Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Valentine's Gift of Memoir

Many, many thanks to all the Kindle users who downloaded Again in a Heartbeat.  It has been amazing and exciting to know that people are taking the time and interest to read my story. 

Yesterday over 600 people in the US and UK downloaded my memoir on KDP Select. If you liked the story, please give it a shout-out, recommend it, write a recommendation of it on Amazon. Thank you! 

"He loved me.  And for that I would be there again in a heartbeat."
It is my hope now and always that my story will  "ring true" for those who have ever been in love, for couples coping with serious illness and for those who ask - is love worth the risk?

Enjoy my story and John's. 

Happy Valentine's Day.  



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Risk-Taking and Writing - A Prompt

A breach of faith. An abandonment of a child.  How to write about this?  Should we write about it?  Risk-taking in writing comes up again and again at our Women's Writing Circle.   Is it harmful or can it produce positive results?

I can only speak for myself. The writer's job is to reveal the disturbing.   The writer's job is to write the factual and the emotional truth. While the journey is fraught with landmines, how uplifting it is once they are diffused! Taking a risk is necessary in order to grow. Taking the plunge and deciding to publish Again in a Heartbeat - thereby revealing myself publicly - was terrifying.  My fear and the reality of what came after were worlds apart. It ended up as a river dancing with sunlight on a spring day.

Women writing  memoir reveal themselves publicly - often for the first time. It feels uncomfortable, but not impossible.  Harder is revealing others - a parent, a sibling, a husband or wife.  We were taught to remain silent. It feels like a betrayal to reveal their flaws.  Yet through the writing we are finding our unfiltered voice.

The guilt (self-reproach) overwhelms.  We write something . . .  a little portrait, a poem for our eyes only. We hide it. Exposing the truth in the light of day is unimaginable.  It stays in the closet. 

Revealing the "ugly" side of ourselves and others is heading onto rocky shoals.  Stop for a moment and think how it also steers toward the revealing and provocative.

A prompt for our February 11 read-around: Write a character study of a person who regrets not taking a risk.  How did the failure to take that risk change his or her life?  (You might want to write it as a narrative as if that person is talking to you.)

Or, since February 14th is so close, this prompt:  "A box of Valentine's."
(Originally, I had offered as a prompt, an empty box of Valentine's; but it may have been a little too hard to conceptualize how to write about this; if you want to, tho, please do.)

For information about our read-around: http://www.susanweidener.com/p/circle-read-arounds.html

As always, please bring what your heart and pen inspire.  We had the largest group ever last month at our read-around at Wellington Square.  Why don't you join us?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Perfectionism And the Rough Draft

I am reading Anne Lamott's classic book on writing, Bird By Bird. Lamott compares a rough draft to a Polaroid. I think most of us remember Polaroid cameras and how fascinating it was to watch murky shadow transform into photograph. 

Writing the rough first, second and third drafts is something like that.  Just be patient Dear Prudence, and the picture in all its color and detail will emerge.  Do not expect or demand instantaneous, artfully-written prose the first time around . . . or even the second or third.  (If it happens the first time around, then keep it to yourself so the rest of us won't feel so bad.)

Writes Lamott: "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.   . . . Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force.  Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up.  But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived."

Not only is perfectionism the culprit that stifles the muse, it creates the stress that makes writing almost as pleasant as tooth extraction.  Women are particularly prone to this curse.  (Ever see the movie Black Swan?)

You have heard me talk about my follow-up book to Again in a Heartbeat. It is called Morning at Wellington Square and picks up in the years after my husband's death. For those who don't know, Wellington Square is the name of the bookshop where our Women's Writing Circle meets on the second and last Saturday mornings of the month.

While everything I write happened, I took the liberty of changing the sequence of certain events, changing names, playing with dialogue that is both true and dramatic. 

Water garden at the Ming Summer Palace.
All of which gets me to the first, second, third - and now the 9th draft of Morning at Wellington Square.   I finally said, Enough! Writing and rewriting, I began feeling like I was scaling the Great Wall of China. I may not be writing as simply and eloquently as a Hemingway, as insightful or amusing as an Alice Munro, or as witty as Anne Lamott. But it's okay. I am writing my story and no one - except Jesus, of course - can ever be perfect. 

I uncovered so many treasures and "uncramped" so many writing muscles, to quote Lamott, I am beginning to feel hopeful.  I might even grant myself permission to think this is worthy of publishing and asking people to read! 

A rough draft is not perfect. If you stop writing because it has become too painful, then you have nothing. Under the clutter, glitter gems of story and people you want to write and know more about. A beautiful landscape garden waits.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Generosity of Women's Stories

A universal message resonates when we dig deep, clear the cobwebs and take a memory out of darkness. The writer's mission is to disturb, to bring to light what is unsaid. To reveal.

The generosity of women writing from the heart is courage and connection in an impersonal world. This was apparent  at our Women's Writing Circle yesterday.  The writing included stories of  religious dogma and its impact on a child's life; a mother's disorder and a daughter's insight into her own journey; a wife's plea to a husband.

In the Circle we discover the safety and energy, the renewal that comes with expressing ourselves in a community of kindred spirits. There are no apologies that what we write might upset.  Instead, we are empowered.

Yesterday we held our first read-around of the Women's Writing Circle for the new year. We are a small group meeting in a rather idyllic corner of the Philadelphia suburbs.  There is so much wealth and prosperity here, it sometimes feels like living in a bubble in recession-plagued America.

Still, there is poverty and then there is poverty. On a frigid January morning we mined the poverty of discontent and sadness, the joy of lessons learned, the journey of the feminine.  This is a journey that cuts across all socio-economic groups.  Those willing to take it find wealth of the spirit.

I encourage anyone reading this to start a women's writing group in your community.  You'll find the need is out there for a place to gather. You'll find inspiration for your writing, and renewed creative energy.  You'll find connection and strength in the generosity of women's stories.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Finding Stories in Photographs

My parents, Andrew and Gertrude, on their wedding day.
Is there a photograph that keeps you sane? Is it  a picture of a person, a house, a landscape with many-layered meaning? Your parents on their wedding day? 

Is it someone who taught you to love? Is it someone you do not want to become?

Photographs are invaluable touchstones to memory, and to who we are. Photographs serve as story starters. 

When you consider publishing, photographs create fascinating covers for your books.

For those just visiting this site or thinking about joining a community of writers, the Women's Writing Circle meets for two and a half hours every second Saturday of the month, except February and July.

We read our work in an informal, but grounded atmosphere of goodwill. We respect the grit and courage it takes to be a writer. We support each other in our creative pursuit to put pen to paper and write from the heart about issues that matter to women. The Circle offered me support and connection, encouraging me to finish my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, about my late husband, John Cavalieri, pictured here during our summer at Martha's Vineyard.
John looking toward the ocean.

The Circle offers a place to express ourselves and explore our voices.  After each read-around, we emerge renewed.

All genres welcome, as are published and unpublished writers.