Monday, April 15, 2013

Freeing the Writer―and the Woman

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. ~ Virginia Woolf

With publication today of Slants of Light, our About the Authors series concludes with Susan G. Weidener.

When I write, I get a chance not only to free the writer within, but free the woman. I explore my fear of aging and death, the loves and the losses of  my life, the anger and the pain. In the process I am letting go and feeling the weight lift. By taking risks with my writing, I can transform and grow as an adult.

As a journalist I met people from all walks of life and backgrounds.  Everyone has a story to tell. It wasn't long after I left the newspapersix years ago nowthat I realized I had stories I wanted to mine from everyday events, ordinary people and my own day-to-day observations and relationships with others.  The settings of my stories are the living room of a house, a restaurant, a moonlit night in suburbia.
My stories in Slants of Light are about two women at very different stages in their lives.   In the first story, "Last Shot at the Brass Ring," the narrator is a widow pondering aging, and the odds of finding romantic love again.  She turns to a popular Internet dating site. What do you call a would-be lover at her age, she wonders as she meets her blind date, Sam,  for brunch?  Certainly not a boyfriend!  Emma feels she has earned “shareholder status in Estee Lauder,” she has purchased so many facial and anti-wrinkling creams over the years in her attempt to remain youthful-looking and attractive. 
She refuses to cash in her chips just because society tells her that older women are disposable.  So she gives it one last shot - a search for romance and connection ... which begins to look slightly absurd even to her, a diehard romantic, as Sam licks his fingers of their bay seasoning and then launches into stories about his life that become stranger and stranger. You can't make stuff like this up; the story is based in a real encounter ... fact is stranger than fiction ... and the humor in it led to the story practically writing itself.
My second story is "Stepping Stone House." Women spend a lot of time in their homes and it seemed the perfect setting to tell the tale of marriage and family.  The young married couple, Claire and Mark, make love in the bedroom with flowered wallpaper and white curtains; the children decorate their rooms with dinosaur and "Abbey Road" posters. The wedding picture framed in gold on the piano becomes a bittersweet reminder of all that could have been but never will be.
The house is the centerpiece to Claire's story of widowhood and a single, working mother with two small children. As she stands on her deck at night, she thinks back to when she and her husband bought their modest dwelling; believing it a good investment, their hopes high that someday they would move on and "step up" to a bigger and better house ... naively believing they have all the time in the world to make a life together.  She confronts her shattered dreams, straightens her shoulders and starts all over again, if for no other reason than because she owes it to her children.
I try to broaden the portraits of the women I write about so that they become more than me and my own life, but snapshots that capture "everywoman." These are women searching for love and connection, renewal, if you will, amid a dawning realization that fulfillment comes not from a man or a marriage, but from finding strength within yourself and tapping into your inner spirit and creative passions. 
Through tone and narrative, I hope these women breathe on the page, their voices strong and sure, their insecurities acknowledged, their fragility and their strength exposed without apology. 
The Women's Writing Circle has taught me  how much in common we have as women and how crucial it is to support and validate each other and our voices. 

As our stories capture so well in Slants of Light,  we are not alone on this journey of the feminine.
About Susan:  Susan G. Weidener received her BA in Literature from American University and her MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1991 and worked as a reporter in the Inquirer's suburban bureau until 2007. Her critically acclaimed debut book, Again in a Heartbeat, led to writing a sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, published in 2012. Susan started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She is available for talks and lectures on memoir writing and how to find the compelling narrative in your story. Susan lives in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

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