Meet author Sallie Weissinger and read her beautiful tale in Yes, Again: (Mis)adventures of a Wishful Thinker.
My memoir recounts my adventures as a widow in Berkeley, seeking a new relationship late in life. Having met and married the love of my life through the newspaper personals in the pre-Internet 1970s, it was a challenge, in my sixties and seventies, to navigate the online dating world of the early twenty-first century. I met men who lied, attempted to extort money, and had unsavory histories I discovered through Google. Fortunately, there were enough positive, even humorous, encounters to keep me going. But it was a slog, with ups, downs, and zig-zags leading down paths I couldn’t have foreseen. My book covers the exhilarating and gritty aspects of a number of my experiences – and much in between.
Interwoven with the evolution of my search for a meaningful life, with or without a partner, are stories from my childhood as a military brat from New Orleans, a first marriage and divorce in my twenties, a loving relationship with my second husband, and my tale of grappling with loss. With friends and dogs at my side, I threw myself into volunteer work in Central and South America and in my hometown, post-Katrina. I also describe an unexpected mystical experience with a shaman in the Sacred Valley of Cusco, Peru, and life coaching sessions in Berkeley. Ultimately I found a serendipitous path and followed it.
Do you have a day job? What is your writing routine?
As a septuagenarian writing post-retirement, I’ve had the luxury of not having to earn a living while writing. But I also had the frustration of not being as self-disciplined as I was when I was a bank executive, managing a staff of forty-five and organizing my time efficiently, then racing home to be with my husband and daughter. The past five years, while I’ve been writing, first in a journal, and then on my journal-turned-memoir, I’ve found myself frittering time away during the day and then, at times, starting mid-afternoon and writing till 1 am. At other times, I’ve buckled down after breakfast and a morning walk with my dogs, stayed at my computer, and written all day. I couldn’t have done that in my business-suit-and-briefcase days, commuting to San Francisco. I am in awe of women who hold down a full-time job, care for a family, and somehow find the time to write.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve always loved to write, but this is my first book. And I’ve never called myself a “writer.” I wrote for my high school and college papers. I edited internal newspapers and newsletters for several companies where I worked and have routinely been asked to edit work-related memos for others. For years I wrote for several non-profits’ websites as a volunteer. My all-time favorite writing job was as corporate communications specialist for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, but my writing was read by bank executives and employees, as well as Federal Reserve Board of Governors staff, not what I’d call artistic or literary audiences.
Writing Yes, Again was different – I wanted people who didn’t know anything about my life experiences to be intrigued, engaged, touched. It was the first time I learned I had a voice – several friends who read early drafts and became “trusted readers” for the final galleys said, “I hear your voice coming through loud and clear.” I loved hearing that. I didn’t know I had a voice.
What inspired you to write?
Once I realized my journal could be a memoir, I figured it might inspire others to identify a goal and work toward it, regardless of age. I wanted to encourage them to go for it, if they knew what “it” was. My current goal, at age 77, is to walk one of the caminos to Santiago de Compostela. COVID squelched those plans, but only temporarily. I still plan to undertake the spiritually rich and physically rigorous experience, hiking through the Spanish countryside and towns and ending up at the cathedral where Saint James’ headless body is reputedly buried in the crypt. I’ve been to Santiago twice, but now I’ll walk the path, not take the easy route. For some “walking the path” might mean learning a language and visiting a country where the language is spoken. For others it could mean getting an advanced degree in psychology and becoming a family counselor, or finally finishing college at age sixty-five. If my book inspires anything like that, I would be immensely pleased.
Does your book incorporate certain aspects of your life?
My book is 100% about my life and people I have loved- family members, soulmates, and close friends- and some I have not- specifically the males who were the source of the misadventures noted in my book’s subtitle. I took no liberties with the truth. I am struck realizing how much harder it would have been to be self-revealing if my parents were still alive – I would not have discussed my feelings about their Southern prejudices, my mother’s social expectations of my sister and me, and my military father’s autocratic demeanor, not to mention my confessed peccadilloes as a Southern lady. Those candid disclosures would not have played well with them, and I would not have been willing to hurt them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers over 40?
Asking my advice for aspiring writers of any age is like asking a contractor to provide professional advice to a hair stylist. I’m unqualified to say anything other than to recommend finding a highly qualified, congenial writing coach to help you start out and relying on her to help frame your thoughts, your direction, your style. My writing coach and first editor, Jane Staw, told me over and over that I should stop being a reporter, providing facts and skimping on feelings. She insisted I dig deeper into emotional territory. Without her, there would have been no memoir, it would have been a newspaper article that never got published. My second editor, Courtney Flavin, put many a substantive twist here and there, highlighting amusing anecdotes without taking away from the reality of pain and loss. A second thing I would recommend, but wasn’t able to do because of COVID, is to work with a support group of writers. In a writing group, you can share your work, get and give feedback, and exchange “atta-girls and atta-boys.” Writing can be a lonely sport.