Short story in Hamodia’s story supplement!

While I’m still waiting for Glixman‘s arrival, I’ve got a nice surprise for my readers. The story supplement for Hamodia‘s English edition for Pesach – due out today, I think – contains a short story by me. Continue reading

They loved it, they hated it: Feedback on my story from Binah’s Sukkos Supplement, “From the Furthest Reaches of the Heavens”

I have emerged from the semi-hibernation of Sukkos (if you can call a holiday that involved cooking 10 fancy meals – many with with guests – hibernation) and am looking forward to a week chock full of work. I’ve got a personal essay to write for one of the sites I frequent, another to revise for a literary journal, and spent most of today editing. That’s on top of some work I want to do on one of my ongoing projects. And did I mention I still have to market the two books I recently self-published?

Earth on 1967-11-09, as seen from Apollo 4.

But I’d like to take a moment to look back on the story I published in Binah Magazine’s Vistas story supplement, “From the Furthest Reaches of the Heavens.”

SUMMARY

In case you haven’t read the story (and I’m assuming many of my blog readers haven’t), I’ll summarize it: Continue reading

Oh, all right, I’ll spill the beans.

So, yesterday’s post mentioned that I’ve been working on a few big projects. I can’t tell you about all of them, but I can tell you about two:

  1. I’ve compiled several of the stories I have published previously in international Jewish kids’ magazines into an anthology, selecting the ones that got the most fan mail, and which teachers have mentioned they’d like to use in their classrooms. I’m self-publishing it, IY”H. Target audience: readers age 10-16. We’re just waiting on the proofs – which I’ll have to proofread – before they will be up for sale.
  2. Also on the self-publishing front, many years ago, I had a number of stories starring two characters, Esti and Bluma, which ran in a local-to-L.A. Jewish magazine. Those stories got lots of fan mail here in L.A., so I started to shop around for a publisher. I had a couple near-misses, where a publisher said they were very interested, but then backed out pretty late in the game. After that, I added some more material, changed some things around to make it more like a middle-grade novel, as opposed to a short story collection, and tried yet another publisher. As they say in Yiddish: gornisht. My husband, though, really believed in the book, and my beta testers – kids from around the neighborhood – enjoyed it thoroughly. Doing Maker Camp over the summer really inspired me, as well as this post on Positive Writer, so after working on the anthology, I pulled out this older manuscript and started editing that one.

G-d willing, I’ll have news for you soon about these upcoming releases. I’m hoping to have them available online and at bookshops in L.A. Keep your eyes peeled for updates! (And prayers for the success of this project are welcome.)

Why I think speculative fiction is just SO Jewish (& you should, too)

One of the things I most like to write (and find it hard to sell) is Jewish speculative fiction. Speculative fiction is a wide-ranging label that includes genres like fantasy, science-fiction, and horror. Basically, in speculative fiction, the author suggests a scenario that proposes the question: “What if_______?”

What if…

…you found out that you weren’t a friendless orphan but a powerful wizard with many supporters? (Harry Potter)

…you discovered the back of the wardrobe led into a magical realm where you became royalty? (Narnia)

…you discovered there was a way to communicate with aliens through your dental work? (Fat Men From Space)

…you accidentally returned to the time of the Holocaust during your Pesach Seder? (The Devil’s Arithmetic)

While Isaac Asimov, Jane Yolen, Harlan Ellison, Daniel Manus Pinkwater, and many other secular Jewish Americans (as well as the Orthodox writer, Michael Burstein and the Israeli writers Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv) have written speculative fiction to great acclaim–even Jewish speculative fiction–specifically Orthodox Jewish speculative fiction is much harder to find. As I have mentioned previously on my blog (and again, and again), there has been movement into this direction. But still, I get a lot of funny looks when I tell people what I most like to write.

But I don’t get it. I think speculative fiction is just SO Jewish, and so should you. Here’s why: Continue reading

Flashes and foraging: where story ideas come from

I was reading this interesting little article a while back about the flashes of inspiration that triggered 10 authors to pen their most classic works. The article really focuses on novels that arose out of a spontaneous image or idea that popped into the author’s head. Perhaps the most dramatic was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s inspiration for 100 Years of Solitude. His sudden insight prompted him to turn his car around and drive his family home to work on his new book instead of continuing towards the beach vacation they’d been headed for.

Now, I recognize that many stories are born that way–bolts of lighting unexpectedly sent from Above, and so on–and it has certainly happened to me before. An editor will select a topic for me to write on (1200-1400 words by next Thursday on this theme, please!) and I’ll sit stumped about how to approach it in some way that isn’t stale and predictable. Hours (or days) later, I’ll try to get back to sleep after someone’s car alarm has gone off and–zing!–HaShem will pop an idea into my brain. (Insert here a sound effect to emphasize the moment.) Sometimes, a detail of a conversation or picture in a book will provoke an entire story to arise almost fully formed from my imagination, with little effort on my part. Yes, this does happen.

Most of the time, however, I forage for ideas. I’ll flip through science news for a new discovery or technology that sounds too impossible to be true. I’ll read three novels all of the same genre or subject, and then compare them. I’ll snip articles out of my HaModia or Mishpacha or Ami. I’ll browse the pages of my journal for wacky things my kids do or things kids fight about, or scribble clusters of words that a topic evokes from my mind.

Once I collect these ideas, they require careful combination. At times the way to do this comes through hard work, strategically arranging plot elements based on the needs of the assignment. Other times, I sit and contemplate them and then let the ideas sorta drift together until something sounds right. I’ll meld a new technology with a situation my children recently dealt with. I’ll transport the subplot from a novel I liked into a fantastic setting, then give it a different ending. Sometimes, after sampling the rough draft, I’ll recognize there’s a missing ingredient and have to hunt around for something that adds just the right flavor. It’s not like there’s no Heavenly assistance involved…it’s just a lot more dramatic, with more input on my part.

In the HaModia Sukkos 5773 story supplement (out today!), you’ll find a piece by yours truly that was generated in just such a way. Discovering that earthbound scientists will likely be exploring new planets via remote-controlled robots, I filed it away for future contemplation. (This isn’t the original article, but it was about the same subject.) After a lot of publicity last winter and spring about how the internet and smart technologies affect human relationships, I revisited the initial idea and found a way to blend the two concepts into an entertaining (I hope!) sci-fi story. I’m hoping the readers enjoy it. It will be my first piece for adults in a magazine with an international circulation!