(University of Nebraska Press, January, 2024)
At times, writers—from the unpublished to jaded lifers—need a fire lit under them to pursue the complex work of self-exploration. Acetylene Torch Songs: Writing True Stories to Ignite the Soul provides that spark for memoirists and essayists seeking mentor-based instruction and inspiration. Acetylene Torch Songs stresses practice over theory, encourages craftiness as well as craft, and urges writers to embark upon emotional odysseys in pursuit of their art. "Acetylene" uniquely illustrates how the writer's imaginative spirit comes alive on the page through metaphor, literary masks, sensory memories, voice, obsessions, and more. This holistic approach to writing emphasizes how the creative process brings together the heart, the mind, the soul, and the senses. Because most writers learn through example, every chapter features an original essay written to illustrate a specific approach: Oh, so that's how you do it! By mentoring and modelling, rather than simply lecturing, "Acetylene" helps all writers of creative nonfiction fan their creative sparks until they burn. The book's guided prompts, worksheets, checklists, publishing advice, and strategies guide writers from hazy conception to finished, blazing product.
University of Nebraska Press, American Lives Series
How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences is a collection of thematically linked essays whereby the narrator explores the taboo subject of death. While several pieces use gallows humor as a way to deflect, the narrator also directly confronts her fears of the ultimate unknown. Her fear stems in part from a sexual assault she hid for years. This experience attests to a fact many women know all too well: that death and sex are intimately tied – not in some philosophical way – but in everyday life.
As this baby boomer grows, from childhood to adulthood, she explores other origins surrounding her fear of death – as well as her goal of surviving it. Her quest is, by turns, realistic and fantastical, worldly and other-worldly.
The odyssey begins with the narrator dubbing herself "Miss Route 17," while cruising New Jersey's industrial-strength landscape. Along the way, she survives everything from a piano teacher who stifles her natural talent, to a faux heart attack, to various maladies that afflict us as we age.
Her more internal journey to live forever finds the narrator hoarding memories as well as archaic words, which she uses as talismans against the darkness, overcoming and transforming death through language, memory, and metaphor.
A memoir-in-essays~~Univerity of Nebraska Press
Dear Gentile Reader. And you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us, or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party activist, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman's own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn't easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a "gefilte fish swimming upstream," and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?
Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, a rebel with something to say to those of us, most of us, still wondering what to make of ourselves.
The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew is a finalist in "Foreword Reviews' IndieFab Book of the Year Award" in the category of the essay. The book was also listed as one of "25 Great Books You Might Have Missed in 2014" by flavorwire.com -- as #2.
a memoir~~W. W. Norton
"In this powerful, often lyric memoir, a woman learns to value herself--as a whole person rather than as a sexual object. Recounting her past experiences as part of her journey toward recovery, Sue William Silverman explores her skewed belief that sex is love, a belief that began with her father's sexual abuse from early childhood into adolescence.
"She tells of college years in Boston, an early marriage in Galveston, and a roller-coaster life of sex and self-destructive behavior. Finally, having become addicted to danger itself, she hits bottom emotionally and spiritually. At this point, with the help of a trusted therapist, Silverman begins to discover the difference between the high of dangerous encounters and the more reliable promise of love.
"This utterly candid account may be the first book by a woman to examine sexual addiction. But the misguided search that became Silverman's life has resonance for other addictions, whether to food, drugs, alcohol, or work--anyone whose only satisfaction is now."
Love Sick was favorably reviewed in the Oprah magazine, Elle, Kirkus, and others. The memoir was also made into a Lifetime Television Original Movie.
a memoir~~University of Georgia Press
"From age four to eighteen, Sue William Silverman was sexually abused with numbing regularity by her father, a high-ranking government official and successful banker. Rendered in often graphic detail, her story annihilates our complacency about who among us could commit such evil--and who could stop it, for this is also a story of complicity, of the blaming silence with which Silverman's mother meets her daughter's clear signals of distress.
Exploring the inner contours of a family in crisis, Silverman shows how their situation persisted for so long--unreported, undetected, and unconfessed--and how the ordeal colored and controlled her life well into adulthood. From an anguished child who could find neither a strong enough voice nor the right words to an award-winning writer, 'Terror, Father' tells Silverman's unforgettable story of loss and recovery."
Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction
a book about the craft of memoir writing~~University of Georgia Press
Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and will be useful to both beginners and more accomplished writers.
The rise of interest in memoir recognizes the power of the genre to move and affect not just individual readers, but society at large. Sue Silverman covers traditional writing topics such as metaphor, theme, plot, and voice, but also includes chapters on trusting memory and cultivating the courage to tell one's truth in the face of forces--from family members to the media--who would prefer that people with inconvenient pasts and views remain silent.
Silverman draws upon her own personal and professional experience to provide an essential resource for transforming life into words that matter. Fearless Confessions is an atlas that contains maps to the remarkable places in each person's life that have yet to be explored.
Poets & Writers named Fearless Confessions one of the "essential books for writers."
80-page poetry collection~~Brick Mantel Books
You are The Girl, and The Girl is a Badass.
From the opening lines, it's clear The Girl at the center of these poems is damaged—which is another way to say she's a survivor. If the Girl Never Learns moves from the personal to the mythic to the apocalyptic, because The Girl would do anything, even go to hell, to save her soul. So, she resists, takes action to overturn society's suffocating ideal of Good Girldom.
The poems' sense of breathlessness reflects The Girl's absolute need to control her own destiny, to outrun her past, while at the same time chasing a future she alone has envisioned and embodied. Because The Girl is, above all else, a badass.
"Gorgeous and disturbing at once, these poems pierce the imagination with truth..."
The Poetry Question
Crayon Colors for Serial Killers
a poetry chapbook
"I love everything about this collection. The hothouse phrasing inside the elegant spareness on the page. The strange song of the ordinary. The natural wildness of the unspeakable. Every line in every poem in Crayon Colors for Serial Killers is jam packed with the music of life and devastation—Silverman its dazzling singer."
Alice Anderson, author, Some Bright Morning I'll Fly Away
Crayon Colors for Serial Killers, true to its title, mixes childlike whimsy and mortal anger. In a time of pandemics of violence and viruses, unmasked systems of oppression and masked faces trying not to inhale, Sue William Silverman turns to haiku and persona poetry to settle and jostle our collective nerves. Her haiku, the Japanese poetic form of close attention, highlights our collective loneliness and sudden crystalline observation of a world gone scary-lonely: "Eat heart, soul, you sky-/eyed girl, ghost face unmasked glass / facade of cracked moon." By contrast, "The Serial Killer" persona poems (another kind of masking) are fantastical romps through a woman's daily encounters with others, imaginations of empowerment that hold off the fear and vulnerability that we're all feeling these days.--Philip Metres, author, Shrapnel Maps
Sue William Silverman's Crayon Colors for Serial Killers scalpels into the dark corners of human experience. These sharp poems sting, menace, and reckon with the dread of our time.
~~Tomás Q. Morin, author, Machete
poetry collection, Orchises Press (71 pages)
"Sue Silverman is widely known for the...often heartbreaking prose that limns personal experience. As she turns here to lyric, her words are still deft as deft knows how to be; the poignance remains; but what a range of things and people and events and humor pervades these mouth-filling pages.... She makes much of her sensory apparatus, as, given its acuteness, she is right to do; but there is also a fierce intelligence at work in Hieroglyphics in Neon, something rather akin to what the Augustans called Wit. Right brain, left brain, the whole human body: all conspire to make this book both a romp and a protracted meditation. Brava! ~~ Sydney Lea
This short article, first published in "The Writer's Chronicle," is included in the Appendix of Sue's book, "Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir." Read this article here, now!