I am not a blogger

I am not a blogger.

There, I said it.

I came to this realization yesterday, after the funny (as in “weird,” not in “haha”) response I had to PopChassid’s marvelous list of 7 bloggers he thinks deserve more attention. As I read about all the fabulous bloggers (Several I had heard of, and a couple I had not…my favorite post by one of the unfamiliar ones was Ruchi Koval’s interview with her yetzer hara. Just so funny and true!), I felt more and more (embarrassing to admit) jealous.

Now, I’ve blogged here before about how important it is not to envy other writers. I’m a big believer in being farginen those around me. But I sensed something unusual about the variety of jealousy I was experiencing. Continue reading

I stepped up to the challenge…but did I succeed?

Well.

A couple months ago, I challenged writers to try something new: a new genre, new POV, new publication, anything that would help us to stretch our wings.

Since I threw down the gauntlet, I had to participate in this challenge, right? So I thought about a couple possible places to sub a feature, a genre I hadn’t published in at least two years. Then I brainstormed a few feature ideas, and I sent our queries based on them.

Guess what.

I got nada.

I know that my ultimate success isn’t in my hands, so I feel like I did my share and can take no responsibility for the rest. And I plan to try for features and other new things, too. In fact, I heard about a poetry contest that sounds so interesting, I’m thinking of attempting serious poetry for the first time in many years.

So, is this a success–because I did try something new–or is this a failure–because I didn’t get responses to my queries?

What do you think? (Please post comments below.)

rocket failure

Never made it off the launch pad.

Denial is more than a river in Egypt

Sorry for the corny post title. I’m starting to evaluate why my novel manuscript was rejected in preparation for revising it. The truth is, parts of it are original and thought-provoking, but parts are outright terrible.

1) I need to spend more time developing my setting and characters. My beta readers told me my characters were appealing, but are they believable? I’m not so sure. And the setting could be more convincing. I’m going to do some mapping out of additional material to flesh things out, plus do a few strategic cuts (or changes) to make each more consistent with their inner logic.

2) It’s too short. Yes, I am a champion of short novels, but this novel is TOO short. I need at least another 12,000 words so the speed isn’t so breakneck. In retrospect, there are plenty of scenes alluded to in conversation or flashback that could be fleshed out so there is more showing and less tell.

3) Parts are too pedantic. I’ve been reading some books which take a similar approach to serious topics (see previous post here), and have recognized that I could write my little sci-fi fable with a little lighter hand.

4) The book doesn’t always convey the exact message I intended. I think I changed my outlook a few times in the process of writing, and it shows. I have to have more focus and consistency.

I’m not really ashamed that my book is less than perfect, but BOY I’m glad I didn’t follow the advice of people who told me to self-publish. At least there are fewer than 10 people who have read the whole thing thus far.

EWN3DPDHS62A

How to Do Teshuva: Giving up and Layne Staley

I think my husband thinks I’ve lost my mind. This Orthodox Jewish housewife (okay, writer…but only extremely part-time writer) has lately been listening to–of all things–huge quantities of Alice in Chains. To those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Alice in Chains is a band the originated in the ’90s as part of the grunge movement that came out of Seattle. Think heavy metal with superior harmonized vocals and thought-provoking, spiritual lyrics that only rarely involve profanity.

Here’s an example of a slower song (I promise, no bad words) with relatively tame video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8hT3oDDf6c

Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley were the heart of the band at its inception. Staley’s lyrics largely reflect his regret that he largely wasted his life on drug addiction. At the end of his 34 years on this earth, he admitted in interviews that he didn’t get any pleasure from doing drugs. First he did drugs to escape reality, then he did them to avoid withdrawl. He pretty much died of every horrible complication you can have of drug addiction possible. Then his corpse sat in his apartment undiscovered for two weeks. (Talk about a cautionary tale.) Layne Staley’s ninth “yahrzeit” so to speak, will be in a few days.
So why am I listening to so much Alice in Chains?
Our Sages teach that one of the ways the yetzer hara (inclination to do evil) speaks to us is through telling us it’s too late…we’re too lowly to do teshuva (the process of regret, confession, then a return to correct behavior), too steeped in sin. It tries to convince us we’ve got no hope at digging ourselves out, that our true identity is our yetzer hara, instead of our soul. This is exactly the fear conveyed by many of Alice in Chains’ poetic songs.
Down in a hole
feeling so small
down in a hole
losing my soul
I’d like to fly
But my wings are bent
so can I?
The songs written by Layne Staley are a modern-day (l’havdil) selichos.
The tragedy of Layne Staley isn’t simply that he did drugs. It’s that he never seized the opportunity to do teshuva in time. As much as he was a victim of drug abuse, he was a victim of his own yetzer hara. This is a stark reminder that the yetzer hara is considered identical to the Angel of Death.
At this time of year, with Passover approaching, we can recall that the Jewish people were at a deep level of impurity during the period of their slavery. Finally, the children of Israel cried out to HaShem (G-d) and He brought us out of bondage. There are numerous accounts in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) and Jewish history of those who turned away from lives steeped in sin, including Rachav (left behind life in a brothel to rescue Jews and marry a prophet) and Shimon ben Lakish (aka Reish Lakish – left behind life as a bandit and gladiator to study and teach Torah). Let their stories remind us that it is never too late to get back on the correct path.

We are told by in Mishlei (the Book of Proverbs), “...sheva yipol tzaddik v’kam.” (“Seven times shall
the righteous fall and then rise.”) The difference between those of us who are righteous and those of us who aren’t isn’t whether we’ve sinned or not, but whether we’ve picked up ourselves to try better next time.

I wish Layne Staley had picked himself up and flown.