Interview with Linda Wisniewski

Jen: This week we welcome Linda Wisniewski. Linda, will you please share a short bio with us?
Linda: I am a substitute librarian in Bucks County, PA, where I teach memoir workshops at Bucks County Community College and retirement centers. I write features for the Bucks County Herald, a column for the Bucks County Women’s Journal, and an online column for the website OpentoHope.org. My writing has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, two Cup of Comfort anthologies, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Massage, The Quilter and other places both print and online. In 2003, I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Jen: Tell us about Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother, and Her Polish Heritage and where it’s available.
Linda: My memoir, Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother, and Her Polish Heritage was published in 2008 by Pearlsong Press. I gathered a series of essays I’d written and expanded on them using my spinal curvature as a metaphor for my life: twists, turns, discomfort and re-adjustment. The book is roughly chronological, but covers mainly my childhood and my relationship with my mother until her death in 2003. Off Kilter is available online at Amazon, from my publisher at www.pearlsong.com/offkilter.htm, and can be ordered through any bookstore.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Linda: I won a loaf of bread in an essay contest in elementary school, and I’ve always loved to write (and read!) My first published writing was in a little journal called Welcome Home, for stay at home mothers in the early 1990s. I didn’t really get into publishing my work until a few years later, when I was asked to write articles for a trade journal. Soon after, I discovered Writing from Life, a wonderful book by Susan Albert for women who want to write their life stories.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Linda: My son is a poet (he was runner up poet laureate here in Bucks County) and editor for a medical journal.

Jen: How does your family handle the time that you write? Are they supportive or disruptive?
Linda: Very supportive, but then, they’re all grownups! A few years ago, we had a room added to our house just for my writing and quilting. It’s my study, office and personal retreat space.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Linda: Funny, honest, moving.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Linda: I try to write for two hours a day, usually between 10 and 12 a.m. or 2 and 4 p.m. First, I fire up the laptop, light a scented candle, and turn on InTunewithSpirit radio on iTunes. Oh, and make a cup of tea!

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Linda: Most challenging is definitely sitting down at my desk and staying there when I think of what else “needs” to get done. And staying off Facebook and email. Easiest would be finding things to write about. The world is an interesting place; all I have to do is look around.

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Linda: Hearing from readers who are touched by something I wrote. I love to hear their personal stories and how they relate to mine.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Linda: Maureen Murdock (Unreliable Truth, The Heroine’s Journey) was one of my first teachers and remains an inspiration. Susan Albert (Writing from Life) founded Story Circle Network and continues support women life writers. Others who inspire me: Patricia Hampl, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Mary Karr, Susan Tiberghien, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue William Silverman, Louise DeSalvo…I could go on and on. I have a huge collection of women’s memoirs.

Jen: If your book was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the main character?
Linda: Hmmm. Off Kilter only has ordinary people struggling to be happy. But I’d be thrilled if they could get Meryl Streep to play me!

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your book?
Linda: “It kept me up all night.” This one really surprised me.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Linda: I love ‘cozy’ mystery novels. I’m reading Louise Penny’s A Rule Against Murder, Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, and Cornelia Walker Bailey’s God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man. A mystery, nonfiction to help me with my novel, and a memoir.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Linda: I volunteer at a tiny rural library, walk in nature, knit, quilt and practice yoga. And read, of course – but we already covered that! My husband and I went on our first elderhostel recently, and hope to do lots more traveling now that our son is in college.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Linda: A time travel novel about my ancestor in 19th century Poland. I won a scholarship to a writer’s retreat at Rosemont College next month, and I’m excited about learning some fiction techniques there.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Linda: My website is www.lindawis.com. My blog is at offkilterthebook.blogspot.com. I have a column at www.opentohope.org, and just Google my name to find my latest articles and essays. I’m always working on something new!

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Linda: Yes! 1. What attracts you to a book- the cover design, title, or subject matter?
2. Are you ever inspired to write your own story after reading a good book?

Jen: Linda, thank you for stepping in this week on such short notice. Readers, Linda is giving away a box of imported Polish candy to a lucky commenter. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment either asking Linda a question or answering hers. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, June 4 around 5:00 pm PST.