Friday, June 22, 2012

Special Guest: S.B. Lerner

It is a privilege to have as my guest today, S.B. (Susan) Lerner. I met Susan through the online writing organization, Blog Book Tour Cafe. BBT recently published an e-book for Kindle titled The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories.

Susan and I have stories included in the collection along with about a dozen other writers. It has been an interesting undertaking to pull our works of short fiction together into a Collection that offers stories to a wide range of reader interests.

Susan grew up in and around NYC and has worked in law, business, and teaching, but all the while studied writing at night. After publishing her short stories in literary magazines, she assembled them into a collection, titled In the Middle of Almost and Other Stories.

 A daughter of European immigrants, S.B. has read extensively about World War Two and the prewar period, both in fiction and non-fiction. Her first novel, A Suitable Husband, explores the political youth groups in prewar Poland, through the eyes of a young Jewish woman caught between the pressures of her traditional parents and those of her radical political group. It is available in print and the ebook version will soon be published by HEARTS DIARY.

Here's what Susan has to share today:  
Life is a Story

I've been working on a novel for the past few years, but when a call for submissions to The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories went out, it gave me the impetus to return to my first fiction love: short stories.

Inspired by Anais Nin, I'd kept journals since high school. In the days before email I wrote long letters to distant boyfriends (in which we shared greater intimacies than we did in person). But I didn't begin writing short stories until I got a job in Manhattan, a city of writers that offered courses and workshops at top universities, a mere subway ride away.

At the time, I was single and working at a high pressure job as an attorney, finding it all a bit overwhelming and somewhat lonely─ despite the throngs of people I encountered daily. I was dating but not in a steady relationship, and had a great group of girlfriends in the same situation. We would meet for coffee and talk about our dates and the conversations were often more entertaining than the actual dates we dissected in minute detail. But it wasn’t until I began writing stories that I was able to explore the truths underlying those conversations.

I wrote my first story in a fit of inspiration; the teacher loved it, and I was hooked. Not only because I can’t resist a compliment, but because the process of zeroing in on an emotional state and revealing it through a story was liberating. Often I didn’t even know what I was writing about until I finished. Even then, other people would see things in my stories that I hadn’t realized were there. It was all very heady.

I wrote because I loved to write—no dreams of fame or fortune. I was busy with work and my fellow classmates and workshop participants were audience enough for me. It was only when I decided to write a novel and thought I might want to actually get it published someday, that I realized that publishing the short stories would give me some credibility in the writing world. I doubted that my work as an attorney and businessperson would impress any of the literary types. If anything, it would turn them off.

It wasn't until after I was married, settled in the suburbs, and working part-time, that I began work on a novel. Initially I thought it would be like writing a longer version of a short story. It wasn’t until I got to around page 70 that I realized that a novel relies on plot, whereas a short story is an expression of a something more intangible—a feeling or a snapshot of a moment in time. They are very different genres, and though some scenes in my novel have the feeling of a short story, the novel itself evolved into a much more complex, plot-driven beast.

Assembling the stories, and memoir (which came from books I wrote about the lives of my parents, but that’s another story) into a collection and publishing it, was both fun and challenging. It was the impetus to launch a website and blog, which led to the blogging course run by Dani Greer, and then to the Corner Cafe Collection, and ultimately landed me here, on Karen's blog.

It has been fun getting to know her, here in cyberspace. The internet can be overwhelming, suck all your time, and be otherwise problematic. But there is a side to it that I like to think of as its “better angel” in that it gives people the chance to connect and form friendships who may never have otherwise found each other. I hope, through my novel and collection of short stories, it will connect me to you.

Be sure to visit S.B. Lerner at her website for more information about her and her books.


  1. Loved this post, Susan, especially your description of the difference between novels and short stories.

    Hi Karen. Thanks for hosting Susan.

  2. So neat to find out more about you Susan and your path as a writer. I, too, took great heart from a writing instructor who had kind words to say about one of my first short stories, and I credit him with keeping me going through the avalanche of rejection slips that followed. LOL

    I also loved reading about the connections that ultimately brought you to the blog today. I think the World Wide Web is so aptly named. No telling where it is going to take us.

  3. Thanks, Helen and Maryann. I'm enjoying getting to know our group better through our blog tour. I kind of like writing posts, but it's hard to think of topics. Anytime you'd like to be 'hosted' by me, I'm happy to have you!

  4. I'm so glad to have met both of you, Karen and Susan, and all my fellow Corner Cafe authors. It's been wonderful having a thread to follow around the World Wide Web instead of wandering aimlessly.

    See you at the Cafe!

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  5. Susan - It looks like your post hit some common nerve among those who've commented. Like Helen, I appreciated your take on short stories versus novels. Ditto what Maryann and Marian said too. Thank you all for the visit!

  6. Thank you for having me, Karen. Truly, I have enjoyed our exchanges leading up to it, including the three-way discussions with Helen. Someday we'll all have to get together for coffee at the (a) Corner Cafe!

  7. Sounds like a good plan, Susan. What a wonderful world this is. Helen and I way down here in Texas and you way up there in New York, separated only by our SEND buttons.

    Happy trails!

  8. A great explanation and fun seeing another person share about their writing passion!

  9. Thanks Chris - come back for another visit soon.

  10. Great post, you two! I love getting to know the contributors to this collection a bit better. For readers who want to learn more about the BBT Cafe, go here: where we have a waiting list to add hardworking authors who want a team social media effort. Now we'll see if I can get threw that Captcha code, the one best way to NOT get comments ever created by programmers! My advice as a blog book tours teacher: turn it off, at least during the blog book tour.

  11. Threw that Captcha code - that had to be a Freudian slip. LOL. Susan, my mother is from Selesia which is now part of Poland. I've always wanted to research that part of the family tree more.

  12. What an interesting post! I look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you Susan and Karen. So nice to meet fellow authors at The Corner Cafe!!!

    Mary Montague Sikes

  13. Thanks Dani and Monti. I just scratched the surface of Polish history with my research and found it fascinating. Poland was occupied for over a hundred years prior to World War One, when it regained independence, so the interwar years were wildly political, with minorities hoping for equal rights and right-wing groups trying to keep them from power. Marshal Pilsudski was an interesting man, there are several books about him alone.

  14. I am sorry I missed this post until today. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Honored to be part of the group.

  15. Hi Susan. I'm reading A Suitable Husband right now!

    1. Just saw this, Helen. Omigosh!Hope you enjoy it!