For a chance to win a copy of Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, go to Good Reads. Contest ends December 15, 2014.
This week on the Live Like You Mean It Podcast I talk to Monica Wesolowska, author of the acclaimed memoir, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life. The true story of losing her first-born child, Holding Silvan is a sad, yet joyous book of the life that was. Monica discusses her writing process for the book, why gossip is useful (especially for new mothers), and her advice for presenting a personal work to your friends and family. And this week, we also tried a Videocast so you can check it out below on...Forward
In her memoir Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, Monica Wesolowska conveys two primary facts—first, that she loved her son Silvan deeply, and all decisions about his living and dying were motivated by that love, and second, that the decision she and her husband made to withhold nourishment from Silvan was not euthanasia. I am absolutely convinced of the first, but not as much of the second. I admire Wesolowska’s skill, I’m grateful for her honesty, I’m sympathetic to her decisions. And I’m...Forward
Memoirs aren’t easy to sell, unless your last name is Kardashian, or your nickname is Snooki. Even beating cancer (which sounds like a hell of a story to me, because who doesn’t like a tense medical drama with an upbeat ending) probably wouldn’t be a good enough hook to hang your memoir on these days, unless you’re The Nanny herself, Fran Drescher, author of Cancer Schmancer. However, buried in the glut of memoirs by celebrities that are full of TMI and low on substance, there are...Forward
Every couple has a story, and this was ours. We were prepared to weather storms. For our wedding, we skipped the tissue paper and cream-colored card stock of standard invitations. Instead, we glued a photograph of ourselves swing-dancing onto a black-and-white picture of stormy ocean waves.
If marriage meant sticking through the hardest of times, we believed we could do it. Barely out of our 20s, we thought we had seen enough of life to know. After all, on the day David asked me out for a date...Forward
Holding Silvan: A Brief Life by Monica Wesolowska (Hawthorne)
How do you mother a dying infant? In this elegiac, elegant memoir, Wesolowska bears witness to her first child’s too-short life.
To see the entire list go to The Boston Globe.
Graceful and precise in tone, Wesolowska’s chronicle of the 38-day life of her severely brain-injured son, Silvan, never veers into bathos territory even during a discussion of what constitutes a “good death” for an infant. She tells this brutal story beautifully and convinces us that 38 days of love can be a lifetime.—Therese Purcell Nielsen
To read the entire list, go to Library Journal.
“Memoirist Monica Wesolowska on Writing About and As a Parent”
Thank you to Monica Wesolowska, author of Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, for today’s interview with an author about writing as a parent. I particularly appreciate her discussion of finding time to write and how she dealt with telling a personal, and also family’s, story. Her memoir explores motherhood, medicine, and the ethics of forgoing medical intervention for a newborn son.
In the opening of Holding Silvan: A Brief Life,...Forward
“Playing Hardball with My Boys”
I’ve never liked balls. On the playgrounds of my childhood, I spent more time avoiding than playing with them. I have no memory of kicking, hitting, or throwing with success.
Once, I even vomited on home plate. By adulthood, I was trotting out my dislike of balls like a trophy. Although my husband, David, did insist that I learn to catch useful things—keys and bottle-openers and clean towels for the shower—he soon stopped suggesting we play with balls for...Forward
“On National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a Mother With a Candle to Light”
Around town, people recognize me for different things. For some, I’m the woman who grocery shops on Friday mornings. For others, I’m the woman who bikes downtown. For still others, I’m the bookstore browser, the teacher, the wife of the beekeeper, the mother of the two boys with a skateboard. But rarely do people recognize me as the mother of a child who is gone.
Unlike the terms “widow” and...Forward
“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Monica Wesolowska, author of HOLDING SILVAN [a memoir]. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and...Forward
Monica Wesolowska gave birth to a baby boy, only to be told there were complications and he had little brain function. In her memoir, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, she details her final weeks with her dying son, and the choices she and her husband had to make about letting him go. She joins us in the studio.
To listen to the podcast go to KQED.
I recently got the opportunity to speak with Monica Wesolowska about her debut Holding Silvan; A Brief Life, a memoir recounting the birth, short life, and death of her first son. Taking us through each moment, Monica’s book reveals every intimate detail about her experience. In this interview I got a chance to ask Monica about her writing process, when she knew it was time to write about Silvan, and the challenges of revisiting that experience to write her book.
Allie AngeloYou only wrote...Forward
German rights sold to Patmos Verlag for Holding Silvan: A Brief Life by Monica Wesolowska. Patmos Verlag is known for publishing Carl Jung, so Monica is is good company!
This week I’ve asked Monica Wesolowska to share the story of how she and her family honored the 10th birthday of their son Silvan, who died after only 38 days of life. Her critically-acclaimed memoir of Silvan’s life and death is a tribute to the courage it takes to love and let go.
On the 10th anniversary of our son Silvan’s brief life, my husband and I wanted to do something special. Each year, we’d struggled. Should we celebrate his birth or death? Were these days of celebration or of...Forward
“From Scream to Smile: The Power of Memoir,” by Monica Wesolowska
Before my son Silvan was born, I was happy with fiction. I read it. I wrote it. I taught it. I considered fiction one of my most intimate friends. Fiction gets us out of ourselves, I told my students, and into the skins of strangers. Fiction teaches empathy. But what amazed me more in fiction than new characters was getting lost in a new form, feeling bewildered by the shape of a story, then coming bang up against a truth at the...Forward
This is a brutal story, beautifully told. When the only question you can answer on behalf of a beloved child is “What would be a good death?” The only rule that remains is love, and Wesolowska leaves readers with no doubt that 38 days of love can be a whole life.
To read the entire review go to Library Journal.
When Monica Wesolowska’s newborn child wouldn’t stop crying, he was taken in for observation. Soon Wesolowska and her husband had to make a tough decision about their son’s life. She shares her experiences and insight with David Hyde.
To listen to the interview, go to KUOW.
The San Francisco Chronicle recommends Holding Silvan: A Brief Life by Monica Wesolowska!
While not for the faint of heart, Holding Silvan is a life-affirming story about the power and resilience of the human heart to survive even the most heartrending, unimaginable loss.
To read the entire review, go to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Anneli RufusWhat kind of reactions has the book been getting, and how does it feel to know that people are reading your no-holds-barred account of a personal tragedy in which you were forced to make a life-or-death choice?
Monica WesolowskaI’m not sure how I’m dealing with it. ... I wrote my memoir about Silvan primarily for myself, but as soon as it was written, I wanted other people to read it — even though I was terrified of being read. ... Although a few people have criticized my...Forward
Tonight at 8 PM on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California: MONICA WESOLOWSKA. The personal and ethical challenges of making life and death decisions typically come at the end - for old people, adults - but in the story told by my guest this week, a mother is forced to decide when and how to allow her profoundly damaged newborn to die. With alternately too much to guide her or, finally, too little, a loving and thoughtful woman – importantly, a writer - chooses to embrace fully the experience...Forward
Lena LencekHow do you respond to the reaction of a number of women readers, who find your book to be a “difficult read”?
Monica WesolowskaWhile there are some who say the book sounds too sad, I’m grateful for the far greater number who go ahead and read it and find the book uplifting. Because the truth is that life is exquisite in part because it’s finite. I love dusk for that reason. For many readers, it takes hearing the language of the book to convince them. There is a voice here...Forward
Accomplished short story writer Monica Wesolowska discusses her new memoir, Holding Silvan, about choosing humane death over doomed life for her newborn son.
Zola BooksFor decades you had published only fiction. But after years of trying to capture Silvan in fictional form—as in, briefly, your 2005 short story “Lenny, My Poet, and I”—you ended up writing a beautiful memoir in a mere three months. What was it about the memoir versus the fiction format that ultimately won you over?
Monica Wesolowska reads from her memoir, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life for Guerrilla Reads. To see her performance, go to Guerrilla Reads.
It wasn’t the presence of special guest Erica Jong or the classic East Village garden-apartment location that drew me to a book party last week. It was the book itself, and the author with whom I once shared a young-writerhood.
I met Monica Wesolowska half-a-life ago at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in Northern California, a summer week at a ski resort where both of us were in workshops with established writers. We met at lunch because we were clutching the same blank journal-books,...Forward
What sounds like the most depressing of books isn’t at all, although there is no medical miracle and no happy ending…Somehow, Ms. Wesolowska was able to see something larger in the story of her days with Silvan. What started out as the memoir of one mother and one child became a meditation on life and its endings, and on how modern medicine has changed death — and how it hasn’t. —KJ Dell’Antonia, Motherlode, Adventures in Parenting, New York Times
Monica WesolowskaSpeaking of titles, did I mention that Holding Silvan seems perfect?
Monica WesolowskaNow you’re teasing me. That’s all right. Teasing to me feels like a gesture of faith between two people, a gesture that says, “I know you well enough to tease you about your flaws and still love you.” Choosing the title was just about the most anxiety-provoking period for me in the publication process. We hashed it out for over a month. I had pages of titles. My editor, Rhonda...Forward
In the morning , the phone next to my hospital bed rings. Stepping from the shower, my skin scrubbed of the sweat and blood of yesterday’s triumphant labor, I slip past David to pull on my old robe and head for the phone. I’m not worried. I’m expecting another friend, a relative, more words of congratulation to match my sudden pleasure in my baby – a healthy, full-term boy who waits for me in the nursery – but the woman on the other end of the line is a stranger.
Far from being a depressing book, Holding Silvan is one of those books you read and cry over and put down feeling that the human spirit is really indomitable.—Frances Dinkelspiel.
Frances DinkelspielYou and your husband went on to have two more sons after Silvan’s death. How is Silvan still a part of your family’s life?
Monica Wesolowska Yes, I have two more children. (Can you see me smiling?) David and I have never hidden Silvan from our children. After his death, we installed a bench...Forward
Writer shares story of baby’s short life
Portland’s Hawthorne Press has just published a memoir by Monica Wesolowski, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life.
The memoir opens with the birth to her first child, a healthy-seeming boy who is taken from her arms for “observation” when he won’t stop crying. Soon Wesolowski and her husband get the grim prognosis for Silvan and must make a choice about his life.
The book covers not only the child’s brief life but the evolution of the writer and...Forward
Monica Wesolowska talks about her memoir, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life with Jovelyn Richards on KPFA.
To listen go to KPFA. (Monica is about 18 minutes in.)
Monica Wesolowska has written a deeply moving, affecting memoir…This sensitively drawn portrait of motherhood and marriage explores the meaning of life, survival and letting go in powerful, emotive prose that transcends grief. —Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness
To read the entire review, go to Shelf Awareness.
Creation is mysterious. For years, I worked hard at my craft. I learned about scene and tension and climax. But rarely did a story come to me easily or satisfactorily. I revised my work into ruins. The tiniest fraction of my efforts got published. But still I wrote. Even after Silvan had died, and I’d grieved heavily and gone on to have two more children, when I went back to fiction, I still struggled to write anything that mattered.
And then one day, I was ready. It was time for Silvan’s...Forward
ForewordMemoir can be a tricky genre in terms of quality. Talk about why you believe in it and also about your selection criteria/method.
RhondaI often find myself at parties defending memoir. At a Christmas Eve party, I gave one of my friends Jay Ponteri’s upcoming book, Wedlocked, which is about a married man with a young son who falls in love with his local barista. I published this book firstly because it is well written and because it poses questions regarding monogamy and marriage and...Forward
Monica writes on Uppercase Woman:
My neighbor Sharon once arrived in my kitchen with a book of “comforting faiths.” This was a few weeks after the death of my newborn son Silvan. Sharon had suffered miscarriages herself; but unlike me, Sharon believed in a loving God who had a plan for us. Now she sat at my kitchen table fanning through her book casually, as if it were a catalogue and faith a sweater to be ordered and tried on for size.
Sharon was a great neighbor. From the day my husband...Forward
Holding Silvan grabs you by the heart and won’t let go. It’s not just the subject matter: the author’s brutally introspective log of her passage into a motherhood that pitches her into a vortex of moral decisions. It’s also the tact and generosity with which she tells the life story of a cherished infant boy and the struggles of his parents, extended family, and community of friends, nurses, and physicians, to come to terms with the unthinkable. At issue is the question: how to decide...Forward
Only a writer with Wesolowska’s enormous talents could render her tale with such intelligence and grace, bracing honesty and even humor. In precise, luminous prose she chronicles an unbearable loss that nonetheless was filled with the joy she felt in being her son’s mother.
To read the entire review, go here.
Review from this isn’t about me for Monica Wesolwska’s memoir, Holding Silvan a Brief Life.
In clear and transcendent prose, Wesolowska urges gratitude for life’s gifts even in the direst of circumstances. Wesolowska’s honest, elegant prose places Holding Silvan firmly in the company of Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name and Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. Above all else Holding Silvan is a stunning meditation on love. “All [Silvan has] known in life is love…”
To read the...Forward
If you’re on Goodreads go check out Monica Wesolowska’s book contest for her spring memoir Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, introduction by Erica Jong. Enter to win!
Reader beware: Wesolowska will break your heart beautifully, and she has no intention of fixing it.—B.J. Hollars, The Los Angeles Review