Personal Essays: The Importance of Being Real

While I prefer to write fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy, I do write other genres. This includes personal essays. I took a little break from writing personal essays over the summer, mostly because writing them can be emotionally draining.

Why writing personal essays feels like a round in a boxing ring Continue reading

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Is poetry as we know it dead? Goldsmith speculates the “meme machine” has taken over.

This week, The New Yorker book blog published a post by Kenneth Goldsmith about the proliferation of rather un-poetic  “poetry” spreading across the internet. He writes:

[T]he Canadian media scholar Darren Wershler…has been making some unexpected connections between meme culture and contemporary poetry. “These artifacts,” Wershler claims, “aren’t conceived of as poems; they aren’t produced by people who identify as poets; they circulate promiscuously, sometimes under anonymous conditions; and they aren’t encountered by interpretive communities that identify them as literary.”

…It’s not uncommon to see blogs that recount someone’s every sneeze since 2007, or of a man who shoots exactly one second of video every day and strings the clips together in time-lapsed mashups. Continue reading

The Post in Which I Confess Again My Love of Sharpies & Probably Ruffle Some Feathers

Today is Hoshana Rabba, the last day of Sukkot, the Jewish Festival of Booths. In keeping with the more lenient final days of the holiday, my family has been trekking all over Southern California on outings. Today, I’m cooking, so between the challah baking and the vegetable roasting, I’d like to share a few thoughts with my readers.

A Writer’s Quandry

el pueblo de los angeles

The Avila Adobe, the oldest building at the Pueblo.

Yesterday, we visited El Pueblo de los Angeles, the original non-Indian settlement here in L.A. Last year, the Pueblo welcomed a new addition to its site on Olvera Street — an interpretive center for the América Tropical mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros that appears near the roof of what’s known as “the Italian Building.”

When the mural was unveiled in 1932, it immediately fell victim to controversy because of its anti-imperialist sensibilities. The most “offensive” images on the right half of the mural were quite literally whitewashed not long after it’s first exhibition, with the remainder of the mural being painted over four years later.

I was aghast as I listened to and read the details of the story. A white socialite pushed to remove an artist’s genuine expression of the Latino experience because it offended her political and social sensibilities.

Now, here’s the seemingly ironic part of the situation. I have a web page devoted to a “kosher reading list” and elsewhere have confessed to censoring my kids’ reading materials. My husband and I have effectively banned TV, Disney movies & Romeo and Juliet from our home because we don’t like their effects on children (see my comment in this link to the excellent post by Pop Chassid).

Yes, I am a self-described censor. Continue reading

Even turtles have to poke their heads out sometimes

What makes Jewish literature Jewish?

In theory, I’m on vacation, make that staycation, with my kids and not posting. However, in the last week, two authors I respect both posted on a topic I’ve contemplated before: what is Jewish literature? Their ideas were both useful and inspirational. It’s worth reading the posts. You can read Libi Astaire’s post here and Erika Dreifus’s here.

On a related note, after a short hiatus, Tablet has started posting fiction again. I’m wondering if the complaints about whether their previous stories were examples of Jewish literature had an effect — both the recent pieces have been translations of Israeli authors.

For writers: 5 ways to be funny

Stripped Hyena

If you play your cards right, you’ll have them laughing like hyenas!

It’s been a week and a half since Purim, so I’ve gotten lots of feedback about this year’s Klempner family Purim Spiel. My husband and sister (fellow contributors) agreed with me that this year’s was less funny than last year’s, but we seem to be in a minority. As I mentioned last year, since I began writing professionally, my little hobby now feels like work, and I avoided cranking out a complete rough draft until the week before Purim.

And then, I deleted several stories at almost the last minute. They just weren’t funny enough. So, I prayed–yes, that’s what this professional writer with a Master’s Degree and a generally pragmatic outlook on life did–I prayed for new ideas. And G-d sent some!

Besides relying on Heavenly Intervention, there are other ways to be funny. Without further ado:

5 Ways To Be Funny Continue reading

Better Writing vs Better Sales: What makes a better writer?

Today’s post from The Write Practice got me thinking. In it, Joe Bunting suggests that we worry too much about sales, and even about how good our writing is.

I love these two lines:

Does the fact that more people have read Twilight than have read [any book by] Mark Twain mean Stephenie Meyer is a better writer?

More important for us, does the fact that we are all less known than E.L. James (as far as I know) mean our stories aren’t as good?

metal chain

Your writing can be the chain that binds people together.

Bunting suggests we think “Connection” (with readers) over “Competition” (with other writers).

What Bunting says really appealed to me. Of all the kinds of feedback I get from my stories and articles, the ones that mean the most are the ones where people tell me that they identified with some aspect of what I’d written–particularly if the person is really different from me. This the kind of thing that bonds together humanity. Bunting would call this kind of connection literary success.

I’d call it something else: a measuring stick to use if you want to judge your writing’s moral quotient: will this writing bind people together, or will it tear them apart with strife? In that sense, “Good Writing” has a quality beyond the writer’s style or storytelling ability. It’s “Good” in the moral sense, as well.

What do you think?