2016 Opportunities for Writers of Jewish Story

Have you decided what path your writing will take in 2016? Here are some opportunities to take advantage of to bring your writing to new levels and to send your work off into the world.

img_facilityHighlights Foundation workshop, “Writing Jewish Children’s Books”–May 15-18, 2016 in Boyds Mills, PA

This workshop has been running since 2010 and gives writers a hands-on approach to writing Jewish content for young readers. We begin with a round-up of Jewish children’s books on Sunday evening and participate in an editorial roundtable Monday morning. Our editorial faculty guests include:

  • Joni Sussman, publisher at Kar-Ben
  • Dianne Hess, executive editor at Scholastic
  • Talia Benamy, assistant editor at Philomel

Our guest author is Kathy Kacer, award-winning author of many Holocaust-related books for children and winner of a 2016 Sydney Taylor Honor Book award for Stones on a Grave.

Workshop participants will have a one-on-one consultation with a guest editor about their picture book, novel, or narrative nonfiction manuscripts on Monday. There’s opportunity for group critique and prompt-based generative writing throughout the workshop.

For more information or to register, click here>>>

PSF-scroll.png.colorThe Whole Megillah Online Fiction Class–Encore Sessions

Last winter’s online fiction class was so successful that we’re offering it again! Over a five-week period you’ll learn the nuances of imagery, characterization (including dialogue), setting, plot, point of view and voice to produce fiction. Sessions begin in July using a combination of Google Drive and a private Facebook page. If interested, please comment on this post or email barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net.

The Whole Megillah Newsletter

Starting soon, The Whole Megillah will be emailing a newsletter to its subscribers. The newsletter will be produced every other month and offer prompts, calls for submission news, and news about you! Please share your successes and we’ll announce it to our whole community. It’s time to kvell!

To subscribe (or completely opt out) and/or to share your news, please email barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net.

Mining Memories CommunityMining Your Memories–Facebook Community

Interested in writing about your past? Join the Mining Your Memories Facebook page and get prompts, book reviews, and news about calls for submission. This is an outgrowth of the class I teach at the Adult School of Montclair. Join here.

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Author’s Notebook | Pia Wolcowitz, The Nurse

I first had the pleasure of meeting Pia Wolcowitz at one of my Highlights Workshops, Writing Jewish Children’s Books. Here is my recent interview with her about her novel, The Nurse, published by Shaar Press in 2015.

pia 1The Whole Megillah )TWM): What prompted you to write this novel?
Pia Wolcowitz (PW): I was always drawn to medicine, even as a small child. While others were scared when visiting sick people, I was drawn to the mystery and puzzle of medicine. Like Rechy, I am in fact a Visiting Nurse, a Hasidic wife and mother with a Bais Yaakov education who went to nursing school. As I wrote about my journey, I fell under the spell of creative invention, a liberating spell.

Once my main character Rechy became fully formed—and that was very soon in the process—I was able to give her a life of her own and depart from the facts and people in my own life.

512SE7JcAOL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_TWM: Are you a nurse yourself or did you base this on someone you know?
PW: I am a Visiting Nurse and I have great material. But at the end of the day, considering the federal HIPAA regulations or…the responsibility to maintain every patient’s confidentiality, I couldn’t go home and talk about any of this. Any of the challenges. [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ]

TWM: How long did it take you to write this novel?
PW: Six years. At first I wrote like a beginner, for ‘self expression.’ Then I wrote to work out some of my everyday experiences and of course that meant writing about my day job. Then I had to gain some kind of intelligent craft level and that took time. I’m a quick learner but there was—and is—always a lot to learn.

TWM: Did you need to conduct any research? If so, how?
PW: Yes, even though I am a nurse, about three years into the novel I needed to dig into alternative   medicine because alternative medicine creates a large plot line in my book. Obviously, the internet is the easiest and quickest way to research, but I clearly remember your very sound advice from the Highlights workshop I attended where you spoke about traveling to the locations where our story takes place and interviewing people who know about the things we write about. In fact, I contacted an Alternative Healer from the internet and consulted with him specifically about the Bach remedies and autoimmune diseases which appear in the book.

TWM: Did you ever consider a secular publisher? Why/why not?
PW: Sending this book into the hands of any publisher was a little scary.  A little like marrying off your child. So I decided to stay within my community as I had yet to grow myself as a writer too.

TWM: What was the most challenging scene to write? The most satisfying?
PW: The most satisfying and fun scenes in The Nurse were the scenes where people made shidduch (matchmaking) inquiries. Kind of a delicious fun to create those scenes.

The most challenging—and here is when I felt my growth as a writer—was writing closely from my experience but finding myself writing characters who were, on the other hand, nothing like their real life inspiration. I then had to live up to my obligation to story, to their story. I wasn’t writing for self expression anymore.

I will quote the great William Faulkner here and say that “I am not interested in facts.  I am interested in the truth.” I had to get to that place in order to go forward with this book.

TWM: Do you have more plans for this book?
PW: Although this book can be passed along to secular readers as it is written sensitively and smartly for all audiences, in fact, I am looking into creating a glossary.  

TWM: What’s next for you?
PW: I am working on a YA spin off, a prequel to The Nurse, with a main character who is a child in Romania during WWII. She is, in fact, the grandmother of the main (nurse) character in The Nurse. I also have begun an adult novel concerning that same woman who as an adult made her way to America.

TWM: I can’t wait to read them! Thanks so much, Pia. If any The Whole Megillah readers are interested in helping Pia with The Nurse‘s Yiddish/Hebrew glossary, please send me a note at barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net.

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Author’s Notebook | Kathy Kacer, Stones on a Grave

head shot for Seven (2)Kathy Kacer recently published a new novel, Stones on a Grave, with Orca Press. The Whole Megillah asked her some questions about this new book, which was recently named a 2016 Sydney Taylor Honor Book!

The Whole Megillah (TWM): What prompted you to write Stones on a Grave?
Kathy Kacer: This book is actually part of a series of books called “Secrets.” We are seven authors writing seven books about seven female characters. The seven girls have all grown up together in an orphanage in a small town in the early 1960s. At the start of each of our books the orphanage burns down and the seven girls are given a chance to go off on journeys to discover where they came from and the circumstances of their births.

We seven authors were able write our books in the style and genre that we knew and loved. Within the series there is fantasy, humor, mystery, and historical fiction. The books are stand-alone and can be read in any order. But the girls are all related and linked to each other. It’s a fantastic concept, I think!

When I was approached to be part of the series, I knew immediately that I wanted to write a story about a girl who discovers her Jewish roots, and learns that she is linked to the Holocaust in some way. That’s how Stones on a Grave came about.

Untitled-1TWM: That’s so fascinating! How did you conduct research for the book?
KK: In Stones on a Grave, Sara discovers that she was born in a DP camp at the end of the war. She travels to Germany to try and find that camp and find any documents related to her birth. The most important research for me was related to the DP camps that were established in Europe after the war. I did a lot of research on those camps, what activities went on there, where they were located, who lived there after the war, and for how long. I also did a lot of research on Bad Arolsen and the International Tracing Service which houses documents and research on Nazi persecution during the war. Sara goes there to try and learn more about her mother and father.

I try to do as much research as possible for each of my books, and then I pick and choose the pieces of that research that will be relevant to the story that I am telling.

TWM: How different was your experience in writing this book vs. your others? Why do you think that was?
KK: Writing the beginning chapters of this book was a new experience for me. I was writing a series with six other authors and we all had to agree on the starting point for our characters—where the orphanage was that they lived in, what it looked like, who ran it, how the fire started, etc., etc. There were a million details to work out and coordinate with the other authors. We all had to be careful not to trip over anyone else’s story, and we had to carefully synchronize our time lines and story lines.

Once we had established the beginning chapters of our books, the seven of us were free to go off and write the stories that we wanted to write. At that point, the process of writing was no different than many of my other historical fiction books.

TWM: How did you come up with the idea of the dogs? Does that have any special meaning to you or to survivors in general?
KK: So many people have told me how much they love the dogs that are part of my book. But it really has nothing to do with survivors. When I was in Italy on a book tour a few years ago, I met a wonderful teacher there who was teaching several of my books in her classrooms. She and her husband had a dog named Tex Willer named after the fictional cowboy character of an Italian comic series. I loved the dog’s name and told my friend that I would find a way to include a similar dog in a future book. I thought about it when I was writing Stones on a Grave.

TWM: How did you come up with Sara’s two love interests?
KK: Originally, as I was thinking about the plot for this book, I thought it might contain a theme about neo-Nazism. That didn’t turn out to be something that I wanted to pursue. But I created the character of Luke to bring attention to some issues of discrimination that were relevant to my story and to one of the other stories in the series. It was a great way to link two of the books. Realizing just how nasty Luke was also gave my character, Sara, the ability to resolve to leave her sheltered world behind her and set off to discover the truth about her roots.

All seven of the authors in this series decided that each of our books would contain a love interest and an important first kiss. The character of Peter was everything that Luke wasn’t; he was kind and helpful and genuine. I wanted him to first be a friend to Sara—helping her maneuver her way around Germany—and then became more than that!

TWM: What was the most challenging scene to write?
KK: (Spoiler alert to those who have not read the book!) It was definitely challenging to write about the doctor’s revelation that he is Sara’s grandfather. He discloses some painful personal events about his wife’s death and about Sara’s mother. I really had to think hard about how much I wanted to write in this regard and how I would do it in a way that was sensitive to my teenage audience.

TWM: What was the most satisfying scene to write?
KK: I didn’t realize that Sara’s necklace would have the Hebrew word, tikvah, inscribed on it until I was in the middle of writing that chapter. Tikvah of course means “hope” which was the name of the town that Sara came from—a town that meant very little to her until then.

I loved writing that scene and loved that moment of uncovering something that I had not planned or thought about. It’s kind of magical as an author when that happens.

TWM: What inspires you to continue to write Holocaust-related material?
KK: Just when I think I’ve written the last Holocaust-related book I am going to write, another remarkable story comes to me and I feel compelled to write about that. I am realizing that there are still so many stories that I want to write—so much in this history that I think is important and has not been developed in books for young readers.

TWM: You certainly are prolific. What’s up next for you and do you have any plans to work with a U.S. publisher?
KK: I have a new book coming out next fall that is my first non-Holocaust book! It is a story about a young first nations girl who was taken to a residential school in the early 1900s. Here in Canada we have a terrible history involving the treatment of first nations children in residential schools. I am writing this book with a young aboriginal woman named Jenny Dupuis. This is her grandmother’s story and it is called I Am Not a Number.
After that, I return to a story about the Holocaust. I am writing a book that revolves around the trial of Oskar Groening, a former SS officer who was recently convicted of being complicit in the murder of 300,000 Jews in Auschwitz. Groening is 94 years old and is probably one of the last Nazi war criminals who will ever be brought to trial. The book is actually a true story about a young 19-year-old student who traveled to Germany to attend Groening’s trial and be a witness to this history.

All of my books are distributed in the U.S. (along with about twenty other countries), though I continue to work primarily with Canadian publishers. I am always open to the possibility of working with a U.S. publisher if the opportunity comes along!

For more on Kathy Kacer, visit her website.

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Three-in-One | Shmulik Paints the Town Written by Lisa Rose and Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

Lisa ChottinerMy first encounter with Lisa Rose was as an author through her Facebook group, “Missing Voice.” Like me and countless others, she is now a Kar-Ben author with Shmulik Paints the Town, a story about a painter, a dog, and Israeli Independence Day. Here you’ll find an interview with her, illustrator Catalina Echeverri, and Kar-Ben publisher Joni Sussman.

The Whole Megillah (TWM): Lisa, what inspired this story?
Lisa Rose (LR): This story was inspired by my cousin who paints pictures using dog paw prints.  She drips the paw in paint and then stamps it over the canvas.  Afterwards, she creates paintings based upon the prints.  Owners love to have this very unique work of art.  Also, sometimes people bring their old and sick dogs to her so that they can have a lasting memory their beloved pet.

TWM: Please describe your writing process for this story.
LR: I was swimmer before I ever was a writer.  It was excellent practice for becoming a writer.  Both often require you to go as fast as you can into a cement wall.  This story hit many cement walls.  I put it aside for a bit and then one day after attending a story structure workshop by Shutta Crum I figured out how to revise it.  Victory!  My advice:  Never throw out stories that aren’t working.  Simply, put them aside—you never know when you will learn how to revise it.  It may take days…or years…but it will come.

Shmulik Paints the Town coverTWM: What was your greatest challenge in writing Shmulik?
LR: Because most of the action in the story is illustration driven I was concerned (worried) that the meaning would not be understood.

TWM: What was your greatest satisfaction?
LR: This is my very first print picture book.  (I have published e-book and stories in anthologies.)  So I think after wishing, hoping, praying, and working my tush off, it was finally seeing my name on the cover.  WOW!  This is really happening!  It a real book with ISBN number and everything.

TWM: Joni, what attracted you to this manuscript?
Joni Sussman (JS): I loved that Lisa’s story takes place in Israel and yet the focus of the plot is not just Israeli Independence Day, but rather a charming and whimsical story about a man and his talented pup, which would delight any child. This book gave Kar-Ben a chance to portray a number of aspects of Israel that we like to portray—what the desert-y landscape of Israel looks like, what Israel’s diverse population looks like, an Israeli city’s combination of old and new buildings, etc.

TWM: How/why did you choose Catalina to illustrate?
JS: Admittedly, Catalina was an unusual choice to illustrate this book as her artwork is a bit “edgy,” but my goal was to find an illustrator who could really bring personality to Shmulik and Catalina did a great job of that. I was charmed by her art style and loved the way she used color sparingly at the beginning and then saturated the story with color when Shmulik’s artwork is revealed at the end—I think it’s really quite spectacular. Both Catalina’s art and Lisa’s text take this book beyond its story about Israel and friendship between man and pup—both great themes—into the realm of art and what art means can serve as inspiration to young readers to let their imaginations soar.

TWM: Thanks, Joni. Let’s turn to Catalina. How did you develop your color strategy?Catalina Echeverri (CE): When I am illustrating a picture book by another author, I like to do a lot of research. I read the text several times and then research images or artists which somehow remind me of the text or somehow visually “connect” me to it. In this case, Lisa’s text reminded me of a book I bought on sale a long time ago from an artist called John Rombola.  I have always admired the way that his line work is so crisp and clean and the way that he incorporates colour in such a powerful way. It’s simple, and yet vibrant and graphic. He was my main source of inspiration fro this book. Modern cities in many parts of the world, have lost their vibrancy and their color and I’ve always been struck by the way beautiful murals and art interventions in urban spaces are able to bring back some vibrancy and happiness to the spaces they are placed in. So when I read Lisa’s story about little Ezra and his artistic paws that was exactly what was brought into my mind.

TWM: Did you have any particular challenges in illustrating this book?
CE: I’ve always wanted to visit Israel but I’ve never had the opportunity to actually go and because I always like my work to be faithful to the place and costumes of the country/historical period the characters are placed in this posed a particular challenge. I had to do a lot of online research about the places, the people and the buildings that the book would be set in. There were lots of hours invested on this part of the process because I wanted everything to be submerged into the Jewish culture, including the plants and the little details. Although it was a challenge it was really enriching! I learnt a lot about Israel and how beautiful it is.

TWM: Did you have any particular satisfactions?
CE: How the book has been so positively received by both the Publisher and the Writer Lisa Rose has been so encouraging!  Joni and Laura gave me a lot of creative freedom and really trusted in me for this project and so I really wanted to honour that trust. The Author’s response is also a great satisfaction because I know it is a text she has worked really hard on and I wanted to do it justice.

TWM: Thanks, Catalina. Lisa, Did the artwork surprise you in any way?
LR: The artwork looked nothing like my cousin’s paintings so at first it was a little jarring.  However, I’m so pleased with Catalina’s work.  I love how she chose to use black and white with color.  We’ve never met and didn’t even speak to her until after the book was released—but I know she “got” the story.  All my fears never came true.  I can’t wait to meet her and give her a BIG HUG!Shmulik Paints the Town spread

TWM: Can you say a few words about the Facebook group you moderate?
LR: I host a discussion group on Facebook.  Many times people don’t buy diverse books, because they lack the awareness.  I’m Jewish.  However, I taught in Detroit and many of my stories are inspired by my African-American students. I believe because of my experience, I have a unique perspective of understanding two communities.  I observe how both communities can lack an understanding of each other.  Not because of hate, but because of just living divided.  I believe the way to end ignorance is with knowledge.  I call it “Missing Voice” because I want it to mean more than just race, but also include religion, and little known historical facts and people.  Once a month a new picture book is selected to read and discuss.  At the end of the month is a live chat with the author on our Missing Voice Facebook page.

TWM: Lisa, what’s next for you?
LR: My writing is very diverse.  I write Nice Jewish Picture Books and I’m working on a mutli-media project with Jeff Bass, Grammy and Oscar-winning music producer of rapper Eminem.  Also, I write non-fiction and silly secular fiction picture books.  But all of these works are linked by common theme of: cheer for the underdog!

SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN can be found on Amazon.  It’s the #1 New Release for Jewish Children’s Books.  It also can be purchased through the publisher  www.karben.com

To learn more please go to: www.LisaRoseWrites.org  Also, be my friend on Facebook  Lisa Rose or tweet @LisaRoseWrites.

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Author’s Notebook | Anne Blankman, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

Photo by Peter Blankman

Photo by Peter Blankman

In July 2014, The Whole Megillah interviewed debut novelist Anne Blankman, author of the YA historical drama, Prisoner of Night and Fog, the story of Gretchen Müller and her search for the truth of about her father’s death and Uncle Dolf Hitler. The sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, was published in 2015 by the Balzer + Bray imprint of HarperCollins. Here now is a follow-up conversation with Anne Blankman:

conspiracyThe Whole Megillah (TWM): Congratulations on your success with both Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. Did you know when you were writing the first book that you’d have a sequel?
Anne Blankman (AB): I hoped there would be a sequel, but I wasn’t sure. When I was drafting Prisoner (originally titled Night’s Edge), I decided to play it safe and write a story that could stand on its own but with an open ending that left room for a possible second novel. After all, I reasoned that if no publisher wanted the first book they certainly wouldn’t be interested in a sequel. Fortunately, my wonderful editor, Kristin Rens, and the rest of the folks at Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins did want a second book, and I had the chance to wrap up Gretchen’s story the way I intended.

TWM: Please describe your research process.
AB: If I don’t know very much about a particular topic, first I’ll consult a work of juvenile nonfiction. This probably sounds strange, but children’s nonfiction books tend to be clear, concise, and hit the major points that you need to know. For example, I knew little about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis when I was researching Prisoner, so I read Kathleen Krull’s excellent biography of Freud. (I also consulted with a psychology professor who teaches courses on abnormal psychology. Asking experts for help is a crucial part of my research process).

I also like to start with what I call “broad” books—books that present a sweeping view of a particular time period, event, or culture. Once I feel that I’ve amassed a good foundation of knowledge, I narrow my focus, reading biographies, memoirs, social histories, psychological profiles, and so forth. Old maps, newsreels, and recordings of speeches are also helpful. Diaries contain a treasure trove of details: what meals your characters might eat, how much things cost, and what commonplace smells your protagonist might encounter. Subject experts are wonderful sources of information. I often email professors out of the blue, explaining who I am and asking if they’d be willing to offer me some advice. The professors I’ve contacted have always been gracious and generous with their tips and time.

When I’m researching, I take detailed notes, making sure to include what source I used to find the information (I’ll even include the page number in case my publisher’s copy editing department needs to verify a certain detail). I love learning about history and I could continue researching forever, so I usually have to force myself to start writing when I know I’m ready.
Night&Fog_jkt_des6.inddTWM: Did you travel to Germany or England at all for your novels?
AB: I was lucky enough to study in York, England while I was in college, and I did lots of traveling then. When I drafted Prisoner, I had a new baby, so  I wasn’t able to stray too far from home. :) While I researched Traitor Angels, however, my UK publisher sent me to speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Scotland, and my husband and I decided to turn the engagement into a family vacation. We spent a couple of weeks traveling all over England and Scotland, which gave me the chance to visit several locations that appear in Traitor Angels.

Traveling to conduct research can be confusing, though. For example, one of the Berlin neighborhoods where Gretchen and Daniel hide out in Conspiracy was a poor, primarily Communist area in 1933. Today it’s a hip, upwardly mobile neighborhood with trendy restaurants and lots of museums!

TWM: Both books take interesting twists and turns. Do you consider plotting one of your strengths? Please describe how you devise your plots.
AB: Thank you! Before I begin drafting, I always write detailed outlines. They keep me on track and help me make sure that the mystery makes sense and one clue leads to the next.

TWM: What was the most challenging scene to write in Conspiracy?
AB: Any of the romantic scenes between Gretchen and Daniel! Whew! Those are hard. I want to write about kissing in fresh, interesting ways.

TWM: What was the most gratifying scene to write?
AB: The last one, hands down. By that point, I’d spent a few years with Gretchen living in my head, and it felt incredibly satisfying to bring her to the point I’d wanted her to reach.

TWM: Many agents say they won’t handle historical fiction. Please tell us how you and Adams Literary came together.
AB: Well, I was extremely lucky. Tracey Adams was my dream agent, and I found out that she was attending the annual Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Conference. (For readers who are unfamiliar with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, it’s a national organization that I cannot recommend highly enough.) Anyway, I met Tracey for a fifteen-minute critique of the first ten pages of my manuscript. Ours was the last session of the day, and I was so nervous that my hands were shaking! It was my first conference and my first critique, and I had no idea what to expect.

Tracey loved my writing sample, and we hit it off immediately. In fact, we ended up chatting for forty-five minutes! She requested an exclusive full submission and a week later I signed with her.

TWM: How long did it take to write Conspiracy? Do you have a critique group?
AB: I was drafting Conspiracy while finishing up revisions on Prisoner and researching my next novel, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint an exact length of time. It probably took me at least six months to conduct my preliminary research and another year to draft and polish Conspiracy. Some of my friends can churn out a manuscript in six weeks, which I cannot fathom!

Yes, I have a few critique partners. We read one another’s manuscripts early in the drafting process, and I’m always grateful for their fresh eyes.

 TWM: What advice do you have for aspiring novelists and especially historical novelists?
AB: Write what you love. Don’t write for trends; don’t write to get published; and write the story that only you can tell.

If you want to write historical fiction, be sure that the time period you’ve chosen is one that fascinates you. You don’t have to love the era, but you’d better find it interesting because you’ll be learning a lot about it.

traitor angelsTWM: What’s next for you?
AB: My third novel, Traitor Angels, comes out on May 3rd, 2016 from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Traitor Angels is a YA romantic historical adventure set in 1660s England about a girl who uncovers an explosive secret hidden in John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost”—a secret that could rip apart the very fabric of society. If you’d like to learn more about the book, here’s a link to my website:http://www.anneblankman.com/traitor-angels.

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The Year-end Writing Assessment | Looking Back at 2015 and Toward 2016

2015reviewhero-w855h425Each year around this time I take a look at my previous year’s accomplishments and the next year’s goals. But this year I also asked myself some tough questions about my writing:

  1. What’s been working?
  2. What hasn’t been working?
  3. What other opportunities are there?
  4. What’s getting in the way of my writing?
  5. What could I do to be more successful?

The good news is that much is working well. I’ve been writing many more children’s books for hire, for instance. A university press has expressed interest in taking a look at my master’s thesis in history for publication. The online fiction class I taught last winter worked out very well for everyone. I’ve been teaching memoir at a large New Jersey adult school and loving it.

A few things have not worked out. Like my commitment to this blog during 2015 (which I aim to rectify in 2016!). A particular critique group. A book proposal. An application for a summer writers residency.

But along with setbacks come opportunities. My master’s thesis presents several possibilities for publication, for example. Breaking up my book proposal’s chapters into standalone pieces is another possibility.

What gets in my way? Me. My need to keep a roof over my head.

Fueled by this assessment, I came up with a number of actions for 2016. Here are just a few:

  1. Apply for writer residencies
  2. Offer more online classes
  3. Create a bi-monthly newsletter for memoir enthusiasts

Thanks to Erika Dreifus’ The Practicing Writer newsletter, I’ve learned about Annette Gendler’s Artists & Writers Workbook for 2016. This workbook leads you through a series of exercises to pinpoint your opportunities for success based on an assessment of 2015.

Whether you choose to ask yourself broad or specific questions, looking back to move forward is a great idea. What’s been working for you? What stands in your way? What are your plans for 2016? Feel free to share through comments to this post.

If any of you is interested in receiving a memoir newsletter (prompts, publication opportunities, book reviews, interviews), please contact me at barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net. Same goes for anyone interested in an online fiction or memoir class.

All the best for a happy, healthy, and fruitful 2016!

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Get Ready for Readukkah | Association of Jewish Libraries First Reading Challenge

From Heidi Estrin:

AJL kicks off its first reading challenge with #Readukkah during Hanukkah, December 6-14, 2015.

It’s easy! Anyone can participate, including kids. All you have to do is:

  • Read one Jewish book
  • Review it online (include hashtag #Readukkah)
  • During Hanukkah, December 6-14, 2015

You pick the book – any reading level, fiction or nonfiction, Jewish in any way you choose to define it.

Review your book anywhere online: on a blog, GoodReads, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, or even on AJL’s listserv, Hasafran.

Use the hashtag #Readukkah somewhere in your review to help readers find you!

By sharing your #Readukkah reviews of Jewish books, you will help spread the word about worthwhile titles, bringing them to the attention of more readers, increasing the market and supporting the publishing of Jewish books!


Sign up to participate in #Readukkah! All participants will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of FIREBRAND by Aaron Barnhart (Quindaro, 2015), YA historical fiction about August Bondi, a Jewish freedom fighter in the Civil War.

For each 12 sign-ups up to 36 (double chai), another giveaway copy will be added for a total of three chances to win!

Visit AJL’s blog to sign up and enter the drawing at http://jewishlibraries.org/index.php?id=302.

P.S. A few people signed up before we struck our deal with Quindaro for the giveaway. For those of you who signed up early, please email me at Heidi.Estrin@cbiboca.org and tell me your email address so you can be included in the drawing!

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