joanne Weck Author Page

Friday, August 15, 2014


The Daily Item 08/14/2014


           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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Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Favorite Review for FATEFUL ENCOUNTERS, Collected Stories & Plays

5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the Drama of these Stories and Plays, August 7, 2014
By H. Ackerman (NE PA)
This review is from: Fateful Encounters: Collected Stories & Plays (Paperback)
Joanne Weck's collection is well-named, for though the book contains eleven stories and three plays, most of the pieces have dramatic elements and turn on incidents which determine lives. If you enjoy the gesture, irony, and crisis of plays, you will find it easy to think of these characters and events as moving before you on the stage.

Most of the pieces focus on young women at critical moments in their lives. "Autumn Wedding" closes with a gesture: a girl forced into marriage moves her hand across her womb, as she might do at curtain, and the narrator like a stage manager rings it down with the last sentence, "She practiced smiling." "Hitchhiker" places a new bride in conflict with her husband; "A Bracelet of Glass Beads" finds a girl thrilled to start school until she learns she is the target of prejudice; "The Lost Sister" opens with nine-year-old Irene overhearing, in stage fashion, that her youngest sister will go to live with wealthier relatives and be raised as their daughter, perhaps to become a stranger.

Other women face their own problems. Rachel, a young mother, sees her bridal dreams fade and endures the brutality of a husband who cannot be coaxed away from alcohol. In one of the stories told in first person, "The Killer's Kid," a coed named Lesia tries to escape a tragic family history, but finds herself in a web of suspicion and paranoia when forced to share her dorm room with a new student whom she takes for a spy.

It must be noted that while these pieces present some male characters in a sympathetic light, very often they are the heavies, whether the boys who think nothing of a girl's virtue, or the father implicated in a murder, or the suspicious, sarcastic husband. Sometimes his failure is that he "tries to change [the woman] into someone else." It is the female characters, for the most part, who struggle, endure, and attempt to solve problems.

Besides the drama of the stories, readers will find three plays written as such. Waif, by far the longest piece in the collection, is a play in six scenes. Its conflicts begin when Suzanne, a teacher, becomes entangled in the family problems and personal issues of one of her students. Cassandra has run away from a father who may be abusing her and an adoptive mother who seems unable to deal with her. The play develops its impact, however, from the gradual identification of Suzanne, the mature, sympathetic teacher, with her rebellious student. In the end her caring for the girl pits her against the adults, raises ghosts of her own past, and threatens her career.

The three plays in Fateful Encounters have all been staged, and many of the short stories, if not all, could easily be so transformed. They depend not so much on description, mood, or nuance, as on conflict which alters lives. Enjoy the drama.

Harold Ackerman, Ph.D.