Rides That Way by Susan Ketchen

Sylvia is gal­lop­ing through life as only a four­teen year old can do. At school there are friends, bul­lies and worse. Dinner with her par­ents is like sid­ling through a field of land mines. And all of a sud­den she’s Keeper of the Secrets: her own, her grandpa’s and her rid­ing coach’s.

Then there’s the whole hor­mone thing. Those mys­ter­i­ous en­tit­ies that surge through a teen’s body mak­ing them emo­tion­al and af­fect­ing their bod­ies in very no­tice­able ways. Only Sylvia isn’t hav­ing that prob­lem. She has Turner Syndrome, which means she’ll al­ways be short and have to wear kids’ clothes the rest of her life be­cause her body will nev­er de­vel­op. Unless she wears es­tro­gen patches and she’s not sure about that.

In fact, the only thing Sylvia’s sure about is that she loves hanging out in the barn, lu­cid dream­ing and do­ing the for­bid­den — gal­lop­ing her horse, Brooklyn. Well, Logan Losino, the cute guy at school, is pretty dis­tract­ing too.

Rides That Way is funny, warm and per­cept­ive. An un­pre­dict­able plot keeps the read­er turn­ing pages as Sylvia struggles to come to terms with be­ing a teen and hav­ing Turner Syndrome. No mat­ter what, she’s de­term­ined to be her true self and find ac­cept­ance on her own terms.

Rides That Way is the fourth book in Susan Ketchen’s Born That Way series. Each book delves into the life of Sylvia as she nav­ig­ates the chal­lenges that re­la­tion­ships with people and an­im­als present. And, al­though the books are stand-alone reads, once you’ve sampled one, you’ll be eager to ex­plore more of Sylvia’s world.

Although typ­ic­ally classed as young adult nov­els, Ketchen’s char­ac­ters gen­er­ate fan mail from read­ers age 12 to 82 cre­at­ing their own niche as fam­ily fic­tion. Gently pok­ing fun at the quirky thoughts and ac­tions of people at every age is one of the things Ketchen does best.

Ketchen, a former mar­riage and fam­ily coun­sel­lor, lives in Courtenay, BC on a river­side farm along with her hus­band, two cats, a multi-trick pony and a flock of geri­at­ric chickens.

For more in­form­a­tion vis­it www​.susanketchen​.ca.

       Ketchen will be sign­ing books at Laughing Oyster Bookshop in down­town Courtenay on Saturday, September 30 from 1:003:00 pm. 

Ketchen and her horse, Lolli, who knows more tricks than most dogs.


Four writers, four questions #2 Susan Ketchen

Here’s the second in­stall­ment of Four Writers, Four Questions. Installment #3 will be pos­ted next week.

What are you work­ing on right now?

I am work­ing on a new nov­el. There seem to be a lot of dogs in it. A dead body is found and lost and found again but in the wrong place. People try to be help­ful but make everything more com­plic­ated. The dogs be­have badly, just as they of­ten do in real life, and their own­ers are al­ways in deni­al. Still, it is fic­tion. I’m about halfway in and don’t know what it’s about, though some­times when I’ve com­pleted a nov­el I still don’t know what it’s about. I prefer to leave that mat­ter to read­ers anyway.

Why is this mean­ing­ful to you?

Relationships are per­plex­ing. Whether they are between people, or between people and oth­er an­im­als, re­la­tion­ships are com­plic­ated, many-layered and in some ways un­know­able. I like to ex­plore this per­plex­ity by writ­ing about it.

What is your process?

I start each day with the usu­al eating/​brushing/​dressing routines, and be­fore I park my butt in a chair for the no-longer-re­com­men­ded peri­od of sit­ting, I get a little ex­er­cise by tend­ing to the horses. Then I have a cof­fee and reac­quaint my­self with my brain and my hus­band be­fore head­ing to my office.

P1020091_2_2I re-read what I wrote the day be­fore, do min­im­al edit­ing, then plunge ahead. 1,000 words is the min­im­um sat­is­fy­ing amount. If I do 2,000 I am ec­stat­ic. Usually I have only a vague sense of where I am go­ing; this is where the ma­gic happens.

I write un­til I have 35,000 words and some sort of end­ing, then I go back and edit. Some people edit down, but I edit up. I aim for 50,000 words, which is short for a nov­el, but my brain has trouble hold­ing onto a lar­ger universe.

When I have 50,000 and (hope­fully) a great end­ing, I edit again, print each chapter and read it aloud to my guardedly crit­ic­al husband.

I make a few changes, and send the ma­nu­script to one or two trus­ted read­ers. I make more changes based on their com­ments. That’s the end of my writ­ing pro­cess and the be­gin­ning of the “What am I go­ing to do with this ma­nu­script?” process.

Why do you write?

Brene Brown says that un­used cre­ativ­ity is not be­nign. It’s some­thing like a bor­der col­lie that lives in an apart­ment: if you don’t give it a job, it will find one. Furniture may suffer.

Sometimes I use my cre­ativ­ity for tasks oth­er than writ­ing nov­els. I may need to deal with the med­ic­al sys­tem, or neigh­bours with dogs, or con­flict­ing opin­ions about the longev­ity of my car.

At oth­er times, when life is be­ing agree­able, I use my cre­ativ­ity on ima­gin­ary worlds, be­cause if I don’t I will cre­ate drama and dif­fi­culty where in fact there is none. Or prob­ably there is none. Or there is none if I ig­nore it for long enough.

Outside of the po­ten­tial ma­lig­nancy prob­lem, I write be­cause I like to make people laugh. I like to ex­plore things I don’t really un­der­stand by writ­ing about them. And I like it when I can trans­mit my thoughts or ex­plor­a­tions out into the world.

Susan Ketchen is the au­thor of the Born That Way series, fea­tur­ing a four­teen-year old girl born with Turner Syndrome. The fourth in the series, Rides That Way, will be pub­lished by Oolichan Books in the fall of 2016



Preparing to launch — guest blog by Susan Ketchen

For the nor­mally re­clus­ive au­thor, one of the es­sen­tial com­pon­ents of new book pro­mo­tion is — un­for­tu­nately — The Launch. Even if a form­al af­fair — at a gal­lery, with of­fer­ings of wine, fancy fin­ger-food from an exot­ic cater­er and nap­kins that look like works of art — is avoided, the ven­ue is but one of many many de­cisions which must be made.

The date should be close to the is­su­ing of the book, but not so close that you’re in heart fail­ure for days be­fore, wor­ry­ing about wheth­er you’ll have stock on hand. You also have to de­cide how and when to ad­vert­ise the event, who to in­vite, how many chairs, how much stand­ing room, who will sell the books, and oh yes, what you’re go­ing to say dur­ing your presentation.

But for me, the first and most daunt­ing ques­tion, every time (and I’ve launched three books) is al­ways and im­me­di­ately: What am I go­ing to wear? Perhaps for most people this is not a dif­fi­cult prob­lem to solve. But I live on a small farm, and spend days on end see­ing no one oth­er than people on neigh­bour­ing farms and some­times the Hydro meter reader.

On the few oc­ca­sions I go to town for gro­cer­ies or chick­en feed, my stand­ard of dress aims not for style but for clean­li­ness. I have no idea what is cur­rently fash­ion­able. Reading the Style sec­tion of the Globe and Mail is ab­so­lutely no help — I’m sure they are ca­ter­ing to people on an­oth­er plan­et, the one called “Toronto.”

For one launch, I threw my­self on the mercy of the clerk in a fash­ion store. I told her I needed to stretch be­yond my usu­al com­fort levels, but in ret­ro­spect I think she was bored and look­ing for someone to play a prac­tic­al joke on. I still can’t bear to look at pho­tos of that launch. I wish I’d tucked in my shirt the way I wanted to and not left it dangling the way I was told I must.

For an­oth­er event, I had my en­semble well planned in ad­vance, some­thing light and airy, to min­im­ize sweat (us farm folks sweat) un­der the hot lights in a small room. On the day of the event, it snowed. This was March, on Vancouver Island, where of­ten a whole winter can pass by with no snow at all. Back to the draw­ing board.

And then there’s the shoe prob­lem. In my closets I have rid­ing boots, rub­ber boots, hik­ing boots and run­ners. When I try on clothes in fash­ion stores, the clerks are known to say, “You won’t be wear­ing those shoes, will you?” They will be look­ing askance at my (new­est) run­ners, which are in­ex­plic­ably dirti­er in town than they were when I left the farm. There is of­ten a piece of hay stuck to the laces, be­cause on the way out the drive­way I had to stop and re­spond to a plaint­ive ex­pres­sion from a horse who thought he was hungry.

It oc­curs to me, re-read­ing this ri­dicu­lous state of af­fairs, that per­haps fret­ting about cloth­ing is a form of pro­cras­tin­a­tion, as I avoid think­ing about what surely is the main point of the event: What am I go­ing to talk about?

Well, I could go on about that too, and I would, but the thought of it is mak­ing my palms sweat, which is not good for the keyboard.

Paula’s note: I also suf­fer from out­fit anxi­ety be­fore a book launch. I won­der if this is some­thing only fe­male au­thors go through?

As for Susan’s book, Grows that Way, I was read­ing it in bed one night and kept laugh­ing out loud and wak­ing my part­ner up. I’m long past be­ing a young adult but the ori­gin­al plot, feisty char­ac­ters and fresh writ­ing kept me read­ing – and stifling chuckles — un­til the wee hours of the morn­ing. You can find out more about Susan at www​.susanketchen​.ca.