If author Susan Haught’s characters jumped off the page of any one of her many published books to tell their side of the story, they’d have plenty to say on how they came alive, where they spend their time these days, and how it all came together in a small community in the Arizona mountains.
As an award-winning published writer of women’s fiction and romance, Susan used the family den as her writing room while husband Bruce, a fifth-grade teacher, was at school during the day. Then Bruce retired, and suddenly, there was trouble in paradise.
Bruce, a university-educated professional, somehow was unable to read when it came to signs on closed doors that said Do Not Disturb.
“Once interrupted, it takes me a full thirty minutes to get back into being completely immersed in my story again,” said Susan. It was the day Bruce walked into the den and said, ‘Shhhhhh. I’m not disturbing you. Honest,’ and then proceeded to use the shredder, that Susan was done being nice.
“It was either dissolving a forty-two year marriage that had survived everything short of a tsunami, talking my husband into re-entering the work force (he refused), or finding a way to separate myself from the house,” said Susan. “We’d discussed a she-shed before, but until Bruce retired, I had plenty of alone time to write while he was working during the day.”
Susan was in need of a writer’s environment where her characters could take shape, live and breath; a quiet space, undisturbed with no outside intrusion, noise, telephones ringing, and constant interruptions. With Bruce now retired and at home, it was time to revisit the she-shed subject and turn it from discussion into a reality.
Living in Payson, Arizona, the couple had a pint-size backyard which already housed a 10′ x 12′ TuffShed storage building. They soon ascertained their best use of money and space would be to add an additional TuffShed lean-to adjacent to the existing one. Bruce, a stickler for aesthetics, wanted the new she-shed to compliment the existing property layout. Neither one of them wanted to sacrifice the fruit-bearing pear tree that stood nearby. There were setbacks to property lines since they lived in a community with neighbors close by, and a walkway to the main house backdoor. Therefore the choice of location was straightforward, given the limited backyard area.
Susan and Bruce went shopping for her she-shed, deciding on an 8′ x 12′ TuffShed lean-to which came with a five-year warranty at a cost of $2950. They had a budget of $5500. This was a shell only, that would require finishing of the inside.
“The finished project came in at a much higher cost than we’d anticipated, but could have been lower had we made different selections,” said Susan. “We’d thought about finding used furnishings, but living in a small town, our choices were slim. We ended up buying new. Also there were choices to make with the building process, and we sometimes went with the more expensive option. Looking back I’m glad we made the decisions we did.”
Bruce wanted Susan’s she-shed to be the same length as the existing 10′ x 12′ backyard storage unit. They wanted both buildings to match in color and style, as well as matching the family’s home. The TuffShed lean-to is called this because the roofline goes from high to low without the normal peaked pitch. Having their two TuffSheds back-to-back meant the roof lines matched on the backside. TuffShed was also willing to custom design and/or make changes that would accommodate special requests.
When it came to decorating, Susan envisioned the tranquil colors of the ocean. “I incorporated a beach theme, with the turquoise of the water and waves, a gray weathered look for wood, and accents in shades of tan, the color of sand. This is all so relaxing to me,” said Susan.
“The benefits of having my she-shed are many. I now have a place to store my writing craft books, notebooks, magazines and other items I use with my profession. I love being in my she-shed, away from the house. Here, there’s no television, no interruptions. I love my husband and am still married to him. I’m really too old to train another one.
“My she-shed has all the coffee I can consume, a nice stash of chocolate, and sometimes there’s the occasional glass of wine,” said Susan.
“I love the wonderful patter of rain on the roof or the serenity of falling snow just outside my windows. My she-shed gave me more than just a quiet place to work. It was worth every cent we paid for it.”
Susan writes secular women’s fiction, with her characters experiencing real life, often going through a transition that effects not only themselves but those around them, and through this, insights are often shared, from the character’s point of view.
“For me, it’s not all about plot. It’s more about telling the story of their journey. My characters may come with a storied past that catches up with them, things come full circle, and they are faced with decisions, and possible life changes,” said Susan.
“For all of us, life comes with family and relationship issues, with struggles and adversities we face along life’s path. I love creating characters whose faults push them in directions everyone can relate to, and with the hardships and surprises that come with every day life.”
In her own journey in life, Susan says she has learned much from having patience. Married in 1973, Susan and Bruce experienced infertility, until age 34, when she finally, and miraculously, became pregnant through in-vitro fertilization. This baby would be one of only 5,000 born in 1989, with the very first successful in-vitro pregnancy taking place less than ten years before with the birth of Elizabeth Brown in England.
“Doctors had given me a less than 1% chance of ever conceiving on my own. My son Adam is now twenty-seven years old. It is from this experience of having a child of my own, from meeting him for the first time when he was four cells in a petri dish, to giving birth to him, and now having shared life as a family, that I am able to write the depth of emotional journeys my characters live,” said Susan.
The building process:
- Building permits: Susan’s county did not require a building permit for structures under two hundred square feet. Susan’s 8′ x 12′ she-shed measures ninety-six square feet.
- Site preparation: After leveling the site, which was mostly decomposed granite, Susan’s she-shed was able to be placed directly on the ground, since TuffShed buildings come with galvanized steel floor joists for the foundation. It was therefore not necessary to have builder’s blocks or pour concrete in preparation for delivery. Further, TuffSheds also have 3/4 inch plywood subflooring and 2″ x 4″s on 16-inch center framing.
- Delivery: Susan’s TuffShed purchase included delivery and set-up. The custom-designed building was delivered in sections, with all four walls complete with windows and door frame. TuffShed deliverymen leveled the structure, hung the door, then added corner and roof trim.
- Electric: Adhering to city code and regulations, Susan’s husband Bruce and hired handyman Roger, ran wiring under the main house, then underground for three feet into the new she-shed. They were able to hook into an existing electrical box with the addition of another breaker.
- Heat/Air: Susan planned to use her she-shed year-round. Though Payson, Arizona has four seasons of moderate weather, Susan’s she-shed still required heat and air conditioning, since temperatures can reach the high 90’s in summer and winter experiences the occasional snow storm. Researching options for the ninety-six square foot she-shed, the decision was made to purchase a thermostat-operated LG 8000 series window unit that is both an air conditioner and heater. Purchased from A.J. Madison online, the cost was $322.70. The unit also came with instructions to wall mount which was the ultimate choice for Susan’s she-shed, thus retaining all windows for natural light and outside views.
- Inside Finishing: Bruce and Roger laid a new floor with materials purchased from Home Depot. They installed insulation, hung drywall, did texture, painted, and built custom bookshelves.
Basic materials list for finishing the roughed-in shell which came with windows, shingled roof and door: electrical wiring and switches, light fixtures, insulation, drywall, texture, flooring, paint, beadboard, trim, door handle, heating/cooling unit, internet connection. Furnishings added were a desk, coffee bar and hutch.
Counting the cost:
- Budget: $5500
- Purchase price of the 8′ x 12′ TuffShed shell: $2950
- Actual cost of total project: $8,000
- Property value increase with this addition: $10,000
More of Susan’s she-shed building adventure may be found on her Pinterest board, NoBoyzAllowed. For TuffShed’s backyard options visit www.tuffshed.com. Other ready-built structures that could easily be made into she-sheds may be found at Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, Walmart online, The Carriage Shed, Sheds Unlimited, Wayfair and others.