Puma Press

Former PVCC student wins Writers' Digests' 20th annual Self-Published Book Award


As the final 2013 semester at Paradise Valley Community College comes to an end and I am handed my last writing assignment, I am filled with a sense of pride knowing that my education at PVCC will take me to the places that I want to go and help me to reach the goals that I have set in place.

The assignment is in the form of an email and as my eyes catch the disturbing word ‘Holocaust,’ I immediately think that the story isn’t for me. I like to write about success, dreams, and things that are motivating. As I continued to read the email, I am pulled in. I can see a story within the story and the story is about a woman who has accomplished a profound amount of success and she just so happens to be a PVCC graduate .

Linda Pressman attended Paradise Valley Community College as a returning student in 2001 when she took her first creative writing class with current PVCC educator, Dr. Lois Roma-Deeley.

After graduating from PVCC, Pressmen went onto Northern Arizona University where she earned her master’s degree in English. With a solid education in place, Pressman continued working as a writer and ultimately published, “Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie.”

Pressman’s book is about her wacky and heartbreaking life growing up in Skokie, Illinois, an idyllic suburb in Northern Chicago where she lived in a modest home and was the sixth of seven girls. Life for Pressman was difficult at times. Living with parents who had survived the Holocaust, she was constantly reminded of what life was like for her parents and the people that did not survive.

Pressman remembers growing up hearing her mother’s request that one of her daughter’s tell her story. “It would be impossible for me to explain how much she talked about the fact that one of us needed to write her story. This went on, literally, my whole life until I handed her my book,” says Pressman.

Pressman was able to accomplish her incredible goal of writing the book and she managed to have her memoir placed in the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Yad Vashem in Jerusalem where her story is sealed in their permanent collections forever. Pressman says, “Handing my mother the book was really a great moment in my life . I can’t express enough how much my sisters and I did not want to have any part of this story. We avoided the Holocaust as much as possible.”

Then she came to a startling conclusion: “ It wasn’t only my mother’s Holocaust story or history, it was mine and I had to stop avoiding it.” And it’s a good thing that she did because her memoir also won her the Grand Prize in the Writer’s Digest’s 20th annual Self-Published Book Awards.

So, does Pressman have any more Grand Prize winning stories brewing inside of her?

“I hope so!” she says. “One time in my first class with Lois, I wrote a piece called ‘Poker Party,’ and I got very stuck on it. I apparently thought it was my magnum opus and kept adding onto the beginning and the end until it was unwieldy and a little crazy. One day, I was chasing Lois out of the classroom, agonizing over where I should submit it, when she turned to me and said, ‘Linda! You have more than Poker Party in you !’ I remember those words all the time, and know that I have more than ‘Looking Up’ in me. I’m working on its sequel right now.”

Pressman says she has always had “a writer’s brain .” She remembers events in scenes, what people said, wore ¬†and what rooms looked like, even the details of whole days. “It’s always been like that , ” she says.

Pressman says Roma-Deeley ’s words continue to guide her: “My very favorite things about Lois are that she tells the truth and is never afraid to let her love for the written word show . All the things that she taught me about writing play over and over in my head all the time when I’m writing so that I’m always in class with Lois .”

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