Interview with Sue Schleifer

Describe your desk
My desk looks out upon my Louisiana back yard and those of our neighbors beyond the fence. I see live oak, magnolia and crepe myrtle trees, along with our sorry excuse of a lawn and my potted flowers which attract bees and butterflies along with weeds and mosquitoes.

Hanging above my computer screen on the vertical wood space between windows is a page cut from a wall calendar with an image of a peaceful Buddha. The words keep me grounded throughout my day, "When in Doubt, Breathe In, Breathe Out."

On my desk is my fairly neat pile of yellow pads, newspaper clippings, pieces of 8.5" x 11" paper with my most immediate projects, which could have been sitting in this pile for more than six months. A few sticky notes with reminders and to-do lists and my favorite pens also have their place on the desk.

Standing next to my pen/scissor/pencil holder, that I bought in Japan 17 years ago, are save the date cards from the two children of a friend I have known since elementary school in Santa Barbara, CA. How different the cards are and I suppose reflect the two very different adults these kids have become. One is for a black tie wedding in New Orleans and the other, four months later, a casual CA party at another friend's winery. The cards are kept in place by a small, celadon-colored cat sitting in meditation given to me by another good friend.

Next to my desk is a two-drawer file cabinet littered with other miscellaneous objects to keep me in good supply and happy.

I love my desk and office. It is a good thing because I spend a lot of time here.

Right now, my cat Sapphire is sleeping on my dark green leather reading chair. Often she is sitting on my desk just in front of the computer printer. She lets me know when it is time for me to take a break and give her attention. She bats at my hands as I type and sometimes even draws blood.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Santa Barbara, CA and lived there until I went away to college. I returned for two years for graduate school and then again many years later to take care of my mom when she was experiencing the early to mid stages of Alzheimer's disease.

My family didn't travel or take vacations when we grew up. I suppose because we didn't have much money to do so. But also because we lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world. My friends and I explored the area on bicycle and on foot. I loved hiking in the hills and taking long walks on Hendry's beach. Today, when I go back to visit Santa Barbara, walking on the beach is my most favorite activity.

Exploration, curiosity, friendships, beauty, taking care of my mom are all topics that have found their way into my writing.
When did you first start writing?
Soon after I started my business, Oak Communications Coaching and Consulting, I started to write a monthly e-newsletter. Each newsletter begins with a story about some topic I have been contemplating and that I think my readers might find of interest.

I love writing these stories and over the years, I believe my writing has improved too. It is a wonderful practice and has also served me well in my business. I get to keep in touch with my friends and colleagues and sometimes referrals grow out of these newsletters.

It wasn't until I was in the midst of sitting an eight-day silent meditation retreat that I got the idea to write a book and the idea for that book. A month later I started my first book, "The Key to the Castle: Zen and Travel Stories of Trust." Four year later, after many rewrites and edits, a move to the South, and a death in the family, I published the book.

Now I am thinking about my next book. Stay tuned.
What's the story behind your latest book?
How is a Zen meditation retreat like a vacation?
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I sit down to write I often have an idea that I want to explore. As I write, I never know exactly where the idea will take me. I discover things about myself and connections that I have not made before. The process is fascinating, a window into my brain.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I provide life and career coaching services to individuals and organizations through my company, Oak Communications -

I love my work and helping my clients expand their horizons, find their creative sweet spot, research and build a satisfying career, and generally kick their life up a notch.

Traveling, hiking, Pilates, yoga, meditation, my husband and cat, cooking, dancing, gardening - not necessarily in that order, are all an important part of my life.
Published 2013-09-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Cultivating a Mindful Life
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 18,580. Language: English. Published: October 4, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Motivation & inspiration, Essay » Author profile
How does one live a mindful life? In "Cultivating A Mindful Life," 35 stories provide the seeds, water and light. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection so that you may dig deeper into the topic and develop your own practices for living mindfully. You will be inspired to live more fully in the present moment, awake and alive.
The Key to the Castle: Zen and Travel Stories of Trust
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 50,200. Language: English. Published: May 2, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Travel » Essays & Travelogues, Nonfiction » Religion & Spirituality » Buddhism
(5.00 from 1 review)
What happens to a beginning student of Zen as she sits and watches her mind? How is a Zen retreat like a vacation? Whether visiting her aging mom, hiking in northern Thailand, crossing a rain-swelled creek in South Africa, or eating formal meals at a Zen retreat, Schleifer asks, “What is going on here?” Her discoveries become ours in this clear and poignant account of inner and outer journeys.