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Your LifeStory Episode 9

Claudia Riess

An award-winning author of seven novels, four of which form her art house mystery series published by Level Best Books.

"This is wonderful, Marcia."

Karen C.

"Thanks for so many nice comments. What great publicity for my books."

Elizabeth C.

"Wow, Thanks Marcia, Inspires me."

Gary S.

Blog Host, Marcia Rosen

Author of “My Gangster Father and Me,” will be published in 2024. Also, author of 11 books including My Memoir Workbook, has presented numerous Memoir Writing Programs and Encouraging the Writer Within You Presentations for over 16 years.

This Blog* and My Memoir Workbook is meant to encourage, inspire and motivate you to write your unique story.

Don’t keep your memories hidden or secret any longer

My Newest Book, "Murder at the Zoo" is now available

A LifeStory Memory

Submit yours with your name and email to

September 1, 2023


By Claudia Riess

In 2009 my husband was windsurfing off the coast of Maui; flexing his well-toned muscles as he perfected his jibes; falling off the board and climbing back on, conquering the force of nature to be one with it. Meanwhile, his landlubbing wife, safely planted in the sand, was snapping photos of her 72-year-old daredevil.

In 2010 this vigorous specimen of manhood was diagnosed with genetically acquired primary biliary cirrhosis. For the next seven years he bravely fought this new and insidious force of nature, jibing and falling and climbing back up, but little by little, cruel insult by insult, the relentless disease robbed him of strength. On June 14, 2017, it claimed whatever fragments of pain-free life remained.

In his final years, Bob became my calling. I put aside my writing; thought of it as a selfish pastime. I had recently started an art suspense novel, Stolen Light, and was getting to know the protagonists, discovering their irrepressible attraction for each other. By investing myself in their blossoming intimacy while my own was in its wintry decline, I felt unfaithful, somehow; wondered, guiltily, if I was coveting the lives of the very characters I had created.

But, then, at Bob’s insistence, I went back to writing the novel, discovering that the intensified bond with him deepened my connection with my fictional characters, and conversely, that my empathy with my characters—youthful, energetic, erotic—energized my connection with him.

We began reading aloud to each other—Martin Cruz Smith (“Red Square”), David Mitchell (“The Bone Clocks”), even my work in progress. (I had never shared my rough drafts with him, afraid of a negative reception and corresponding self-doubt, but now that we were beyond all petty vanities—I was pulling up this proud man's Depends, for god's sake!—I threw caution to the wind.) The sound of our voices was comforting, and the mutual awareness of our bodies reclining side by side was reminiscent of our more vigorous connecting. It was then I fully understood the power of the written word to elevate the spirit and revitalize a marriage mired in the business of warding off death.

Now that over a year has passed since Bob died, I’m sometimes asked, “Are you dating again?” The question (to which my answer is “no”) seems a lot like, “It’s been six weeks since the cast came off, aren’t you back out on the football field?” It’s more enlightening, I think, to learn if a widow’s passion for life has returned; if she’s enjoying music again; if she’s moved by the sight of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” (To which my answer is yes.)

Postscript, 2023. Stolen Light became Book 1 in my art history mystery series published by Level Best Books. Book 5 is in the works.

For more information about the author and her work, visit Her books can be purchased through and

Writing Your LifeStory Hints, Tips, and Advice


Try some of the following:

• Pick three people you know and write a brief paragraph about each of them.

• Select five of your favorite words and write a paragraph with each of them in it.

• If you could talk to someone in your life when you were a teenager what would you say.

• Write about your hobby, tell your readers why you like it so much…or not.

• Look around your favorite coffee shop or café, write about the people and what they are doing.

• Write a letter to your favorite writer. Talk to them with passion you feel about them.

• Write a letter to anyone you wish you told you love them, your angry with them, etc.

• Write about something you might be grieving about…any loss deserves to be grieved.

• Write something funny and keep at it for 15 minutes.

• Write about what you wish you had or had not done

Following is part of my LifeStory:

My Gangster Father and Me (Excerpt)


My Grandparents, my mother’s father and mother once risked everything. In their youth, they crossed an ocean from Lithuania to the promised land of America with few possessions. Like so many others who dared this voyage, they left family and friends behind, dreaming of what might be possible. Rebecca and Harry Zimmerman met on a ship headed for hope and by the time it reached dry land they had been married by the ship’s captain. Perhaps being married lessened the terror they may have felt coming alone to a land of strangers.

As they went through Ellis Island, their name had been translated to Silverman by one of the people processing immigrants, who didn’t understand them, and then they made their way to a city that didn’t know them. They walked those streets on the lower east side of New York leaving haunting memories of immigrants who dared, who struggled, who took big risks. I have walked those same streets, more than once, and when I closed my eyes, I could feel their daring presence. How frightening it must have been for them. Where would they live, raise a family, learn the language and earn a living? Where indeed? Where would one even begin? But begin they did, ultimately raising five children, owning a tailor shop, and settling in Buffalo where they found a home, thanks to some relatives who dared before them.

Maybe I inherited some of their daring. But first I had to learn to ignore the social norms and societies voices about women. I grew up in a time when women were expected to behave a certain way and have a certain life. I wanted a car, and my dad thought a girl didn’t need her own car. I wanted to go away to college and my parents refused, saying that a girl didn’t need an expensive education. I wanted to be something more than what was expected of girls of my generation and while I ultimately did succeed in doing that, it was not encouraged or embraced by my parents until they saw my success.

I know, they were coming from their own history. Still the denials because of my being a girl sting. My dear mom once said to me, “We didn’t know you were so smart. You could have really been somebody.” Huh?

My father’s way of life had won its place within me.

For more stories about me and my gangster father, check out the book The Gourmet Gangster.

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