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Shelley Widhalm
sawidhalm@yahoo.com

Memoirs / Novels

CAFÉ NIGHTS (Novel)

Great writers have been alcoholics, and certainly those who want to be novelists drink. At least that is the case in “Cafe Nights,” a 65,000-word account of a 29-year-old waitress who has the potential but not the know-how to make more of her life.

“Cafe Nights” describes the waitress’s disappointment in not finding a job after graduating from college with an English degree. She settles for drinking and waiting tables at a café in a fictional town called Fleeter, Colorado, where she meets an elderly man who also struggles with alcoholism. The two develop an uncanny friendship as he visits the café where she works. He joins Alcoholics Anonymous and as he rises through the 12 steps, she self-destructs, losing her job, her boyfriend and her apartment. The book ends on a note of hope that is achieved through their friendship.

The material comes from Shelley’s personal experience of dating an alcoholic, hearing about an alcoholic grandfather and attending Al-Anon meetings, along with interviewing bartenders and bar goers.


MICHELE’S PEARL (Memoir)

There are many memoirs about the world of learning disabilities told from the parent’s perspective, but Shelley’s 91,000-word memoir, “Michele’s Pearl,” is told from the adult child’s viewpoint. She writes about her experience growing up with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, a learning difficulty in processing the spoken language that causes distortion in how sounds are heard. She explains how having CAPD not only affected her academically, but socially as well.

Michele, Shelley’s birth name and the main character of the memoir, describes the trauma of being “abandoned” by her mother when she dropped her off at kindergarten. Michele cried every day during the first week of school and was unwilling to participate. Her teachers realized something was wrong and after testing her, found she had five areas of learning problems. They placed her in a kindergarten for children with learning difficulties to give her the skills she needed for kindergarten.

Despite the academic help she received, Michele was bullied and an outsider in grade school up through high school. Out of insecurity, she dated selfish men and befriended bossy, advice-giving girls, then women.

Michele tells her story by relating a year of her daily life to her memories of the past, a year when she dated a handsome charmer with commitment phobia, lived with a crazy roommate who brought out her worst side and floundered over a career change, finding out in the end what really matters.


ONE APRIL DAY (In progress)

This work is based on a true story, that of Shelley’s layoff from a metro Washington, D.C., newspaper on April 29, 2008, the day before her birthday.

The main character, Maggie, moves home with her parents after three months of job searching and depleting her savings. In the process of leaving D.C., where she had lived for seven years, she experiences a few losses. She is cut off from her core group of friends because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. She gives up the idea of returning to school after botching the GRE entrance exam a half-dozen times. She finds a low-paying job in her field but realizes she can’t afford to move out.

To top it off, Maggie is homesick, though she is in her hometown in Northern Colorado. She struggles to find her way and make friends, but then one April day …

Note: Shelley is seeking an agent and/or publisher for her novels, memoir and short-story collection.


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