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?

Believe it or not! Writing reality that’s stranger than fiction

Tablet just published a personal essay about my grandfather.  Please check it out. (And share, and like, and comment!)

Passover seder has been a bit spooky (in a good way) for me ever since childhood, when my sister and I were convinced Elijah the Prophet was none other than the Bogey Man.

And then we had a real ethereal visitor during Pesach.

It’s one of those stories that you tell and people think you are making it up. I probably would have thought that it was a figment of my imagination if my husband hadn’t recalled the event, as well. I feel a little more confident about the subject matter now, too, since the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (zt”l) described a similar encounter by her parents in a recent issue of Binah Magazine. 

Have you ever written a piece of non-fiction about something readers might not believe is possible?

But what about my Voice!?! What a writer should do when an editor asks for “a few changes.”

parakeet

Hey, buddy! What about my voice?

Last week, I got an email from an editor (she’ll be the heroine of this story, but will remain nameless nonetheless). She asked me to make one change–one very small change–to the story that I had submitted.

Because I trust this editor–she’s very good at what she does and has built a friendly relationship with me–I said I’d make the teeny-tiny change she’d requested.

And then I panicked.  Continue reading

I hit a double!

Let’s see if we can bat Mrs. Klempner into home plate!

For the first time, I’ve had two stories published in one week. For some writers, this is nothing, but for me, it’s a real accomplishment. The first story appears in the October 22nd Binah BeTween; the second, in the October 24th Binyan. I just turned in another piece to Binyan yesterday. G-d willing, you’ll find it in print in about a month.

Establishing myself as a career writer as opposed to a hobbyist is a big struggle, and sometimes I feel like I’m floundering around a bit. It’s been comforting the last couple weeks to touch base with other writers, some of whom ARE making a bit of money. So I’m chugging along, praying for success. Not big name, big money success, just enough to cover a medium-sized chunk of day school bills. Is that so much to ask?

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week on career-building activities, trying to solicit writing gigs, adding onto my Goodreads page, hunting for an agent for the novel that I’m STILL revising, that kind of thing. I’m planning a writing workshop that I’m hoping to test out in December. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sharing a new story, a suspenseful sci-fi short story for adults, with my writing group. With a little Heavenly assistance, I’ll be able to sell that one, as well.

I’ve also been revisiting the whole issue of self-publishing, or possibly, starting a small press through one of the POD publishers, which some people have found to be a successful model. A little creative thinking might make the difference in me being able to do what I love vs. drop writing and having to find a decently paying job.

Ooops. I’m hyperventilating again. Too many visions of desk jobs dancing through my head.

More good news of the publishing sort

My teen fiction story “Nuture Nature” appears in this week’s Binyan (inside the weekly Hamodia). The magazine is available at Jewish bookstores, newstands, and kosher shops nationwide! It’s the first time I’ve appeared in that publication, although I’ve been a subscriber for years (like more than a decade). You’ll find the story on p. 14. 

Good news and a helping Hand

Great news! My short story, “What Do You Really Want?” appears in this week’s Binah BeTween, the tween supplement of Binah Magazine! It’s available at Jewish bookstores and newstands nationwide. This is my first appearance in that magazine, making it especially exciting for me.

It’s also the story I’ve written on the shortest deadline (other than an academic paper). It proved quite harrowing, because the six days I was given included both Shabbat and the time difference between L.A. and Israel. However, baruch HaShem (thanks to the Source, G-d), the delay ended up working in my favor. Because I started work before the editor got back to me about what genre she preferred (it was Shabbat in Israel, but not here)…the resulting fantasy story was not what she planned, and at first I panicked. Thank G-d, the editor ended up thinking my unexpected approach worked out beautifully and accepted it after all. I hope all of you like it, too.

This leads me to contemplate how much I owe to Heavenly Assistance. When I was offered that piece on a short deadline, I had no idea where I wanted the story to go until an idea “just popped” into my head. Likewise, I was offered another job more recently. The deadline was much farther off, but I still needed to get an idea and get cracking. G-d aligned all sorts of experiences and conversations on the very theme that the editor had selected. Other times, I’ve awakened at 5 o’clock in the morning with the perfect solution to my stalled Work In Progress.

A rabbi once explained to me that the reason people like Dovid HaMelech (King David) were able to accomplish so much was because they knew their own limits and that their ultimate success depended entirely on G-d. They trusted in His assistance and the endowments He gave them (acknowledging the Source of those endowments) to accomplish things most people would give up on. I’m not on that level, but there are times when I look back and go, “How did I do that!” and know I didn’t do it on my own.

Does anyone else out there feel like G-d gives them the final push to get them to their goals?