Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brenda Webster - Painting with Words

        I'm happy to report as TAKING THE PLUNGE readership grows, so does the outreach to talented, interesting people. I met Alice Acheson (one of the most knowledgeable people I know in the world of publishing) at a writers' conference years ago and have kept in touch. Her introduction below for author Brenda Webster is just another example of networking at its best! R2

        Brenda Webster was born in New York City, educated at Swarthmore, Barnard, Columbia, and Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. A top-rated author on, she is a novelist, freelance writer, playwright, critic and translator who splits her time between Berkeley, California and Rome, Italy.  For many years she has been President of PEN West American Center.

        She is the author of four previous novels: SINS OF THE MOTHERS (Baskerville, 1993),
PARADISE FARM (SUNY, 1999), THE BEHEADING GAME (Wings Press, 2006; finalist for the Northern California Book Award), and VIENNA TRIANGLE (Wings Press, 2009).  Her new play, THE MURDER TRIAL OF SIGMUND FREUD, was inspired by VIENNA TRIANGLE but goes beyond the story of Tausk and Freud to chronicle the latter's relationships with women patients, disciples, and his family.  It was written in collaboration with Meridee Stein, who conceived the idea of a play and brought to the table many stimulating ideas and twenty years of experience in the theater.

        She has written two controversial and oft-anthologized critical studies: YEATS: A Psychoanalytic Study (Stanford) and BLAKE'S PROPHETIC PSYCHOLOGY (Macmillan).   She is co-editor of the journals of the abstract expressionist painter (and my mother), Ethel Schwabacher, HUNGRY FOR LIGHT: The Journals of Ethel Schwabacher (Indiana, 1993).

        Her memoir, THE LAST GOOD FREUDIAN (Holmes and Meier, 2000) received considerable praise.  The Modern Language Association in 2007 published her translation of Edith Bruck's Holocaust novel, LETTERA ALLA MADRE.  She also
has translated poetry from the Italian for THE OTHER VOICE (Norton) and THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WOMEN POETS.
          Alice B. Acheson, Book Marketing/Publicity Specialist

Brenda Webster

    As a child I thought my mother was a miracle worker.  She made things come to life on canvas.  Branches weighed down with fuzzy peaches, blue-green bulls, enormous lilies, goldfish in an underwater world.  Naturally, I assumed I would be able to do that too, but I was hopelessly bad at it.  By the time I was ten, I refocused myself to painting with words.

    My new novel, my fifth, AFTER AUSCHWITZ: A Love Story, takes on the most difficult subject I've had so far.  It is narrated by an eighty-eight-year-old man suffering from early dementia and investigates the way enduring love strives against loss and aging, illness and imminent death.  Finally, I feel in command of my tools and can fully use what a lifetime has taught me about my subjects and my craft.  Of course, there is always more to learn.  As one of my earlier characters says: "It is hard to get things right."  But trying and getting closer is what makes writing so compelling.

1. List five words that define you.

          Curious – Creative – Passionate – Funny - Hungry for life

2.  What have you done that you're most proud of?

          Raised three beautiful and talented children and grandmothered five.

          3. If you could change one thing in your past, what would it be?

          My father would not have died when I was a child.

          4. On a personal level, what drives you crazy?  What gives you joy?

          I can't stand it when there are disagreements with anyone I love.

I'm happiest when everyone gets along and when my work is going well.

5.   Given no restrictions (i.e. money/physical capabilities), what would you most like to do?
          Gallop a racehorse around the track and win the Derby.


Brenda with her daughter and granddaughter

Reading at Orinda Books in Orinda, CA

Brenda in Rome, where her latest novel is set, with Alfredo,
the owner of the cafe where her hero, Renzo, has breakfast

For more about Brenda and to email her:

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