paper with the same kind of pen. I still write multiple drafts. I still use WordPerfect (X3, I think). I still haven’t written the G.A.N. but I’ve had a lot of books published. So life is good.

Sitting down and writing a novel is a solitary pursuit, but actually making a 20-year career out of being a published author takes a dedicated team. So many people have helped me along the way and at the risk of hearing a swell of get-off-the-stage music in my head, I’d like to thank some of them here:

  • My family, who never set any limits on my dreams and who who made growing up all over the world an adventure
  • My adorable husband, for giving me the reason for all this
  • My girlfriends (and you know who you are), cheerleading me on and taking the time to read every book I write, even when their book clubs are reading lit-rah-choor
  • Wendy McCurdy, then an editor at Kensington Books, for buying that first novel
  • The Petri Dish (and you have no idea who you are, but then again, neither does anyone else)
  • My writers’ groups on the island and mainland, and organizations for writers–the Authors Guild, RWA, Novelists, Inc. and Field’s End
  • My literary agent Meg, aka the Don King of publishing
  • My truly gifted editor, editorial director and the whole chain-of-command at my publisher
  • My CPA and bookkeeper for taking care of business
  • Booksellers, reviewers and librarians for getting the word out and putting my books in readers’ hands
  • …and readers everywhere. There is no writing career without you.

Happy anniversary to me!

  • […] SW: There’s so much information you can gather about agents these days, I imagine the thing to do would be to research agents on the Web, talk to clients and then have plenty of conversations with potential agents. You’re hiring a paid professional so it behooves you to do your homework and ask all the questions. What makes a relationship successful is when it’s productive for both agent and client, you work well together and the author feels her needs are met. The #1 complaint writers have about agents is a lack of responsiveness. This is definitely not the case with Meg, as your chapter knows! She has a gift for being “present” whenever you need her. She’s like a female James Bond–you know there are other clients, but when you’re with her, you feel like the only one. · It’s 1987, your first book is about to be published, what advice would Susan Wiggs 2010 give Susan Wiggs 1987? […]

  • Susan- Congratulations on your anniversity. I have to say I have only been reading your books for a short while. I started with Table For Five and am trying very hard to catch up.
    I love that you and Debbie Macomber are friends.
    You are both fantastic.
    Keep up the GREAT work!!!

  • Susan,
    Congratulations on your 20th anniversary! I hope you give us another 20 filled with your wonderful stories!!

  • Susan-I can say I knew you 20 years ago but as a parent of a student you taught math in the 2nd and 5th grades. I have loved discovering your books which bring so much pleasure. It looks like you have a better view now.

  • Happy anniversary! I’m glad I stumbled onto your blog, now I have a new author with a huge amount of published works to read! Congrats on the continued success.

  • Dear Susan,

    Congratulations on your milestone anniversary. I remember you when — always talented, always persistent. It proves you know “the secret” of writing and getting published. (Not to mention climbing on and staying on the bestseller lists.) I’m so glad you created this blog for all of us to share and “pipe in” our comments. You are much appreciated.

  • Susan,

    You’ve come a long way, Sister. It took us both twenty years to be an over night success. Who would have thought when we left Harper with our tail between our legs that we’d end up on the NYT List. Congratulations my friend.


  • How wonderful! Wow, twenty years! You are such an inspiration and I love all of your beautiful pictures. Now I need to go and line up my Susan books and re-read them all 🙂

  • Susan, I met you a couple of years ago at the Monterey Bay Romance Writers when you gave a workshop. Since then I’ve been an avid reader of your books. I’ve only recently gotten to know your work. because when I was “young” I was working so hard and so many hours I never had time to read fiction. Now that my only child is in college, I have more time, and I’m reading–you!

    Anyway, since I’ve only gotten to know your writings, I had NO IDEA you’d been writing for twenty years! And HOW did you write three hours a night when your daughter was two? I never would have had the energy when my sweet girl was that age!

    I loved reading this post of yours, love the picture of you twenty years ago, and especially love the picture of you on the ferry. (I used to take that ferry all the time when I lived on the island and worked in Seattle.)

    You’ve given me lots of hours of good reading, and I’m looking forward to more. Also looking forward to attending any more workshops you teach.

    God bless you — and here’s to another great twenty years!

  • Congratulations on your anniversary. I love your books and have read most of them. Can’t wait for your new “Willow Lake” book to come out.

  • Susan,
    Congrats! Loved the retrospective of the past 20 years. Looking back helps celebrate the present and give more meaning to what we all know you’ll accomplish in the future!
    And whew! How organized you are to pull together all that info. Loved the links.

  • Susan, Congratulations on your 20 years! When I went to my first WHRWA meeting, I remember how you had passed your newest book around the room and how sweet and helpful you were to us new members. I still look forward to every new book! All my best. Bonnie

  • I still want to be you when I grow up, except that you’re a year younger. 🙂 Congratulations! Rock on, Susan. Rock on…. Love, Deb

  • Susan: Your twenty years of writing has been a blessing to us all. I’m looking forward to the next twenty years of productivity and wonderful stories to come. Congratulations!

  • Susan, congratulations on your milestone! It’s a pleasure to know you and to read your books. What a great way to celebrate. Virtual chocolate and champagne from me to you.

  • You have such wonderful energy in so many senses of that word. Having worked with you in one of your many volunteer endeavors I find your “can-do” attitude inspirational! Congratulations on all you have accomplished. You were gorgeous then, and you still are!

  • Congrats! Susan!
    You are a great teacher…adding to your list of accomplishments. The “Grasshoppers” all love you..as well as loving each other. Thank you for your August class tha brought is together…as well as imparting your wisdom to us. Double blessing.

    BOTH pictures are great of you, but I really love the one of your hubby and daughter…I do believe it is our immediate family who molds us into who we are…and they have done a fine job!

    Best wishes for the next 20 years(looking forward to that picture)…and thanks for sharing your adventures with us as well as this wonderful major milestone.

  • Mega congrats Susan for an amazing milestone. What’s more amazing is that you keep getting younger rather than older. Not fair! On the other hand with this fountain-of-youth thing going on that means lots more books to come from your pen — so I’m okay with that. Congrats again on a career that inspires!

    All the best ~~ Mary B 🙂

  • Susan,

    Congratulations! So fun to see what you looked like 20 years ago. You and your hard work are much admired!


  • Congratulations on your 20th anniversary, Susan!

    What a huge accomplishment. I’m so glad we
    met a few years ago; I’ve not only gained a
    wonderful artistic role model, but a good friend. 🙂
    Lucky me.

  • Man! Twenty years. I look so forward to each and every one of your books. I’ve reread many of them and find something new every time.
    keep on going can hardly wait for the next one!

    The pictures of you on the Ferry are great!


  • Happy twentieth anniversary! What a treat to see your early author photo. You were gorgeous then, and you’re gorgeous now. And your books are amazing, of course. I’ve got to get a copy of your debut novel… check out that cover!!!!!!! xoxoxo,

  • Happy Anniversary Susan from Wenatchee, Washington. Your books are awesome. The covers are so eye catching…they just say.. “Grab me quick and take me home!” The contents are just as rewarding.

  • Hi Susan,
    I first meet you with a book signing with Debbie Macomber…in Port Orchard a few years back. From that day forward, I have become a great fan of yours…and love your books…I now have two favorite authors…you and Debbie. Debbie has become a special friend of mine. Often when I bring a group to meet her…she will meet us for lunch and gives a tour of her office…it is always a treat for those that are meeting her for the first time. She often talks highly of you. I plan to attend a book signing of yours in the near future…I have gotten many of my friends to start reading your books as well. I am hoping you and Debbie will sign together again soon in a town near me. We love our local authors!! I would like to have you both come to Burlington, WA.

    Congratulations! And Happy Anniversary!!

    Keep writing! Kelly Regan

  • Keep on writing!! I look foreward to each new book. I own 23 of your books, someday I may reread them all. Happy Aniversary!!

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