“My Gutsy Story” by Susan Weidener

Taking a Risk On Love

As a reporter most of my working life, I interviewed countless people. I became quite good at standing back, observing and then writing about the pain and heartbreak, the triumphs and tragedies, the challenges and defeats of other people.

A big daily newspaper like The Philadelphia Inquirer provided a window into life’s diversity and no two days were alike.   By its very nature, journalism requires you stay objective, put your prejudices aside, stand back and observe.  In some ways, my personal life reflected my professional one. Since my husband’s death, I had stood back, observed my own life with a certain detachment.

My stories at the newspaper ran the gamut. The young couple whose four-year-old son was dying of Tay Sachs, but refused to give up hope and channeled their energies into fundraising to help find a cure.  A married couple who wanted to keep a flock of bantam chickens on their property, but was ordered by the local zoning board to remove the birds. I remember the headline:  “We Refuse to Chicken Out.” A group of citizens who asked if I would write about their grassroots movement to preserve from development a Revolutionary War site where 53 American soldiers were buried. . . . a story that spanned five years and ended up garnering the attention of Congress.


But as life would have it, events and circumstances collided. I always believe and still do – life can change in a heartbeat.  First, there was the loss of my career at the newspaper; then finding myself alone, a woman whose children were grown and gone; and finally the death of my mother.

I stood at the precipice of change wondering . . .  where to go from here?  The lack of direction terrified and excited me.  I thought to myself: Now is your time, Susan.  You can do what you want.  You don’t need to prove anything to anyone . . . no one that is, but John.

He had always been there . . . my touchstone to honor and chivalry.  I remembered when we first met under white dogwood trees; the way he looked at me with deepset dark eyes almost as if he knew me better than I knew myself.  Although he had been gone over 13 years, he had never really left my side.  Now that I was off the treadmill of work and raising children, I found myself drawn into reliving our love, our 16-year marriage, his heartbreaking and courageous battle with cancer that lasted – almost unbelievably – seven long years through the birth of our second son and ending just after our son’s 7th birthday.

John and I toast each other on our wedding day.

I began searching for answers. Why hadn’t I been a better wife to John at the end?  Why had I screamed at him as he was dying, “I wish I’d never met you!”  I believe he knew before I did that losing him was almost more than I could bear.  He never asked for an apology.  It was myself I needed to forgive.  So I began writing.

This was harder than any story I had ever covered or reported. I felt my throat choke up, the tears well in my eyes.  Why was I putting myself through this?  Some days I would get up from the desk, take long walks . . .  but even then I couldn’t escape our story, his and mine. How best to express the emotions I needed to convey, which scene, which memory, which conversation?

I began to realize that if what I wrote helped other families cope with chronic illness and learn to forgive themselves for not living up to their own personal set of standards, then I was writing the most important story of my life.   My days as a journalist had served me well.  I knew how to craft a well-paced story, yet also keep some distance and find the compelling narrative.  For me, it was about the loss of youth and dreams, the naïve expectation of a happily-ever-after, and then blaming my husband, not the cancer for my shattered life.

After Again in a Heartbeat was finished, I felt a weight lift.  It had been the depth of my love for him that made me act the way I had.  If I had loved him any less, perhaps, I could have been kinder.

Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again and its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, about my life as a writer and single woman on a quest to find new meaning, have opened doors to teaching writing workshops, editing books, and helping others find their “voice” through the Women’s Writing Circle.  This is a group I started here in suburban Philadelphia three years ago to bring together a community of writers and offer a support system, as well as a creative lifeline in a world that is often isolating.

In many ways, I feel energized by this new “career” . . . pursuing my passion, which is writing and teaching and encouraging others to tell their stories.  None of it would have happened if I had not made the decision to take a risk . . . to dive off that cliff and hope – beyond any measure of logic or reason – that somehow if I looked hard into my own heart I might not only survive, but come up renewed


Susan G. Weidener’s Bio:  An author, editor and former journalist, Susan leads writing workshops and started the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. Susan has an undergraduate degree in literature from American University in Washington, DC and a master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is particularly interested in how women can find their voice through writing and storytelling. For more information about the Women’s Writing Circle and how to order Susan’s memoirs, go www.susanweidener.com. You can also connect with Susan on Twitter@ Sweideheart, Facebook
Facebook: , and her Link to my Amazon Author’s page

Sonia Marsh Says: What a story of courage and re-inventing yourself after the loss of the man you loved, and the start of a new life. I am sure your memoir can help us feel “energized” and motivated to follow our passion, just as you did.


I shall be in Paris at a book signing on December 13th, 5-7 pm, at WH Smith (scroll down on their website)  as well as visiting family and friends in Paris and London. (ANY SUGGESTIONS? WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN? LET ME KNOW IN YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR E-MAIL ME AT Sonia@soniamarsh.com)

Since we are all busy during the holidays, I shall post stories and photos from Europe during the month of December, and hope you take some time to write and submit your “My Gutsy Story.” Be the first one on January 7th 2013. Thank you.


We have started our November “My Gutsy Story” series with Jerry Waxler and Elaine Masters.

Do you have a “My Gutsy Story” you’d like to share?

NOW is the time to submit your “My Gutsy Story” and get published in our Anthology. Please contact sonia@soniamarsh.com for details.

You can find all the information, and our sponsors on the “My Gutsy Story” contest page. (VIDEO) Submission guidelines here

Comments (27)

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  1. Susan,

    It sounds like a fascinating story, and I can only imagine how much courage was needed to relive your marriage in your late husband’s absence – true love is such a precious commodity.

    Good for you, too, to have started the Women’s Writing Circle; if I lived in Philadelphia, I would certainly have joined.

    I wish you much success with your book; and don’t forget that you’re welcome to stop by My Rite of Passage as well to take part in the series of stories about change.


  2. Sonia,

    I wanted to leave a separate message to wish you safe travels to Paris and a successful book-signing event. I know it will go well; you’re such an inspiration to the Gutsy Indie Writers Group. It’s wonderful to witness your enthusiasm for your book and your marketing prowess.

    Thank you for the support you offer, always with such great integrity.


    • Sonia Marsh says:

      Belinda, you have me blushing. As a fellow expat, I think we have something in common: a sense of adventure, travel and a desire to try hard. I love your series on your blog about “Change.”

  3. Sonia,

    Thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my “gutsy” story. I feel, though, that anyone who writes from the heart is taking a risk and showing tremendous courage – not just me! I see this every month in our women’s writing circle.

    I, too, want to wish you a wonderful trip to “The City of Lights.” Ah . . . Paris, the heart of romance and love. I look forward to reading about your travels.


    • Sonia Marsh says:


      Have to visited Paris? I am looking forward to going right before Christmas. I hope to bring some of that cheer back with me to California, as well as some French pastries and cheese, if I could.

  4. Belinda,

    Well if you ever get back to our City of Brotherly Love, I would love to have you join the Circle.

    Thank you for your generous and kind comments about my story. I will be in touch.
    Susan G. Weidener recently posted..In Her Own Words – GingerMy Profile

  5. Lady Fi says:

    Fascinating, touching and I think – you have found wisdom along the way.
    Lady Fi recently posted..Frosted flowersMy Profile

  6. Kudos to you, Siusan, for digging deep for the courage to find meaning and forgiveness. My story, while very different from yours, was also a difficult one, so I know how much work it can be to triumph over so much loss and pain.

  7. Jerry Waxler says:

    What an incredible story, Susan, and one that I am already familiar with, since our stories have overlapped. I read your memoir, which I loved and highly recommended to readers of my blog. Since then, I taught a workshop with you. This is a perfect example of the Memoir Revolution, which gave you the chance to share your deep, heartfelt, vulnerable experience, gave readers the chance to walk a mile in your shoes and learn from you, and gives you the ongoing opportunity to reach out to other writers and help them share themselves!! Thank you!

    Best wishes,
    Jerry Waxler recently posted..Memoir Interview: Breaking into Her Father’s Secrets Pt 1My Profile

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      This truly is a Memoir Revolution Jerry. I never expected to have some amazing memoir workshop leaders sharing their “My Gutsy Story” here. Thanks to both of you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  8. Thank you, Jerry. It was inspirational to watch you teach memoir at our recent workshop with such a sensitive, guiding and gentle touch. You bring a wonderful synergy to the task of understanding the intricate and important balance between the craft of writing and writing as a therapeutic and healing journey.

  9. Wendy Kyman says:

    Susan – Your story is heartfelt and inspirational.
    I too would join your Women’s Writing Circle if I lived in Philly.

  10. Susan, You already know how much I love your genuine love story and how you share it with such “true grit”, capturing the essence of what it’s like to truly love and lose the love of your life. The hope you convey through your story of reinventing yourself is truly inspiring. That is the epitome of gutsiness. Thank you for sharing!
    Kathleen Pooler recently posted..Designing and Building a Structure for My Memoir: Will It Hold My Story?My Profile

  11. Dear Wendy and Kathleen,

    Thanks for the kudos. Some days I feel like a coat closet . . . which hangar to pull out today – women’s writing group, self-publisher, editor, author . . . whatever, it is all very cool. And I have to say you don’t have to be in Philly to “join” us. Our voices are everywhere, ready and eager to resonate with the meaning of our stories.

  12. Jan Backes says:

    Hello to all of you wonderful women writers!

    I am one of the fortunate women to actually attend the Circle. It is a spiritually moving experience; with the help of our chime, the special candle lighting to shut out the excess noises of the world and our talking stone, Susan guides us on a journey of cosmic feeling and unforgettable acceptance. It is a place where each woman has walked away stronger for having experienced the Circle. Perhaps you could start a Circle in your town. I love knowing that we are all interconnected as women writers despite the miles between us!

  13. Susan, so good to see you here among the Gutsy Story writers Sonia has brought together. You know I enjoyed Again in a Heartbeat and I’m no reading Morning at Wellington Square. Yours is a story many of us will never live through, and your courage and hope shows throughout the telling.


    Sherrey Meyer recently posted..Drawing the Line in Memoir WritingMy Profile

    • Sonia Marsh says:


      I feel so lucky to get to meet everyone in the memoir circle. Thanks for bringing us together Sherrey. I have so many new memoirs I need to find time to read.

  14. Sherrey, Thank you for the kind words, as well as your generosity and understanding, giving all of us hope that we can light the way for others.

  15. Jan, It is so good to see you “here.” You have been a guiding light in the Women’s Writing Circle with your fearlessness in writing about the “dark side” of life.
    Susan G. Weidener recently posted..In Her Own Words – GingerMy Profile

  16. Candice Swick says:

    This is such a wonderful gathering of voices. Thank you for presenting Susan a platform for displaying her “Gutsy” story of love, joy, fear and loss. I’ve read Again in a Heartbeat and am nearly finished Morning at Wellington Square. Both of Susan’s memoirs speak of her personal journey through the loss of true love, but there’s a universal message that can be heard whispering off each page. Never give up. Dig deep, put your shoulders back and speak up. Your voice counts. Susan’s message can be felt every Saturday when brave women sit up and read moments from their lives. Our stories matter and it’s nice to have a safe haven like the Women’s Writing Circle.

    Thank you,


    • Sonia Marsh says:


      I really appreciate your comment and am so happy to hear from Susan’s “Women’s Writing Circle.” I hope you share your stories here as well, and that we can all feel comfortable to share our writing.

  17. Wow. Reading this broke my heart. Your book sounds intriguing.
    Teresa Cleveland Wendel recently posted..The RoadmasterMy Profile

  18. Penelope J. says:

    You must be a really gutsy lady to write about the loss of a loved one. It must have been a bittersweet experience to write your books. But as a journalist, you know the importance of sharing personal stories and helping others find their voices to write theirs.
    Penelope J. recently posted..Never Give Up on Your DreamMy Profile

  19. Penelope,

    You are right in that for years I saw how stories in the newspaper impacted peoples’ lives and actually helped bring about change in some cases. The fact that people were able to lay their souls bare – to put in print their personal journeys – such as the couple whose child had Tay Sachs – was truly moving. This is the power of the written word. It is also the ultimate gift of generosity we give to each other.

  20. Beautifully, heartfelt account. Thanks for writing it and sharing with us. Your pacing is stellar and you made me feel as though I was right there taking the journey of setting out on a new life with you.

  21. Carole, Thank you for the comments. It means a lot coming from a memoir author and Huffington Post movie blogger, such as yourself. I also very much appreciate you coming to the Women’s Writing Circle and supporting our group of women writers.

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