Guest Post by Phyllis Schieber, Author of Willing Spirits

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400000000000000111184_s4I’m so excited today because I have my first Guest Post and it’s an author who’s book I am extremely excited to tell you about! I know that you’re going to love being privy to what inspired Phyllis Schieber, author of Willing Spirits, to write her wonderful new novel.

I’d like to say a big "Thank You" to Phyllis for taking the time to be our guest today. Phyllis is on a Virtual Blog Tour for "Willing Spirits" that started this week and runs through April 3rd. Find out where she is going to be next on her Tour Page.

My Review of Willing Spirits

I just love this book! The book is called Willing Spirits, by Phyllis Schieber and it’s a marvelous book.It’s a book about friendships and women and how they help us to get through all of life’s twists and turns.Willing Spirits is about two women who have supported each other through the years as each of them had their marriage end.It’s about the friendship of women – tough, loving and unflinchingly honest. It’s about how sometimes our friends are more important and closer than our family.It’s about helping each other through the trials and tribulations that life brings us, and standing strong for each other.And it’s about the ever evolving lives of women and how at every turn we rediscover , renew and grow – always learning more about ourselves in the process.This book is about loving yourself no matter the choices you’ve made. And mostly this book is about relationships – with lovers, with children, with parents and siblings, and most of all with ourselves. I thought this book was just magnificent.I couldn’t put it down quite frankly.It definitely is a story you can get lost in!

About Author Phyllis Schieber:Phyllis Scheiber

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

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And Now....Phyllis Schieber

I dedicated Willing Spirits to two extraordinary women: Better Miller and Polly Miller. Both were very dear to me. They are mother and daughter. Bette died of breast cancer in 1988. Polly was sixteen when her mother died. If any child ever needed her mother, it was my Polly. She was already in the throes of the bi-polar disorder that would take over her life, though ironically it was an asthma attack that ultimately claimed her at only twenty-three. Mother and daughter are buried side-by-side. If the deaths of these two young women are a tragedy, their lives were joyful.

I was sixteen when I met Bette. She was thirty and a new mother. I was dating a boy who had a family history with her husband (That is a whole other story.) The boy I was dating would eventually become my husband (That is a whole other story as well!), but this is all peripheral information. The day I met Bette, her infant son Jacob was on his stomach on a little blanket on the floor of someone’s living room. He was wonderfully cute, and I told Bette so. She was short and olive skinned with black hair and very white teeth. She smiled at me and said, “You really think so? He seems to always be drooling.” I was taken aback, but I laughed. It was the start of my love affair with Bette.

I suppose the difference in our ages set the tone for our relationship. Bette was more like a big sister in those early years. I adored her for so many reasons. She was a wonderful and attentive mother to her two children. I remember calling her house and she would answer and say, “Are you alright? Can we talk later? I’m having a nice time with Polly.” I thought that was extraordinary. Polly knew she came first. Bette was funny and honest and charming. She was from a wealthy Southern Jewish family and had been well schooled in the art of mingling with society. But she was a chameleon; she could be fit in anywhere and had the ability to make everyone feel comfortable. I learned much from Bette. She was a fabulous cook. If ten people walked into her home unannounced, Bette could whip up a delicious meal from whatever she had in her cupboard and fridge. I carefully watched everything she did. She taught me which pots were best (Le Creuset), where to shop for shoes (Nordstrom), introduced me to writers (Anne Tyler), and musicians (Muddy Waters).

In the early Seventies, Bette was deeply involved in the Women’s Consciousness Rising Movement. Together with a group of like-minded women, she met to discuss relevant issues. I was never allowed to attend those meetings because Bette said, “You’re too young.” I was also too young to read Gail Sheehy’s groundbreaking book Passages because Bette said, “You won’t understand it.” Of course, this led to heated arguments that Bette invariable won. She was the sister I never had. After we fought, she would call me and instruct me to deliver the mantra I had been taught to recite, “You were right, Bette.” In fact, Bette was invariably always right. Yet, no matter what we argued about, we never ended a conversation without stating our love for each other.

As the years passed, the gap between our ages narrowed, and I was no longer in as much awe of my good friend as I had been. I loved her, but I challenged her more often, a situation that often led her to exclaim in frustration, “I liked you better when you listened to everything I said.” She was only partially serious. Although Bette loved my husband, she was against our marrying so young (I was twenty-one, and he was twenty-three). Her children, Jacob and Polly, were our ring bearer and flower girl. For weeks before the wedding, Bette did everything she could to talk me out of getting married. “You’re too young,” she insisted. Moments before I was poised to walk down the aisle, she stepped in front of me and said, “Let’s go to the diner. You’re not overdressed. No one will notice.” I didn’t listen. Once again, Bette was right. I was much too young.

Bette was the one I always turned to first. Once after I had a terrible fight with my husband, I drove to her house. I helped her put the children to bed. She always shared her children with me, and I was grateful for that, especially that night when their love for me was so soothing. After they were tucked in, Bette sat me at the kitchen table with a mug of steaming tea and said, “Make a list of everything you’re afraid of.” I did as I was told. Afterwards, Bette went through the list, making her signature backwards checks (an affectation I adopted after her death) and proclaimed which concerns were worthy of attention and which were not. I trusted her. She was effusive with her praise and harsh with her criticism, but I always felt her love. She bought me gifts for no reason, encouraged me to take chances, and told me when it was time to go on a diet. When my son was born, she rearranged the nursery and prohibited anyone from entering without first removing their shoes and washing their hands. My husband used to say that Bette got away with things that no one else would have dared even suggest to me. She was my sister. She was supposed to be there for life.

It was Bette who took my infant son to his first museum exhibit (a retrospective of Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art), encouraged us to accompany her and her family to Tanglewood where my son attended his first classical concert. And it was Bette who found his pediatrician (“The best,” she said), and helped pick his school.When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was certain she would beat it. Everyone was. After all, Bette’s spirit was indomitable, and we all needed her. After a lumpectomy, she was declared “cancer free.” A few months later, the cancer spread to her liver. After that, it was one futile attempt after another to save her. She knew the end was imminent and threw herself a fabulous 50th birthday party. At the party, I could see she was not feeling well, and I said, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” It never entered my mind that there wouldn’t be another birthday to celebrate. But she knew even if I still refused to accept the reality. That was March. A few weeks after the party, she entered the hospital for the last time. On one of my visits, I found her asleep. I sat by her bed and waited. When she awoke, I asked her, “Are you comfortable?” And my Bette, my sister, my friend, said, “I make a living.”I laughed.

My only regret is that I could not talk to her about her impending death. I could not let her go. In one of our last conversations before she was brought home to die, she phoned me. “Are you alright?” she said. “I need to know that you will be alright.” Barely able to speak, I promised that I would be alright, and I also promised to take care of her children, especially of Polly. I was thirty-six, and my son was almost five. Bette died that May. I delivered her eulogy. I did what she would have wanted me to do: I made the people laugh. And for one last time, I said what she liked to hear more than she liked to hear anything else. I said, “You were right, Bette. You were always right.”

Willing Spirits is a celebration of the friendship women share. I was inspired to write this book because of my friend Bette and because I know women will understand the bond that is like no other. Where would we be without the women in our lives?

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Once again I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Phyllis for stopping by and sharing such a touching story with us. I hope you’ll all visit her as she tours around the blogosphere.

Here is all the information about the book and locations where you can buy it.


  • Willing Spirits
  • by Phyllis Schieber
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425225852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425225851
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Every year we lose more people to AIDS. It hasn't disappeared and it's not going away anytime soon. I urge you to seek out and support your local AIDS Organizations. Encourage everyone you know to practice safe sex and to get tested once a year. Even if you don't think you are at risk, get tested. I didn't think I was at risk either, and I almost died before I was diagnosed.

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