Reflections on 19 episodes, 1.5 years, and a true story, well told

Starting August 2018, Suzy Beal’s family adventure has been unfolding here, one chapter each month through February 2020–19 episodes in all. And what an adventure! In 1961, teenage Suzy’s family moved to Europe, built a sailboat, and took up life on the high seas. The memoir takes readers from “Heading East” via Volkswagen van from Newport, Oregon to cross the country and the ocean, destination Barcelona and Mallorca to live while building the boat. True Stories Well Told leaves the family, a bit shaken by their shake-down cruise “Living Aboard” the newly launched sailboat, as they “shelter in place” for winter in Toulon, France, before attempting life aboard again next spring. As the series concludes, I asked Suzy to describe what it was like to have her writing featured in this way.

Circe in Sete Harbor

The experience of having one chapter a month from my memoir published on Sarah White’s blog True Stories Well Told has been terrifying, exciting and valuable.

Terrifying because it’s the first time I’ve put myself out there in the publishing world. I’m not sure if I feared rejection or felt insecure in my writing skill, but I made it a New Year’s resolution to submit one piece a month. Once I decided to submit, I quit worrying about the rejection slips.  I found where I submitted an essay and Sarah accepted it.  She suggested we try a once a month serial from my memoir and I was hooked.

 Exciting because, I’ve never thought I cared about being in print and guess what, I do. Once my work was accepted in several publications, I realized I was on track and heading in the right direction.  This gave me the courage to continue. I still receive rejection slips, but some of my work is accepted and the thrill of receiving the email saying “Suzy, we want to publish your piece,” outweighs the disappointment of rejection.

The valuable part comes from looking at my work with a more critical eye and making the necessary changes. During the last year and a half I’ve been on Sarah’s blog, I’ve learned to take my writing more seriously.  Realizing there are others reading my pieces has given me a new perspective.  Until now, I’ve thought more about what Iwanted to say rather than what I wanted my readers to read.  I’ve developed a better sense of what it is to have a connection with my readers. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m committed. Being responsible for a chapter each month on truestorieswelltold has been an incredible opportunity and has helped shape my writing experience.   Thank you, Sarah.

I have really enjoyed this experiment as well. I didn’t ask Suzy to share the series with me ahead of time. Just like my readers, I had no idea from month to month what adventures teenage Suzy would encounter next. The coming-of-age story embedded in the family-adventure story has me charmed.

What happened next for the 9-member family (plus Rusty the dog and Anitra the cat) living aboard a  32-foot sailboat is not so comfortably shared with a public audience, and so we close the series here. Thank you, Suzy!

Readers, did you enjoy the series? Leave your comments on this post.

© 2020 Suzy Beal and Sarah White

Suzy Beal, an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told, has been writing her life story and personal essays for years. In 2016 Suzy began studying with Sheila Bender at

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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2 Responses to Reflections on 19 episodes, 1.5 years, and a true story, well told

  1. Jean says:

    Loved it! I looked forward to it every month. Thank you!


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