Today I am excited to have Linda Wisniewski talking about her memoir OFF KILTER, writing advice and her new jump into fiction.
We met up in June at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference where she presented a workshop on writing memoir. More recently we met at Saxby’s coffee shop in Doylestown, PA where I chatted with this lovely lady who also hails – like me – from the Capital District Region of New York.
Linda writes for the Bucks County Women’s Journal and Bucks County Herald. She is regional representative of the International Womens Writing Guild and a board member of the Story Circle Network. She also teaches workshops on writing memoir. Linda’s memoir, Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother, & Her Polish Heritage , was published in 2008 by Pearlsong Press.
Linda, thanks for sharing today! I was drawn to your book as I could painfully feel your disconnect with your mother. But it was hopeful that in seeking a connection with your mother all of your life you finally discovered one with her after her death.
How did you first know you wanted to become involved with writing?
I was a librarian and after my second child I started my own business of providing online market research mainly to pharmaceutical companies. From there I moved to doing freelance features and book reviews.
How did you get interested in writing memoir?
I took writing workshops and wrote personal essays – of which I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Then a teacher inspired me to turn my one personal essay into a memoir. I began by writing different pieces of my memoir and then connecting them all together once I saw a flow.
In Off Kilter you talk about stretching yourself. What do you mean by that?
I have stretched myself to write in different genres. I’m writing my first novel now. Very different from memoir! I am also working with children for the first time vs. adults. I’m working with teens to help them discover their stories. This has been a year-long cheapativanpriceonline.com project working with 12-14 year old girls. I’m helping them look at their lives and discover what they want to do with their lives in moving forward from their past.
What was it like growing up in the insulated Polish town of Amsterdam, NY?
Growing up in Amsterdam was a bag of mixed messages. It was a very supportive community and you “knew where you belonged” but when you stepped outside there was prejudice.
Did you learn new things about yourself through writing your memoir?
I learned what’s important to me. I learned what I want to do with my life. Most importantly, I discovered what I wanted to leave behind and want I wanted to carry forward with me.
Do you feel your memoir has a message for others?
Yes, that you can look at your whole life and see the losses are a small part of it and realize the joy that was experienced.
Have you visited Poland?
I visited for the first time in 2010. I toured with an elder hostel which was a fascinating learning experience. Each morning we had a lecture on Poland and then an afternoon tour.
Did any new projects grow out of your Poland trip?
Actually, my new novel is a time travel tale about an ancestor from Poland called “Memoirs of The Queen of Poland.” One of my ancestors from the 20th century time travels to the 21st century because she prayed to the Black Madonna, falls and hits her head and wakes up in the 21st century.
What do you enjoy about teaching most in your memoir classes?
I am intrigued by the stories of others. Their fascinating details, trouble, and loss and how they have overcome tragedies and losses.
Write A LOT. Don’t be discouraged if first pieces aren’t published. Don’t take it personally. And just “tell your story.”
How are you involved in the local writing community?
I’ve had half a dozen flash fiction pieces published in various print and online publications. I’m currently in a writing critique in Princeton called Sharpening the Quill that is helping me craft my novel.
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Purchase Linda’s memoir here: Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother, & Her Polish Heritage