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Pelham Emerging Writers Series

The special talk will include Westchester's own Vicki Addesso.

The Pelham Art Center will host accomplished authors Vicki Addesso from Eastchester, Susan Hodara, Joan Potter and Lori Toppel who will discuss their new book, "Still Here Thinking About You: A Second Chance with Our Mothers."

The talk will take place on April 7 from 1-3 p.m. Here are the details from the ladies' PR company.

The faint scent of perfume after a kiss … the bitter sting of a slap in the face … a younger brother and sister given away for adoption … unspoken words and hidden secrets – these are among the vivid memories that Eastchester resident and her three fellow authors capture when writing about their mothers in a new book, Still Here Thinking of You: A Second Chance with Our Mothers, to be published on March 1, 2013, by Big Table Publishing.

Reflecting on their formative years and beyond, writers Addesso, Lori Toppel, Susan Hodara, and Joan Potter grapple with the circumstances that shaped their mothers’ lives, thus deepening their understanding of their relationships with their mothers and the love they shared.  

The authors, who live in suburban New York, wrote and taught memoir but hadn't explored their own memories of their mothers. In 2006 they formed a weekly writing group, and it was there that, to their surprise, these memories became their focus. They found that not only did their understanding of one another deepen, but also their perceptions of their mothers were transformed. The resulting book is a brilliant examination of the true nature of mother-daughter relationships as told through four unique narratives. 

The authors will read excerpts from their book at the Mamaroneck Public Library on Sunday, March 17 at 2 pm.

Addesso and the three other authors come from very different backgrounds. Still Thinking of You first reveals the individual circumstances that brought these women together, and then presents each of their stories of their mothers. 

Addesso, who joined the writing group shortly after she had breast cancer surgery and treatment, had taken several of Potter's memoir classes in the late 1990s. Addesso had written about her mother, a loving woman who was always lonely despite raising four children and taking care of her in-laws in the small home they shared in Eastchester, New York. However, Addesso felt her writing wasn't focused enough to paint a clear picture of her mother's life and the relationship the two shared. "The stories I wrote were scattered; they wandered through time and place," Addesso recalls. "It wasn't until years later, in our small writers group, that I found my way back to her." 

Hodara, the only writer whose mother is still alive, had spent six years in Potter's memoir class. There, she frequently wrote about her father, a strong-willed man who often berated her and her forbearing mother. Hodara grew up in an observant Jewish home in a middle-class suburb of Boston.  It wasn't until she turned her attention to her mother in the writing group that Hodara was able to regard her as more than just a passive figure. "For the first time in my life I caught a glimpse of who my mother really was," she says. "Now I recognize this quiet acceptance, this tolerance without judging ... was one of her redeeming strengths."  Toppel, who enjoyed a privileged childhood growing up in Puerto Rico and New York City, is the only author in the group whose parents were divorced. Once an affectionate and vibrant woman, Toppel's mother turned bitter after her marriage fell apart, causing terrible strains between mother and daughter. Toppel says that by writing down her mother's story, she felt she could relive early memories of her mother during happy carefree times, like when she, her sister and her mother sat at a pianola singing “Que Sera, Sera” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” “The point was to recall how she had once been, and not just how she ended up,” Toppel says. 

Over the years, Potter, a writing teacher, had helped others record their memories, but had largely neglected her own. Twelve years after her mother died, she arrived at the writing group with a folder of stories she had written about her mother, and a 20-year-old cassette tape in which her mother spoke frankly about her early experiences growing up in Tupper Lake, a remote logging town in the Adirondacks. Listening to the tape, Potter learned for the first time about some of her mother’s history, such as the pain she suffered at eight years of age when her own mother died and her family was separated, and, later, her father’s suicide. In looking back, Potter says, "I wonder: what if I hadn't spent those years writing and rewriting my memories of my mother? Would she still be as vivid a presence in my life? Or would she have faded away?" 

Still Here Thinking of You concludes with a section that reflects on how sharing their memories affected each of the writers. According to Addesso, "Even after your mother passes away, your relationship isn't over, it's always living. And memories are not stagnant -- the way you look at the past, along with your emotions and interpretations, changes over the years." The book ultimately inspires women to reexamine the relationships they have or had with their mothers – and those they have with their daughters – and view them in a different and more accepting light.  

Still Here Thinking of You: A Second Chance with Our Mothers (Big Table Publishing; March 1, 2013; $15 paperback, $7.99 e-book; 978-0-9849567-7-7; 240 pages with black-and-white photos throughout) is available at BigTablePublishing.comAmazon.com, and on the authors' Web site atStillHereThinkingofYou.com### 

Vicki Addesso began writing memoir in 1998 and is working on a collection of short stories. Her work has been published by Damselfly Press.

Susan Hodara is a journalist, memoirist, and teacher. Her short memoirs have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies; one was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her articles are published in theNew York Times, Communication Arts, and other publications. She has taught memoir writing since 2003.

Joan Potter is a writer and teacher whose work has been published in magazines, newspapers, literary journals, and anthologies. Her most recent book is African American Firsts: Famous, Little-Known and Unsung Triumphs of Blacks in America (Kensington, 2009).

Lori Toppel’s novel, Three Children (Summit Books, 1992), was nominated for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Her stories and essays have appeared in such journals as Antioch Review andDel Sol Review. 

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