Today my guest is Susan G. Weidener, author of A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story, her first novel based on a true story. In addition, Susan has written two memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Dating Again and Morning at Wellington Square.
As part of her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour, Susan shares her thoughts on the memoir writer’s hidden nerve. Please join us in the comment section to share your own thoughts on this topic.
All writers have “a hidden nerve,” a “secret chamber” which stirs their prose. For some, the hidden nerve is so deep, they can’t write about it – not yet.
When we look at ourselves in the mirror, what do we see? A reflection? Who are we? Who are the people we write about? Is our honesty compromised in an attempt to “protect” them and/or family secrets and myths? Do we undermine our writing by trying to protect ourselves and others?
It’s easy to confess. Introspection takes a whole lot more courage. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want or need to confess. In A Portrait of Love and Honor, Ava asks Jay what drew him back to West Point year after year even after he kept experiencing pain and rejection. At first, he tells her it was always his “dream” to attain “those gold lieutenant bars.”
As he works with her on his memoir, he begins to realize that it goes much deeper . . . that there were spoken and unspoken messages and expectations by his strong-willed mother. Jay begins to understand that it was his mother’s “dream” to move beyond the immigrant experience and become part of the American success story. “I suppose if my mother could say her son graduated West Point then it would make up for her own disappointments,” Jay tells Ava. And if he dropped out of West Point, he ultimately disappointed and defeated her.
In my memoirs Again in a Heartbeat and Morning at Wellington Square, I write about a woman in white wedding gown who believed that good things come to good people – she believed life was something she could control . . . until her illusion is shattered by illness and death. As I wrote my memoirs, I wrestled with my guilt and shame. Why had I not been a better wife to my husband at the end of his life? Why had I blamed him, not the disease for shattering my dreams of happily-ever-after?
In writing my memoir, I dropped the pretense that I was ‘perfect’ and tried to make peace with my own unique quirks and flaws . . . and in the process, forgive myself. I had been hard on John because I was losing my dreams and youth. There were other revelations, too. John was irreplaceable, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t do it all over again in a heartbeat.
The “hidden nerve” is what makes us tick as writers . . . it’s what makes us want to write our stories. It’s what memoir writers wish to uncover. 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.
Note: If you wish, you can read my review of A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story at this link.
Get to Know Susan G. Weidener:
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.
You can connect with Susan via:
Where You Can Purchase A Portrait of Love and Honor:
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Thank you, Sherrey, for the fantastic opportunity to talk about memoir and writing. Your blog is a rich resource for writers of all genres. Best wishes, Susan
Susan, you are most welcome here any time to talk about any of our writing loves. Thanks always for your support and encouragement. And for being here today! Best always, Sherrey
Thank you, Sherrey, for introducing me to Susan…I like the image of a “hidden nerve”….and yes, there is always something deeper propelling us beyond a surface goal
Dolly, I am certain you would enjoy reading Susan’s stories she shares in her three books. They are rich and elegantly written. I’m glad you stopped in today.
Well said, Dolly. Always . . . something deeper . . . some person, memory, relationship or time in our lives that propels the writer of both fiction and nonfiction forward. Thank you for stopping by and reading my post.
Susan, what a creative way to describe a key factor that drives us to write. ‘Hidden nerve ” is a perfect metaphor for digging deeply and allowing ourselves to be exposed, vulnerable. The quote I heard at the WD conference I attended over the weekend applies here: “when we reach a point of resistance, we’re onto something” The other one that your post reminds me of ,”where there are tears, there is the heart of your story.” Suffice it to say, none of us wants to hit that hidden nerve and suffer the pain, but that is where the gold nuggets of our story can be found as you have so aptly described with Ava and John. Thanks for an excellent and provocative post. And thank you, Sherrey for featuring Susan. BTW, your website is stunning!
Kathy, you’re up and at it quickly after your conference weekend! Thanks for visiting today and enjoying Susan’s post on the “hidden nerve.” It is always my pleasure to host my writing friends. Glad you like the new site. Decided to step outside the proverbial box.
Kathy. I like the image of gold nuggets . . . not just for the writer but for the reader. It is only through tapping into that hidden nerve that the writer is led to understand the answer to the all-important question – what is my story about? As Jay began working with Ava on his memoir . . . he learned much about himself . . . especially that the love of a good woman was his dream come true, not those gold lieutenant bars. And I agree that Sherrey’s website is stunning! Thanks as always for stopping by and sharing your insights.
Awww, thanks, Susan!
Another insightful post by Susan. Thank you for hosting her, Sherrey! And I agree with the others–love the new design!
Hello Renee! Thanks for stopping by and providing the opportunity to host Susan. Glad you like the new design. I’m having fun with it.
Great interview! It was nice getting to know Susan’s background. I look forward to reading her memoirs. As a memoir writer, I know the nerve within. 🙂
Debby, thanks for stopping in to read Susan’s post. I know you’ll enjoy her writing.
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