Susan Kisslinger has been writing for as long as she can recall. There have been songs, (her first at age 3), scripts and books. She’s also performed her works. But living with multiple sclerosis for the past eight years has tempered her involvement.
On March 14, in celebration of Woman’s History Month, Kisslinger will be showing off her singing and songwriting skills. The Portsmouth resident will perform her original works at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Portsmouth at the 9 and 11 a.m. services. A number of the tunes she’ll perform are from her latest publication, "Cool Water From the Well," making it a personal grand slam.
Kisslinger put together her latest book at the prompting of Peter Randall of Peter Randall Publishing, whom she’s worked with in the past. It was Randall who suggested she return to writing. She quickly came back with the idea for a book of her songs.
"He said ‘OK, do that,’" she says. "It was great. I didn’t have to go around with it trying to get it published. It got done right away."
The book, illustrated with a caricature of Kisslinger by Portsmouth’s Bob Nilson, includes the music for more than two dozen songs and a compact disc of the artist tunes.
In addition to being recognized locally for her musical talents Kisslinger, once a theater instructor at the University of New Hampshire, is known for penning a series of plays. In each she featured true stores of people she interviewed, who were living with challenging life situations. ("I would change the names but never the words," she says.)
Among the works is "True Voices," which addresses the lives of gays, lesbians and transsexuals. She also treated the subjects of cancer and aging in her scripts. Another work by Kisslinger, not a part of the challenge series, is "So Many Faces of Love," published by Randall in 1998. This book is a collection of short stories, the reflections of hospice workers, volunteers and families within the system. At the time she wrote these works, the author had not been diagnosed with her illness.
Her current publication is subtitled "Spirit Songs for Building Understanding." It’s meant to inspire people, "and it always does," says Kisslinger.
"It is to the disabled, as well as everybody else," she says. "What I hope to do, what I want is, when people listen to my songs, that they’re inspired to do the best they can do."
Randall says the first time he ever met Kisslinger was at the UU Church, when she played cello for a service. The woman and her efforts to live a normal life are an inspiration.
"She’s pretty determined," he says. "She goes skiing several times a winter and swims at the YW. I think she has the determination to continue to do as many things as it is possible to do."
On March 14, she plans on singing the title song of her latest publication
"Cool Water From the Well," and sharing that determination with others.
Copyright © 2004, Portsmouth Herald