Having a funny day?

laughing hyena

Even hyenas know when not to laugh.

A couple days ago, I read this post on the Florida Writers Conference Blog (I know I’m not from Florida, but I happen to really like this blog) about humor. And there’s a fun overview of contemporary religious Jews in comedy¬†right now on Aish.com. So I was already contemplating the subject when I spotted an interview with Ruth Wisse on Tablet about her new book, No Joke.

Ten minutes in, Wisse talks about secular Jewish vs religious humor. If you’re a Jewish writer, it’s worth listening just for that bit.

The conversation as a whole gives a really interesting spin on Jewish comedy, but the most fascinating part is the end of the interview Continue reading

Fans, friends, and trolls–publishing my first piece on Tablet

So, Tablet published a piece of mine this week. It’s been a crazy experience.

In the first place, writing the piece was a bit out of my comfort zone. While I usually write fiction, this is a personal essay. In brief, the story is about confronting my inner teenager as I’m approaching 40 and relates an episode where I thought a younger man was checking me out in a cafe.

Troll

Trolls don’t only live under bridges.

The subject matter was outside the editorial policies of the chareidi magazines that comprise my usual stomping grounds, so I had to find an alternative publisher. Afraid I might embarrass my husband, I almost decided not to publish it at all, but he assured me that he didn’t mind. And when I shared an early draft with writing friends, the strongly positive reaction encouraged me further.

Tablet accepted my query, then the completed essay. They had it up in a matter of days. Whoa. It didn’t leave me much time to prepare myself. And, boy, did I have to prepare myself.

You see, there’s a lot of differences between a Jewish, but broad-spectrum, online magazine like Tablet and print magazines in the chareidi world. The biggest difference is the comments section.

In a print magazine, there is no comments section. Continue reading

Give yourself credit for the effort, not your success

Soooo…to make long story short, I did not spend my morning writing or editing today. Nope, no 1000 words for me today. Instead, I attended a workshop by Esther Simon, a well-known professional organizer. It ended up being a little bit of a wake up call. My revelation came in the middle of a discussion about how the way you spend your time should reflect your goals and values.

Am I really doing what I need to do to sell my next book? Continue reading

What is Jewish writing? Defining Jewish Writing, Part 1

What do you think?

Tablet Magazine asks this week, “What is Jewish fiction? What makes a Jewish writer?

This isn’t a new question. A year or so ago, there was this outstanding post on Jeremy Rosen’s blog, considering the same questions, and there are other essays on the subject published elsewhere.

Recently, the online magazine, Tablet, began to publish short fiction. The second story it selected, by young author Justin Taylor, begged the question. The characters weren’t Jewish, but more importantly, there were no allusions to Jewish literature, issues, history or culture in the story. Rabbi Rosen’s argument ¬†would disqualify Taylor’s story as an example of Jewish writing by that token. On the other hand, the editors at Tablet certainly felt that since Taylor is Jewish, his story is Jewish.

So I ask: Is Jewish writing by a Jewish author, or must it contain Jewish content?

I’d LOVE input about this issue. Please state your ideas below. If you want to read Taylor’s story, I want to caution you, it contains coarse language.

blogging again

Our family welcomed our newest member a month ago, another precious baby girl, so I haven’t had a chance to post for a while.

Here’s just a goofy little story that I invented to make nail-cutting more calm and enjoyable for my boys. It’s particularly appropriate now that summer is here.

Cat Claw

There once was a little boy named Salvador, but all the children in the neighborhood just called him “Cat Claw”. He hated having his nails cut so much that his nails just grew and grew, until he could hardly write with a pencil. His toenails eventually tore through his shoes. Luckily, this was summertime, and Salvador didn’t find it necessary to hold a pencil or wear shoes. His mother tried to tell him that he looked more like an animal than a boy, and neighbors teased and taunted him, but he simply ignored them and continued to avoid his mother’s attempts to trim his nails.

One day in July, the weather grew particularly hot. The sun beat down on Salvador as he scratched in the dirt outside his house, even though it was still morning.

“Mom!” yelled Salvador. “Do we have any lemonade?”

“Yes, would you like some?” his mother said.

“Please…and remember the straw,” he answered. He had to drink with a staw because his nails were too long to hold the glass.

After drinking the lemonade, Salvador went back out to play. He enjoyed himself for a while, but as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, he could no longer tolerate the heat.

When he’d finished his lunch, he said, “Mom! Let’s go get some ice cream!”

“Sure,” she said. She grabbed her pocketbook and they walked to the ice cream parlor. The only way Salvador could stand the heat was by thinking about the ice cream he’d shortly enjoy. He spent the whole way to the shop discussing with Mom what flavor he’d pick.

“Maybe fudge ripple or triple chocolate,” he said, “though brownie fudge is good, too.”

“How about butter brickle?” his mother suggested.

“Nahh…not chocolatey enough.”

They finally made it to the store. As his mother reached for the door. She pointed to a sign:

NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE.

“It looks like you can’t come in, Salvador,” said his mother. “Just look at your feet.”

As usual, her son was shoeless, with long, claw-like nails curling from his toes.

Salvador wiped the sweat from his forehead and exclaimed, “But Mom, it’s hot and I want ice cream!”

“Too bad,” said his mother. She began to turn back towards home.

“What if I let you cut my nails and start to wear shoes again?”

“Let’s do it when we get home!”

Salvador ran all the way home. As soon as his mother unlocked the door, he darted into the bathroom. With only a moment’s hesitation, he cut all his nails, all 20 of them. Washing his hands, he found his old shoes, the ones his nails had NOT torn through. He shoved them on his feet and grabbed his mother’s hand.

“Let’s go!” he said to her. “I want some triple fudge, and I want it now.”

After Bedtime

This week, we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. On the first night, many Jews have the custom to stay up all night to learn Torah, showing how excited they will be to receive the Torah again in the morning. What follows is not a Jewish story, but it is about how much children yearn to stay up late.

It was Leo’s bedtime. He took a warm bath and slipped into his favorite pajamas, the ones with basketballs all over. He drank a glass of milk with his graham cracker then brushed his teeth. His parents sent him off to bed.

“Goodnight!” said his mother.

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” added his father.

But Leo couldn’t sleep. He heard his parents moving around downstairs. He wondered what they were doing down there, after bedtime.

Once he had asked, “Dad, why do I have to go to bed at eight?”

His father had answered, “A growing boy like you needs rest so you can play in the morning.”

“Don’t you need energy for work in the morning, Dad?” Leo had asked.

“Yes, Leo, but I’m not a growing boy anymore. When you are a big man like me, then you will be able to stay up a little later, too.”

Leo sighed and wished he had grown big already.

After bedtime, Leo thought, Mom and Dad probably play with my Legos. I’ll just bet that Dad builds big skyscrapers, and then knocks them down, one-by-one.

And Mom is busy pushing my trains down the tracks, over the bridges and through the tunnels. She keeps adding more and more cars to the train, until the train gets too long and won’t stay together anymore when it rounds the corners.

Next, they take turns riding my pogo stick. Because they’re grown up, I’ll bet they share nicely and have no fights over whose turn is next.

After bedtime, Mom and Dad probably play ball in the house. Maybe that’s the real reason Mom had to buy a new lamp last week.

All that exercise must make them hungry. I’ll bet they order pizza. And, of course, they have ice cream afterwards. That must be why the carton empties out so fast!

Next, Mom hops on my bike, and Dad grabs the scooter. They race around the house, starting at the front door. The foot of the stairs is the finish line.

When they reach the stairs, they go to their room and change into their pajamas. They climb into bed. Are they ready to sleep? Oh, no, they’re not! They jump up and down on the beds until they can touch the ceiling.

Then they pick up their pillows. Mom shouts, “Pillow fight!” They whack each other with the pillows until they really and truly are tired and can fight no longer.

Finally, Mom and Dad are ready to sleep. Maybe they tuck each other in. Mom says, “Goodnight!” and Dad says, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

I’m going to catch them tonight, thought Leo. Slowly, he crept out of bed. He tried very hard not to make a single sound as he tiptoed down the stairs.

Peeking around the corner, he found his parents in the kitchen. His mother stood washing dishes, while his father swept the floor.

“Leo’s getting very big,” said his father.

“Yes,” replied his mother, stifling a yawn. “Maybe we should let him stay up a little later.”