AMPS UP WRITING
The Daily Item / Thursday, August 14, 2014 Page D3
￼￼￼￼￼￼By Robert Stoneback
FORT LEE, N.J. — Joanne Weck wanted to be a writer when she was just a child,listening to her mother recite poetry to her and her nine
siblings. Her mother, Catherine Mertz, only had an eighth-grade education but “she remembered every poem she read as a little girl.”
Weck wanted to impress her, so she began to memorize and write poems on her own, later being named the “class poet” of her eighth grade class.
Weck’s fascination with the written word never left, and continues to this day. She is a published novelist and playwright.
A graduate of Danville High School, where she went by Joan Mertz, Weck graduated from Bloomsburg University with degrees in English and education. She later attended the University of Pittsburgh and received a master’s degree in theater arts.
She taught at schools throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including a poor Pittsburgh district. Weck recalled teaching illiterate teenagers in the impoverished, mostly black neighborhood, with her stu- dents asking why they always had to read about white people. When she put Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun” in front of them, “they would rise to the occasion,” Weck remembered.
She would regularly write plays for her students to perform, also encouraging them to do their own writing.
Weck would sent some of her own work to Playwrights' Theater of New Jersey, which encouraged new writers and had programs for young people. Staged readings and performances were done for several of Weck’s plays, the most successful of which was “Waif,” about a teen- age runaway. “Waif” was also chosen as a semifinalist at the Pocono Playwrights Contest at the Poconos’ Shawnee Theater.
In 1971, Weck tried her hand at novel writing for the first time.
“I sent it out and it was rejected, and I was so disheartened I put it in a box and left it under my bed,” she said. The manuscript was later lost.
After retiring from full-time work in 2001, Weck gave a second shot at novel writing. “Crimson Ice: A Pocono Mountain Mystery,” was published in 2006, originally under the pen name A.J. Alise. Since its initial printing, the publishing house went bankrupt and Weck republished the book under her own name.
The story, about a woman trying to solve the disappearance of her sister during a harsh, Pocono winter gave Weck — who currently lives in Fort Lee, N.J. with her husband Alan — the chance to combine several of her interests, including her theatrical background, interest in horseback riding, and concern over abuse of women. “It all kind of came together,” she said.
She’s currently shopping around three more books to publishers, with hopes of pitching one heavily inspired by Susquehanna Valley life to a new company in Sunbury. That book, “The Summer Cousins,” takes place in a fictional town but it is one that draws heavily on Danville and its surrounding communities. Weck even included a fictionalized version St. Joseph's Church, where she attended school.
She has also published “Fateful Encounters,” a collection of her previously published short stories and essays.
Both “Crimson Ice” and “Fateful Encounters” can be purchased on Amazon in either paperback or as a digital Kindle book.
Weck currently lives in Fort Lee, N.J.
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