Place, Patience & Persistence: One Writer’s Life

The cabin I lived in when I first moved to Vermont.

The cabin I lived in when I first moved to Vermont.

I’m writing this post on May 5, 2014, exactly thirty years since moving to Vermont for the summer. I’m still here, and I’m still writing.

When I bought a car and rented a cabin in the late spring of 1984, I’d planned to write both a novel and my dissertation between May and September. I finished the novel that summer; I didn’t finish my dissertation until 1987, when I earned my PhD.

I chose Vermont for two reasons.

First, I’d been coming here since I was a child, and I had a network of friends and acquaintances here, which I needed. I was a single woman who worked alone, and these friends kept me company and kept me connected.

I’d also been in Vermont the summer before, to attend the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, where I discovered I’d rather spend my time writing than in what felt like the competitive company of writers. This was a good lesson to learn. I also made a lifelong friend there: the poet Mary Pinard, whose first book of poetry, Portal, has just been published.


Me in 1984.

My summer of 1984 was idyllic: I wrote from dawn to midday. It was the life I’d dreamed of and I’d planned to continue through an academic career that

 . . .then came marriage

. . .then came marriage

would support annual summers spent writing in Vermont, a place I’d come to love. I hadn’t planned on falling in love with a man, but I did.

I hadn’t planned on marriage or children or jobs as a Visiting Scholar, an office manager, a motivational speaker, a free-lance writer, a part-time farmer or a full-time mom. It’s also true that I was clueless about motherhood; I had no idea how demanding it would be, especially with three children born within three years of each other.

Those years of young children are a blur of activity and sleep deprivation. I do remember great frustration at not being able to recapture that languid summer of writing all morning. I’d try to recapture it by waking early, but just as often wrote grocery lists as scenes. Nevertheless, I managed to draft a couple more novels and a memoir, and to write non-fiction for hire. It never seemed like enough.

Grown daughters.

Grown daughters.

Now that my children are grown (the youngest graduates from college next week), I can see that if nothing else, I kept my writing fire alive, feeding it with a few hours here, a few days there, and sometimes just pounding out a story in the midst of family life. I did what I had to, and I did what I could. And I kept before me my ideal: a chance to sustain a fictional world in the solitude of uninterrupted

The path I've taken.

The path I’ve taken.

mornings in a landscape I still adore.

For me, place matters, and Vermont is my place; I’ve lived here more than half my life. And even though my life has taken unexpected and unplanned

twists and turns, I’ve persisted as a writer. I’ve been a writer nearly all my life, and I still hope to be a writer when I grow up – if I ever do.

To my amazement and delight, I’m learning that it’s possible to make my writing dreams come true. For me, it’s been a matter of place, patience and persistence.

What will it take for you to make your writing dreams come true?


dll2013_124x186Deborah Lee Luskin has three novels set in Vermont: Into the Wilderness is published, Elegy for a Girl is with her agent, and Ellen is in the works. She lives, gardens, hikes, and writes in southern Vermont.

25 thoughts on “Place, Patience & Persistence: One Writer’s Life

    • Hi MikeConnie Brown – I love the image of cutting the line and thinking of becoming “unmoored” as an exciting start of a journey rather than a loss of security. Thank you for your comment! – Deborah.

  1. This is so lovely and heartening for an aspiring writer/new mom whose writing aspirations are confined to hobby-status at the moment. I’m lucky to get a few spare writing hours per week, just to keep going…

    Happy Vermont-iversary! I hear you on how place matters–I’ve blogged about this a few times, actually. I still haven’t found my place, though Toronto is doing just fine for now. Vermont has always been on the list, though!

    Thanks for the reflections!

  2. What a wonderful personal story, Deborah. You found inner peace early in your journey, becoming centered in life, career, and goals in one idyllic location.

    Your mission now is to share it, letting us spend a few minutes in your corner of Vermont every time we read your blog.

    • Jack, Thanks for your kind words. If you’re really interested in the details of my life in Vermont, you might want to listen to the commentaries I do for Vermont Public Radio, archived at
      All best,

      • Yes, your commentaries are fabulous! We listened to VPR regularly when we lived in Montreal — it’s why Vermont is on my “place list,” and how I discovered the NHWN blog.

  3. Hi Deborah,
    I very much enjoyed reading your story – there’s a complex emotional reality at the core of it, that suggests there’s a great deal more to your tale to be discovered. I’ll be following the blog, in hope that I get to find out more. I hope your writing continues to inspire you on your journey.

    Best wishes,


  4. This almost 47 year old mother of 2 boys under 10 thanks you for this post. Today, this reply to you might be all the time I have to write but your post reminds me to write on! Thank you!

  5. Hi Deborah,

    I most certainly can relate as well. I am in the process of starting a consulting business. I am over 40 and have a full load with family (4 kiddos and a hubby), in school fulltime working on 2 Masters degrees…oh and did I mention I work full-time. The only thing I am missing is a dog, 2 cats, a hamster and a tree frog. 🙂 I found it very difficult to get started because I did not know where to start. Writing was a passion of mine years ago. When things didn’t turn out the way that I had hoped last year, I found that writing was truly my way in to starting my business. I have had 3 mentors to tell me to blog and I could not imagine since I am not the most social media savvy person you can find. But I must say that it has indeed been therapeutic to say the least and has also landed me a client. I am also working on a series of children’s books as well as my own personal story. Thank you very much for sharing your story. It is encouraging to say the least. I say that you can find your passion at any age if you have the drive and determination to see it through.

    Blessings and Inspiration,


  6. Thanks Deborah, for sharing your story.

    It has sparked a belief in my soul that I know, I’m traveling along a beautiful path for which the wisdom and tales of inspirational people like yourself who are writers inspire my mind and soul to continue my journey to become a writer.

    I’m slowly uncluttering my life prior to retirement to discover what my soul truly needs and wants.


  7. Though tending to my daughter’s needs has usurped some of my writing time, not to mention being tired from interrupted sleep has had a negative effect on my writing, my daughter has also inspired me more than I could have ever imagined, even before she was born. I guess a different kind of love can do that. 🙂

  8. I guess most aspiring writers have been like you, typing bits and pieces here and there just longing for the time and solitude when they can absorb themselves in their creation. This is my story too. I hope I can be as successful as you.

  9. Deborah,
    As a young writer, I find this so encouraging! I often worry about “losing” my writing life or not having time to write when I start a family and if I have a job or career other than writing. Mornings are my favorite time to write too, and I lost that time this year when I started working at an elementary school (work day starts at 7:15!) However, this year has shown me that I always seem to find the time to write! I think it works for me to be working on projects I REALLY enjoy so I make time for them no matter what! Even with the loss of my favorite writing time of day, I was able to self-publish my first book and grow my blog this year because I love both of those projects so much 🙂 Thanks for the great reflection on the writing life.

  10. Lovely post. It is hard to find time to write with two children, my own practice, two cats, a dog, and a husband. Not necessarily in that order!

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