joanne Weck Author Page

Monday, February 19, 2018


Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.  Aaron Sorkin  

How far should a writer go in "borrowing" from others? When does "BORROWING" veer from inspiration to transgression?

 Rewatching Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's beautifully realized adaptation of Tennessee William's Streetcar Named Desire,  my sense of deja vu was so strong  that  I expected the Stanley character to fall on his knees at any moment and bellow "Stella!" 

In the final moments when the Blanche clone sits alone on a park bench mumbling to herself, I anticipated the arrival of white-coated doctors to whom she would murmur, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."

I had the same uneasy feeling  and sense of confusion when I recently read The Flight of Jemma Hardy by Margot Livesey, aware suddenly that I was rereading Jane Eyre, albeit in a slightly different time period, with a slightly different setting, and different names.

It's a respected practice to find inspiration in another writer's work, to adapt, or update a great story. The account of the great flood in Gilgamesh was retold in the Old Testament as the story of Noah, and the Bible, itself, has been an inexhaustible treasure trove for character and story. In East of Eden, Steinbeck powerfully updates the story of Cain and Abel and many other stories have been reinterpreted, updated, or re-imagined. Movies famously adapt or reinterpret. Clueless cleverly updates Emma, one of Jane Austin's most beloved novels. What I find unpleasant is the distortion of the writer's original work. I'm sorry, but I find Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  a despicable rip-off.

Still I find myself questioning the legitimacy of adaptations that so completely follow the character development, themes, and plot of the original work. When is it homage and when is it outright theft?

You think about it while I get back to my writing--a novel inspired by WAR AND PEACE.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

performance anxiety (repeat)

Is it Writer's Block--- or Performance Anxiety

What do you do when you feel stymied and just can't write? You sit at your computer and stare off into space. You go into the kitchen and pour out another cup of coffee. You open up your ideas notebook, but nothing appeals. Do you just walk away, go outdoors, turn on TV--or strain your brain to force an idea? What techniques work for you?

As a child I wrote poetry, stories, and plays. As a young adult I sent out my first novel to one prospective publisher and had it rejected. I went into a downward spiral of self doubt and anxiety and didn't write again for a long time. 

Anxiety can cripple your writing process. For years I "prepared" to write, jotting down ideas, organizing my desk, reading articles about developing story ideas and getting published--anything except actually writing. How did I break through my years (actual years) of doubt and procrastination?

I was assigned to teach a class in Creative Writing and found that I needed to put myself in the same position as my students. I undertook the same writing assignments I gave them. I encouraged them to share their work and I began sending my own stories to journals and online magazines. I sent my plays to theaters and --surprise! had them produced.
After my first story was accepted for publication it became much easier.
Still, after twelve published short stories, (four first prize winners in contests) one mystery, and various plays produced, I still have these moments of anxiety and self doubt. Meditation helps. Self hypnosis helps.

Friday, February 2, 2018



So it seems appropriate to face this fact, even in fiction. But I'm a mild person who avoids even the most minor conflict in person, who yearns for a world in which armies and bombs and battles are obsolete. 

Yet novels thrive on conflict. Creating characters, especially those whose personality and goals are the very opposite of mine, always presents a challenge. Producing imaginary people who are as memorable as MacBeth or Nurse Ratched, to make them stalk the pages as believable, demands more than imagination. It demands an understanding of the effects of nature and nurture. This is where my education in psychology (the Gestalt Approach) and theater (the Stanislavski Method) become invaluable.

For a self-centered cheater in my novel DOUBLE DECEPTION I employed “the magic if.” How would I feel if I’d been abandoned by my mother at birth, left in the hospital and then adopted by demanding parents who always made me feel I was somehow lacking? If my husband lost interest in me after the birth of our child, and a suave and charming man offered me the reassurance and admiration I needed?

For a brutal criminal I contemplated the psychology of a boy who’d been raised in a series of foster homes, thrown out onto the streets at fourteen and had to make his way on the streets. Offered a "tribe" and a brotherhood of older criminals, wouldn’t it be natural to find satisfaction and success in the gang?

First I consider the forces that combine to create a certain type of individual. Then I search for quirks of personality, physical attributes, manners and morals that contribute to their individuality.I meditate and search my own soul for the emotions I feel and the emotions I suppress and deploy them as appropriate for my characters.

Writing brings into play all of the accumulated knowledge and experiences of one’s life, the ability to walk in another’s shoes, the excitement and pleasure of playing many different roles. In my real life I’m a staid, modest, law abiding, and considerate human being. But on the page I can live an adventure every day as I become a hardened killer, a wily detective, or a femme fatal.

Crimson Ice, Double Deception, Fateful Encounters available on Amazon (see link)

Thursday, February 1, 2018


"All love is sweet, given or returned. Common as light is love, and its familiar voice wearies not ever."– Percy Bysshe Shelley

All love? What about bad love? With Valentine's Day, celebrating "LOVE," I'm reflection on how "bad love" figures into good writing.

Many of my novels, short stories, and plays are built around toxic relationships--perhaps because of personal experiences (as well as observation of those of friends and relatives.) I don't mean difficult relationships--I mean truly toxic relationships--where a partner is abusive, addicted, even criminal.

This situation, while tragic in real life, supplies the writer part of my brain with intimate knowledge of the tensions, the suspense, and the dangers of adapting to and/or escaping from such situations. The sensitive person suffers for loss of love, for loss of illusions, and yes even for the loss of truly bad love.

This paradox has been the heart of my mysteries--a woman who somehow has been caught up in a marriage or relationship that has turned deadly--how will she use ingenuity, courage, and physical strength to escape and build a new life? Will she survive (sometimes she doesn't) thrive, find good love? (You can take a journey of suspense as bad love unravels in Crimson Ice and Double Deception.)


Sunday, January 28, 2018


                         Kickstarting Inspiration and Defining Goals



Inspirational Speaker fires up SISTERS IN CRIME 

Some days two cups of coffee won't wake my Writing Genie. Some evenings a glass of wine won't mellow her out. Some days I feel like the tank is empty and the engine won't turn over. My inner critic whispers, "Take a day off. You've run out of fuel."

I sit at my computer, nonetheless, perhaps rereading previous chapters, perhaps writing gibberish, until my imagination stirs and new ideas blossom. But sometimes a writer needs more--a dynamic reminder of what the writing life is all about and why we do it. A chance to be inspired by someone who reminds you of why you started down this journey in the first place, and the joys that come with creation, even if it's only for yourself.

Just look at the face, that smile--you can tell she's a human dynamo. She offered insights, practical advice, solicited questions, and for two hours, that electric energy never flagged. It sent sparks out to the audience, all writers who were eager to be inspired. I could feel the current of creativity spark around the room. I have no doubt that each of us went home with renewed excitement and energy and sat down at our computers with fresh resolve. (I, for one, wrote the entire first draft of a new one-act play!)

Sunday, January 21, 2018



It's important to have someone in your life who always has your back. Who believes in your talent. Who encourages you when you become discouraged. Who celebrates with you when you succeed. I'm lucky to have a friend like this--someone I've known since college days, when we were both students at the University of Pittsburgh.I've always admired her self-confidence as well as her talent. She's a brilliant artist (and teacher.)  She shares her knowledge generously. She volunteers for those in need. She promotes her fellow artists and her friends.
Though distance separates us, we make the effort to spend at least one week a year together, usually on a cruise to somewhere exotic. We catch up on our lives, she paints, I write. She can dash off a brilliant water color in thirty minutes, and then give it away to someone who admires it. I watch her work with awe.

She's the friend I call when I have news, good or bad. I'm the friend she calls when she has news. We share one another's tragedies and successes. Every writer, indeed, every human, needs a friend like this in her corner.

Margaret Carson - Artwork for Sale - HOUSTON, TX - United States › Artists › Margaret Carson › Images

Artwork for sale by Margaret CarsonMargaret Carson is a professional artist well known for her artful landscapes and seascapes, with a studio in Houston Texas. She is trained at Carnegie Art Institute of Pittsburgh and at the Art League of Houston. She has a bachelor of arts...

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Writing scenes that portray or even suggest a sexual encounter can be difficult.  Just show? Just tell?  Show and tell?

      My characters are driven by many forces.  I believe that makes for a story that people want to read. Sexual attraction is a vital part of the life of any well-rounded character. A prime motivator that drives mystery and suspense. Lust. Jealousy. Suspicion. Theft.  Manipulation. Betrayal. Greed. Murder. Some of the qualities that contribute to a page-turner.

       I don't write erotica or porn. I don't write "romances." I try to write realistically, to present sex as a part of normal life but also as one of the natural, human drives that leads to irrational behavior, to situations that create or increase the conflicts for a novel that makes a reader ask "What happens next?"

        I've been faulted for creating characters that aren't "likable" or like Hilary, "likable enough." It is my belief that certain characters, and not just villains, are more interesting if they have minor (and sometimes not so minor) flaws.

         The characters in my latest novel, RIMA AND CHLOE, the major characters are guilty of various sins and offenses--adultery, selfishness, greed, rage, betrayal.  A supporting character is revealed as a murderer. But until the denouement, he appears more sympathetically than some of the major characters.

         In Rima and Chloe the adulterous love affair jumpstarts and drives the plot. Lovers betray spouses and sometimes deceive one another. But, I do believe, it is in the cause of a deeper understanding of human nature, and the ultimate redemption of the characters.