THE INCEPTION OF "THE WOMAN PUZZLE" AND OTHER MUSINGS By Judith Speizer Crandell
Please welcome Judith Speizer Crandall to the Writer's Journey Blog this week as she outlines her personal journey to the road of her creativity!
I wrote myself out of a dysfunctional family. As a seven-year-old, I had already experienced the death of the two most important men in my life, my maternal grandfather and my father. Several years later, my mother remarried a sociopathic widower with three children. My spiral into hell continued. A major lifeline was my writing. Juvenile and later more sophisticated poems and scenarios and short stories poured out of me as I sought to survive and eventually heal.
As I matured, married and moved to Cleveland, I realized writing was not only an essential part of my very existence and identification, but a viable profession—adjunct professor, editor, journalist, speechwriter. However, I never abandoned what I termed “my real writing,” fiction.
Right before I left the Midwest, I began The Woman Puzzle. For those of us who remember phonographs, I had a record of Ravel’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” I lifted the arm of my machine so that the piece played over and over—my musical accompaniment to the writing of my first novel.
While many of my works barely touch on autobiography because my imagination enjoys having free rein, this story twisted and redefined feelings and experiences that I drew from moments of my life. My main character, Anne Bergman, is not me. However, like me, she is in mourning for her dead father. Her experiences with her younger stepfather are only tangentially related to my own experiences of an older stepfather, who I always thought had an unnatural attraction to me.
Unlike Anne, I was not sexually molested. Unlike Anne, I did not marry and have two children who I left to discover who I was. Unlike Anne, I did not meet a spiritual eclectic friend who I moved across the country with. However, like Anne, I did meet an amazing Vietnam Veteran I fell in love with. My vet also was a writer. And he and I have been married very happily for over three decades, acting as sounding boards and editors for each other, as well as cheering sections and providing solace when writing and life became hard.
After two divorces, I moved to New York City, traveling from Ohio to the east coast. My most precious possession and passenger was my Selectric typewriter. Therefore while working for the Walt Disney Company Licensing Division, I would return many nights to keep pounding out my novel in my illegal sublet efficiency on the Upper West Side.
Upon my third and final marriage and move to Albany, New York, with my trusty typewriter, I pounded away and finished the novel. By then, I knew the type of man Anne would fall in love with—someone romantic, caring, who carried his own wounds that mirrored hers. I did model Anne’s relationship with Jonathan on my own.
But as I tell close friends who read the book and fear that my own ex-stepfather molested me, it is fiction. And unlike Anne, I did have friends I would have shared the horror with. So Anne’s journey, ultimately, is uniquely hers. I had several New York agents for this book and my Vietnam tome, The Resurrection of Hundreds Feldman, which I was fortunate enough to complete during a residency at Yaddo, along with four new short stories. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Delaware and discovered my wonderful Milton Writers Group and then the Devil’s Party Press that my first novel was published.
Currently, I’ve been working diligently on a time travel book loosely based on the retelling of the Ruth and Naomi story. I say “loosely” because a basic tenet of this work is that Ruth in the 20th century is a strong, spiritual woman who is determined to be in charge of her own life and write her own chapter of the Bible. Just as for my first novel, I wrote an amazing amount of The Glass Dress: The Bible According to Ruth during my residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In between these two novels there have been a multitude of short stories, poems, articles and other novels and novellas.
I have amazing gratitude for the people and places who have helped support my art and my voice. My current writing falls in the Magic Realism category.
But whatever you call it, it’s an expression of me, my creativity, my experiences mixed with a touch of magic.
Bio: Having resided on both coasts and in between, Judith Speizer Crandell has happily landed in Milton, Delaware. Solitary walks along the Atlantic beaches soothe her soul. Sharing these with her husband, Bill, a fellow writer, and their rescue dog, Windsor, enliven her soul. Proximity to the ocean fuels her creativity. An award-winning writer and teacher of fiction and nonfiction, she’s received residencies at Yaddo, A Room of One’s Own (AROHO), as well as selection as a semi-finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards Competition. Judith is listed in the Poets and Writers Directory.
She attended writers’ conferences at San Miguel Allende, the Joiner Center/University of Massachusetts, Mendocino and Byrdcliffe. The Maryland State Arts Council granted her their Individual Artist Fellowship for her novel, The Resurrection of Hundreds Feldman. Her new home state chose her to attend the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Delaware Arts Council 2018 Seashore Writers Retreat. Her fiction has appeared in publications including Silver Lining Anthology, Dreamstreets, Cleveland magazine, the Hudson Review, the Sun and Gamut and most recently in Halloween Party 2017, Solstice, Equinox, Suspicious Activities, What Sort of Fuckery Is This? anthologies and now in Halloween 2019.
She’s read from her work at venues such as the NYS Writers Institute, the NYS Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Washington, DC and Milton, DE Library readings. Her general background includes print journalism and speechwriting.
The Woman Puzzle, published in 2019 received the DE Women’s Press Association 2020 first prize novel category.
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You can find Judith at Devil's Party Press https://devilspartypress.com/judith-speizer-crandell/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/judithspeizercrandell