Wednesday, July 07, 2010

GUEST: Phyllis Schieber

Hello everyone. Today I have a very special guest to introduce you to, and I think you'll enjoy this post, and meeting Phyllis, as well as learning about a very cool book! So, first, meet Phyllis:

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.

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.

NOW, join us on the Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit You can also learn more about Phyllis Schieber and her books at

Now, Phyllis herself:

I am a wife, the mother of a son, a sister to a brother, the daughter of a father I adored, and quite fond of men. Nevertheless, I cannot think of one man I would choose to have lunch with over one of my girlfriends. I know some will balk at this confession, but it is true. Mind you, I would happily have lunch with any or all of the men aforementioned, but it simply would not be the same as lunch with one of my girlfriends. The details matter so much with women, and we savor them shamelessly. Everything matters. The best men (in my view) are the ones who recognize their deficiencies and genuinely work to compensate. The nuances that come naturally to women require just does not seem to come as naturally to them.

I had a phone call this week from the woman who took care of my mother for many years. Marva is at least ten years younger than I. She is also the mother of five, a grandmother, and the person who taught me more about patience, kindness, and good humor than anyone else I ever knew. One day, in the early months of my mother's first serious decline, we brought her back to her apartment from yet another hospitalization. I was already weary, and I had no idea what was ahead, how really bad it would become in the months and years to follow. After we got my mother settled, I left to do some errands. When I returned, my mother was resting. She looked so sweet, so vulnerable, curled into herself with her head resting on her folded hands as though in prayer. Her skin was flawless as it remained to the day she passed. She opened her eyes and smiled at me. I had this sense of knowing that I would never again have my mother whole. I lay down beside her, curved my body around hers, and placed one of her hands on my cheek, flattening her palm with my own. I cried softly for no other reason than I was sad and exhausted. And then Marva sat down beside me on the bed and stroked my back, soothing circular strokes, murmuring in her lilting Jamaican accent that, "It's gonna be alright." I believed her.

I knew from the start that Marva was unique. She was, as my mother always said in Yiddish,a Gutte neshumah (goot-teh nesh-uh- mah): a good soul. A decent person with a good heart. Marva and my mother became the best of friends, and I took joy in their compatibility and in the knowledge that my mother was so well cared for while I went about my business. After my mother passed, I stayed in touch with Marva because she had become part of my life. Still, lives get busy, and sometimes months go by before one of us calls. She phoned me last week, and I was so happy to hear her sweet voice. She said, "Oh, Phyllis, I had a longing to hear your voice and your laugh." And, as always, I was moved by Marva’s sincerity, her ability to speak from her heart. We talked for quite some time, and at the end, she said, "I love you." And I told her I love her, which I do. After we hung up, I began to think about how women express their love. In Willing Spirits I describe the night that Gwen and Jane, the two main characters “fall in love”:

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.

I know a woman who was my student many, many years ago. P. was in my tenth grade class when I was a twenty-three-year-old English teacher. Her life story was incredibly sad and painful, not unlike the stories of many of the students I met along the way. I became a presence in her life, and we stayed in touch. After she graduated from college, she visited often. I welcomed her into my family, called her frequently, sent her money when she was in need, and told her that I love her at the end of every conversation. My son, now twenty-five, recently overhead me say, “I love you” to her and asked, “Do you really love her?” And I said, “It doesn’t matter.” I tried to explain that the words were a balm to P.’s soul. She knew she could rely on me for that bit of normalcy in her other otherwise complicated and often lonely life. My words were an offering that asked for nothing and gave everything. In fact, I do love P., but I wanted my son (who always, always, says, “I love you too” when I say, “I love you” to him at the end of every conversation) to understand that expressing love is an offering that should be made often and with joy.

I love the women in my life because we speak the same language. 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 sign off our emails with the same words, and when we see each other, we embrace and affirm our love. 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 words are a gift, a promise. The words are a reminder to those we cherish that they are not alone, that they matter.

Thank you so much, Phyllis, for joining me today and for letting my readers get to know you and your books!!

Visit Phyllis:


  1. How amazing...I will be heading to buy the book now...I cried at the personal story...because I have friends just like your Marva... thank you.

  2. Interesting reading, it gave me a lot to think about. It has me looking at my friendships in a whole new way. I look forward to getting a copy of your book.

    Missy Martine

  3. Thank you, Brigit for your response. Where would we be without the women in our lives?

  4. So lovely to hear from you, Missy Martine! I think you will enjoy both WILLING SPIRITS and THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION! And please let me know what you think!

  5. Much thanks to you Denyse for hosting me!

  6. great great great post and about women true!

  7. Wow, what an inspiring story. You are lucky to have found such a good friend. And your book sounds compelling. I like when authors really get into the psyche of their characters and delve into the core of their relationships.

  8. Thanks, Kelley. I hope you will read my work and let me know what you think!


Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.