Ready for a little Hanukkah Hoopla?

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Latkes frying. Image by Jonathunder from Wikipedia Commons .

Blogger Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson has invited me to participate in this year’s Hanukka Hoopla. To help wrap up your holiday, I’ll be sharing a Chanukah memory and a recipe in case you’re still looking for a latke fix.

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My parents divorced when I was a preschooler. Mom settled down with my twin sister and me in suburban Columbia, Maryland, near her parents.

Grandma and Grandpa were about the most doting grandparents humanly imaginable. (And Grandma, at 94, ka”h still is!) While my grandmother ran a small business when I was very young, Grandpa had already retired by the time I was born. He found lots of ways to fill his time, and many of them involved keeping two little girls happy — namely, my sister and me.  Continue reading

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10 Great 2014 Anniversaries to Write About in the Months Ahead

Following up on a suggestion (I wish I could remember who passed along this hint!), I was scoping out historically significant anniversaries occurring in 2014 as potential topics for my writing.

skyline with arch st. louis

St. Louis, Missouri – 250 years and counting!

In theory, choosing a topic that’s–well, topical–can be a marketing advantage. Unfortunately, none of the anniversaries I’ve found has inspired me so far, but I thought they would be worth sharing because maybe one of them will inspire you.  Continue reading

The 3 Comments I Hate to Find on my Articles

Last week, a personal essay of mine appeared on Tablet Magazine online. As it hit the front page, I braced myself. A couple of my previous contributions to Tablet received a lot of comments…including a bunch of nasty ones. I figured this latest essay–about being Jewish during the holiday season–might ruffle the feathers of readers.

A couple days after the story was published, much to my surprise Continue reading

“You knew you wanted to do it, but you’d never had the courage…:” Writing in the second person

For some people, it’s bungee-jumping. For others, it’s swimming with dolphins, getting a tattoo, or eating fugu.

What am I talking about?

The thing you’ve always wanted to do, but were too chicken to try.

For me, it’s writing in the second person. When it’s done well, it’s so, so compelling. The reader is naturally drawn into the narrative, as they are a part of it. But when it’s bad, it’s like a poor imitation of a Choose Your Own Adventure book (I loved them as a kid, by the way). I remember reading a book that teaches writing which suggested that only the most gifted of writers should attempt writing in the second person.

Over the last few months, the second person narrative has appeared on my radar quite a bit. And for the first time, it’s in non-fiction.

I’m a huge fan of Erika Dreifus’s blogs, and that led me to some of her other writing. Among her corpus of work are several interlocked true short stories about her (yikes!) mugging in Central Park.

(You can read them, too:

What really interested me about the stories was Dreifus’s handling of her misadventure. While the events actually happened to her, she writes them as if they happened to the reader. Whether this was intentional or serendipitous, she discovered a way of writing about a traumatic event that happened to her with greater objectivity.

My new POV

A couple months back, I wrote a very self-revelatory story. It was the kind of thing that is so embarrassing to myself that I can’t be at all objective about it. When I wrote piece, I thought it was completely unpublishable, but shared it at my writing group nonetheless.

Surprise! Several members of the group had a very strong reaction to it, not because it was exceptionally well-written (it wasn’t), but because they felt the feelings I portrayed were very universal. So, they encouraged me to revise it.

Struggling to handle material that was a little too close for comfort, I tried Dreifus’s technique and rewrote my story entirely in the second person. I’d describe it as highly therapeutic. I was able to laugh at my foibles and not take the behavior that elicited my negative response so personally. I have no idea if the story will ever make it to publication. But the process definitely gave me a new perspective on my behavior.

The process also gave me a bit more confidence in writing the second-person. Now, I’m looking for the right opportunity to use it again.

Have you read notable works in the second person? Have you ever tried to write in the second person? Share your experiences as a reader or a writer below.

I am not a blogger

I am not a blogger.

There, I said it.

I came to this realization yesterday, after the funny (as in “weird,” not in “haha”) response I had to PopChassid’s marvelous list of 7 bloggers he thinks deserve more attention. As I read about all the fabulous bloggers (Several I had heard of, and a couple I had not…my favorite post by one of the unfamiliar ones was Ruchi Koval’s interview with her yetzer hara. Just so funny and true!), I felt more and more (embarrassing to admit) jealous.

Now, I’ve blogged here before about how important it is not to envy other writers. I’m a big believer in being farginen those around me. But I sensed something unusual about the variety of jealousy I was experiencing. Continue reading

Considering my last year of literary pursuit

Since there are just two weeks left of the Jewish year of 5773, I’ve been looking back at the last year and evaluating my life on every level: spiritual, physical, and even professional. And one goal still stands out at unfulfilled:

I STILL HAVEN’T PUBLISHED BOOK #2.

This issue depressed me a couple weeks ago, as I sat in front of my journal on Rosh Chodesh Elul (exactly one month before Rosh Hashanah), scribbling about the past year. I’d submitted a few picture books and two novels to multiple publishers and had zilch to show for it.

But then I counted how many times I appeared in print in the last year for pay: over two dozen times (bli ayin hara).

And then, I counted how many words I’d written. Essentially, it was the length of a novel. Wow.

I realized at that point how many more readers — potentially thousands more people — read my work in magazines this year than in my entire previous professional life.

That’s when I felt blessed.

Okay, I still have a major unfulfilled goal. It will be top of my professional goals again for this 5774. But if success is measured in progress, I made a lot of progress last year. And I could only do it with G-d’s help, which makes the year feel very sweet indeed.

How are you feeling about your last year, professionally? What is your top goal for 5774?