Monday, August 2, 2010

A Sinner's Guide To Confession

If that title doesn't peak your curiosity, what will? Phyllis Schieber takes us on a
sneak peak of her two outstanding books today.

A Sinner's Guide to Confessions
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.

To Young Women Everywhere
I came across a photograph of my friend Claire and I from the summer of 1969, the summer we spent touring Israel. I was sixteen, newly graduated from high school, and Claire was eighteen, almost nineteen.  Because I had skipped two grades, all of my friends were older. The photograph was taken at Eilat, Israel’s southern most city,  located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Claire and I are horsing around in the water. I am perched on an inner tube, wearing a black and white bikini and a huge smile. I am trying to help Claire onto the tube as she struggles. She is also laughing. We look very happy. We had been camping on the beach for several days. It was incredibly beautiful. We were incredibly beautiful. When I stared at the photograph, I remembered my reaction when I first saw the photograph more than forty years ago. In those pre-digital days, you had to bring in the film and wait for the pictures to come back. I remember that I did not want anyone to see this particular picture because a little roll of fat was visible at my belly. I remember thinking that I looked so fat. I was always trying to hide some part of myself—my large breasts, my full thighs, my something, anything. I had a friend in graduate school who once told me that I look like a “Renaissance porno queen.” I laughed, but I did not want to look like that. I knew he meant it as a compliment, but I embarrassed by his observation. I should have been proud. What I would give today for that body… there are no words. And that is why I have a message for young women everywhere. I want you to look in the mirror and marvel at the tautness of your skin, the way your breasts stay high on your chests, and the lovely and luxuriant thickness of your hair. Stand naked in front of a mirror and appreciate your beauty, savor it, and celebrate it. It merits your appreciation.
These days I often think of all the times I was self-conscious about my appearance. I wanted to look like Claire. She was the perfect Sixties girl—tall and thin, long, straight, dark hair, and legs that began at her neck and just kept going. I had a crown of wild, curly hair. I also had a formidable chest, and curves that belonged on an older woman. It was a body that emerged when I was fourteen.  I bemoaned my appearance every time I allowed myself to take a peek at my naked body. My mother was adept at letting out the darts in blouses and dresses that were invariably tight. I straightened my hair, wore clothes that hid my full breasts, and dieted constantly, even though I was not fat (What I regret is not learning to exercise early in my life and taking something, anything into adulthood. Stand warned al you young beauties: exercise will prolong your beauty, and whether or not you believe me, you will be sorry if you don’t learn to exercise now). I also I wanted to look like Twiggy or Cher, the role models for
If I could go back to those years, I would flaunt my voluptuousness with abandon. I would never have straightened my hair (I used a horrible smelling product, Curl Free that made my hair coarse and lifeless. At night I would pull my hair up into a ponytail, roll it backwards onto an empty frozen juice can and secure it with long, metal clips. For good measure, I often ironed my hair on the ironing board, using my mother’s iron and a damp towel. My poor mother would monitor this process, fearful that I would set myself on fire!), and I would have looked more kindly on my body instead of wishing for thinner thighs, longer legs, and smaller breasts. The good news is that I have finally come of age. I am the woman I wanted to be then. It is true that my body has not followed suit, but I am comfortable with myself, a remarkable achievement. I practice yoga six times a week, whether I want to or not. And I ride a stationary bike at least three times a week. I’m working on that one.  I write about women like myself. We are friends, and wives, and mothers, daughters, and sisters. The women in my novels, WILLING SPIRITS and THE SINNER”S GUIDE TO CONFESSION are also the woman I am still becoming. I am ever mindful of how times passes, how much I have yet to do, and how grateful I am that I no longer straighten my hair. Of course, I am still critical of body, but I express that criticism with gentleness and humor. I know who I once was, and I know who I am now. It was good then, and it’s better now.

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


Word Crafter said...

Hi Phyllis,
Glad to see you on my blog - Your books sound really interesting. I think the Titles are very intriguing and your picture is delightful.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Billie!
Thanks so much for hosting me! And thanks for all the compliments!