Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Highlight of 2011 - Memoir Review

A review of my memoir ran in Philadelphia's City Suburban News in 2011.  It was a highlight for me this year.  Much of my writing is inspired by my hope to give women the courage and inspiration to write from the heart.


Local Author Tells Her Story in Again in a Heartbeat
By Edda R. Pitassi, Correspondent

In her critically acclaimed debut book Again in a Heartbeat...a memoir of love, loss, and dating again, Susan Weidener tells a romantic and realistic story of “meeting Prince Charming,” marriage, parenthood, and the tragic loss of her talented, vibrant, 47-year-old husband, John Cavalieri, to cancer.

Weidener wrote her memoir as a way of coming to terms not only with the
bitterness and resentment of losing her “touchstone”and hero but also to
find her way “as a single mother and middle-aged woman on my own.”

She begins to write a journal, nurtures two young sons, Alex and Daniel,
and boldly confronts her widowhood. She becomes attracted to other men,
dates again, and finds that other would-be princes “pale in comparison.”

Many readers of Again in a Heartbeat have commented on the author’s
honesty, resilience,and loyalty in the face of her seven-year ordeal
with John’s cancer and its effect on family and friends. “This book
touched my life and my heart,” says one reader. “I am grateful that you
shared your story,” says another. “I am devouring your memoir,” adds
another.

Clearly, Weidener’s belief in the power of memoir has resonated with
readers and has brought her to another frontier. She founded the Women’s
Writing Circle in November 2009 “to inspire other women writers in
suburban Philadelphia.”

In sharing her knowledge of writing and publishing, the author sees
herself as a “writing coach” who encourages writers “to tell their
stories whether for publication or for themselves and their families.

“Everyone has a story to tell. Writing helps us tell that story and make
sense of our lives,”she maintains.

She praises the“wonderful” Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, PA, where
aspiring writers meet on pre-arranged Saturday mornings “to break the
solitude of writing."

A native of Wayne, PA, Weidener was a reporter with The Philadelphia
Inquirer
from 1991 until 2007. She left journalism to try her skills at
a more creative form of writing, earning recognition as an experienced
book editor, facilitator of writing workshops, and media consultant. She
currently resides in Chester Springs, Pa.

http://www.facebook.com/citysuburbannews

To order Again in a Heartbeat go to: https://www.createspace.com/3443743

To order on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004774MOW
(The book is enrolled in the KDP Select program and can now be borrowed through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.)

To order on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Again-Heartbeat-Memoir-Love-Dating/dp/1451581181/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314816961&sr=1-1#_

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coming Home Through Memoir

The holidays, at least for many of us, is a time when facing the compelling narrative of our lives is unavoidable.  Tradition and family and the roles we played in that narrative meld into one melodrama.  The exhaustion of the expectations, we mutter to ourselves!

Why is it that I always felt I needed to caretake, she wonders?  Was it because of those Christmases at the dinner table where her mother wept how much she missed her parents, how she felt so lonely and lost and I, as the only daughter, felt the unspoken message to be strong?

Memories are triggers for why we react as we do with certain people. She's so spoiled, it is always about her and how she can feel better about herself, never what I might want or need. I don't want her as a friend anymore. 

The desire to begin sorting and making sense of it becomes powerful.  Writing is the surest way to do that.

One of the great gifts for me has been memoir. It keeps giving, not just through the self-knowledge generated by writing and taking the longer view of life, but in connecting with other people in the most human and real sense of the words.  As author Christina Baldwin writes in Storycatcher, Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story: "Events become real when we organize experience into narrative."

As I work on my next book, I find myself "coming home again" through memoir. Writing illuminates the teenage girl who never "fit in," the widow who buried her grief, the journalist whose paper favored youth over age and experience, the daughter who never escaped her tendency to provide emotional support to others, but is learning the importance of boundaries.

I have been reading oral historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel. One of his books is a series of compelling narratives as told to Terkel by older people who look back on their lives, their careers, their hopes and dreams without sentimentality or embellishment.

As Katherine "Kit" Tremaine told Terkel in Coming of Age:  "I was always seeking something outside.  I finally found it when I left my second husband after thirty years.  I was in my early sixties.  It was a big move.  I got into my car and headed down our long driveway, down to my little beach house.  I thought to myself, 'I've done it!'  Suddenly this tremendous feeling of joy rose up in me.  I began to realize that the world was full of people just like me."

And so it is this holiday season, a time to let the writing lead us to a place of  freedom and fulfillment - to come home again to who we truly are and were always meant to be. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why I Chose KDP Select

This past week I received a letter from Amazon.  Hello from KDP! We're excited to introduce KDP  Select . . . KDP Select gives you a new way to earn royalties, reach a broader audience, and use a new set of promotional tools. 

What immediately appealed to me was "reach a broader audience."  Not one to shy away from marketing and self-promotion, I had been successful in arranging book signings, library talks and interviews about my memoir on radio and in print media.

I had nevertheless found this to be a tough year in terms of my memoir reaching a broader audience outside the community where I live.  Although I have had terrific reviews of my book, sales have been slow in the last several months. I refused to be disheartened, having read how many books have been slow starters and then caught on.  But as much as wanting to reach a wider audience and dream the dream that someone might see my book as the next Bridges of Madison County (which one reader likened it to), I felt frustrated by obstacles that had nothing to do with the caliber of the book, but with self-publishing.

One of the least frustrating aspects was how easy it has been to make Again in a Heartbeat an eBook.  I loved the thought of people who have eReaders downloading my book.


KDP Select may not work.  I can always opt out of the program.  Although signing onto the program means my memoir as an eBook is exclusive to Kindle, there are promotions in this program that I hope will give my book greater visibility.  This does not affect the paperback, which can be purchased through numerous distributors.

Most writers who keep their ear to the ground, now know the challenges.  There seems to be an unending stream of articles, Twitter posts, and Facebook page links to articles on just how tough it is for self-published authors; how publishers are scrambling to deal with the eBook phenomenon; books priced below industry standards. The war has intensified between traditional publishers and Amazon; some publishers are locking in the price of an eBook so that it sells for more than the paperback.  Blog posts accuse authors who sign up for KDP Select as undermining other authors, or "giving away their life's work for free," as if the author who made the decision to join the program, which includes a free lending library for certain Kindle users, either has no mind of her own or is greedy


I believe when you write a book the goal should be to connect with others through storytelling.  When forces are at work to stop an author from making those connections due to monetary considerations and invested entitlement, it puts a whole new twist on things. You do what you have to do to get your work out there and hope for the best.  The other way - believing a book with merit that is well-written will get fair treatment - doesn't always work.  Some bookstores won't stock or promote, reviewers shy away, and the guardians of the literary establishment lump all self-published authors together as people who chose that route as a last resort.  With Amazon none of that happens. Is it any wonder some of us have selected KDP Select? To read Again In A Heartbeat on your Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004774MOW

Here is an interesting story on what self-published and independent authors are saying about KDP Select:
http://paidcontent.org/article/419-self-published-authors-debate-amazons-kdp-select/

Monday, December 12, 2011

Women's Writing and Validation

Whenever there is validation, that is good.  Whenever there is validation for what you are writing about, that is even better.  Validation is not only necessary, it is the fuel that keeps writers - especially women writers - writing.  Although it is hard to discuss our writing and at times feels uncomfortable to share and critique, we come to the Circle for the validation that what we write is real.

As one woman who came to Saturday's read-around revealed - no one in her family reads her work.  They know she is a poet, that she is working hard on her writing, but they don't bother to read what she has written.  When I wrote my memoir, the same thing happened.  My family expressed little to no interest in reading the book which was not all that surprising to me.  There might be something there they were not prepared to know.  Anyway, I wrote the book because I wanted to write something true that I had experienced about lost dreams and youth.  The audience would come or it wouldn't, but the important thing was getting it down on paper.


When we come to the Women's Writing Circle, we are getting validation for having the courage to put pen to paper.  The thoughts are honest, the stories heartfelt and the group is open to what they think and how the work might be improved or not.  It is more complicated than that, but distills as best I can what our writing circle is about.  I have rarely, if ever, sensed any mean intent, rather some poorly-worded comments about the work that were hurtful to the author, but not intentionally meant to be so - or at least I hope not.  Instead, there is goodwill over coffee and tea in an excellent setting, as well as a longing to connect with each other through the stories and support the lonely but necessary work of writing.

So it will continue in 2012 and for as long as it feels right and worthwhile for the group.

All the best to my sisters in the Writing Circle.
Susan

PS That's Jan Backes in the upper righthand photo.  Her poem, "Bird Soar," which she brought to her first read-around of the Circle is featured on this week's Homepage of  poetrysoup.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Writer's Emotional Connection

Writers offer their talents because they feel a passion to connect on matters of the heart. This is the spiritual side of writing, the side that has little to do with marketing and self-promotion.

A writer may have a wonderful gift of stringing together lovely sentences and thoughts, but if the writer is not in the piece, it is hardly worth the paper it is printed on.  Rather, it becomes a cerebral exercise, a study in one person viewing life from a distance, like a doctor who doesn't see that the patient is really himself.

For the writer, exploring the emotional landscape is the greatest joy of writing.  Writers are people too and they want and need to express their feelings, their own woundedness.  As a friend said to me, all writers are wounded.  It is true. Otherwise, why write?  Why examine our human condition, reflect . . . try and make sense of it all, and, hopefully, heal?

Believe this if you believe nothing else. Connecting with our own emotions inevitably leads to connecting with our readers'. As the year draws to a close, I think about ways to do that which I have shared in my writing workshops.

  • What is the universal emotion you wish to convey? 
  • Engage the reader through colorful details, lively and true dialogue, characters who are not all black and white, but shades of blue and gray.
  • Reflect through a character in your story.  All writers want to be known.  Here is your chance.
  • Take the risk to be vulnerable.  (Only when you are ready and feel strong enough.)
  • Consider how you feel when you are writing.
  • Write with your whole heart.
PROMPT:  Loneliness is a powerful emotion.  What do you do when you are alone?  Describe the setting.  What are your thoughts? Ways to start:  This is how I feel when I am alone.






Thursday, December 1, 2011

Going Home - Memoir

Today I traveled back in time. Wayne, Pennsylvania.

I walked to the church where John and I married so many years ago.  A girl with platinum blond hair in a sleek white gown with pearls at her throat takes the arm of a tall, dark-haired man with Italian good looks.  He smiles as they pose in front of a red oak door . . . she never realizing she would live whole lifetimes without him.

She has raised his children, dated men whose stories have left her touched and unmoved.  She has traveled to places they only dreamed of seeing; Italy, France, Australia. Yet he has never left her side.

I am a former reporter for a city newspaper, the mother of two amazing sons, a writer, author and editor.  The dream has come true for the girl who never fit in; the girl who wanted a life of romance, travel and adventure.  The girl who wanted to eat life up, take it by the horns.

Today I found myself walking the same sidewalks from decades before. I used to buy tickets for movies at the Anthony Wayne Theater. "Jason and the Argonauts." Remember the hydra, the monsters? The ticket taker accused me of lying about my age to get the cheaper ticket. I was tall, towered above the boys my age. "You're trying to tell me you're only 12?" she sneered.  I stood my ground. 

Wayne wasn't a kind place if you were different, gangly, had nothing to do with country clubs.   All you wanted was escape.  Now you find yourself here again.  The shops have changed. Harrison's Department Store is gone, as is the Rexall drugstore with its soda fountain, Woolworth's with its plastic flowers and bargain hosiery.  You ask a young woman in the coffee shop if this wasn't once a photography studio.  She just looks at you.  "Its been a coffee shop for years."  When you tell her when you graduated from high school in this town, she smiles.  "Wow," is all she says.

Wayne Presbyterian where John and I wed.
Going "home"  . . .  Memories of a handsome brother who bought into the fast cars, the leather briefcases, the salesman pitch that eventually killed him.  A mother who shopped supermarkets for bargains in an ankle-length raccoon coat and red high heels, flirting with the butcher. The girl who found escape by typing away on a Smith Corona until 2 a.m..

Was it a dream? They are all dead now.  You are the sole survivor.  Here you stand in the same town, the same maple trees shadowing the red oak door where you and he stood after taking your vows. He whispers in your ear.  "I love you.  I always have."

You cry. Then you straighten your shoulders.  You realize how lucky you are.  You grab the keys to your car, start the engine and leave the town behind.