Writer and poet Sue Ready prepared for her article about Hundred Miles to Nowhere by sending me a round of questions. Her article will be published separately, but I loved the back and forth of our Q&A. Sue gave me permission to publish it here. Thanks so much, Sue!
1. I’d like to tag on the way you began each chapter with song lyrics for beginning of the article. What 4 lines would you suggest? Use the ones related to your book title?
Thanks! And that sounds like a fun approach to the article. The “100 Miles to Nowhere” or “Concrete” lyrics are probably the most clearly relevant to the book.
From “100 Miles to Nowhere”
It’s a hundred miles to nowhere
And nowhere’s where I’ve been
Can’t seem to get to somewhere
Though I keep trying
OR, from Concrete
Concrete scepter, concrete crown
I wish I knew how not to drown
In my concrete boat on a concrete sea
I’m a concrete refugee
2. Can you elaborate on your words… my work is about cultivating empathy and opening minds and hearts Does word work refer to book writing, song writing or both?
“Work” refers to both writing and songwriting, as well as—hopefully—all the other projects I undertake, whether that be volunteering for organizations like the Cultural Center in New York Mills or giving a speech about how “Differences Don’t Have to Divide Us” at the TEDx Gull Lake event.
Some years back, I was given the assignment to write my personal mission statement. It was quite a process. I started by writing down fifty things that were important to me, and when I focused the list down to its essence, I discovered that cultivating empathy and opening minds and hearts was the basis of how I wanted to be a positive presence in the world.
3. You jumped a lot of hurdles while writing this book e.g. classes, workshops, feedback from other writers, writing grants to name a few as you were determined to improve your writing skills to complete your manuscript. All this occurred while adjusting to a new frontier, boyfriend/husband, carving out time for songwriting, building a support group etc. What do you consider your biggest challenge in this author process and what gives you the most satisfaction?
The biggest challenge for me in the author process, and probably in music and life in general, is remaining faithful to the small voice in my gut that is so often overpowered by the louder voices of society’s expectations, criticism, and the supposedly helpful (but sometimes hurtful) advice of others. The personal challenges in my life didn’t so much as distract me from the writing as they propelled me toward it, because writing the book, along with crafting my songs, is how I best renew my connection with myself and my purpose.
4. What was the title of the column you wrote for the New York Mills Herald/ Are you still writing for the paper?
You know, we never came up with a regular title for that column; the stories would run under their own names, a different one each week. I am no longer still writing for the local paper, but if I ever were to write a column again, I think I’d like to title the column “City Girl on the Prairie.”
5. You were considered an outsider by your community being non-native. What do you feel was your turning point where the community embraced and supported you?
To some extent I am still an outsider here, as small towns have notorious memories! There are people who still give street directions by the old fire designations for roads that went out of use decades ago. Unless you are born in New York Mills, you always retain some semblance of outsider-ness, but that doesn’t mean that I am not accepted. I feel like there have been different degrees of acceptance. The first was when I started writing the column in the paper. After that it was when I married the son of a local. And later it was when I had my sons and started to attend parenting events at the school. I am sure there will continue to be ways that I will become more a part of the community here.
6. Had you not settled in Minnesota and stayed in New York how do you think that decision would have impacted your music?
It would have had a great impact on my music, though I can’t be sure now how my music would be different. I imagine that I would have focused on different performing and writing opportunities, which would have stretched my music in different directions. Perhaps I would have toured more and written less. Minnesota has been wonderful for me, as my time here coincided with the passing of the Legacy Amendment, which has given me incredible opportunities to write the kinds of songs and perform the kinds of shows that are not necessarily commercially lucrative.
I enjoyed your book club questions and wondered if you’d answer a few yourself or would you rather not divulge that information so as not to be a spoiler alert for your readers?
Thank you! I prefer that audiences and readers answer the questions for themselves, but I’m happy to take a crack at a few.
How did the lyrics in beginning set the stage for each chapter?
I think the answer will be very different for readers than for me as a writer, but for me they were my opportunity to mine my songs for the lyric passages that most reflected the feeling tone of the chapter I was presenting.
How did place shape your identity?
Growing up traveling around the country and the world (I went to six different elementary schools), I developed a keen appreciation for the wide variety of lifestyles and cultures in the world. Living in New York City gave me a predilection for some of the wonderful, and more expensive, features of urban life: theater, performing arts, museums, fine baked goods, great restaurants. Living in Minnesota has taught me to appreciate quiet, nature, slowing down, and learning how to live in harmony with the land.
Some of my own favorite lines below but I did underline one that would be fitting at end of article if room unless you have a favorite line to share.
I was going to the prairie to be an artist-artist in residency.
Maybe home was not a place, or a destination, but a connection to another person.
I collected worries like pennies in a jar.
It was Chris who gave me strength and stability I needed to reach higher and go deeper I in my music.
My new life in Minnesota was outlined in cold, circumscribed by cold, defined by cold, and determined by cold. Cold was my rubicon, my crossroads, my final test. If I could make it through the Minnesota winter, I’d be able to live here. Permanently.
I like the lines you’ve chosen!