Jennifer Sara Widelitz graduated with a BFA in Visual Effects from the Savannah College of Art and Design and worked as a compositor, creating special effects for film and television. She is an artist with a deep-rooted passion for storytelling in a variety of mediums: film, photography, writing, painting, poetry, etc. She likes to view the world as a grand storybook and can’t wait to see what adventures the next chapter brings. Battle Cry is her first poetry collection, although her poetry and photography have appeared in several literary publications. Much of her poetry is based on her personal experience with autoimmunity and chronic invisible illness, writing for the warriors fighting unseen battles and the survivors of the human condition. She is a dog lover and a cat mommy and is rarely seen without a cup of tea or a good book.
To find out more, visit: https://jenniferwidelitz.com/
Follow her on Instagram (@jswpoetry or @jennifersarawidelitz), Twitter (@jswidelitz), or Facebook (@jennifersarawidelitzauthor).
You can buy Battle Cry here.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
When I began writing Battle Cry, I didn’t know it was going to be a book. As it became clear I had a collection on my hands, I started brainstorming titles, but I didn’t have to search for long. After reading through the first edit, a phrase stuck out at me like a neon sign at midnight: battle cry. My book is based on my experience with chronic illness and advocates for other warriors battling autoimmunity. For me, for the reader, for all those who have experienced pain and struggle and strife, my book is a battle cry. When it came to my book’s title, Battle Cry was perfect. You don’t call a cat a dog. And you don’t call a “Battle Cry” a whisper. A cat is a cat. Battle Cry is a battle cry. It was as simple as that.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
If my dreams were tangible things I could hold in my hands, I imagine they would be composed of paper and ink and feel like the velvety soft cover of my book.
So, to answer your question: a dream. When I first held my book in my hands, it felt like holding a dream.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I wrote my first story to save a life.
Shortly after I turned seven, my dog passed away. By my next birthday, I developed enough scar tissue to open my heart to another puppy in need of a home: Sweetie. But with newfound love came the underlying fear it would not last. One day, I found a solution: my teacher explained how many people in our history books sought immortality through the written word, so I set out on a quest like the conquistadors and searched for a Fountain of Youth in pencil and paper. I thought if these people could live forever in words, then so could Sweetie. And thus, “The Many Adventures of Sweetie” was born.
At age seven, I discovered my passion when I wrote to save Sweetie’s life. Then, almost a decade later, I picked up a pen again to save mine.
At sixteen, I fell ill and never recovered. Doctors held no answers, and I would not receive an official diagnosis for my autoimmune condition for two years. As experts stopped considering cures and started discussing symptom management, I desperately sought a way to cope with a life I never anticipated. I opened books and journals, falling into the leather-bound arms of familiar friends. When my world was reduced to my bedroom and medical offices, my pen became my passport, and time spent with an IV threaded through my veins became time I used to travel anywhere I could imagine.
Writing has become a part of my makeup, just as much as blood and bone.
While I enjoy creating suspenseful and otherworldly tales which offer readers an entertaining escape, I also aspire to craft works which confront the issue of stigmatized illness. At the heart of any writing beats truth. Stories reveal different perspectives and offer connections where there may have been none. As a writer who has experienced the power of stories at every pivotal stage in my life, I wish to make a difference, using a blank page as a bridge.
Whether it is fiction or poetry, there are many influential writers and storytellers that come to mind: Edgar Allan Poe, Neil Gaiman, Nikita Gill, Amanda Gorman, Najwa Zebian, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Billy Collins, Margaret Atwood, and Guillermo Del Toro (just to name a few).
Additionally, though I watched it after I completed my collection, I found Jennifer Brea’s documentary film Unrest to be truly inspirational. It showed me firsthand how sharing your personal story can help others along their journeys, and it helped give me the courage to publish Battle Cry. What Unrest did for me, I hope Battle Cry can do for others.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I am a storyteller and artist who works in a variety of mediums: poetry, fiction, painting, photography, film, etc. I graduated summa cum laude from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Visual Effects and minors in Technical Direction and Art History, and subsequently worked as a compositor, creating special effects for film and television. Some of my credits include Zombieland: Double Tap (major motion picture), Let it Snow (Netflix film), Extraction (Netflix film), Umbrella Academy (Netflix series), Charmed (CW series), Siren (CW series), and Altered Carbon (Netflix series). I have also taught digital art and animation to high schoolers as well as traditional art for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Additionally, I’m a proud member of the Mystery Writers of America and serve on the board of the Florida Chapter.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Unlike my fiction and other poetry publications, Battle Cry shares some of my most painful experiences. I am a private person and initially intended for these poems to be for my eyes only. But as a collection started forming, I discovered this book was meant for an audience and my experiences belonged to others, too. Therefore, the purpose for publishing such a personal collection as Battle Cry rested solely with the readers. Hearing from readers that my book resonated with them, they found validation and comfort in my words, and ultimately felt less alone in the presence of these pages has been the most rewarding and meaningful part of publishing Battle Cry—for my book is serving its intended purpose. To know that my book has made a difference in just one person’s life has made it all worthwhile. To hear that it has resonated with many is entirely humbling and gratifying—truly invaluable.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
I would have to divide the songs on the soundtrack by the sections in my book, as each has a distinct voice. But I imagine it would look a little like this…
Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
A Million Years Ago – Adele
Coming Undone – Korn
Black – Pearl Jam
INTERLUDE: NATURE’S ELIXIR
Vienna – Billy Joel
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Dancing in the Moonlight – King Harvest
Popular Monster – Falling in Reverse
I Am Machine – Three Days Grace
The Light – Disturbed
You’ve Made It This Far – Asking Alexandria
I Am the Fire – Halestorm
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
This is a great question! I have been asked this before, and my answer remains constant:
When readers close the book for the final time, I hope they have a different perspective from when they initially flipped to the first page. I hope this poetry collection broadens awareness of chronic illness and helps increase the ability to empathize, knowing that others may be suffering in a way they may not realize. At the very least, I hope this collection is a blanket of comfort for the warriors in need of one, serving as a reminder that the battles are worth fighting and comrades can be found if one is willing to look. Everyone is suffering in their own way, and I want them to know that they are not alone. As difficult as it may be to admit, none of us would be who we are today without our struggles and adversities. Pain, struggle, and strife—no matter the cause—are all a part of the human experience and should be embraced as necessary steps on the journey of one’s life. After all, storms shape pebbles just as much as the steady stream.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
Other than publishing Battle Cry through Atmosphere Press, I’ve had success in finding my work some wonderful homes over the past couple of years: my poetry has been published in Open Minds Quarterly, Stonecrop Magazine, The Pointed Circle, and The Gateway Review, and my photography has been featured in Kelp Journal, Camas Magazine, and Months To Years. I’m also the illustrator of A Heavenly World (Newman Springs Publishing, 2022), a heartwarming picture book that helps children of all ages with the loss of their beloved fur-babies (aka pets).
I’m always working on something, and I have a few new projects in the works that I’m excited about. However, I’m still in the “closed door” phase of writing and not ready to divulge the details just yet…
But in other news, I am thrilled to announce that I will be pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing at the prestigious University of Glasgow!
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
Working with Atmosphere Press has been a fantastic experience. Every department has been easy to communicate with and I received responses in a timely manner. And though my book went through their professional editorial process, I never felt like any decision was out of my hands. No matter your experience level, if you have a story to share, I highly recommend working with the Atmosphere team!
You can buy Battle Cry here.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.