Susan G. Weidener finds writing as a way of healing

I am so pleased to have Susan G. Weidener with me today on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. The third book of her trilogy, A Portrait of Love and Honor, was just released, and I’m happy to say, I read it and loved it as I did her other two books, Morning at Wellington Square and Again in A Heartbeat.

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Here Susan tells us how writing is healing for her. I can totally relate. Writing has been my healing balm ever since my son’s death in 1999. But enough about me. Here’s Susan.

Writing As a Way of Healing
By Susan G. Weidener

In the Bible, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back when she and her family were fleeing a devastated and rotting Sodom. We all know what came next.  As she glanced over her shoulder, she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. For many, this story became a cautionary tale. See? This is what happens to a curious woman who looks back at her past.

The story of Lot’s wife is a favorite at memoir writing workshops. It provokes laughter and the question: If we don’t look back, how else do we tell the story? Not to mention: Whoever heard of someone turning into a pillar of salt?  (Perhaps, it’s a metaphor for tears?)

Writing is a powerful and compelling quest.  It helps make sense of things. It can transform the dragons and demons into something beautiful. By looking back, we move forward . . . healing the wounds and traumas of our past.

This doesn’t mean we can proceed without taking the necessary precautions. Sometimes writing about a particular memory is best left for another day. We may decide to come at it through the side door, since pushing ourselves to the edge is too scary; give it time to percolate before putting it on the page.

I will always be grateful for having my writing both during and after traumatic life events. After many years of grieving, I was able to put into perspective my husband’s untimely death from cancer in my memoir Again in a Heartbeat. His coming of age story in A Portrait of Love and Honor was excerpted from his memoir. John often told me that writing about those West Point years served as “scriptotherapy” and putting to rest lost dreams.

Reviewing our lives in the context of one central and defining event or time makes for story’s compelling narrative. The protagonist is confronted with crisis; how he or she resolves it makes for dramatic tension . . . a character frozen in place – like Lot’s wife – interests no one.

What compelled Lot’s wife to look back?  Did she have the courage to confront destruction and look it in the eye? Was she saying goodbye to her old home as a way to move on to the new?  We’ll never know.  Lot’s wife never got to tell her story. Fortunately, as writers, we do.

By putting into words the defining moments of our lives – the “passage,”, so to speak, of falling in love, the birth of a child . . . countered with separation, loss and  death – we find peace and healing . . . and realization that there is a wider life out there after loss.

About A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story:

Newly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events. Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Susan Weidener photoAbout the Author:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher.  She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based.  Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is:  www.susanweidener.com.

My review of A Portrait of Love and Honor:

I have now completed Susan G. Weidener’s trilogy: two memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, Morning at Wellington Square, and her latest work of fiction combined with memoir, A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on A True Story. I strongly recommend all three.

That Susan combined fiction and memoir in her third book is absolutely brilliant. She fulfilled this reader’s need to know her late husband’s story in his own words. And that she had his memoir to draw from was such a gift. How many of us would love to have the writings of the people we have loved and lost?

While reading A Portrait of Love and Honor I couldn’t help wonder if the fictionalized love story was the true story of Weidener’s romance and marriage to a man who struggled through his West Point Academy education and of how their love and marriage overshadowed the colorectal cancer that later took his life.

Weidener is a wonderful writer. Her writing flows naturally and simply while not leaving out the necessary details important to her character’s lives. She started out as a journalist working for the “Philadelphia Inquirer.” That job unfortunately ended after her husband’s death, leaving her an unemployed single mom with two growing sons. She now works as a memoirist and novelist besides leading writing workshops, facilitating writing retreats, and editing other authors’ books. In fact that’s how I thought she met her husband, that he was looking for an editor to help him with his memoir. However, Susan set me straight. That was the fictionalized version of how they met, and the makings of a wonderful fairy tale.

However, whether fact or fiction, reality has a way ruining the road to happily ever after. Fortunately for Susan G. Weidener, she is happily writing wonderful books that we all need to read.

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Thanks for being here, Susan. I wish you and all your books huge success. And I can’t wait to meet you in person someday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Hi Marilyn, Thank you for the forum to talk about memoir and the power of healing. I feel blessed and honored to have your support as we both know what it means to share the story of love and loss. Just one minor correction to your review, however . .. my husband wasn’t looking for an editor when I met him. That was a fictional device in A Portrait of Love and Honor . . . that Jay seeks out successful author and editor, Ava Stuart to edit his memoir. In “real life” . . . years later . . . John and I had been married close to 14 years. By then, he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. John then wrote his memoir. He always referred to me as his first editor. As it rurned out, I would also be his last. Thus, the semi-autobiographical part of the novel . Best wishes and with gratitude . . . Susan

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Susan, Thanks for the clarification. I got so caught up in the story I mixed up the fiction and the truth – shows what a good job you did.
      Best, Madeline

    • Thank you, no worries. And I apologize. I meant to write Madeline. It was a long day yesterday! Mid-August is a lovely time of the year here in Pennsylvania and I spend too much time daydreaming.

  2. And, yes, I would love to meet you in person too!

  3. Dear Madeline and Susan, Two wonderful writers and friends whom I admire for sharing your stories of overcoming deep loss so beautifully. Susan, my favorite line is ” By looking back , we move forward”.. through the tears to greater awareness of lessons learned and newfound strengths. What a lovely review of A Portrait of Love and Honor, Madeline. Both of you have turned your stories of loss into something beautiful.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Thank you Kathy. I love that line too. Holding my memories dear keeps me going. One of these days I’m going to meet you in person too – maybe both of you together. xo

  4. Susan, I too have been widowed (widowered?) by the loss of my spouse of 31 years. It took me several years before I could write (more) easily about her and our lives together. But, the time came eventually when I could put our lives on paper.

    • Denis, I know what you mean . . . the time to write about losing the love of your life (or any great loss) comes only when it feels right.; for me, the loss of my career and “launching” my sons opened up the time and space 13 years after John’s death to begin my memoir. Thank you for sharing your own journey.

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