An online chat with Susan Howerter

(The following is a Internet Chat conducted during one of our “My Mac Chats” at World Without Borders. Special thanks to the folks at the WWB for all their help in providing this transcript.


GCSPhotoBug // We know you’ve seen My Mac Magazine, a monthly electronic magazine for everyday Mac users, dedicated to bringing its readers commentary, product reviews, information, humor, great links to other Macintosh resources and a renewed dedication to being a Mac enthusiast. Now you can join us here each week at World Without Borders, and chat with them online! Today, we meet Susan Howerter, who will be talking about writing and ideas.

GCSPhotoBug // Susan, glad you could be here today. Let’s start with you,
shall we? What took you on the path towards writting?

Susan H // I sent off a story last year to My Mac. Tim liked it and asked me to join the staff.

Tim_Robertson // Liked it? I LOVED it!

Susan H // Thanks Tim. Once on the staff, you have to keep writing!

GCS Kap // Tim has a way that way doesn’t he Susan? 😉

Louie the louse // Susan you’re so talented I’m awed. I’m curious how you get your ideas. Of course having Tim at My Mac is a +++

Susan H // Luckily, it was a wild year for the Mac and ideas kept churning about the Net.

Tim_Robertson // Tim just carries a big whip to keep the writers there every month!!

Susan H // The world owes Steve Jobs an iMac. I owe him a couple dozen columns.

GCSPhotoBug // Susan, do you find it easier to be a technical writer or a writer of stories?

Susan H // I am VERY low tech. But I loves words and the Mac. So I do stories.

Louie the louse // Susan, was there one column that gave you real trouble to get through or are they all easy?

Susan H // Nothing is easy. But, just before the deadline they seem to come together. I do a lot of rewriting. Then Russ and Tim take it from there.

Tim_Robertson // Not much editing involved with Susan’s columns, though Jim our copy editor just LOVES her made-up words!

Cys // Susan, you certainly make it LOOK easy.

GCSPhotoBug // Where does a writer get their inspiration from?

Susan H // A Mac writer today has a whole field of agony and excitement to draw from. Also, lots of ideas stewing around that sometimes take shape. Due to the pay scale, we are all writing from the love of the Mac. It shows.

Tim_Robertson // Less pay!

Cys // LOL, but more love, I’m sure

Tim_Robertson // Actually, Susan is both our highest and lowest paid writer.

Russ // Explain that Tim, please.

Tim_Robertson // No one is paid!

Louie the louse // That Tim, what a big spender!

Cys // uhm, that must be some contract then.

Susan H // Tim would pay us if he could. He gives us all creative freedom and support.

Louie the louse // It’s a good thing Tim has such a great personality who else would work for 0?

Cys // Louie, about 21 GCS members

Trish // Cys

Louie the louse // Do you write a column at a time or do you have multiple columns on the go?

Susan H // I usually have one main column and bits and pieces of another.

Cys // Is there a different tone to writing for a web based mag then a more traditional print medium?

Susan H // Have never written for anything but the web. I think we tend to sound a bit younger and more hip than we really are.

GCS Kap // Susan, that’s why I love chat online 😉

GCSPhotoBug // Susan, what’s a typical day like for you? Do you write 9 to 5, or do you write when the mood hits you?

Susan H // I teach school and am raising a grandchild. I write on the way to work and in the middle of the night.

Cys // Wow, I’m impressed

Tim_Robertson // I hope you are not driving yourself to work as you write!

Susan H // Now that we are putting out a book, I write night AND day. Tim. What do you think stoplights are for…

Russ // Editing time.

Cys // Oh! Tell us about the book please.

Susan H // It is called the STOCKING STUFFER STEVE BOOK and is based on MY Mac columns with illustrations and comments.

GCSPhotoBug // That sounds interesting!

GCS Kap // I want one in my stocking!! When is it due out?

Susan H // My daughter is doing the illustrations and teaching me kindergarten Quark. If it ever passes pre-press it will be out by the first of November.

Tim_Robertson // My Mac will be advertising the release of the book, how to order, and such.

Tim_Robertson // As will a few Mac news sites.

GCS Kap // Yay Susan! I’ll be the first to buy one // )

normira // Susan, which column, so far, has been your favorite or the most fun to write?

Susan H // I love to write the “Churns” where I take on Microsoft and/or Apple. They are often based on fairy tales. I work with small children.

GCS Kap // Susan, are you still writing Churns? I read in the last issue it was your last column // (

Susan H // Those stories take a lot of worry and research. But, in the end, they are the most satisfyimng to write.

Tim_Robertson // Yeah Susan, what about my Churns! I miss them already!

Susan H // Churns need a lot of misery to work well. A happy Apple is hard to churn. Just wait. Apple will give us plenty of grief again, I’m sure. And Microsoft is always with us!

GCS Kap // LOL! So true Susan

normira // May I ask where did the title “Churns” come from?

Susan H // From Russ. I couldn’t think of a name, but had mentioned something about ‘churning the applecart.’

normira // how cute

Tim_Robertson // BTW- Russ Walkowich is hiding out there right now. Russ is, of course, our editor and the real backbone of My Mac.

Russ // Hi – go ahead and blame me again!

Louie the louse // Editors what good are they?

Tim_Robertson // They make us ALL look good!

Cys // Susan, may I ask…why the Mac?

Susan H // The mac changed my life. Suddenly it opened up all sorts of
creative and teaching areas. I’m now 10 years younger. If Adam & Jason were 10 years younger, they would need a bottle and a change.

GCSPhotoBug // Wow, I didn’t know Macs hid a fountain of youth!!

Samsonite // So Susan were you inspired by the cartoon Fractured Fairy Tales?

Susan H // I enjoyed those fractured tales. They think like I do.

Russ // Personally I think Susan wrote Fractured Fairy Tales for the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show…

Susan H // My kids grew up on them. They are probably embedded in my subconscious.

GCSPhotoBug // Susan, you write at night as well as during the day? Just between us, do you keep a little microcassette by the bedside?

Susan H // No tapes. I just dash in and throw on the Mac!

Russ // she constantly plays a tape that repeats.;.. think up new words to drive Russ and Jim crazy, think up new words…

Susan H // Would be better if I had learned to actually type.Then I coluld think those words up faster. What is language for if not a toy for the wordy set?

Tim_Robertson // Trust us, Susan, you make up words just fine typing slow!

Susan H // My daughter found editting THE BOOK was no easy job. Where does the punctuation go in a nonsense word?

CSPhotoBug // Susan, how can a young hopeful get his/her foot in the door as a writer?

Susan H // I passed young a looong time ago. But hopeful? The Net is a new world.

Maria // By doing web writing did it help in getting a book deal?

CSPhotoBug // Great question, Maria!

Susan H // Peachpit didn’t want me, I’m afraid. But I have gotten so much out of doing a book on our own. For that though, you need some discretionary income and talented friends or family. Also the support of a great group like My Mac.

Tim_Robertson // We like to think of My Mac as more a family than a team.

x hj x // Susan, do you find web writing significantly different from book writing? ‘Cause it really seems like two separate worlds.

Susan H // We rewrote everything to fit the book format. But, as we were our own publishers, we only had to suit ourselves. I was lucky that the My Mac columns lend themselves well to a Holiday book that is suitable for the Web in terms of advertising and distribution.

dmsings // Does My Mac have a physical office, or is it all done in cyberspace?

Russ // we seem to have multiple offices here in cyberspace and in each dwelling

Tim_Robertson // Yes, we have a physical office, though all correspondence from the writers and artists is done exclusively via email

Boardtrvlr // Ok this has all been happy stuff…Susan what one thing frustrates you with Apple and what one thing would you not change? heheheh = )

Susan H // The arrogance that never listens to the really devoted followers. I mean Steve, of course. But it is a habit that apple has.

x hj x // Hey, c’mon, at least they came through with cheap upgrades to 8.5 for iMac owners…

Russ // cheap according to whom?

dmsings // Even those of us who bought it in the first 2 weeks?

Susan H // You mean that floppiless/SCSIless wonder that I can never own due to all my prior investments???

x hj x // Well, $20 is better than $99. And yes, ALL iMac buyers. According to MacInTouch. I couldn’t get a continuous webcast feed.

Tim_Robertson // Ever notice that even minor Mac OS system upgrades, like 8.1, offer much more than a FULL Microsoft upgrade like Windows 98?

dmsings // That’s good news! thanx hj!

Susan H // Compared to Microsoft, Apple is soft and cuddly.

x hj x // (Good news for me, too, since I drove to New Hampshire to buy three for friends and family on the day they came out… 😉

GCSPhotoBug // Susan, what do you do when you are fresh out of ideas?

Tim_Robertson // Reads my column!

Susan H // I do spend a lot of time resaerching the Mac news for ideas. If it upsets me, there may well be a story – or a limerick – in it. I also feed nightly on ATAT!

GCSPhotoBug // ATAT?? What is that?

Susan H // Some of us Never sleep.

Russ // As the Apple Turns

Susan H // ATAT is the place to go for a witty round up of the latest Apple doings. We do not alow boring. And those ATAT facts seem as good as any others.

Tim_Robertson // As The Apple Turns (A MUST read web site)) is at

normira // my next question thank you Tim

Susan H // Thanks Tim. I couldn’t remember. He also keeps a close eye on Microsoft. Big Bill is being watched.

normira // That’s a full time job.

dmsings // I’m an avid follower of Redmond Justice

Susan H // My Mac and ATAT have become a good example of a world without borders.

Jazzbeau // Tim, I just learned about this chat while reading the latest Applelinks edition, and was wondering if this chat is scheduled at this day/time every week.

Cys // Jazzbeau, this is the 1st of a weekly chat series. You’ll see great guests presented by MyMac here each Wednesday at 5pm Pacific, 8pm Eastern

Jazzbeau // Thanks Cys. I will make a note on my calendar to come back again.

x hj x // Susan, I showed up late (surprise, surprise). When’s the book coming out?

Susan H // Hey, we expect a return when the STEVE BOOK arrives – if it ever makes it out of pre-press. Maybe next week. Maybe not.

x hj x // No problem, free advertising on AtAT is a given.

Russ // So, what other questions do you all have for Susan?

dmsings // Is the book just about STEVE?

Susan H // Steve is the real story at Apple this year – and he makes a snappy title. But it is about the Mac/Microsoft shenanigans of the past year.

Tim_Robertson // Wow. Shenanigans! Have not heard that in a while!

Cys // Susan, even though Tim is here tell us… what’s its like to be a part of MyMac

Susan H // The book covers the year of Apple with an interim CEO – From Amelio to iMac / Steve’s Back.

Jazzbeau // I was wondering, how are you able to put out a quality, time-consuming, and probably not very inexpensive endevour such as MyMac? Sponsors?

Tim_Robertson // Some of it. Russ and Jim do a boat load of work!

GCSPhotoBug // Well, we are getting short on time. Susan, thank you very much for being here tonight, and for sharing your writers pains with us! We all look forward to your book.

And thanks to the other MyMac folks for joining in. This has been very interesting.

Jazzbeau // Thanks, Susan, and to everybody else responsible for setting up this chat!

••end My Mac Magazine Chat on World Without Borders with Susan Howerter••

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