June 04, 2010

Welcome to Phyllis Schieber, author of Willing Spirits and The Sinners Guide to Confession


Welcome to Phyllis Schieber, author of Willing Spirits and The Sinners Guide to Confession,books about women and their friendships.


Sinners Guide to Confession - Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends, now in their fifties. Ellen, who is several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others.

Willing Spirits - Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker, both teachers and in their forties, have a friendship that helps them endure. Years after Gwen is abandoned and left to raise two sons alone, she finds herself in love with a married man. After Jane is humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and Gwen must face her own uncertain path, the two women turn to each other. Now, as each is tested by personal crisis; Jane and Gwen face new challenges—as mothers, as daughters, as lovers. And in the process, they will learn unexpected truths about their friendship—and themselves.

About the Author:

Phyllis Schieber The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. .In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. Her first novel, Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam and in March 2008, Berkley Putnam issued the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.


Excerpt:
In her essay, “Women Are Just Better,” Anna Quindlen quotes the observation of a friend who says, “Have you ever noticed that what passes as a terrific man would only be an average woman?” And that’s when, as Quindlen describes it, “A Roman candle went off in my head…

What I expect from my male friends is that they are polite and clean. What I expect from my female friends is unconditional love, the ability to finish my sentences for me when I am sobbing, a complete and total willingness to pour out their hearts to me, and the ability to tell me why the meat thermometer isn’t supposed to touch the bone.” It’s so true. I know for certain that it is exactly what I expect and invariably receive from the women friends in my life.

I have a circle of women friends who sustain me, keep me sane, remind me of my worth, and reassure me that I am treasured. We say, “I love you,” at the end of every conversation; we unashamedly sign off our emails with the symbol for kisses, and we embrace and affirm our love for each other each time we meet. I think it is because women spend so much of their lives nurturing—their children, their husbands, their partners, their ailing parents, their students, co-workers, the list is endless—that they understand the need to let each other know how much they matter.

I don’t know how any woman survives without close woman friends. My friends are my support, my secret keepers, my cheering section—they mean everything to me.
Willing Spirits is actually dedicated to two women I lost very prematurely. The novel was inspired by my love for them and is intended as a celebration of the friendships women share.

I describe what it is like when the novel’s protagonists, Gwen and Jane, find themselves “falling in love” shortly after they meet:

Yes, women do fall in love with each other. Differently, of course than they fall in love with men. Falling in love with a man is a feverish experience. There is little control. But falling in love with a woman is much more serious. It guarantees so much more for the investment. For it is from other women that women are nurtured. It is from other women that they hear what they hope to hear from men. I understand. I know how you feel. I’m sorry for your pain. I care about what you think: Words that need no prompting. In that circle, women tell each other things that men and women tell each other first with their hands and lips and tongues before they can tell each other with words. Women comfort each other with touch that is meant to heal, rather than to excite. The mysteries of love are less complex between women.

The hidden passages are easier to negotiate. And the dangers do not seem as great as when the same journey is taken with a man. Around each dank and frightening corner, women hold out their hands to each other and form a human chain that is, quite simply, spiritually different. The lucky ones find men who (and it is a deep and well-kept secret between women) are more like women.

My friends are my mainstay. I have women friends from various stages of my life. One friend in particular has been my friend since she was twelve and I was ten (I continue to point out our age difference at every opportunity!) We met at sleep away camp and in the almost fifty years that we have been friends, we have been through everything together. Several years ago, she found out she had lung cancer. It has been a long and challenging battle that she blessedly seems to have won, but we take nothing for granted. We speak every morning, exchange news, reassure each other we are still here, and remind ourselves how lucky we are to be friends, to have each other yet one more day. We always, always have something to talk about, secrets to share. We are always still girls together. And I love that about us.

In The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, the protagonists, Kaye, Ellen, and Barbara, are very different from each other, yet their bond is unshakable. They are girlfriends. They may disagree. They may disapprove. But they are there for each other. It is the one certainty they can depend on in their otherwise unpredictable lives. Their bond is solid, and it strengthens each of them, making possible for them to navigate the unforeseen complexities that come their way. They are girlfriends together.

I close the acknowledgments in Willing Spirits with the following statement: “Mostly, however, I am indebted to my friends, the women who embrace me with their open hearts. They nourish me with their love and goodwill. I have been blessed to be surrounded by women who indulge my moods, allow my eccentricities, listen to my complaints, and applaud my triumphs. I cannot imagine how I would thrive without any one of them. They never disappoint me.” Girlfriends. Always, always my girlfriends.


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