Simone sits in on a computer session

Mad in Pursuit Notebook

2023: 20th Annual Year in Review

My annual accounting to myself, 31 Dec. 2023

Some people write holiday letters about the big events of their year. I publish my reflections on the work I've done for an audience of one (me). But you're free to look over my shoulder.

Engaging and sharing [1]

[driven by the enduring idea of myself as skilled and productive]

Accepting old age doesn't mean shrinking into the background. Being a full-time caregiver doesn't mean becoming subservient to someone else's needs. I still have a big idea of myself. I still feel like I have a mission to be entertaining. Even on those days when my audience shrinks to me alone, I still make art of one sort or another. I still try to extract the story of the world around me.

Kitty's People

Kitty's People (2022) is the best work I've ever done. Deeply researched. Worked into a face-pace narrative. Edited into a polished book. In 2023, I continued working on it in two ways.

(1) I began a collection of background materials and methods—Kitty's Compendium. It should grow into a resource for both family history writers and my family. Few people are interested at this time, but the work will be ongoing.

Subscribe to get my newsletter(2) Last year, I followed everyone's advice that building a mailing list and publishing a newsletter was the most critical marketing tool. Maybe. This year, I managed to get over a thousand subscribers, using various book promos and exchanges. These are supposed to be my "true fans" but I wonder...

So, I enrolled in Author Ad School to advertise directly on Amazon. This does sell books but takes an enormous amount of time. By the end of summer it had burned me out.

The most satisfying sales have been word of mouth, where people then reach out to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the book. Those are my true fans.


The Mad in Pursuit newsletter, begun as a marketing tool, is now an end in itself. If the mailing list is about my true fans, then my true fans are going to get true Susan-writing, not a bunch of promos for someone else's free stuff. It's been a ton of work to meet a consistent bi-weekly deadline and I don't get much feedback, but it keeps me writing, keeps me trying to be entertaining.

Without active promos, the mailing list is shrinking. Good. I decided to cross-post on Facebook (a few true fans definitely there!) and Medium. I don't need a thousand fans.

Archival Work

Price family. Got my mom's VHS tapes edited and posted to Google Photos—a wonderful collection of grandchildren in their childhood.

Z family. I scanned all of Z's professional papers so that his progeny could appreciate the scope and depth of his work in medicine and public health. In order for it to make sense, the archive needed a timeline of his various academic positions as well as a little history of national developments (like Medicare and Medicaid legislation). It was fascinating to put my husband's life into perspective, especially the pre-Susan years.

Arts and Crafts

I did attempt to be practical this year. I made a kitchen window covering and quilted seat cushions for our cane chairs.

But really, my love continues for dolls. I finished two satisfying projects: a 24-inch-tall Guardian (upcycled from a thrift-store doll) with 15 little Susan effigies for her to protect; and the mechanical Simone.

Family History

Sam Newham, Sr. I had tentatively thought Sam had been sent to Tasmania for cattle rustling. It's a well-documented story of redemption in Australia. But something wasn't right. Opening his file again, staring at the data, and (seriously) listening to the spirit standing behind me (is that you, Dad?), I found my true GG3—run off to New Jersey, with a prosperous wheelwright business and a new wife.

Curran family connection. DNA analysis persistently matched the Dunne branch of my family to "James Curran." He and I corresponded but we couldn't come up with a connection. When his relative finally posted a family tree, the mystery cleared up. More on the lost cousins>>>

Left Undone

Downsizing a collection or two.

All the wet-felting I bought supplies for. Sculpting with the Paverpol I bought. Seriously using the leatherworking kit I assembled.

Doing more for my Dunne family group on Facebook.

Exploration & Capacity-Building

[driven by my curiosity, my need to stretch]

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). At the end of the summer, I fell in love with AI image generation. Among other things, it has helped me visualize the kind of future dollmaking I'd like to do. I'm excited about the possibilities for expanding my creative skills. My three galleries of AI images are here: Using AI to (Finally) Make Friends with My Old Face, Self-Portraits: AI Meets Alchemy, and The Doll and Me.

I'm also trying to use AI images to make ancestors come to life. But I haven't documented that journey yet.

Left Undone

Last year's January 1 intention was about finding a spiritual sparkle through quiet, artful activities. I scratched a little at that, did some reading. But overall I was too distracted by marketing deadlines and trying to please newsleader readers.

Infrastructure & Workflow

[driven by my need for efficiency and aesthetics]

I'm at the stage of wanting to get rid of devices, rather than adding on. As electronics malfunction, I'm assessing if I can do without.

However, I did invest in another scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap. Making quick work of digitizing photos and documents is important! See Scanmania! Mining the Paper Junkyard.

Deep Energizing

[driven by love and need for new experiences]

Good things: continued whole food/plant-based lifestyle, almost-daily exercise, cataract removal, hearing aids, turning my hair silver white, avoiding illness, welcoming friends to our home, and reconnecting with my sisters who cared for me and my garden the week of my second cataract surgery.

I resisted the urge to by a camper van. Deflated about ever being able to conveniently travel with Jim, I invested in a puppy (to be delivered in early February).

Jim's need for constant guidance and assistance throughout the day ritualizes my life. Caregiving is an ever-evolving choreography. Of course, our time together is about more than surviving. As crippled as his memory is, he's still my best buddy, my eternal love. Somehow, he gives me the drive to tackle all my projects.


[1] I'm going back to a review structure I formulated in 2010, dividing my activities into four categories: production (now "engaging & sharing"), exploration, infrastructure, and energizing. Basically, what do I have to show for my luxury of time? And how do I keep laying the groundwork to make it happen year after year?

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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.