Writing Groups Run for Pay Are Useful…But Not the Same as No-Fee Writing Groups

After last week’s post, in which I explained how to set up and run writing critique groups and manuscript swaps, I got some feedback, and I’d like to address one of the issues that came up.

What to expect if you pay for a professionally-led writing group:

There are many writers/editors, who run critique groups for a fee – and I am among them. Usually, the organizer will do at least some of the recruitment for you, and they have genuine expertise. (Although I suggest you check on this – recently, I came upon a writer who offered advice – for a fee – to a person in a field of writing it turned out they knew nothing about. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a reference even if the person is a published writer of note. Not all writers know all fields of writing, and not all writers are good at running critique groups.) Good writing group leaders are familiar with the “writing group format” and may have a very gentle and efficient way of keeping participants on-task and well-behaved. They will often arrange the logistics of the location/conference call/whatever.

Interestingly, since participants usually pay in advance for a series of meetings, they are more likely to show up. I have a close friend who is a personal trainer, and she says her clients have the same attitude: If you pay in advance, you are more likely to show up, because you know your absence will cost you money, and yet you will get no benefit from that money. For a fledgling writer who really, really needs a fire lit under their tuchas to make them show up regularly for a writing group, this has a big advantage over a free model.

I know many, many people who have enjoyed and learned a lot in writing groups run by a paid professional. A really good writing-group-for-fee is worth the price you pay. However, I don’t classify them with lay-led, no-fee groups for a number of reasons. Examining these will help a writer decide which model will work best for them. Continue reading

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Are you doing #Readukkah?

This week has been declared #Readukkah by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). In honor of the event, I’ve reviewed a new book, and will share other new book news below.

TUKY: THE STORY OF A HIDDEN CHILD by Shterni Rosenfeld (Hachai 2015)

Here’s my Goodreads review: Continue reading

The Role of Periodicals in Jewish Life: Rob Eshman’s “Why We Write”

I read a fascinating essay in The Jewish Journal today.

Publisher-about-to-go-on-sabbatical Rob Eshman relates a recent visit he had with young Israelis, when he had the opportunity to explain why Jewish newspapers have had such a prominent and consistent role in the life of Jewish Americans.

The major reason Eshman highlighted was the importance of communication between communities and unifying them to promote certain, common agendas. He also touched on how this role has changed, from an institution what taught Jews how to become good Americans–find jobs and acclimate to their new environment–to an institution which “teach[es]Americans to be Jews.”

Teaching Americans to be Jews

This latter element particularly struck me. As Eshman mentioned, many Jewish magazines and newspapers exist primarily on the web. In fact, that’s where they now find the majority of their readers.

Jews who live outside major Jewish communities–due to geography or due to a lack of affiliation–can now access information about their co-religionists via websites like The Jewish Journal‘s, The Forward‘s, Kveller, and so on. Need a latke recipe? Look online. Need advice about how to handle the funeral of a relative? Look online. Such sites bring community to people who previously felt excluded.

In the Orthodox world, even, you find magazines devoted to Jewish cuisine, divrei Torah (words of Torah, including all of Tanach, the Oral Law, and commentaries), inspiration, and advice from the Jewish standpoint.

What’s your favorite Jewish magazine or newspaper? Why? What role do you think periodicals have in contemporary Jewish life? Please share your comments.

My 5 Favorite Things Currently on the Web

I spend most of my time on the internet doing work, but every once in a while, I stumble upon something I love and have to keep coming back for more. Here are links to my current favs so you can check them out and get obsessed, too.

1) Space Rabbi – I love the brothers Taub and have enjoyed their various projects on Chabad.org for years. Episode 1 gets off to a slow start, but it’s all wackiness from then on, from the retro “futuristic” design elements, to the HAL references, to the bizarre characterizations of all the electronic gadgets that come to life and interact with Rabbi Blastoffski.

Yes, the main character is actually called Rabbi Blastoffski. How cool is that?

2) Pop Chassid – Currently, my favorite Jewish blog on the internet. Elad Nehorai reflects on Judaism, Chassidus, the arts, and modern life. Not only are his posts insightful, but he has some wonderful followers who post great comments.

3) Hanan Harchol – I first got wind of this guy through a bit he had up on Aish.com.  Most of the videos are animated dialogues between Hanan and (his impersonation of) his father and contain reflections about Jewish philosophy. Utterly charming and thought-provoking.

4) Verplanck – I’m not sure how long these guys are going to be around, because they need to raise funds for their project, but part 6 of their Orthodox online comedy is simply hilarious. (Although you probably need to be religious to get the jokes.) It’s awesome if you’re home sick and are too old for Agent Emes. You will laugh yourself healthy.

5) Shtar – Because they rock. Literally. (Okay, sometimes it’s more like hip-hop. Or maybe techno. Or maybe just cool.) “Wonderland” should be used in commercials by the Ministry of Tourism to encourage travel to Israel.

(My first runner-up is G-dcast, video interpretations of Jewish texts that aren’t always Orthodox, but always creative. Check out Avoiding the Mud for a Chassidishe meise, or The Rise of Yavneh for the story of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa and destruction of the Temple.)

Teachers and Parents–Looking for kids’ books about Chanukah?

Thanks to Barbara Krasner from The Whole Megillah for sharing the following lead in her latest post:

For teachers and parents, finding just the right book selection at holiday times can be challenging. The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) just published a list of great Chanukah reading selections, all of which have been singled out by the Sidney Taylor Award committee for their excellence.

In addition, here are some more of my kids’ old favorites that do not appear on the AJL list:

Latkes and Applesauce

Nine Spoons

Asher and the Capmakers

The Story of Hanukkah

The Power of Light

The Chanukah Guest