Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dear Author

So I woke up feeling frisky. I decided it was time to respond. This response is to the likes of which I (and every writer I know) had received at some point. In fact, a baffled colleague had just shared getting one to a manuscript for which I was privileged to be a beta reader. Sometimes it’s easier to go to bat for someone else whose work is as good as it gets, in my not humble enough opinion.

From my never-to-be-sent response, you can pretty much reconstruct the original rejection.

Dear Publishing Professional,
I thank you for reading my submission, and for saying you loved-loved-loved it. You needn’t have thanked me for offering, as you said, just the sort of work you are always looking for. I researched and made certain this is the sort of story you have worked on before, and are still looking for. I was most happy that you found it among the best you have seen, and shared this assessment with me. I noted with joy your delight at the relationship between the two protagonists, and the edge-of-one's-seat plot. Your comment on the beautiful phrasing and pacing was most rewarding, because I had worked diligently on both aspects.
Of course, I was saddened that you ended with having to pass on this story, because it is not a fit for your list. Mea culpa. I should have realized your list is made of poorly realized relationships, plodding plots and tired language. I now understand better why you needed to pass on this manuscript.

I will do my best to target next time.


Okay, steam blown and serenity restored.

‘Tis baffling, but there it is. All publishing professionals are beyond overworked and overwhelmed with less than wonderful offerings by the zillions. But variations of effusive letters that ended with a pass leave a writer with nothing to fix but existence itself.

And no, this particular rejection really was not one I got. But I did see it and it really did happen just now to someone else, and that someone else is going---.

Still, we're ever hopeful, and waiting for some love. C'mon, it's almost Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Why “I just don’t have the time” doesn’t fly

A dear friend who is an accomplished musician lamented that she has not been able to touch her instrument in ions. Life’s demands have gotten all of her time and stamina.

This reminded me of countless occasions where someone said to me, “I’d love to write,” or “I started to write,” and invariably followed with “but I couldn’t find the time.”

I used to be that person, also.

Some years ago, I realized that the only way I know to get from under this sort of loop is to think of what I want to do most for myself and what time I can practically quarantine on a regular basis, and then treat that time as sacred.

“Sacred” is not just for the religious. It means a realm not be violated for any but the few reasons I set ahead of time. Even the most orthodox Jews will break the holy Sabbath if it is a matter of life and death, but for no other reason.
I made the decision that only medical emergencies of self or family will break Sacred Time.

For me, this meant setting a reasonable amount of time five days a week for writing. I disconnect the phones, (or their ringers, anyway) and I don’t answer them-- or my door. Sorry if this seems fanatical, but to do anything with consistency, (something the world doesn’t necessarily rewards and is “just for me”) required fanaticism. I don’t apologize to anyone who knocked on my door, virtual or physical, for making that time scared.

Realistic demands, job, family care, health maintenance and communal obligations will determine how much sacred time you can allow. It can be five minutes a day (meditation, or stretching exercises) or half an hour, or many hours. Realistic self-knowledge will determine if you make it once a week, every other day, or daily. But is must be sacred if you are to live it for the long haul.

Because otherwise, the “I always wanted to but...” will become yet another relic in the half-done, once begun, couldn’t stick it out box of broken promises. Too many of these lying around everywhere, and I resolved not to add to that heap.

The key word for me was Sacred. That was many years ago, and I can vouch that it worked.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 30, This Day in HISTORY

There is something ominously grim when I look at January 30th’s notable marks. On this calendar day in 1933, Hitler was sworn as chancellor of Germany. On this calendar day in 1948, Gandhi was assassinated. On this calendar date in 1956, African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s home is bombed in retaliation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

That’s just for starters. On this date, also---

·         1925 – The Government of Turkey expels Patriarch Constantine VI from Istanbul.
·         1930 – The Politburo of the Soviet Union orders the extermination of the Kulaks.
·         1969The Beatles' last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The police break up the impromptu concert.
·         1972The Troubles: Bloody Sunday: British paratroopers open fire on anti-internment marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 people; another person later dies of injuries sustained.
·         1979 – A Varig Boeing 707-323C freighter disappears over the Pacific Ocean 30 minutes after taking off from Tokyo.

And so much more.

If this is your birthday, I apologize. I hope you celebrate with gusto and do something wonderful so the cloud hovering over this date lightens a little. Many small and a few great actions can make the kettle less black. Let’s polish it into a beautiful reflective silver shine.

I don’t know what is set in stone, predestined, or guided by unseen patterns. What I am sure of is that what we do matters.

History was. Now let’s make some.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Web-search YOU ;)

My last post was about web presence. This took me onto self-googling, now a verb. But in proper lingo, it could be any search engine.

Why do it? I think it would convince you of the value of your own website. It really is the only place where you control the content and look of your face in the digital world.

If you have a horror of looking at what a search would uncover, there must be deeper issues involved that a good therapist or a close friend may help you sort out. But for most of us, checking on what pops up when we insert our own name is not so bad.

Because, for most of us, there will be something but not a lot.
I have two close friends who informed me I would find nothing whatsoever if I searched them. Both are proud to not be on any social network, have no websites, and no arrest records. Yup, any of the above will bring up something, and they assured me there shouldn’t be anything that pertains to them. So I took the dare.


If you have a common name and surname combination, you will have to wade through many links to find the right you. Both of my not-on-Facebook-etc. friends have distinctive names, and oh-mama, I found them right off the bat. I found where they live, what they paid for their home(s), names of people in their immediate families, and more that I will not list because they chose not to be searchable, so why make it more grating than it is.

There are ways to eliminate some of these finds by opting out, but more info aggregators constantly pop up. It a game of whack-a-mole, or whack-em-all, which is exhausting and unachievable.

This bring me back to those who want (or need for professional reasons) to be found on the net, but would like the finds to be accurate representations. Self-googling has shown me that my age was confused with my husband’s, thus aging me prematurely. (Though my age was given to him, which he thought rather nifty.) I supposedly lived in the past in cities I never did, (but lived near them in a shared zip code) and a few more inaccuracies. Thus, I know the “facts” aren’t right.

The social networks provide free exposure, but they determine the aesthetic. If your place of employment has your name and photograph, this, too, is graphically a reflection of their sensibilities.

And so the only place where you are really you, or the public you that you care to be, is your own site.

And if you really don’t care who sees what wherever, have no external reason to care, count yourself off the grid and happily so, then this is of no relevance to you.
But maybe think about it after self-googling.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Web Presence— to or not to?

I have seen this question posted on chatborards and elsewhere: should an unpublished writer have a website?

If time is short, please head directly to this link, from the master herself. Jane Friedman tells it like it is, and the short answer is YES.

There is nothing I can add. But I can write about my personal journey to having a website, a blog, a Facebook Author page, a LinkedIn account, and more. I came to it reluctantly, but I’m glad I did.

Confession: I had little web-presence and no website until I had a book about to be published. This was more a case of fearing the dangerous and choppy waters that is the virtual ocean. I have read too many horror stories of fraud, abuse and torment, and never stopped to check how prevalent or relevant these dangers  would be to most folks. (The truth is, not very.)

My first publisher informed me that having my own website was necessary. They were ready to design it for me. This scared me more than having it in the first place. I mean, it would have my name and my image and someone else’s sensibilities. Their own website, now defunct, (they closed their doors, sadly L ) was a marvel of technology with top-notch graphics. In fact, it was so active with moving graphics that while I know kids would love it, it was more than a bit much for me.
I wanted it plain. I wanted it understated. I wanted it comfortably quiet. In short, I wanted it to be my voice.

At the time, my daughter was twelve, and so sure of herself (doubts will come later) that she informed me it was “no big deal” to make a website. I will provide the content, and in no time she will set it up and voila, there it will be, live.

Which is what happened. On Christmas Day 2010, my website was born. The labor took just about two hours.

But post-partum was an adjustment and it felt odd for a time. Like wearing earrings or a wristwatch, I got used to it. (Does anyone still wear a wristwatch? I do) I adjusted fully just in time for my second book contract, where that publisher strongly advised blogging.

My website today is the same one, still homemade and still un-jazzy, though with added content. 
In other words, it’s still very much me.

That’s my story. But do go back to the linked article for better how-to and what-for.

Just in case you missed my inserted link, I copy it here, again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Three H of Revision

Working on the second draft of a new novel, I encounter the three H.
(No, not Horrible,L Hairy,L or Hilarious.J)

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, recommends a long break between drafts. This is so the writer loses the memory of the exact phrasing. Although she remembers the general plot and subplot, she encounters the writing as if she is the reader. This allows the distance needed for effective revising. Mr. King takes a minimum of six weeks in between drafts.

My novels are shorter than his and my breaks have always been shorter, too. But this time I managed a few months’ break because of important family events, a revision request to a different manuscript, and various life intrusions.

Turns out a longer break is a good idea, because I really don’t recall any of the sentences I find myself going over. No mental lapse here (I think)— just the right distance where I get to be surprised at a turn of phrase or the use of a word.

And this is where the three H come in.

Heady— because some of it is downright good.
Humbling— because some of the sentences do not have the eloquence I intended.
Humiliating— because of these...these... blasted typos (!!!!!!!!!)

That’s where I am, in a nutshell. Remind me to never go back to recheck casual posts and Emails. I’m likely to stop writing those altogether, lest I can have a couple of months to revisit and revise.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

It, is, Yes it is---

Happy New Year

But then, it’s just a number, Right?
I think about it, and realize something. From now until the next new year, everything that happens will be recounted as “In the year of our lord two thousand and eighteen such and such took place.”

I never felt close to numbers. Unlike words, they are not my friends. But I know people who adore them, and some even love numerology.*
*Numerology: the branch of knowledge that deals with the occult significance of numbers.

One of the people I know who swears by numerology believes there’s significant information in something numerologists call the master number. You get this number by adding all the numbers of one’s birthday, or the date of an event, until they are reduced to a single digit. Then, each of those single digits imbues significance to one’s life path, or in this case, the coming year’s essential path. It is its “master number.”

In this case, it would be 2+0+1+8 = 11
And then 11 is further reduced 1+1= 2
And so this new year’s essential path is the number two.
{If this sounds like mumbo-jumbo hocus-pocus to you, I agree.]

But what’s the harm? It’s kind of fun. It gives a strange illusion of some control over the future, in the way that knowing where the stock market is headed gives a sense that you can navigate it.
(Disclaimer: even the experts do NOT know where the stock market is headed. Apparently, chimps have made predictions that were just as good or bad, and this was the conclusion of a scientific study.)

So what does numerology have to say about the life-path of the number 2?

Quite a lot, it turns out. 

Here’s one summary

As the second of all numbers, 2's symbolism is the union of and peace between different entities. It seeks to end separateness and unite all for the greater good whether it be music, food or humanity.

That’s kind of nice. But it’s still just a number.

Let’s try to make it thus.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The day of Mad Reckoning*

*a.k.a. Retunes (or exchanges)

We don’t “do Christmas,” unless you count the general good wishes of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and homemade cookies. It’s been years since I spent time in department stores scouting for gifts in the month of December.

But what I do hold onto this time of year is to not go anywhere near stores the day after the holiday. I have made that mistake twice, but no more. The first time, long ago, I was lured by promises of uber sales. The second time I did it by mistake. I forgot the madness of the day and thought it might just be the time to look for something that could have waited. I should have.

The day after national gift giving, hoards descend on stores with gift certificates that fell from the trees or were handed in office parties. They make a rather joyful bunch. They were not the problem.
The ones that got to me were the other faction crowding the stores— the people with return receipts to exchange gifts they refuse to use. They never seem joyful. In fact, they seem angry, cantankerous, and garrulous.

That first year I saw a young woman in tears that the bathrobe she got cost so little there was nothing she wanted to get for it in exchange. She had some choice words for the gift-giver who was not present. I saw a child who got a toy he already had, in tears because his mother would not pay for something he wanted as she would have to add too much $$$ after the exchange. The worst was an older woman who refused to take anything other than cash for her return, because she said she hated that store.
It was not pretty. The energy was the most unhappy and unspiritual that I could recall. I vowed to accept gifts from now on and only return them, if I felt an overwhelming inkling, sometime later. From then on, this was the day to NOT go anywhere near stores. It was the day to count one’s blessing that I was here, and not there.

The day after Christmas. That’s today.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Nothing Wasted

When a job application does not result in an offer, when an audition did not yield a part, or when a story failed to find a publisher, many sum up the time and effort as a failure.

Here’s my take, which is also a sort of moto for me:
Nothing wasted if I learned from it.

I have written middle grade novels that have not sold. (Yet. Let’s be positive.) But in the process of research for each my world got richer, fuller, and the purse of riches is still with me and continues to grow.

The only writing failures in my eyes are the stories that came with little inner motivation, such as attempting something that was fashionable, or repeating a variation of a story and setting I have plowed and fully mined before. Those taught me nothing. (Unless I count the “don’t do this again,” so maybe they are not complete failures, either.)

Striving and learning are the most worthwhile of all. Prizes may be the frosting, but striving is the cake.

Eat cake, folks!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Guarded Hanukah Secret is Out...

Tonight is the first night of Hanukah.
No, that’s not the secret.

In years past, we had a small crowd for our yearly Hanukah party, and that meant making latkes.
I have a trusted recipe for latkes. It’s not hard, and I’ve shared it here. This recipe makes very good latkes for a small family. The grating and squeezing of the potatoes is part of the dues we pay for eating them, and the tears shed grating the onions must stand for any penitential feeling we have about taking in so much oil then, and for eight days to come.

But for a party, (that is, more than twenty latkes gobblers) it’s different. Not only will the cook be grating until there’s no strength left to eat, but the onion-tears will make more than a puddle. You are liable to drawn before anyone arrives.

My kids attended a Jewish preschool, where I volunteered to be part of the latke-making crew. The teacher in charge of the kitchen was a legendary cook. I mean it literally; as the rumor persisted she’d been a real chef in some fancy shmanzy three-star restaurant in France in her younger days. She most certainly had a French accent, so it was not impossible.

She taught us a thing or two about child rearing. She was wise that way. But her lasting contribution for me was her latkes-for-a-crowd secret. I’m paying it forward on to you, which is my Hanukah gift this year.

So here goes: For half the amount, use your favorite traditional “from scratch” latkes recipe. The second half you will make with potato pancake mix. Yup, the kind you buy in small boxes in the “ethnic” section of the supermarket. Then use one half cup less water for each boxed mix. Make the mix first, and add to it the hand grated traditional ingredients as you grate them.

A.    You will not need to squeeze the potato water as much.
B.     You will have more time to play with the dreidel, because you will not need to grate as much
C.    The Monoglycerides and Sulfite to Maintain color in the mix will keep the whole batter nice and yellow before the potatoes oxidize into an unappetizing gray, and you won’t have to hurry as much
D.   This combination absorbs just enough oil to make it the miracle of the oil,  but not quite as much

Finally, this half-and-half recipe actually makes the best large-batch latkes. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REGRET is a Useless Emotion Unless...

It Prompts to Do Better Going Forward

I’ve heard actors and musicians say they don’t care to look at their own performances because they cringe at how they did something they should have done differently. For writers, the printed first edition can yield a similar emotion. There is much we’d change, rephrase, or cut. Now it’s set, and we can’t.

Life is like that. Once something has passed, regret can take over about the many things that we could’ve and maybe should’ve, and now we can’t do over.

I know people who are raked with regrets. It’s a useless loop that serves to paralyze. The functional among us “let it go,” which usually means we try to forget and move on.

But forgetting, while serving the purpose of getting the wheels to move, isn’t the best way. For my own process, there were times I wished I could be as good at forgetting as many people I have known. There’s at least one typo in each of my published books that gnaws on me, and I can’t do a thing about it. There are chapters in my life I would never “do” the same way.

I found a way to mentally handle these sorts of cant’-fix ‘em. I am not a Catholic, but I borrowed it from the Catholic confession, when at the end the priest says, “Now go and sin no more.” This echoes Jesus’ saying. (John 8, 11) The brilliance of confession is not the telling, or the penance. It’s an awareness combined with learning from mistakes and resolving to not repeat.

Nothing wasted— if we learn from it.

I will look at my performance. I will stare at these typos and awkward phrasings. I will remember where I dropped the ball. Then I will resolve to pay attention and to try not to repeat. Of course, I will repeat. But maybe not the same mistakes or sins, and maybe I will catch them earlier when I can fix something. It’s a process, and a mighty beneficial one.

In this way, regret becomes useful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


When my kids were ten and twelve, they had their first real loss to the great beyond. He was not even our cat, but the neighbor’s. But he thought he lived with us, and for as long as he lived, DD was adamant that we take in no other lest he stopped feeling at home. 

When Chester died, there was a period of profound mourning. The neighbors were even kind enough to invite us over for a remembrance, and shared some of his ashes with us. DD erected a memorial where she placed the ashes, and it’s still there today.

What stayed with me was something she said. “I’m so scared I will forget him.”

If we remember, they are not completely gone.

Today is a special day at my house. I remember three of the closest people to me who passed away on the same calendar day. They are gone from the blessings and tribulations of this world, but not forgotten. 

מילים: פניה ברגשטיין
דוד זהבי
שנת כתיבה: 1944

נִגּוּנִים / פניה ברגשטיין, 1944

שְׁתַלְתֶּם נִגּוּנִים בִּי, אִמִּי וְאָבִי,
נִגּוּנִים מִזְמוֹרִים שְׁכוּחִים.
גַּרְעִינִים; גַּרְעִינִים נְשָׂאָם לְבָבִי –
עַתָּה הֵם עוֹלִים וְצוֹמְחִים.

עַתָּה הֵם שׁוֹלְחִים פֹּארוֹת בְּדָמִי,
שָׁרְשֵׁיהֶם בְּעוֹרְקַי שְׁלוּבִים,
נִגּוּנֶיךָ, אָבִי, וְשִׁירַיִךְ אִמִּי,
בְּדָפְקִי נֵעוֹרִים וְשָׁבִים.

הִנֵּה אַאֲזִין שִׁיר עַרְשִׂי הָרָחוֹק
הִבִּיעַ פִּי אֵם אֱלֵי בַּת.
הִנֵּה לִי תִּזְהַרְנָה בְּדֶמַע וּשְׂחוֹק
"אֵיכָה" וּזְמִירוֹת שֶׁל שַׁבָּת.

כָּל הֶגֶה יִתַּם וְכָל צְלִיל יֵאָלֵם
בִּי קוֹלְכֶם הָרָחוֹק כִּי יֵהוֹם.
עֵינַי אֶעֱצֹם וַהֲרֵינִי אִתְּכֶם
מֵעַל לְחֶשְׁכַת הַתְּהוֹם.

You can hear it sung in this link:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

GRATITUDE in Many Ways

It’s almost that time again, the time to give thanks, a.k.a. Thanksgiving.

There are studies that show living in gratitude makes a person happy(ier), healty(ier), and more productive. Did we need these studies to confirm what all cultures everywhere have long enshrined into their fabrics? Apparently we do. What the pious knew all along, the freethinkers needed academic research to prove.

Jews interject TODA LA’EL = Thank G-d into every other sentence.
Muslims do the same, only pronouncing it IL HAMDU L’EEL-LAH.
Catholics of yore used to say it in Latin, DEO GRATIAS
Budhists just say THANK YOU.

I will do my best to remember that Thanksgiving is not a meal or putting up with irritating relatives, as the modern ethos reports on it. It’s a way of being.

I thank G-d for enabling me to write here, and I’m grateful to you for reading this. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This Day in History*

*November 14th, 1851

On this calendar date, one hundred and sixty-six years ago, Harper & Brothers in New York published Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Many consider it one of the Great Books in the canon of western literature, certainly of North American books.

Confession: I never read it.

I even knew one of Melville direct descendants, the lovely Meredith Melville. I never admitted to her that I hadn’t read it. I had no excuse. I did read much longer books that book lovers think are must-reads (Yes, War and Peace) and I can’t say that whaling and fishermen are a turn off (The Old Man and the Sea, I did read that one) and really, I have no idea why some great books have escaped the net of my youthful reading, when either the schools I attended or my love of reading drove my cart. Some books just slipped by, and then slipped off.

Like Moby Dick.

But something has changed in me as the years accumulated. I no longer feel I should, or would. I can’t explain that, either. No excuses or “someday.” Call me Ishmael if you need to. That’s fine.

What great books have you not read? Do you still think you will?

&Happy Birthday, MOBY DICK&

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Daylight Savings/Standard Time & Website Statistics

It happened again. The time was changed on us. Today, Sunday, we were shoved back onto Standard Time. This reminded me of a post from five years ago. Let me explain.

When you have a website, you can get statistics on how many page loads there were on any given day. You can even see the general geographic places these “clicks” are coming from. It’s a free service, and if you want to pay more, (I don’t) there are sophisticated versions of it.

On Blogger this is automatically part of the site and easy to see if you click on the word Stats on your blogger panel on the left. You can set it up never to count your own clicks to your blog (I did) and get a more accurate idea.

This blog’s posts usual click numbers are modest by any standard. They range in a low couple of hundreds, with occasional posts not even reaching three digits. Some of the hits are real readers (like you) and some are random search engines that look for keywords.

I’m delighted that anyone visits. Bless you.

But there was one outlier early on among my posts. It was this one, on Daylight Savings Time. It’s not a great post, nor very informative. But it had a few thousand hits, well above the usual for my site. Looking at the origins of the hits, Blogger’s Stats said that many were from Russia.

At the time, this did not mean much to me. I assumed Russian search engines were combing the Internet for certain key words. So what? Surely, they are not interested in Daylight Savings Time, and most definitely not in my kvetchy rant about it.

The whole subject of Russian hacking has taken a completely new meaning now. My time-disturbed brain is wondering... Hey, Russians, will it happen again? C’mon down and look. For your convenience, I’ll even use Google Translate: Летнее время*

*Daylight Savings time in Russian, I hope.

I doubt it, because these Internet-combing algorithms must have long concluded this blog is useless for their purposes. But if I knew for sure, I would tell you.

And yes, I’m in the throws of adjusting to the time change, Kvetch-kvetch.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

SPAM= Unwelcome Spiced Ham

Remember when Spam stood for canned meat of unclear origins?

Euphemistically named for “spiced Ham,” (it wasn’t exactly, but those who liked it preferred not to delve further) it was salty, greasy, meaty, and oddly satisfying to all but gourmet palates.

In the Internet age, SPAM became something almost completely different. It is unsolicited commercial Email. Only the “unclear origins” retained the connection to that potted thing-a-ma-food.

Beginning last spring, I noticed more and more comments on this blog that were not from readers. I moderate comments specifically to weed out SPAM. I have rarely gotten comments that were cantankerous, and welcome those. So long as they are from genuine readers, c'mon in. I’m not afraid of disagreements.

As the counterfeit comments come into my comment-moderation sphere, I mark them as SPAM faster than I can read them to the end. Sometimes the comments contain links. I don’t click on the links, so I can’t report if they involve relatively benign selling of somethings we don’t need, or dreaded viruses. Sometime they may be attempts to get entrance to the site, with no visible links.

In the past, the texts of the comments were riddled with very poor not-quite English. The sort only Google Translate could have come up with. They did painstakingly (I assume) refer to the specific post, but they did so incoherently. Those always contained links.

This summer brought a new flavor of Spam. The ones coming in in the last few months have two things in common. Invariably they come from Anonymous and they are to a post that is old. I mean, a few years old. Key words must have been caught by the casted nets and fished out by the swarming hacking machines. The comment’s text says nothing about the post, but congratulates me on such an excellent blog, promising to follow my “informative posts” from now on.

Frankly, my “excellent blog” is not very informative. (Gee, Mirka. You really can’t take a compliment, can you?)

Just as I was typing here, one of those marvels showed up . Here is most of it, for your amusement:

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I can't imagine who would click on this clown's link for "school composition assist to". If anyone ever did, maybe they deserve such polished assistance. (It must work better in Polish, come to think of it.)

Yes, I have activated Spam filters. A few of them. I also mark every comment that I know isn’t from you, real readers, and send it to the great trash bin on the Ethernet. Lots of garbage floating up there, no doubt.

We do what we can to shore up the wall against these cans, and will continue to do it.
What do you do about Internet trash?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Good Instincts

A Pat on the Back, Me

Sometime ago when I was looking to be agented, a well-known literary agent turned my novel down saying she has a client working on something she felt was similar. This agent was surprisingly specific about the setting and a couple of details of her client’s WIP. She asked that I check with her if and when I had other work, and was still unagented.

Shortly after, another agent offered representation, and I’ve been agented since. That particular novel has not sold, and we have moved on to my next.

About six months ago, I ran into a review of a middle grade novel that sounded so much like my unsold story, and I checked it out. What-d-y-know, its setting and specifics fit perfectly with the response I got from that agent. I began reading the book online in its E-version. I found myself heaving as the first paragraph reminded me of the way I chose to begin mine. But there’s more. The name of the main character, (an uncommon one) was the very same as in my story.

I did a bit of searching to find and verify that this writer’s agent was indeed the same one who liked my story, but had a client working on something similar.

I bought the book in its print version. I read it. It is a very good book, well written, and it deserves its place in the market.

You wouldn’t blame me for doing the next thing. I wasn’t going to, but something in me felt I just had to. I wrote to the writer to tell her I liked her book (true) and added that I liked the main character’s name very much.

Almost instantly, I got a reply. The writer was grateful for my appreciation, and added that, incidentally, the main character’s name was her agent’s suggestion, after her editor didn’t care for the name she had used originally.

I sat, heart pounding, staring at the screen. It’s rare that you get such confirmation of the tentacles you put out in the universe actually reaching somewhere. Bingo.

I am well aware that names, titles, and even general plotlines are not intellectual property and thus, rightly, can’t have a copyright. Inspiration comes from what we have read and seen before, and writers take from others (often subconsciously) all the time.

But it still felt... weird.

There’s a good article about writer’s envy that just came out a few months ago. I must have incorporated it inwardly, because I spent only a few moments feeling these pangs. I looked in the mirror and said, “You’ve done well. You had the good story and a name that was worth borrowing.”

Both stories deal with unseen connections across time. It’s fitting that I found just such a true connection between them, the one that was published and the one that was not. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This Life is NOW

A few months ago someone I had some virtual contact with, mostly in years back, let her Facebook friends know she had just suffered a calamitous loss. On what should have been a joyous father-son bonding trip, half her family was wiped out. Her husband and older son died while hiking, likely from heatstroke.

In one cruel swoop she was a widow, and the mother of one surviving son.

This horrific event was on the news, local and national. I read the reports over and over, as if re-reading would tell a different story, maybe with a happier ending. I woke up the next day with that feeling most would recognize. It’s that did this really happen thought, and a feeling of reality descending but not quite hitting the ground.

This did not happen to me. I could go on with my day and the days to come with my routine intact. But it did shake me up. The opening words of Joan Didion’s Year of magical Thinking kept echoing

Life changes in an instant.

It’s still a wake-up call for me. I tell my kitties I’m so happy they’re here. I look at people and places with gratitude. Nothing is permanent and most things are not for later, they are now.
Hugs, everyone.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What’s Wrong?

a.k.a The Art of Diagnostics

Some months ago, I had an odd sensation of my throat swelling. I went to sleep thinking I was likely coming down with something. I woke up the next day with a swollen tongue to boot, and a vague unease in my digestive system. The swelling was mildly sore, nothing that would make me reach for medication.

I also felt peculiarly tired and, while all fit with a possible reaction to infection, I somehow felt there was something different about it.

Long story short (love this peculiar expression)— after trials and tribulations, and a wandering set of symptoms getting worse, better, then much worse, I found the culprit. The natural sugar alternative Stevia, otherwise revered by natural food folks, was causing a sort of allergic response from my immune system. Until then, my body was not known for reacting to anything that wasn’t attacking it. I don’t remember having verified allergies to anything, even as many around me did. There was the suspected reaction to Penicillin, never verified. There was a sort of reaction to mascara, also not clear. All go back to adolescence, and penciled in my medical records with a question mark.
But, really, not really.

So in my quest to solve this problem I didn’t make the right connection for a while.

This reminded me of the process of writing. There are times when a writer knows something is just not right, but all suggested feedback rings false. For myself, I will attempt the fixes anyhow, if only to try to be the humble and receptive person I aspire to be. Then, the fixes make the story need other fixes, and eventually nothing is working.

It’s a matter of accurate diagnostics.

When it comes to doctors, be they medical or book doctors, a good diagnostician is the most important quality. If you are one, or have such on your team, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ye Shall Dwell in Booths...*

*Leviticus 23:42

The seven-day festival of Sukkot is an odd one if viewed without context. Jews are commanded to make insecure structures with porous roofs that allow us to see the stars and let precipitation seep in. We are to eat meals and spend nights in those “booths” (some translate it as “huts”) for seven days.

All this— to remember our ancestral forty-year journey to the Promised Land, dwelling in tents for two generations.

All over the observant Jewish world, these structures are erected according to specification, and then decorated to the hilt. I have warm memories of this from my childhood in Israel, where even the marginally observant just had to have a Sukkah, (=Booth) even if we mostly decorated and rarely dwelled.

In my current home, I tried to give my kids a taste of it. Our non-Kosher hut (because it was a section of our entry-porch, and the only solid part was, alas, the roof) was not a place to sleep. But we had a couple of lunches in it, and like in my secular upbringing in Israel, we spent more time on decorating than being in there. The neighbor’s cat, though, adopted it immediately and did the Mitzvah for us.

{{{I highly recommend the movie USHPIZIN, one of very few made by ultra-orthodox Jews, and telling a beautiful tale that stars the holiday of Sukkot.}}}

The point was to remember. To recall where you came from and pay homage to the struggles of those who went before.

I no longer attempt a sukkah, even for our cats. But, you see, the holiday starts tomorrow, and I remember.