Tag Archives: Boy Scouts

Susan Speaks: The Mountain, Conquered


Week 32. And I can say I did it. The mountain is conquered.

This year, I didn’t just take my Venturing Crew out to summer camp. Nope. We went full-octane: to the mountain. The mountain in West Virginia, in fact. The mountain where the Summit Bechtel Reserve has been built.

Half-healed, I set foot on one of the BSA’s high adventure bases… and almost let it beat me.

I blame it on a couple of things. We got into camp and it was hot. We were rushed to set up our tents — the tents were up, but the cots were not, and the tents themselves had the windows shut, so they were furnaces — and then join the orientation tour. We saw lots of statues of donors but didn’t get enough information about what activities were open and where things were. Since we were largely relying on the boy, who had been at the 2013 Jamboree, to know where to go, that wasn’t good.

It was rush, rush, rush, and then we were back at the campsite and heading up to the dining tent. It was a fifteen-minute walk, so I’d say it was about three-quarters of a mile. Shorter if you ignored the switchbacks, but between the constant yells to stay on the paths and how steep the grassy areas were, the long way was the best way.

My crew, not thinking, walked at their usual pace.

At my best, I walk slowly. But between the heat, being rushed around, and frankly being overwhelmed by a totally unfamiliar situation — the first time that had happened since the accident, despite the crazy adventures I’ve had over the past 32 weeks — I was walking even more slowly.

And they didn’t notice.

They went into the dining hall before I was near the top of the path. I tried following them in.

To commemorate the first night, a DJ was playing. People were everywhere. I changed my glasses, but I still couldn’t see. Couldn’t see how the room was set up. Couldn’t see my people. Heck, I couldn’t make out much of anything, just the tables directly in front of me.

I tried texting my Crew. They didn’t understand. I got more scared and frustrated.

I fled, intending to grab my stuff and my car keys and really flee.

The mountain began crowing its win.

My guys and girls came and got me. We worked it out. And for the rest of the week, they kept an eye on me. They’d turn around and make sure I was close enough. They’d tell each other to stop and wait. Sometimes, they’d just stop on their own. They rallied, and they helped, and they made sure we sat near doors and that I always knew where things were.

And I declared the mountain conquered.

It tried again to get me, though. Wednesday was both my lowest and highest point after that rough start.

Despite the pinched nerve, despite the concussion (one night at dinner, I proclaimed we were being fed peas and carrots. Which would have been fine if those yellow things had been peas and not corn!), despite it all, I decided I wanted to do the canopy tours with the guys. We harnessed up and… I failed out of ground school.

Two reasons for that: first is that my balance is off. WAY off. Scarily off. And you had to go up and down little wooden steps with no railings to get attached to the zip line. And then, they sent you halfway down the line and made you stop yourself. No problem there. But pulling myself back? No strength in the poor left arm.

If I got stuck, I couldn’t help myself. If I fell off the stairs, bad things would ensue.

I failed ground school.

In 31 weeks, I hadn’t been tempted to cry. Not once, and most of you know what I’ve been through. Even Sunday night, when we got to camp and it tried to kick my ass, I did not cry.

I almost cried after failing ground school.

But thanks to a kind woman, I redeemed myself later that night, during open program. I grabbed the boy and a couple of the others and we jumped on a mountain bike. I told myself I was only doing the absolute easiest route and… dude. That was my personal high point of the week. For those few minutes on a bike, I felt like myself again. I felt like Susan. There were pedals under my feet and handlebars under my hands and a helmet on my head and mud was flying and I wanted to throw my head back and laugh and savor because I felt normal. Finally normal.

The high lasted the rest of the night.

I didn’t chase the high when we had our scheduled session at the more hard-core mountain bike trails, opting not to ride but to hang out and chill instead. I did yoga on the stone sign marking the program area. I chatted and posed for pictures with our new friends from Virginia.

But afterward, when we were hiking back, we stopped at the line for the Big Zip. One of the longest zip lines in North America, my boys had already been down it twice. The rule was that if there was a long line, repeat offenders were bumped, so I had to check: If the guys walk me up there, are they going to ride down with me?

Yes. No one was up there.

We had arranged it beforehand: we’d take the forty-five minute hike up (and I do mean up! I’d love to know the elevation gain) and do it slow. Take an hour, an hour and a half. But dammit, I was getting up that mountain and I was riding that zip line.

My lungs had adjusted by this point, and so had my legs because I’ll be damned, but we made it in forty-five minutes. (It helps that I left my daypack at the check-in point and that one of the other guys carried my water bottle, although the boy kept handing me his, silently reminding me to stay hydrated.)

I had no balance problems on the steps at the launch point. Okay, they were bigger steps, wider than at the canopy tour. And yes, I had a rope already attaching me to the zip line to hang on to.

“Take a step down,” the staff said when my lines were all attached. “Sit down in your harness.”

I did.

“GO!” she shouted.

The boy and I whooped as the release let go. The view was everything they said it would be. The ride was peaceful and gorgeous and if we were really moving close to 60 mph, it didn’t feel like it. And when I saw the boy tuck into a tighter ball to try to pass me, I tucked up, too… and beat my own kid. Handily.

But let me tell you, it wasn’t the same thing as that mountain bike the night before. Not even close.

So, my mountain, The Summit Bechtel Reserve, you tested me. And I won. It was a close fight, but not a fair one: I’m nowhere near healed yet. And yet I won.

Imagine how unstoppable I’ll be once all this is behind me.


Susan Speaks: Into the Woods


So you need an editor like NOW.

Sorry. I am taking the week off this week and heading into the woods. I’m sitting on a mountaintop in West Virginia, by and large. Distances are large and I’m hoofing my way around, camera in hand, to take pictures of my seven so they’ll have cool High Adventure shots for their Eagle ceremonies. Concussion (which may not be a concussion) and pinched nerve (which definitely is a pinched nerve) and bad shoulder be damned. I’m going. Cool High Adventure shots for Eagle ceremonies.

Okay, the girl won’t have an Eagle ceremony. She wants to earn a bigger and better award, and we’re going to see what of that we can get started, too.

This is my reading this week:

Existing clients, or those content to wait, my phone and my laptop are coming into the woods with me, and the camp is entirely connected (thanks, AT&T) so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or manuscripts that need my eagle eyes. Just… don’t expect me to do a lot of editing. This week’s about giving the eye time off. I know the surgeon said it’s healed, but… what if it isn’t, and the time I’m spending into the woods is a helpful thing?

See you when I survive the bears. And the poisonous snakes. And the ambient showers, camp food, and a tentmate, which is scarier than poisonous snakes.

After that, we go from Into the Woods to Frisbee Central again, and a trip to the Youth Club Championships. And then, if I don’t collapse from it all, I get to be home for a good, long while. Flood my inbox with your fantastic manuscripts, authors. I’ve got to pay for all these adventures! And beyond that, you guys make me love what I do. I can’t wait to come home, chomping at the bit to get busy again.

You guys inspire me. Keep it up. And flood my inbox.


#SaystheEditor: Great Works of Literature



Color me shocked to read a blog post the other day that quoted a New York Times article written by an Eagle Scout. The guy was calling the Boy Scout Handbook a Work of Great Literature.

By its definition, literature is fiction. The BSA Handbook is, by its definition, not.

From Webster’s online:


written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance

: books, articles, etc., about a particular subject

: printed materials (such as booklets, leaflets, and brochures) that provide information about something

Before you get in my face that the second and third points aren’t fiction, let me point something out: it’s only the fiction entry that gets noted as consider to be very good and to have lasting importance. That’s key here.

Other the Bible, which is in a class of its own, think of Works of Great Literature. What comes to mind? Moby Dick? The Scarlet Letter? Pride and Prejudice? Don Quixote? Beloved?

And authors you recognize: Flaubert, Garcia Marquez, Borges, Faulkner, Hemingway, Joyce, Shakespeare.

These ALL have two things in common: they are fiction. And they are old. I think Toni Morrison is the newest on the list I’m looking at.

Okay, a second look shows some Harlan Ellison and Chinua Achebe. On some radars, that’s old. (On some radars, I’m old. On some, I’m not.)

But you get my point, right? FICTION. Not real. And certainly not a handbook designed to teach you outdoor skills and the twelve points of the Scout Law.

As a Boy Scout leader (Trained Scoutmaster, Venturing Advisor, Wood Badge, and member of the Order of the Arrow) and as a parent of a Boy Scout, yes, I’ve read the Boy Scout handbook. It’s fascinating reading, and the centennial edition is beautifully put together. But it’s not a novel. It’s not a Work of Literature. (to be fair, it’s the 1940 edition that is being raved about, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen, although I’ve seen some old ones, including an original. But it’s still not fiction!)

And you know what? The New York Times shoulda known that. The author of the piece should have known that. He’s a Distinguished Eagle Scout and has won all sorts of awards.

Know something else? He defined what to him a Work of Great Literature is. So he had to share his definition with the world in order to make this argument. It’s one man’s argument. It’s not a generally agreed-upon one.

It saddens me. There’s simply no way I, who works in publishing, can agree with this classification. The Boy Scout Handbook is brilliant for what it is. A manual. A guide to survival, to skills that some think are dying out (they clearly don’t watch The Walking Dead). It’s a way of life, a set of values, a challenge to your knowledge.

But it’s NOT literature.


The worst part of coming home isn’t the laundry


Seriously. I’ve done four loads of laundry in the past two days, which is two more per day than I like to do. But The Boy Band’s camp clothes were damp and smelly, thanks to a Friday storm that brought hail to the camp, which in turn collapsed the rain fly my fellow leaders had set up — while they stood under it, debating joining me across the way in our new, tent-like-thingie. It was impossible to laugh at their misfortune, even though had the tables been turned, I’d be hearing about it at my funeral… at the tender age of 210.

As with any week-long experience in which many (try 20!) of the kids are new to Boy Scout camp (as opposed to parent-attended Cub Scout camp), we had our share of homesickness. Apathy and lethargy. Over-eager kids, desperate for acceptance and praise from their peers and from us adults. Showers, and lack of showers. We had adventures, rank advancements, bonfires that had to be doused (oops. THAT’s what they meant by seven feet), laughter, tears, and even one puker. Only one, so far as I know.

But the worst part of coming home? It wasn’t even the 500+ e-mails that were waiting, or the increasingly cranky phone messages from people who should have been told I was out of town when they were given my number.

It was the deluge of new editing clients.

Know why this is the worst? Because they had no way of finding out I wasn’t here, and, like those increasingly cranky phone messages, the e-mails were in duplicates. And, sadly, they became discouraged. “I hope your lack of response doesn’t mean you don’t want to work with me, because I sure want to hire YOU.”

I’ve answered all those people, and I hope they feel better about life. Even more, I hope they’ll hire me.

In fact, because things are so busy over here, I’ve decided to raise my rates for NEW CLIENTS ONLY. As of August 1, my rates will go up… ready? This may break the bank! One one-thousandth of a penny. That comes out to about $.25 per page.

Yes, things are going THIS well, that I feel like I can do this. It’s a small raise, but the best, most longest-lasting change happens in the smallest of increments.

Welcome home, Sooz. It’s nice to come home and find you’re wanted. Especially when you’ve left a place where the feeling is the same.


That time of year again…


Last year, the fates conspired against me and I had to split my time between a dance recital and Boy Scout Camp. THAT is one hard transition to make, let me tell you.

This year, I’ll be wrapping up the Dance Mom part of my life in the nick of time. The recital is (was, depending on when you read this) tonight, and tomorrow morning, I’m shoving my First Class Scout into the car and heading off for a week.

My agenda goes like this:
1. Dodge raindrops.
2. Avoid the lake.
3. Hope tent doesn’t leak on Nook.
4. Read book for the people who pay me to write reviews for them.
5. Do some writing for the Troop.
6. Earn Adult Merit Badge.
7. Excel in the part of the Adult Merit Badge that’s dedicated to taking naps.
8. Avoid being eaten by bears.
9. Keep 54 Scouts and 11 Scouters in line.
10. Bring brownie batter to camp already made. Pour into Dutch Oven. Stick on campfire. Prove the naysayer wrong and watch them turn out beautifully.

Ahh… now THAT is my kind of week.

Hope yours is every bit as good!


Taking the Weekend Off


No Kerri’s Diary this weekend. I’m off to Boy Scout Leader Training, hoping I won’t be called home early; it looks like I can do Wood Badge in the autumn if I make it to the end.

So. That means you should go visiting. I have been — join me!

At Novel Publicity, I’ve dropped in with a guest blog to talk about the value of a paid review. Now that I’m getting paid by a big, well-established company to write reviews, I’ve got a different perspective on what you’ll get out of it. And I’m not talking about a soaking for the fees, either.

Necromancy Never Pays has a thought-provoking review of King Trevor.

Another King Trevor review can be found at Shayna Gier’s blog. It’s interesting to compare the two.


Shayna’s giving away e-copies of Trevor’s Song and King Trevor, so stop in and enter to win.

Want another contest? Laurie J at Laurie’s Non-paranormal Thoughts and Reviews is giving away an e-copy of Trevor’s Song. Since he’s gotta have a song before he can be crowned King, don’tcha know…