Signs you might want to buy one of my new books


(Do I sound excited?)

Mazal’s Luck Runs Out is for ages 8-11.

My life is being taken over by marketing (What? Did you say there’s a Jewish holiday coming? More than one? You mean I have to cook, too? ARGH!). Also, I’m working on no budget here, but at least people can actually buy both Mazal’s Luck Runs Out and Sliding Doors and other stories online now.

With no further ado… Continue reading

Writers don’t live on desert islands

A couple weeks ago, a writer I’m friendly with asked in passing if I’d finished revising my novel. I told her that I felt like the rewrite wouldn’t happen until I moved to a desert island. Until that point, there would be distractions: carpool, laundry, cooking, deadlines on other writing projects…and more carpool.

Moving to the desert island is no escape

It kinda got me down.

My writer friend suggested that I apply for a writing retreat. Not quite a desert island, but close enough. Continue reading

Who’s talking? POV, Voice, and Narrator as explained in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

book cover

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

There are few books that come up with my writer friends more often than Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. In the same way that I feel like I’m not quite smart enough because I’ve never taken Calculus, I’ve felt like a slacker because I never got around to reading it.

And I should have felt guilty–because it’s great.

Okay, so it has a lot of rather vulgar language, but Lamott’s writing is so funny, and yet so useful, that I’m pretty much in love with the book.

One of the interesting bits of advice that Lamott gives writers is a gem she attributes to the author Ethan Canin. The most important way to improve your writing, he says, is to employ a likeable narrator.

Here’s the thing that struck me about this advice: for many, many years, I always wrote in third person. Continue reading

More crazy ideas from yours truly

I’m sorta infamous among my friends for having lots of whacked-out, creative-but-slightly-off-kilter, usually (but not always) impractical ideas. Here’s my latest:

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Nivin–a motivational speaker/life coach/teacher/rabbi–speaks of everyone having a yeod, a unique life mission with which they are supposed to serve G-d (and people), and a tikkun, a soul correction they have to make in order to maximize their potential (by fulfilling their yeod). Also, a person has short-term lessons that must be learned as stepping stones to reach their yeod and tikkun. This self-development paradigm is very useful for those of us who want to build ourselves (especially now that we’re in Elul, the introspective month that leads up to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

“That wacky Mrs. Klempner has some weird idea again!”

As I mentioned in a post last week, I’m going to be rewriting (yes, again!) the novel I wrote last year. One of the areas I want to focus on is character, really fleshing each one out better and more coherently. Many expert authors suggest strategies about developing character such as:

1) Learn about Myers-Briggs personality types and assign one to each of your characters.

2) Consider what each character most wants, most fears, their biggest secret, and what they have to learn.

3) Use drawing, cut-and-paste, or the like to assign an appearance for your character. Brainstorm their likes, dislikes, etc. Paste such items on your character chart.

4) Pretend to interview your character for a magazine.

All these strategies make sense, but they didn’t appeal so much to me. Then I thought, “Hey! Why don’t I apply Rav Nivin’s rules to fictional characters?” Assign a tafkid, a yeod, to each one, and a tikkun, as well?

So that’s what I think I’m going to be doing. Maybe not exclusively, but I think it will bring a Jewish approach to my mostly Jewish characters and subject matter.

Has anyone else out there tried “unorthodox” (pun definitely intended) ways of developing characters or doing other work that usually isn’t done in a “spiritual” or “religious” way?

The Romance of Writing a Novel

I subscribe to the daily emails from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac (which I highly recommend) and today’s email included a lovely quote from the award-winning author, Khaled Hosseini (here I have to admit that I couldn’t finish The Kite Runner–there’s this violent street-fight scene I just couldn’t deal with–but I love this quote just the same).

Apparently, he once said, “There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it. You are embarking on this incredibly exciting journey, and you’re going to write your first novel, you’re going to write a book. Until you’re about 50 pages into it, and that romance wears off, and then you’re left with a very stark reality of having to write the rest of this thing. […] A lot of 50-page unfinished novels are sitting in a lot of drawers across this country. Well, what it takes at that point is discipline … You have to be more stubborn than the manuscript, and you have to punch in and punch out every day, regardless of whether it’s going well, regardless of whether it’s going badly. […] It’s largely an act of perseverance […] The story really wants to defeat you, and you just have to be more mulish than the story.”

Having just submitted my own first novel (please keep praying a publisher buys it!), and having discussed writing novels with a lot of people, I have to agree with the first half of Dr. Hosseini’s statement here. A lot of people dream of writing a novel. Many people actually start writing novels, but most of those peter out right around the point Dr. Hosseini describes.

But here’s where Dr. Hosseini and I are going to disagree: while I think that discipline and perseverance are the keys to finishing a novel, I think that many people who begin to write books just don’t know how to! While there are people who like to “write by the seat of their pants” or “wing it,” completing a novel in a timely fashion without outlining or diagramming or writing notes or some sort of prewriting exercise, and without studying how to write a novel in advance (even just reading a single how-to book from the library can help) is a much more daunting exercise than doing it without putting in those steps up front. Many of these abandoned books could be finished if their authors took these steps. For more on this subject, check out this recent post by Susanne Larkin here.


I’ve just submitted my novel. Whoa. I’m a little freaked out. 

Fear competes with excitement. I’m not sure which is winning, but I have a suspicion that I should really be feeling relaxed. After all, my manuscript’s acceptance is now entirely in G-d’s hands. I did my part: I finally finished the sucker, got it edited by multiple people, revised it, got it proofread, and researched the most suitable publisher to start with (I hope they agree). There’s not much left for me to do, other than pray. And wait.

One of my sources of excitement is that now my writing schedule is wide open for other projects. I have lots of ideas, thank G-d. I kept getting sidetracked by competing writing projects in the last couple months. That is part of what took me so long to finally wrap up this book–that and the multiple viruses that have been afflicting various members of the Klempner household.