Phyllis Schieber Author

Women's Fiction by Phyllis Schieber

Lorene Burkhart Shares “Tips to chart your doctor patient relationship”

Women normally have to take control of the medical decisions for the family. We know that can become more complicated as we mature and our health concerns are more varied and complicated.  Lorene Burkhart, the author of Sick of Doctors? Then Do Something About It!, share tips to help us get more control over health care for ourselves and our families.

Tips to chart your doctor patient relationship

Lorene Burkhart

How many of you have ever been either sick of your doctor or sick of the system? It hurts, doesn’t it? As painful as it may feel, reality is it is up to us—the patient—to figure out how to work with our doctor by developing our own bedside manner. How? As a women in my 70s I’ve learned the hard way what it takes to develop a solid relationship with my doctors. I’d encourage you to try these tips.

1) Shop for Your Doc

Let’s think for a minute about the three parts of the medical system. They are the patient, the physician and administration – hospitals, insurance, pharmaceutical companies, etc. Which of these three do you think wields the power? Probably none of you guessed the patient because you have let the system make you feel powerless. But think of it like this – doctors would not have a business without us. So shop!

Ask for a “Meet and Greet” appointment. Usually 15 or 20 minutes is all you need. Bring your list of questions starting with, “Tell me about yourself.” (It might be a good idea to tape it because you probably won’t remember all of it.) Expect to learn about schooling, attitude regarding off-office hour calls, number of years in practice and even references. Remember, you are the customer. You have choices!

Not comfortable? Keep shopping. You have choices!

2) Speak Up!

In a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, diabetic patients who were taught to be more proactive with physicians ended up feeling healthier and actually being healthier. Within a month of learning to become more involved and willing to negotiate with their physicians, the patients showed statistically significant improvements in their blood sugar control without an increase in medication.

Afraid to speak up? Why? What do you think will happen? The doctor will fire you? I don’t think so.

What are you supposed to say to the health professional? What have you told everyone within shouting distance about how you, your child, your spouse, your family member feels? Speak up and tell the doctor!

2) Be Prepared

Another study at the University of California at Davis discovered in a group of more than 500 patients that the major determinant of patient satisfaction was “patient activation.” That means patients asked questions, initiated discussions about what was going on with their health and discussed topics of importance—even if they were unrelated to the medical visit.

So what it comes down to is being prepared and honest with your doctor.

Take with you a clear, concise explanation of what you think are your medicinal issues. Doctors are scientists. They want the facts. Instead of saying… I think I have… describe your symptoms in factual statements. I have been coughing and my throat is raw. The doctor is the expert. Let him or her hear your problem and come to their professional conclusion.

One way I keep myself prepared for medical visits is with my own medical notebook for those times when I go visit a new doctor. It’s not fancy. It’s my medical history, tests and so on. When doctors need background—it’s all right there.

Join us on the Sick of Doctors? Then Do Something About It! virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/04/26/sick-of-doctors-tour/. You can also learn more about Lorene Burkhart and the book at http://www.burkhartnetwork.com/. If you would like to be a host on this tour, contact nikki @ nikkileigh.com

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June 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ellen from Sinners’ Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber

It would always be miraculous to Ellen how one sweet moment could offer a reprieve from loneliness and suddenly illuminate a life. She opened the door and looked into Joy’s eyes. They were the same color as Ellen’s, and they were framed by the peacock lashes that she recognized from the photograph.

“I love your eyelashes,” Ellen said.

It was so not what she had planned on saying that she couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“They’re not mine,” Joy said.

And then, she was equally speechless.

“That went well,” Ellen finally said, laughing. She opened the door wide and said, “Come in. I’m sorry. Please. Come in.”

Joy nodded and walked in. She was wearing a red coat, not unlike Ellen’s own winter coat.

“May I take your coat?” Ellen said.

Ellen took her hand. Joy was small boned, like Ellen, and her fingers were long and thin, like Ellen’s. Joy was wearing a thin gold wedding band and no other jewelry except a watch and a pair of silver earrings, tiny clusters of grapes, or so they looked. Joy put out her other hand, and Ellen took that one too. They held hands, shyly at first, and then moved with more confidence toward each other and into an embrace. Joy was a good four inches taller, bringing Ellen’s nose even with Joy’s neck, allowing her to inhale her lemony scent.  Ellen wanted to say something memorable, something that Joy could retell when she spoke to others of this day, but nothing came to mind. Ellen had questions and more questions, but she kept them to herself. Did you feel my love every day? Do you know how sorry I am? Have you felt how much I missed you? Have you been loved? Have you been happy? Will you forgive me? Instead, Ellen wrapped her arms around Joy and concentrated on not squeezing her too hard. They held each other like that for a minute or so, silent, awkward, full of need and uncertainty. It was Joy who pulled back first and, taking Ellen’s hands again, said, “You’re so young. I never expected you to be so young.”

~*~

It would always be miraculous to Ellen how one sweet moment could offer a reprieve from loneliness and suddenly illuminate a life. She opened the door and looked into Joy’s eyes. They were the same color as Ellen’s, and they were framed by the peacock lashes that she recognized from the photograph.

“I love your eyelashes,” Ellen said.

It was so not what she had planned on saying that she couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“They’re not mine,” Joy said.

And then, she was equally speechless.

“That went well,” Ellen finally said, laughing. She opened the door wide and said, “Come in. I’m sorry. Please. Come in.”

Joy nodded and walked in. She was wearing a red coat, not unlike Ellen’s own winter coat.

“May I take your coat?” Ellen said.

~*~

Since the day she turned twelve, Ellen had not left the house without false eyelashes. What began as an act of rebellion turned into a trait that distinguished her in ways she could not have predicted. In the coastal Connecticut town where she grew up and later in rural Vermont where she attended college, people made assumptions about her based almost exclusively on those eyelashes. The eyelashes gave her confidence and, at twelve, confidence was in short supply even if prettiness was not.  The eyelashes made her feel glamorous. Glamour. That was what Ellen was after. Her mother, ever critical, insisted that Ellen always looked as if she were on her way to a costume party.  “Are you going as a tramp?” she asked. But Ellen thought the false lashes completed her. She batted them at herself in the mirror, standing sideways and then looking over her shoulder. The eyelashes never seemed anachronistic to her twelve-year-old self. Soon her life was divided into two periods: before the false eyelashes and after them.

~*~

Effortlessly, she told him the secret she had hoarded all her life. It was the secret that had taught her restraint; the secret that had made her suspicious of love. Bill wrapped his arms around her and listened. Bill had secrets of his own, and he shared them with such relief that Ellen cried with him as he confessed his transgressions and his sorrows.  In those early times, he tolerated her endless stream of questions about matters that might seem obvious to others. And never, ever once did he say a word about her eyelashes even as he watched her peel them off at night and reapply them first thing in the morning. He seemed to anticipate her needs, bringing her a blanket before she shivered, a cup of tea before she asked, a back rub just as she was about to stretch. And when he finally asked about those silly lashes (that’s what he called them, but lovingly) all he said was, “How have they changed your life, Miss Ellen?”

And that was why she could not believe he did not love her anymore.

~*~

It was a girl baby. And even though everyone advised her not to, Ellen held her. They would not let her nurse her daughter since it was only a matter of days before she would be whisked off to an eager family in some unknown location. Ellen signed countless forms, relinquishing all her rights and agreeing to a closed adoption. She was only sixteen, and her parents made it very clear that unless she complied, they would have nothing to do with her. Of course, that was incentive enough to refuse to go along with their wishes. But she was too young and too afraid to be brave.

~*~

She kept her promise not to talk about The Baby. (They never referred to her as Faith.) And Ellen never broke that promise until she met Bill. The tenderness of his response when she divulged her secret unleashed a lifetime of sadness. He clucked his tongue, just like a woman would, and kept repeating how sorry he was for her loss. Loss. The import of that statement made Ellen reel.  In Bill’s arms, she cried for her lost baby as if years had not passed.

~*~

And now she was alone. Ellen did not mind being alone. The humiliation of Bill’s betrayal still smarted, but she refused to hate him. When she looked in the mirror, she was not saddened by the lines around her eyes or the slack in the skin on her neck. Bill used to tease her that being pretty was more important than anything else in her life. Bill had been wrong about that too, of course. Nothing had ever been as important to Ellen as finding Faith. Not then . . . and not now. Not ever.

~*~

Ellen had questions and more questions, but she kept them to herself. Did you feel my love every day? Do you know how sorry I am? Have you felt how much I missed you? Have you been loved? Have you been happy? Will you forgive me?

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Sinner's Guide to Confession | Leave a comment

Barbara From Sinners’ Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber

It was not till after Roger’s death that Barbara began to write erotica. She took a sobriquet. Delilah. Just one name. Like Cher. Delilah. Barbara kept her identity secret; she told no one, absolutely no one. At first she rationalized that secrecy was necessary to protect her career. After all, the women who bought her books would have been mortified to learn that their favorite romance novelist wrote erotica.  The secrecy was never supposed to extend to Barbara’s inner circle, but she kept putting off telling. She worried about how her children would react. The longer she waited to tell, the harder it was to find the right moment. And then she stopped looking. She wanted the stories all for herself. Cock, pussy, clit, dick. Eventually, her hands stopped shaking when she wrote. She sat up straight. My, my, my Delilah, she always thought as she wrote. My, my, my.

***

In the expanse that Roger’s death had left, Barbara found a nagging reminder of all that she had taken for granted. Roger had taken care of her, and she missed that. He made sure that her car was serviced, and that the gutters were cleaned. He stopped for milk on the way home, picked up the pizza in the rain, glued the stone back in her earring and hung the new mirror in the foyer. And the children, their children. It was always Roger’s first question when he called or came home. He always wanted to know if she had spoken to any of the kids.

***

In Roger’s absence, Barbara worried about what would happen if she woke in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in her chest. There was no one on the other side of the bed to rouse, no one who could call an ambulance, no one to offer reassurance that it would all turn out fine. The apartment seemed hollow sometimes as if she could not fill it up fast enough with new memories to soften out its edges.

***

Without any curtains or shades, she was free to gaze and did just that as she sipped her second cup of coffee and pretended she was smoking. An incomplete manuscript was waiting for her, and she had already ignored the last message from her editor about the urgency of getting her next romance, Beneath the Silk Coverlet, done by the month’s end. She was late with the first draft. But Barbara was more interested in working on Delilah’s latest piece, Paradise Found. Aimee, the heroine of Paradise Found, was far more interesting, far more provocative than any of the characters in latest romance set in Victorian England. When Barbara had last left Aimee, she was servicing Victor, the doorman, on her kitchen table.

Aimee’s legs were wrapped around Victor’s trim waist. She was gripping his buttocks, kneading his flesh with just the right amount of pressure when. . .

“Mom?”

July 22, 2009 Posted by | death of a spouse, motherhood, Sinner's Guide to Confession, women's friendship | Leave a comment

Thoughts From Phyllis Schieber About Writing

This past weekend I watched the documentary “Man on Wire,” the breathtaking film about Philippe Petit, the twenty-four-year old French self-trained wire walker who pulled off the “artistic crime of the century” in 1974 when he walked and danced on a wire suspended between the two towers of the World Trade Center. For forty-five minutes, Petit performed a high-wire act without a safety net or a harness, mesmerizing the crowd that had gathered on the sidewalk 110 stories below. While I was fascinated by Petit’s skill and the daring feat that continues to amaze, I was perhaps even more taken with his attitude and response to the hordes of reporters who asked the same question over and over: “Why did you do it?” Petit’s frustration is almost as exquisite as his exploit. He responds, “Here I do something magnificent and beautiful and people ask why. There is no why.” And such is the response of that rare individual: a true artist, the person who creates and performs for the sake of art.

I am no Philippe Petit. I know why I write, but I understand what he means when he says, “There is no why.”  If someone were to ask me why I write, I would have to say, “Because I have no choice.” In the years between the sales of my books, I continued to write, and I would have continued even if my agent was unable to sell The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. I write because I am a writer. I write because it is the way I make sense of the world. And I write because whatever I see or hear or experience has the potential to be translated into narrative. I notice the way a woman holds her bread at the edge of her husband’s plate, so his beans will not spill over. I record the most subtle exchange of looks between friends when someone else at the table mentions a name. I am aware of how a mother and daughter resemble each other as they shop together in a department store. When I attend a dinner for a friend and the hostess tells the story of how her previous home burned down, I am eager to leave and jot down the details because it is likely I will want to use not only the story, but the narrator’s wonderful tone and good humor as she tell about the unfortunate event. I will be sure to make mention of her crisp blue eyes and her throaty laughter. Often when I ask someone if he or she noticed something that was so apparent to me, I get a quizzical look. Always, however, I am the one who is perplexed. How is it possible that such an unusual expression, or such a surprisingly harsh tone or such an unexpected movement could go unnoticed when it is as plain as anything to me? I am always listening, always looking and always writing in my head.

One of the most important lessons I have learned as a writer is that I am not unique. I remember once many years ago, I had a meltdown and phoned my writing teacher of many years, the late Hayes Jacobs. I wailed, “I’ll never be successful. I don’t have any talent. I’m wasting my time in your seminar. There’s no point.” He listened without interruption. When I was done, he said, “You too, eh?” I laughed, but I felt better immediately. Apparently, all writers anguish at one time or another. The life of a writer is a solitary and often frustrating. Still, I celebrate that it is my daunting destiny to recreate my perceptions, and then put them in a form that makes sense to others. Sometimes I struggle, and sometimes the words seem to dance onto the page. When the words dance, a rare occurrence, I worry that it is too easy. There seems to be a happy medium. Writing is always a consequence of extremes. Mostly, however, I feel blessed that I am able to string words together in a way that has an impact on others. The ability to make someone laugh or cry, or even both, is a thrill that little else surpasses.

Perhaps it is because I began to read early and never stopped that it feels as though what happens in books makes much more sense than what happens in real life. Books are simply a written record of the writer’s truth, and I have the wonderful job of delivering that truth to my readers. When a story begins to take shape in my consciousness, I always worry if it is a story worth telling. Is it original? Is it interesting enough? Once I move past that stage and allow myself to be swept along by the characters and their needs, I settle down to the real work of making the story come to life. I am in charge now, but not really. The story is in charge. I am merely its voice. I almost never grow tired of being a writer. There is always something that inspires me, or evokes a memory, or sparks an emotion. I sometimes have this image of myself holding a huge magnet, watching as all my thoughts and dreams come twirling at top speed, drawn to the magnet, eager to be captured and finally uncovered.

I am always on the lookout for a new story, an anecdote that can be turned into a novel, a few lines in the newspaper that catch my attention, or the way a couple holds hands on the train, staring wordlessly ahead. Something must have just happened. I study them surreptitiously for the duration of the ride, wondering, imagining, and planning. It is the beginning of chapter. There really is no why.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Thoughts From Phyllis Schieber, Writing | Leave a comment

Phyllis Schieber Talks About Motherhood

As I was considering topics for this post, it occurred to me that one of the subjects I have neglected is how motherhood figures into the subtext of The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. As a preface to that discussion, I feel the need to address how motherhood figures into my life. I am the mother of a twenty-four-year-old son. One of my dear friends, the mother of five daughters, once told me that, “It doesn’t matter how many children you have. Once you’re a mother, you’re a mother.” I believe that is true.  Motherhood empowered me as nothing else in my life ever did. Nevertheless, women artists are typically placed in the unfortunate experience of having to choose how to divide their time between th Many years ago I read an essay by Alice Walker, “One Child of One’s Own” that had a profound impact on me.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | motherhood, Thoughts From Phyllis Schieber, Writing | Leave a comment

Kaye from Sinners Guide for Confession About Finding Happiness

In this excerpt Kaye reflects on how happiness is not really all that difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, she wonders why happiness continues to elude her. When she tries to include her husband George in her musings, it only alienates them even more. When she allows him to make love to her later that night, it seems to Kaye that they will never be able to close the gap that has widened between them for no other reason than that they are so very different.

Because Kaye often used anecdotes as a way to communicate with George, she was mindful of tales with import.  Therefore, when Kaye read about a young New York couple visiting with family in California who were forced to take the northern route back home after an ice storm shut down I-40, she was immediately intrigued.  The story was really about how some people just knew how to make the best of a bad thing. When the young couple stopped at a gas station on I-80, the attendant suggested they take advantage of the detour and get married in Reno. Since Reno was better known for quickie divorces than for marriages made in Heaven, the would-be groom picked a number between one and ten. If she guessed correctly, the wedding was on.  She guessed it.

Within hours, she found a gown and a veil on the clearance rack of the local department store, opting to wear her hiking boots since they were so comfortable and no one would see them anyway. He bought a tuxedo, a shirt and a purple cummerbund and a matching bow tie. His black Converse sneakers would do just fine. Rings were easy to buy since pawnshops were in abundance. She would carry red roses tied with a ribbon, and they bought a cake at the supermarket and had it inscribed with their names inside a red heart.  They consummated their marriage at a roadside truck stop and spent their wedding night at a cheap motel.

What Kaye loved most about the story was that the new bride wore her wedding dress for the remainder of her five-day journey back to New York because she wanted to see the reactions of strangers.  In Wyoming, a hunter asked to photograph the bride, so his wife would believe him that he had really seen a bride pumping gas; children clapped when she made snow angels, and a trucker congratulated them, promising them that marriage was filled with rewards. He said he should know since he had been married for twenty years and had eight children.

Road trips, any trip for that matter, could be seen as a tired metaphor for marriage. Kaye was very much aware of that. However, it was the comment of a checker in a 711 in Nebraska who commented that the bride was spreading happiness wherever she went simply because she was wearing her wedding gown that struck a cord with Kaye. It suddenly seemed so easy to make others happy that Kaye wondered why so few were ever good at it.

The story about the bride seemed to completely throw George. From the onset, he was confused about the story’s intent. As Kaye recounted the events of the new bride’s journey from California to New York in her wedding dress, he sporadically interrupted, peppering her reading with a few isn’t that somethings and one or two that must have been a sight. Encouraged by this response, Kaye said that she wished she had been driven by such exuberance after their wedding, eliciting an agreeable nod from George. But when she said she thought it would be grand to put on her wedding gown and set out on a similar adventure, George looked entirely baffled.

“Didn’t you borrow your wedding gown from your cousin Paula?” he said.

She stared at him, watching him blink.

“I think you’re missing the point,” Kaye said.

“Why do you say that?” he said.

“Because it has nothing to do with the wedding gown, and you know it.”

“How would I know that?”

Kaye was always the one with regrets. Regrets about everything.  Instead of the fish, she wished she had ordered chicken. The salad instead of the soup. The dress that looked perfect in the store suddenly looked too tight when she tried it on at home. And the chair for her living room that had to be special ordered in the plaid she had so wanted looked out of place when it finally arrived. She came to believe that her decision to marry George was just another example of picking the wrong blouse or ordering the wrong meal. If she had only given it more thought, she might have chosen better.

“I don’t believe you,” she said.

“That’s your problem,” he said. “Well, what is the point of the damned story?”

They were getting ready for bed. He was untying his laces. Instead of taking off one shoe off at a time, he untied each shoe first. Then, he took off his left shoe. Always his left shoe first. So many routines. So many habits. Always the same black socks. The same hairstyle. The same breakfast every morning. Shredded wheat and raisins with skimmed milk. The same foreplay over and over. No eggs or butter. No rear penetration. Nipple manipulation followed by oral sex followed by some perfunctory kissing. No conversation during sex. No bacon. No joy.

“The point is that it takes so little to be happy that I wonder why we fail at it so miserably,” she said.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” he said.

The same answers for everything.  He stood and undid his belt, unzipped his pants and stepped out of them. Once she had loved the long leanness of his thighs. Now, she turned away and sighed. His hand on her shoulder was a surprise, and not only because it was unexpected. It was heavy with sadness.

“What?” she said.

“Why do you always think the worst of me?”

It was such a sincere question, and she had no answer for him. She remembered her Aunt Rachel saying that she knew her husband did not love her anymore when he started to complain about her cooking. Nothing tasted right to him. Everything had either too much salt or not enough salt. Or the meat was too dry, and the rice too wet. Kaye had been stunned at the nuance of her aunt’s observation. But her aunt and uncle stayed together; her aunt always laboring in the kitchen, believing that if her cooking improved, her husband would love her again.

“Kaye?”

She patted his hand, and he moved toward her, taking her in his arms. Once she had savored his touch, hungered for it when a day passed without him. She rested her head on his shoulder and tried to relax as his hand reached under her nightgown. It had been weeks, maybe months, since they had made love. It was almost as if she wished she felt shy instead of tense. But she was tense. His touch seemed invasive, and her face burned with the shame of that truth. And still she allowed it because not to might have invited some dialogue and the idea of talking was unbearable to her right now. They would have talked in circles. Circumlocution. SAT word. When she had tested Ruby on her SAT words, Kaye played a game with herself, grouping words that applied to her marriage and to George. Circumlocution, evasion. Saturnine, sanctimonious, punctilious, illusory. So many words. Charlie used to make up the definitions when she tested him. He never studied. He would repeat the word after she said it as though he were a contestant in a spelling bee. “Bucolic. Let’s see. Bucolic. An alcoholic who has made progress.”  She always laughed, which only encouraged him. Words drifted through her thoughts now, arable, askance, avuncular, atavistic, arcane  . . . George’s heavy breaths grew deeper and shorter as he moved inside her, and she rested her hands on his damp back. Braggart, blithely, cloying, cogent . . .

July 22, 2009 Posted by | marriage, motherhood, Sinner's Guide to Confession, women's friendship | Leave a comment

Kaye from Sinners Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber

Kaye studied her reflection in the mirror. Yesterday’s haircut had been a really bad idea, and the true motivation for this trip to the cosmetics counter. She must have hoped that if she cut off all her hair, she would be young again. She would go home to find Ruby in her cradle, and Charlie with his peanut butter breath eager to divulge absolutely everything about his day, punctuated only by kisses and unsolicited promises of his eternal love. Sadly, none of that happened. She was still herself. Her children were grown. She was still married to George and in love with Frank

***

. . . .she straddled him, rocking gently first, tasting his sweat for the first time as she licked his shoulder, and then forgetting everything as he moved her hips with such need that in the end there was nothing more they could do than sit, wrapped around each other, silent and exhausted. Finally, she found the energy to ask, “Why me?” He wrapped a strand of her hair around her ear and shook his head in disbelief. Kaye was suddenly acutely aware of everything she stood to lose.

***

There was no reason not to leave George. Their marriage was muddled by history, weakened by unresolved bad feelings. But from time-to-time, George seemed as if he were fighting his way off of his own dimly lit planet.

***

George did not say his lack of courage was probably the source of all his failings. But then, there was no real need to. Kaye understood, and she stroked his hand. He smiled sort of vaguely, lost in his own reverie, absent to her once again. Nevertheless, Kaye counted it as a small victory and enough of an offering, not to explain why she stayed, but to explain why she did not leave.

***

Sometimes Kaye wondered what her children would think if they knew what she was hurrying off to in the middle of the day. She imagined the horror they would feel if they could hear the words she whispered to Frank. Faster, harder, more. Once, while Frank expertly held her hips, she had moaned, urging him on, and then turned and asked him what her children would have thought if they saw her.

***

Kaye imagined herself moving along the sun baked walk that twisted up to the ancient stone-block structure that housed the tomb of Rabbi Yonatan. Joining the throngs of young hopefuls who had never found love or who had missed opportunities, as well as parents who worried that their children were still alone, Kaye saw herself draping a scarf from one of the olive tree branches. Tucked inside the scarf were several written notes. The first was a plea for Ruby, a hope that she would recognize true love when it came her way. The second note was for Charlie, for a good woman who would love him. And the third note was for George, an entreaty that he would forgive her after she left him.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | infidelity, marriage, motherhood, Sinner's Guide to Confession, women's friendship | Leave a comment

Phyllis Schieber Shares Her Thoughts About Being A Reader and A Writer

I do not think it is possible to be a writer and not be a reader. I have been a reader all my life. As a child, I never owned books. There was simply no money for books beyond the occasional selections I could make at a school book fair. I still have my tattered paperback copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It is held together with rubber bands, but I cherish it because it was one of the only books I owned. Although I may not have owned books, my mother took me to the library every week. Over the long summer break, we were allowed to take out as many books as we wanted, and I can remember going to the library with a shopping cart to load up with wonderful thick books like Marjorie Morningstar, Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Brother Karamazov, David Copperfield. . . I remember them all. My taste in reading changed over the years, and I was drawn mostly to women writers. I love Fay Weldon. Her early books, Puffball, Down Among the Women, Praxis and one of my all time favorites, The Fat Woman’s Joke, are incredibly funny and sharp and almost relentlessly honest. Weldon is a keen observer of how women make their way in the world, and of how men can invariably bring despair of some sort even they do not mean to. Weldon makes me laugh. I never grow tired of her work.

I am also a great fan of Carol Shields. I have read all her work with great admiration, but I am most fond of Unless. There are lines in that novel that just sing. I am awed by her talent, her boldness, and her clarity. I have read and loved work by Rachel Ingalls, especially Mrs. Caliban. And I will never forget Dorothy Alison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. A book like that is a remarkable achievement. The story never leaves you. Anne Tyler’s work is so consistently good that even if the plot occasionally falters, the writing is just so clean, so disarmingly enough, that nothing else matters. I anticipate her books with joy. I have intermittently loved Alice Hoffman, particularly some of her earlier works like Turtle Moon, Second Nature and At Risk. I would be remiss if I did not admit that her work has influenced me. Jane Smiley’s Ordinary Love and Good Will may be among the finest pieces I’ve ever read. And I enjoy Alison Lurie and Alice Adams as well.  The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard is a remarkable book. I love the short stories of Joyce Carol Oates and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They are flawless. Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm of the Hand stories are beautiful, and I revisit them to remind myself of how less is more and of how difficult it can be to achieve that.

When I read, I want an “ah-ha” moment at least once. I want to close my eyes for a moment and say. “Yes, that is exactly how that feels.” It is what I strive for when I write. It is always my intention to be honest, to anticipate a reader’s connection with my words and to know that even if it is only once, I have achieved that goal.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Thoughts From Phyllis Schieber, Writing | Leave a comment

Read Reviews for Willing Spirits by Phyllis Schieber

Willing Spirits Cover

Praise for Willing Spirits

“Willing Spirits is like a string of pearls—one familiar, fragile moment linked to another and another to form the rope of women’s lives twined together. Beautifully written, full of wit and wisdom and heart—read this one with your mother, your daughter, or your best friend.”—Jodi Picoult

***

“What a warm, oh-so-human account of love and women’s friendship! These are women I know, and I’m recommending the book to all my female friends and students.”  Rosemary Daniell, author of Sleeping with Soldiers

***

“Women are still from Venus and men from Mars in Schieber’s strong debut, a paean to the healing power and enduring strength of female friendship.” –Publisher’s Weekly

***

I want mothers to read Willing Spirits because there’s a readiness to forfeit everything about yourself that only a mother can know.

I want daughters to read Willing Spirits because they have a mother that they know nothing of.

I want women to read Willing Spirits because there’s a perceptive sisterhood that only woman understand.

Willing Spirits is what I’d label an intuitive novel. Not the sort of novel that comes from the heart so much as from the gut.

Jane & Gwen have been friend for many years, sharing the joys and sorrow Willing Spirits of life. We enter their story at one given moment in a long line of moments. Jane’s husband has finally proven to be the cad he’s always threatened to be; Gwen’s lonely single motherhood has been altered by an affair.  Both of the women have children on the brink of adulthood, a phase much more trying than nose-wiping days past. A simple story of two women friends.

Yet, Phyllis Schieber’s pen makes this simple story glow. Her understanding of the complexities of human emotion illuminates the everyday life of her characters. Affairs, divorces, unplanned pregnancy, death, birth, love, sex …. Keep naming it; it’s all in there. PS paints her characters with a watercolor brush of sin and virtue, blurring the line between good guy and bad guy, a canvas of two women’s lives.  In the end, you’ll know someone with a friendship exactly like Jane and Gwen: quirky, accepting, honest and true. And I hope that someone is you.

Recommended for book groups galore! Also for readers interested in understated, exceptionally insightful, stories about our everyday life.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Books By Phyllis Schieber, reviews, Willing Spirits, Writing | Leave a comment

Meet Jane from Willing Spirits by Phyllis Schieber

1. What is the name of the book where we would meet you? What genre is it?

Willing Spirits. The genre is Women’s Fiction.

2. Who wrote the book?

Phyllis Schieber

3. What do you think of the author? You can tell us the truth.

I think she is complicated. She writes from her heart, and I like that about her. She wants to write books that she would want to read. Sometimes she meanders and strays from the plot, but I relish those interludes. They have a dreamy quality that reflects her thought process.

4. Tell us a little about yourself. How would you describe your appearance?

That’s more than just really cute or drop dead gorgeous. Give us enough detail to get a clear idea of how you look.

I’m only five feet one. I would have liked to be taller, but I’m not. I’m not skinny. I have to watch what I eat. I have curly, brown hair that is going grey. I dyed it last year, just a rinse. Gwen didn’t like it. She kept calling me Lucy. It was so silly, but I stopped using the rinse. The grey is sort of interesting.  I’m not as striking as Gwen, but I’m attractive. When we are out together, no one ever notices me. My lips are my worst feature. They’re too thin, but I know how to make them look fuller. Make-up is a blessing. I have good skin and nice eyes even if they are just brown.

5. What character are you in the book? Are you the hero, the best friend, the side kick, the hero and heroine’s child or someone else?

I am the “other heroine.”

6. Is there a specific reason why you’re in the story? Don’t give us any story spoilers, but you can share some teasers if you want.

I am the story. Gwen and I share the spotlight in Willing Spirits.
7. What time period do you live in?

Contemporary.

8. Where are you from?

New York.
9. Do you live in the same place now?

Yes, I do. I am a born and bred New Yorker.
10. Tell us about your hometown and your current home.

What’s to tell? New York is New York. You either love it or hate it. I love it.

11. Tell us how your hometown or your current home affects you, the things you do and how you feel about life?

I’ve never lived anywhere else, so I don’t’ know anything different. I love New York, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

12. What special skills or abilities do you have?

Well, I’m an elementary school teacher. I don’t know that I have any special skills. I’m a good friend, a good mother, and a good teacher. I thought I was a good wife, but apparently my soon-to-be-ex-husband didn’t share that feeling.

13. How do those affect your part in the story?

Throughout the story I am a betrayed wife, a mother and a friend, as well as a teacher, so I would say the entire story is affected by my roles. I bring something to each of those roles.
14. Are you happy with the story?

The story was hard on me from the beginning. In spite of that, I love how I grew. I was allowed to take risks, make mistakes and become a stronger and more independent person. I like that. So, yes, I am happy with the story.
15. Do you have some ideas that the author should consider about the story? You can share them with us. We’re all friends here.

Well, sometimes I think I come across as a bit provincial. I’m not all that interested in the same sort of ideas that seem to intrigue Gwen. She loves all those esoteric religious and philosophical concepts. I resist all that. I think in some ways, Phyllis took advantage of my lack of sophistication, but I’m a good sport, so I went along with it. Until Arnold’s infidelity, my life was fairly routine. His betrayal forced me to reevaluate. I think Phyllis was often less sympathetic toward me than she was toward Gwen. Is it possible I remind her too much of herself?

16. Tell us about your past. Can you share one really good experience and/or one really bad experience?

I know that bad experiences can be tough, but it would tell us more about what you’ve been through.

You would think I would immediately say that finding my husband in bed with a girl practically the same ages as his daughter, would be my bad experience, but it was really my good experience. That single event really compelled me to question the authenticity of my marriage, as well as to face my own unhappiness and do something about it.

I think the hardest experience I had was learning that my daughter Caroline was pregnant. She’s so young and so not ready to be a mother, and I had so hoped for her to have a different life than the one I had. I think I really rallied after I found out, so while it was a bad experience, I think I rose to the occasion and surprised everyone, including myself.

17. Who is the most important person in your life? Tell us about them.

Caroline is the most important person in my life. She is my daughter, and I adore her. Gwen is right behind Caroline. I don’t know what I would do without Gwen.

18. Is that person in the story we’re talking about?

Yes.

19. How does that person impact you and your life?

Motherhood is the single most defining experience of my life. Everything I do and don’t do affects Caroline, so I am mindful of that. Still, I had to evolve. It was important for both of us.

20. Do you have any children?

My Caroline.

21. If you do, tell us about them. If you don’t have any children, you can tell us why not – but, only if you want to tell us.

Caroline is a college student. She is a giflted artist. I think she is willful, impulsive, and quick to judge, but I also know her to be loving, kind and supportive. She is the love of my life.

22. What do you see in your future?

I see change, and I believe that is good.

23. Do you think your author is going to write another story about you? Or, are you part of a series?

Oh, definitely not!

24. Do you like being a character in a book?

I didn’t realize I was until just now.

25. If someone ever decides to make a movie based on your story, who should play you in the movie and why?

I love Marcia Gay Harding. She could play me. We have the same coloring, and we must be about the same age. She is emotional, but she is also strong.

It’s been great to talk with you. If you want to tell us anything else, feel free. Also, tell us about a website where we can learn more about you and where we can buy the book. If you have a picture of yourself, feel free to send it.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | divorce, marriage, motherhood, Willing Spirits, women's friendship | Leave a comment