Pamela Schoenewaldt reads from her new novel "When We were Strangers"

When We Were Strangers: A NovelPamela Schoenewaldt spoke to a full house at the Laurel Theater, reading from her novel, When We Were Strangers, released just last week by Harper Collins. Already it is garnering positive reviews from such sources as Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist and is moving rapidly up the sales charts on Amazon. A recent review in the Knoxville News Sentinel was particularly glowing.
Pamela Schoenewaldt speaks to the Knoxville Writer’s Guild

Her first novel, it is the story of Irma, a peasant girl in Opi, Italy who is forced by the hard circumstances of her life there, to leave on an improbable quest for a better life in the United States. Set in the later years of the nineteenth century, she follows a path that many are taking and faces many obstacles to achieving the life she desires. It is a story about a girl, but it is also a story about a country, about who and what America is or could become. Her story is, in many ways, your story and mine.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, Laurel Theater, Knoxville, February 2011

In an interview for this blog , Pamela says, “I moved to Knoxville in 2000, having lived in Naples, Italy for ten years. While there, I wrote and published some short stories and a one-act play, but it wasn’t until coming to Knoxville that I realized how powerful a true writers’ community can be.” Beyond the writers one would expect to find associated with a University, she found a great community and support withing the Knoxville Writer’s Guild

A packed house awaited this much anticipated reading by Pamela Schoenewaldt.

She continued, “I joined the Guild’s short fiction group soon after I came and it was there that I wrote the short story which became chapter one of When We Were Strangers. I found readers who could connect with Irma and her journey, who gave thoughtful, detailed critiques, caught errors, raised questions and help consider plot-points.” She expressed her appreciation for their willingness to patiently read and re-read the manuscript and offer sometimes blunt assessments of the work in progress. 

Pamela Schoenewaldt reads from When We Were Strangers

She talked of the inherently supportive nature of the writer’s community in Knoxville as a contrast to the competitiveness she had encountered elsewhere and how help was offered in many ways. She said, “Time after time, when I was discouraged and might have given up, the simple fact of a deadline for the group kept me writing. Other members of the Guild gave practical advice on matters from query letters to copyright law and the workings of publishing enterprises. Monthly speakers were constant witnesses that books can be written by people like me. It’s not easy, but with community, the process is possible.” She urged area writers to join the guild.

Pamela Schoenewaldt signs books at the Laurel Theater, Knoxville

One point she made that was of particular interest to me, for obvious reasons, is that blogs have become the new “book tour.” While she will be traveling to some readings, primarily in the region, she is getting the word out about her book via blogs. Also important are reading groups and book clubs. The book is also a Spring 2011 selection for Barnes and Nobel Discover Great New Writers Program and it is featured as a Book-of-the-Month Club and Doubleday Book Club alternate selection.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, Laurel Theater, Knoxville, February 2011

I’ve read When We Were Strangers several times over, as it has grown from an idea and a prayer to a beautiful work of art receiving very deserved accolades. I very much encourage you to buy it via one of the links provided here or at Barnes and Nobles locally. You will find yourself falling in love with this innocent girl who faces impossible odds, perseveres and rises above all the struggles to claim her small part of the American dream. This is one purchase you will not regret.

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