Friday, December 6, 2013

Are words as tasty as cookies?

I haven't posted since August and here it is December, with Chanukah just past and Christmas and New Year's on the way.  How could it be 2014 when I haven't gotten used to writing 2013 on checks or correspondence?  To be perfectly honest the last date I really paid attention to was the coming of the new millennium, year 2000.

But now with the holidays, a friend's party is coming up and each guest was request to make a little something homemade for each of the other guests.  Anyone who knows me even superficially knows I can cook but not bake and even my cooking is not the kind that gets gifted around town.  Some of the other participants are great chefs, bakers, artists, bon vivants, but hey, I thought, I'm a writer.  Why not give the gift of words?  What could be more personal or creative, albeit a little schmaltzy, but who cares?  It's the holidays when sentiment should reign supreme.  I never said I was Plato, Shakespeare or even Dear Abby, but I can and did put together 12 different thoughts, most of which occurred to me at three o'clock one morning.  Since these are meant for others, I won't reveal the contents.  But if you're thinking of what to do, with a personal touch, you, too, might want to send a few words to your friends and neighbors. (Just to make it more palatable I'm enclosing a little snack pack of homemade spiced nuts to go with the words.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I've just signed up to participate in a book festival sponsored by the Friends of the Duarte Library to sell my novels, SOWN IN TEARS and FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN (It's October 5, 10am-4pm, Duarte is just past Pasadena, if you're in California). I've done book reading/signings at libraries before for both books, but this time my participation entails a fee.  Which is fine by me.  Libraries have been a major influence since childhood. I can't imagine a life without them even though I'm often grateful to bookstores and Amazon when I purchase new books.

Some of my favorite childhood memories include wandering off to the local library with my cousin Judy, back in Philadelphia.  She was almost two years older, but we were very close growing up.  A movie or the library was our usual destination whenever I visited.  In those days two kids could go off for the whole day without an Amber Alert going off.  Sometimes we went to the Saturday matinee at the movies which began at 11am and at 8pm, we would see my uncle, Judy's father, striding down the aisle determined to find two wayward little girls.  We did the same thing on our trips to the local library. We never had much sense of time. First we had to kick through all the piles of leaves that had gathered outside. That was especially fun in autumn.  Then we'd enter, overwhelmed by all the books, imagine how long it would take us to read every one, mainly in the fiction section.  Of course we were still in elementary school, so we were restricted to children's books, but despite our ages, we were convinced that we'd soon be old enough to be issued an adult card.

It's a long time since, but I'm still trying to get through the shelves, although time and other projects have slowed my progress.  I don't have my childhood conspirator either, since Judy passed away, so my library trips have all been solo for a long time.  But I'm happy to contribute to any library I can, in her honor.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Memoir Shouldn't Be Just Reportage On Your Life

This, of course, is just my opinion, and not having tried a memoir of my own, I know it's all much harder than it looks.  But having read, or tried to read a few recently, I do know what I'm hoping to find in someone else's memoir.

A good friend, Janice Van Horne's book, "A Complicated Marriage," relates her life and unique (by other people's ideas) marriage to art critic, Clement Greenberg.  You learn who she is, understand the people and some very well-known artists who come into her life.  A reflective look at a woman's search for her own life-path against a background of art and theater.  I'm reading Edna O'Brian's memoir, "Country Girl," which she describes with great lyricism and Irish wit. She is not only telling the facts but she takes you inside them,so you know her and the life around her better.

By contrast, I've recently tried to read Julia Child's "My Year in France," and Salmon Rushdi's "Joseph Anton."  Who am I to complain about Salmon Rushdie?  But I couldn't get past the first 50 pages, telling me the minute details of his schooling.  The reason I picked it up was to learn how he survived the devastating years of living under a fatwa, but I was supposed to care about his school lessons first.  As for Julia, I know what a wonderful life she had, but somehow the way it was described just drained the joy out of it for me. It became more of "and then I cooked...."

I just shared a book reading with two other local Los Angeles authors.  One, who was 89, wrote a memoir of a life lived in amazing places, but the minute details she felt she had to include (at least in her reading) left me exhausted and bored.

Anybody out there have any other thoughts?  After all, maybe I just expect too much of other people's lives.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


The protagonists of my two novels (FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN and SOWN IN TEARS) have been young Jewish females, at different historical times, but both faced with problems of independence and changes in their lives.  With the controversy kicked up by the book, "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg, everyone is re-thinking what's important to women, as if this is a new question.  Women have been thinking about this for centuries, never coming up with a formula for all women.  Why should there be one answer anyway.  The only thing that's important is having the choice to pursue the path that suits you best.  Careers, marriage, children, no children, or a combination of all those should be available to everyone, regardless of gender.  It's that lack of choice that holds us women back.  How do you pursue a career if you have no help with child care?  How do keep up with your marriage if you don't have flexibility with work hours?   My heroines struggle with their problems and conflicts and their resolution fits only their situation. If I could come up with a one-answer-fits-all, I would be crowned Queen or elected President or sell even more books than Ms. Sandberg.  Maybe I'll try with the next book.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Private Writing in A Public Place

Writers, writing teachers all have touted writing in a public place.   Sometimes alone, with a partner, timed, untimed - it's all done with the idea that once you put your pen to paper (that's assuming you can still use a pen or pencil) you keep writing for an assigned time. And it's true that the very publicness of the situation somehow turns on the writing faucet and it all pours out, to stretch the metaphor to the limit.  Give yourself a prompt - a word, a phrase, anything that will stiumlate the brain and most often, words will appear on the paper (assuming you still use paper and not a computer).  Often it's not restricted to the prompt, you can far afield, who cares, it's a way and an exercise to get the ideas and words out of your head and onto the page.  Sometimes you will even write something that you can use later in a bigger work or it might thaw some frozen area of the brain and let you actually create.

It's more motivating to have a partner, a regular set time and a place you feel safe in. It's stimulating, liberating, invigorating and it reminds you that you really are a writer. Save those pages, they may come in handy someday when the ideas have become a little stale and you need some inspiration.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Just imagine a beautiful Los Angeles afternoon, downtown in the new green space called the Grand Avenue Park, just between the Music Center and City Hall, holding the first annual Book Festival.  It was a tribute to independent book publishers, sellers, authors and poets.  Music, games and story telling for children, readings for the adults, food trucks, kids splashing in the fountain, a fun event for families, people of all ages.

A chance to mingle with other writers, schmooze with potential book buyers (we love those) and after coming back from New York, a look at LA as I want it to be:  a reading, involved, intellectually curious city.
What a great way to spend a Saturday!  What a treat!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To Sequel Or Not To Sequel

I've found in the two novels I've written, that my story is an on-going journey for each of my characters.  Some writers I'm sure like to tie up all the details in a book, so the reader knows exactly what the ending is and where the characters will be going.  I don't find life to be like that so I tend to write the same way, a possibility of an ending, ambiguous, a maybe, perhaps even a definite maybe.

So when people ask me if I'm writing a sequel to either book, it's like asking me to be a fortune teller.  Now I have to see into the future and take them on a new journey.  I toyed with the idea for the first novel, FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN.  I thought perhaps I should consider Judith, then her daughter, then her daughter's daughter.  Three generations, twenty years apart.  But with the advent of the second book, SOWN IN TEARS, reviewers have actually suggested that they're hoping to see a continuation of the story, follow Leah and her two sons.Where do they go?  What happens to them?  Even I'm getting intrigued.

I have to admit I'm never happier than when I'm starting out on a research project, gathering the elements that will become the characters' world.  Of course the trick is not to get so involved with your research and the minutia that you dig up, that you forget your story and the conflicts, upsets, problems, victories (sometimes) that your readers are waiting for.

Never thought I'd be starting up so soon, but if you want to be a writer, you have to write and write and write and write. Turn off the emails, unplug the tv, silence the phone.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What a way to start the New Year!

Hacking, auto mishap, computer glitch - what a way to start the New Year.  But with today's technology, these have become normal events to be endured and overcome. Even technology can't be relied on. I remember the first time the computer went out in the midst of writing FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN.  OMG, what am I going to do, no computer.  Well, of course there are always pens, pencils and paper. What did people do even before we had those implements?  They made marks with a rock on stone. We're too tied to too many "things." I don't want to wax sentimental, but things don't matter at the end of the day or   It helps if they make you comfortable but they don't define you.  Or do they?

Compared to what others have gone through lately, blips in technology can be tolerated.  Even the heroine in my second novel, SOWN IN TEARS, puts me to shame when I start complaining.  I need to go more with the flow in 2013. Really what better choice do we have?