'Romance is about hope': Westport woman starts blog to share people's love stories

WESTPORT — The tantalizing emotions and ever-engaging attraction of l’amore—as well as its wondrous way of spanning magic across generations—constitutes the veritable heart of a new project created by one Westport woman.

“What’s New in the Romance Department?” is a multi-media blog that seeks to celebrate and record the many sides of this age-old subject, with writers of all backgrounds, ages, experiences and histories invited to share their unique stories.

“I’m getting a fantastic response,” said Susan Wexler, a longtime resident who came up with the idea just a month ago.

“It’s a happy subject and it makes people feel good,” she said, emphasizing that true stories can be much more identifiable, whatever the age or circumstance. “I think it’s the real stories that affirm for us that love is real … and gives us hope and confidence that it could happen, that if it’s not in someone’s life now it could still happen.”

No matter the outcome for each couple, the blog still strives to be positive.

“Not every story has the happiest ending,” she said. “It’s not all about arriving at the altar, but our goal still is to be heart-warming and inspirational.”

Wexler, a Queens, N.Y. native who has lived in town for more than 40 years, spontaneously came up with the idea in remembering something her mother often said.

“My mother lived to the age of 103 and she was always a romantic, but particularly so in her later years,” she said.

Each time Wexler or other relatives would pay her a visit, she would ask the question: “What’s new in the romance department?”

“I’d give her the latest news and I just watched her transform,” Wexler remembered. “Her spirits just soared on angels’ wings. I was completely sold on the transformative powers of romantic story telling.”

A longtime attendee at The Writers’ Workshop at the Westport Center for Senior Activities, Wexler approached her good friend and fellow attendee of the group, Jacqueline Alvarez, about becoming her co-editor.

“Many of her stories in class were romantic stories,” noted Alvarez, a 21-year Westport resident who grew up on Long Island.

“Writing is very, very therapeutic (and) I think everybody has some sort of a romantic story,” she said, “even if they haven’t shared it.”

She said writing and reading romance-based nonfiction can reawaken something in people.

“It has for me,” Alvarez said.

Wexler noted that everyone is experiencing particularly tough times right now, which she said calls for an opportunity to draw connections and share some real-life emotional experiences.

“This is not a blog for older people reminiscing about their stories,” she said. “Of course we include that, but this is for all generations.”

She said they want members of the LGBTQ community to contribute too.

“I think it’s incredibly thrilling and exciting,” said Jan Bassin, who teaches the workshop that helped inspire the blog.

“I think they’re going to make something really special happen,” she said, “Their goals are to uplift people, provide hope and inspire voices of all generations.”

She said romance “provides a spark” and praised both women for what she described as their own good, kind hearts.

“I think romance is about hope,” Bassin said, “We all love a good love story, and that’s been from the beginning of time.”

Wexler said she’s proud of of the multimedia aspects of the blog, which incorporates video, art, music and general information as it relates to posts and their content.

Wexler’s son, David, is serving in the capacity of webmaster and copywriter. Poppy Livingstone, a Staples High School senior and editor-in-chief of Inklings, has taken on the role of art director and video producer.

“I’d love to expand it and take it nationally, but one step at a time,” Wexler said.

By sharing their stories, she said, people contribute to what can be a transformative experience and reminiscing about their own love story keeps it alive.

“I think love is so integral to our needs and what we’re all searching and hoping for, and embrace if we’re lucky enough to have it in our lives,” Wexler said.

Visit “What’s New in the Romance Department” at www.whatsnewinromance.com.