It's my mother's favorite story of me. I'm 3 years old. Grandma is reading me a book. I ask her to read it again. She obliges, but tries to hurry by skipping a page or two.
No, no, I insist. You missed a page!
"She knows how to read?" Grandma asks, stunned.
My mother laughs, shaking her head. "She knows every word of her favorite books by heart."
Stories and words were always sacred to me. I don't like to skip any part of a good story. I want the whole thing, just the way the writer decided to tell it!
I learned to be a writer by listening to family stories told around the dinner table. Or told in whispers by older cousins during sleepovers.
I learned to read early: My mother let me take as many books as I could hold from the public library. I would act out stories in school drama and summer programs. I learned to find current events for class from stories cut from my father's copies of Newsday. My family loved the movies, either in darkened movie theaters or gathered around the TV.
Writing my own stories started early. A friend and I typed our only edition of the Hamlet Street Newspaper on a toy typewriter. Wrote my first play in Mr. Heuther's class in sixth grade at J. Fred Stokes Elementary. Scribbled my first novel -- a Western, like my favorite TV show Bonanza -- in 9th grade study hall by hand in a spiral bound notebook. My high school days were filled with creative writing, and Masque and Mime drama and music productions. I majored in theater and journalism in college, and was lucky enough to review Broadway shows for the college arts section. In my two decades as a features reporter on three different newspapers, I told other people's stories in my words, covering the arts, education, fashion, community news, music, theater, films, books, food, local history, and interviewing everyday and famous people.
My married life can also be measured in words and stories. My husband, Jim DeFelice and I met in the newspaper business. Soon after, he began to write books, becoming a New York Times Bestselling author. After retiring from the newspaper business, I became his editorial assistant and researcher. I also started a little side business called Debra S. Novel Services, helping other writers edit and revise their fiction and nonfiction. I joined several writers groups, and gave a couple of writing workshops.
In all that time, I kept writing novels -- historical romance, contemporary women's novels -- but none were published until recently. So I came to think of myself as the Late Blooming Author.
My first novel, State of Innocence, a domestic thriller co-authored with Australian writer S.K. Mason, was published in July of 2021 with Melange Press, an online publisher.
This year, American Nightingale, my second novel will be published on November 8, 2022 with Melange Books! It's a romantic historical, set in 1866 New York City and the famed Catskill Mountain House in Ulster County, New York -- a real hotel frequented by wealthy patrons from 1840s to the Gilded Age.
Right now, I'm halfway through the first draft of a screenplay for State of Innocence, and researching a novel set duhjring the French Revolution.
Writing can be a lonely business.
It can also be a gateway to a community of writers.
Working as a professional journalist, I was always in the company of brilliant, talented, and generous colleagues: fellow reporters, editors, and photographers. Everyone cared about producing quality work, and many of my co-workers are still good friends.
Feedback is important for any writer, and several writers groups were really important to my ability to improve my skills and enrich my creativity. Having spent a lot of time in theater, I love having other writers to bounce ideas off of, or ask for help. Two of the writers from two different groups that became my most trusted mentors are memoirist Lorraine Ash (Life Touches Life) and Judy Reene Singer (In the Shadow of Alabama, And All the Phases of the Moon) a multi-published novelist whose humor, humanity, and gorgeous prose come out in every book she writes.
With the pandemic of 2020,in-person connections went away for so many of us writers. Some of my brilliant friends simply switched their in-person workshops to Zoom classes. I did the same for a few of my editing clients. Actually, Zoom revision sessions, one-on-one, work very well for the way I coach.
In fact, last year, I totally immersed myself in the Zoom community as a member of the reading committee to select three best plays for the Centenary Stage's "Women's Playwriting Series," up in Hackettstown. I also joined a wonderful playwriting and screenwriting workshop run by John Pietrowski of the Madison Arts Center in Madison, NJ. (I'm working on a screenplay of my novel State of Innocence.)
But I love the fact that now we can gather and enjoy the energy of being in the same room with other creative people, and feeling the sparks fly as we read to each other from our work, and discuss what can be improved or enriched.
So in 2022, I have been super busy, catching up on seeing many old friends and making new ones at the Women's Playwriting Series readings and productions in Hackettstown, the Italian Heritage play readings in Madison, tree-hugging environmental ceremonies at the Mariondale Center in Ossining (which honored my dear friend Lorraine Ash for her contributions), and a wonderful open mike nights with the gracious Women Who Write club members in North Jersey.
Stay busy -- but keep writing, too!
Writers are always moving along on their journey of Word and Stories,
even when they don't realize it.
I want to connect with writers in new ways through this website.
I am inviting you to join me on the writing journey.
Every Saturday, starting in September, I'll post a new prompt on writing called
It's a way of taking the old advice about "Write What You Know"
and using it in a way that prompts us to create a rich, full story, whether through fiction or memoir.
I also offer Revision Workshops (one-on-one or small groups) for writers who have almost finished or complete manuscripts that need improvement or polishing. These are NOT critique sessions, where participants comment on other writers' stories. Instead, they are Skill Building workshops that teach writers the following skills:
If you're interested, learn more on my Revision Workshop, page.