Sunday, November 25, 2012

In Her Own Words - Edda

This month we featured women writers who spoke about the pain and joy of writing their stories and finding their "voice". Finding our voices means becoming empowered and energized.  It means connection, conversation and honoring each other's stories.  We conclude "In Her Own Words," celebrating the third anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle, with this from Edda Pitassi . . .  
"I constantly realize how multi-layered and creative life truly can be. I could never say or feel this a year or so ago.  But happenstance led me to a Sunday afternoon gathering at a local library where I heard Susan Weidener talk about her new memoir, Again In A Heartbeat. She read from it and then spoke a bit about the Women's Writing Circle.  Recently retired, I wanted something to 'retire to'.... not just 'retire from.' 

After attending a few read-arounds of the Circle at Wellington Square and a series of critique sessions, I was hooked. I am eternally grateful that Susan entrusted me with editing her subsequent memoir, Morning At Wellington Square. It brought Susan's story of renewal and purpose full circle.  I learned much from her words.
The Women's Writing Circle combines companionship in the company of unique women who share a variety of life experiences, but also a call to engage, an invitation to focus and question and dig deep. It adds liveliness to my life. It provides a substantial and upbeat rhythm to my routine.There have been tough moments, however. 
Digging deep means having to confront instances, memories, difficulties and experiences I had confined to a 'closet' long ago.  Finding my voice to share these long-ago happenings - and having them resonate with a group of strangers - meant a lot to me. 

When I found my ability to connect in a meaningful way and heard and saw fellow women writers find their way through their particular challenges, I understood how such connections and demands can bring their own rewards and give fresh meaning to doing something foolhardy, even dangerous. I've learned how difficult it can be to perceive, incorporate and express through writing something clever and amusing to soften some blow that life delivers.

There's wit and sharp observations and stories of the absurd. There's humor in the Circle and the opportunity to insure that we don't forget the importance of amusement and laughter in life and love.

The Women's Writing Circle has been a life raft thrown my way when I wasn't looking. I plan to hold on for dear life."



Monday, November 19, 2012

In Her Own Words - Ginger

Throughout this month we celebrate the third anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle.  The Circle is a place for women to  write their stories; stories that are often painful, but necessary to put down on paper.  Ginger Murphy writes:

"I’ve realized that one of the biggest things we do for one another is bear witness. With the lighting of the candle at the beginning of the Circle, we bring our full attention and presence to our writing and each other. Each reader’s voice is heard and honored. For some of us, it may be the first time anyone has taken our stories seriously. Maybe it’s the first time we have taken our writing seriously. Our time together is a tremendous gift.  The Women’s Writing Circle is truly a writer’s sacred space."

"If we are lucky, at some point in our lives we find a place where we feel accepted unconditionally. If we are exceptionally fortunate, we might land among kindred spirits. From the very first read-around of the Women’s Writing Circle at Wellington Square, I felt at home.
Not only had I discovered a group of women who dedicated themselves to the rigor of the writing craft, but I also encountered a wellspring of encouragement and generosity where each person read, listened and offered genuine responses to one another’s work.

As the months went by and we each delved into our life experiences for the raw material from which to create our stories, subjects closest to our hearts began to emerge and develop.
Not territory for the faint of heart, this is often a painful passage as the emotions of experiences are unwrapped, examined and relived. By its nature, writing acts as a mirror from which our experiences look back at us as we struggle with the words that do them justice. Like many in the Circle, my life events offered ample opportunity for exploration . . . the death of a beloved partner of nearly 20 years, the loss of my job and the ongoing struggle to understand my relationship with my mother – all these seemed rich territory.
Until I discovered this community of writers, however, my attempts at writing about emotionally loaded experiences were fragmented and feeble at best. It was much easier to crank out the press releases, grant proposals and newsletter stories that were a familiar staple of my professional life.  When it came down to reckoning with the heartbreak, loss and utter grief of my own stories, I felt like I was in very lonely - even hostile - territory.
Oddly enough, as painful as writing could be, I also had an instinct it acted as a ground wire for me. The restless energy of my emotions  constantly circulated.  Writing gave it a place to go. Words gave form to the energy in my memories and I could begin to reflect on them, finding meaning especially in the responses of my fellow writers. Their acceptance and empathy were reassuring. I was not alone. I watched as others in the Circle courageously wrote and struggled with the right words for their own potent, bewildering and painful experiences."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Her Own Words - Maureen

As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle this November, I asked the women to write what the Circle means to them. So from now until the end of the month, this blog will feature the women in their own words.  Here is Maureen Barry's story.

"Although I am not a regular visitor to the Women's Writing Circle because I travel, I have always stayed connected through my friendship with Susan. Three years ago, Susan shared with me her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, and discussed her idea about forming a women’s writing group.

Over the next year, I watched from afar as the Circle blossomed. I use the image of a blossom because whenever Susan creates a book cover, it includes a flower. Her Circle is her main flower that she has nurtured from a seed. As a friend, I celebrate her success. I celebrate her bringing her dream full circle.
Susan has touched other lives by bringing them together to share their stories. The Circle validates each woman’s voice and has created a strong community. The women have become friends to each other on different levels. What is more valuable than the art of listening?
As a drop-in visitor, I delighted in sharing my childhood memories whenever I was in the area and could attend the Saturday Circle. Being a storyteller and a children’s author, I am at my best in front of an audience. I love the spoken word. As I read childhood memories in the Circle, I saw myself as a ten-year-old drinking beer with Grandpop. I realized that the loved ones from my past meant a great deal to me and I want my children and grandchildren to know these people, too.
I also have suffered through difficult times that I think, if they are shared, could help others. No matter what  - fiction or nonfiction - when the story makes a connection, it makes an impact on a person’s life. The lure of the past has captured me and my determination has put the stories into the written word. I submitted to the Women’s Writing Circle anthology collaboration and my childhood memoir about my grandpop was accepted. It is only my beginning to a longtime dream to write “My Story.”
So I have pulled out my box of journals saved since 1970 with this thought: “Someday I will write my memoir.”  The Circle has helped me understand memoir and its intricate parts and, more important, helped me see how my story may unfold.  I, too, have come full circle because now the Women’s Writing Circle can offer me not only a place to read my stories but can serve as an editorial coach. So as I evolve with my memoir, I will have support along the way.  My memoir resembles a sailing journey.  Each part is a figure-eight knot; a weaving story with a secure underline.
In the meantime, my world as a storyteller and children’s author continues to thrive. I perform stories for all ages."

Maureen's books can be found on her website: and can be ordered through maureenbarry380 or

Friday, November 9, 2012

In Her Own Words - Jan

As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle this month, I asked the women to share what coming to our read-arounds at Wellington Square meant to them personally.  Our profiles of these women, which began last week with Candice, are garnering dozens of views each day here on this blog and are now in the hundreds since we first began this series.  This is the power of sharing our words, of writing what is ours to tell without pretense and with generosity of the heart . . . of coming together in a community of writers dedicated to finding our voices as women.  Here is Jan Backes story.  ~ Susan
I remember my first visit to the Circle and nearly every other one since. I had been looking for a writer’s group and checked out a few. The Circle was one that spoke to me best.
I remember trying to find the bookstore and how happy I was when Flo and I eventually came upon Wellington Square. The woman who first introduced me to the Circle no longer attends but I think of her from time to time and what she is missing.

I had only a poem to share but I thought it was a good one. I still do. It is in a poetry anthology and has been featured on the website of Poetrysoup:

Jan's poetry published in 2012.
There was something about reading "Birdsoar" and the look in Susan’s eyes. I could tell she was pleased to have me there. Then she told me what I did not know. She told me she felt I had a book in me. This came a few visits later to the Circle and I have never felt so high.

I guess I could consider myself a retired bus driver but the fact is I am at home on disability and have plenty of time on my hands. Folks would envy the time that I have when actually sometimes to me it is a drain. The life of a writer can be lonely. In the Circle I feel so supported and actually loved. I am never afraid to write what I feel and to read it aloud because I know it will be received with open arms.
I have made lifelong friends as a result of showing up the second Saturday of each month and being present for myself and all the other wonderful women.

Footnote:  Jan's poem, "Winter's Habit," was published in Stars in Our Hearts  . . . Remnants.  She wrote with her poem:

"I have been given the opportunity in the past two years to have the support to succeed in my writing by joining a women's writing group. It is in the Circle that I find strength and courage to write about nature and my life in general."

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Her Own Words - Diane

As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle this month, I asked women to share what they had discovered after being part of our community of writers, and include a favorite memory of the Circle. So from now until the end of November, we feature "In Her Own Words." Here is Diane Yannick's story.

"About three years ago, an article in the local newspaper, the Daily Local News, caught my attention. It was about a lady named Susan Weidener who had started a women’s writing group.
The word "memoir" caught my attention along with the notion that women would hear each others’ voices. I decided to show up. Reassuring myself that I had to attend only once if I didn’t like it, I entered Wellington Square Bookshop and nervously took my seat.

Now three years later, I enter Wellington Square on Saturday mornings with a more confident step. I take a deep breath, turn off my cell phone, get my coffee and take my seat among a group of women I’ve come to love.
We wait, comfortably chatting until Susan lights our candle to signify the start of our sacred time. Someone accepts the "talking stone," a smooth flat stone which we pass around the Circle when a woman wants to read. As she holds the stone, we listen to her words and feel the power of our combined voices. We are women searching for ways to “fill our papers with the breathing of our hearts.”
We don’t try to impress one another. We don’t need to apologize for our shortcomings. We just dig deep and lay our lives and dreams on the table. Gradually, the layers of our selves peel away. We cheer each other on, celebrating whatever is.
There was one particular moment when I realized the power of our Writing Circle. It was about six months after I joined. I had struggled with my piece and wasn’t sure that I was going to share that day. As usual, I got caught up in the moment and wanted to add my voice to the mix. In a shaky voice, I began to share my writing about my mother’s death. Rather than a  tribute to her, it was filled with regrets about the relationship we never had. I admitted that I didn’t cry when she died. I felt terrible that I couldn’t feel the human emotions that a daughter is supposed to feel about her own mother. It’s hard to even admit the feeling let alone try to find words to describe it.

Now, I’d said the words aloud.
When I finished, I was afraid to lift my eyes off  the page. No one spoke. I finally looked up. I saw a tear in the eye of one of the ladies I had met only a few weeks earlier. She smiled at me as she rubbed her eyes. Then I felt a hand patting my back. That minute changed me as a writer. I realized that I didn’t have to be ashamed of my feelings. I didn’t have to pretend that I was a better person than I really was. I could just be me.  That would be enough.

Since then, I have seen other tears and heard some belly laughs. It’s not quite so shocking now but the wonder remains. With grit and determination we show up and throw each other lifelines. Originally, I told myself that I was writing my life stories to pass on to my daughters. I’ve come to realize that’s untrue. I write because that’s what I need to do. I write to feel. I write to be more human. I write to quiet my mind so that I can truly hear."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In Her Own Words - Candice

As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Women's Writing Circle this month, I  asked women to write what the Circle has come to mean to them. I had written my thoughts and impressions many times on this blog, now it was their turn.  I wanted to share their voices about our community of writers.  They generously obliged. So from now until the end of November, the Women's Writing Circle features "In Her Own Words."  This from Candice Swick.
"To say that my life has been in a transition phase for the last two years would be an understatement.  If I were a piece of wood, I would have been stripped, sanded, painted and on my way to the varnishing station.

Two years ago I hit my limit and was forced to leave my best friend of fifteen years.  When we met, it felt like heaven.  We were each other’s everything.  For the majority of our relationship I felt loved, accepted and cherished.  Now in hindsight, I realize that although we were in love, in many ways it was a dysfunctional marriage.  Our paths weren’t connected anymore and in order to save myself I was forced to go solo.  Being alone after being a part of a twosome for so long was a scary almost foreign sensation.
Just when I was on my way to learning how to live and rely on myself, I ended up with another major detour. On January 9th of 2012, at the age of thirty-nine, I had open heart surgery.  I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve instead of a tricuspid aortic valve.  Although this operation was inevitable, the doctors thought I would be in my fifties, not in my late thirties.  I’m a survivor and my recovery has been exceptionally smooth.  Not a morning goes by without me appreciating every waking moment and breath.  It’s a gift to be alive.  The bow on top of life’s gift is the people we meet along the way.
I entered the next phase of my healing when I started attending the Women’s Writing Circle in March of 2012.  The group of ladies in this writing group welcomed me with open arms.  I refer to this time of my life as the healing stage, because that’s what I’m doing right now.  I’m mending physically from my heart surgery and emotionally from my divorce.  A new friend and fellow writer recently said, “Candice, you’ve come out of your shell so much since you’ve been coming to the circle.”  At that moment it hit me how right she was.  My confidence has come alive in the last six months.  This writing circle has changed how I feel about myself.

Our reading circle is a safe place where we gather to share little bits of ourselves.
I’ve witnessed a few other women join our group and like me they are hesitant at first.  In our own way each of us took baby steps: 

Step 1 - Having the courage to come and listen to the other women read.
Step 2 – Having the nerve to read our own material.
Step 3 – Having enough confidence to voice our opinions on others' work.

Each woman in the Women’s Writing Circle is special in her own way, but we share one common thread; we’re all searching for our own VOICE.

Thank you to all my new friends for being the colorful bows on my gift of life."