Poet’s Notebook | Hadara Bar-Nadav

I first became familiar with Hadara Bar-Nadav’s name when she co-authored a poetry textbook that I used in my advanced creative writing classes. I then had the privilege of meeting her (and taking her workshop) at the William Paterson University Writers Conference (I was teaching a workshop on writing for children).

Naturally, I wanted to ask Hadara a few questions for The Whole Megillah:

hadara bar-nadavThe Whole Megillah (TWM): When and how did you realize you were a poet?
Hadara Bar-Nadav (HBN): I started writing when I was 6 years old.  I always knew I was a writer and artist.  I had a chaotic and often difficult family life, and writing was the one thing no one could take away from me and where I felt most safe and most free.

TWM: What poets and authors inspire you?
HBN: Claudia Rankine, Paul Celan, Lucie Brock-Broido, Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Simic, Cole Swensen—there are many. Visual artists inspire me, too: Louise Nevelson, Julie Mehretu, Kara Walker, Magritte, Cartier-Bresson, Mark Rothko, etc.

TWM: What do you think are the three most important considerations to writing poetry?
HBN: This question is fairly large for me, and the answers change all the time. What is most important right now to the writing of poetry: 1) time to work (I have a 2 year old); 2) space to work (we just moved); and 3) the opportunity to sit down with literature that inspires and challenges or troubles me (time to unpack my books and get a babysitter will help greatly J).

TWM: What challenges do you think beginning poets face?
HBN: Based on my interactions with students I would say beginning poets face the following three issues in no particular order: 1) being too hard on themselves or, conversely, not being hard enough; 2) refusing to really wrestle with their poetry, dive deep, and revise; and 3) maintaining a poetry practice beyond the classroom or workshop.

TWM: Please describe your literary journey as a poet.
HBN: I have always been drawn to the arts.  I started playing piano at age 3 and from there became interested in visual art and then poetry. As a teenager, I got into spoken word poetry and regularly read/performed in NY (this for me connected music and poetry).  Later, my interest shifted to poetry on the page (this connected music and the visual world via form to poetry).

hadara fountain and furnaceTWM: What challenges you the most as a poet? 
HBN: Time, time, time.  Did I mention my little boy? J  I should say he also inspires me and had a direct impact on my assembling the poetry collection Fountain and Furnace, which was awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize (Tupelo Press, 2015).

TWM: What are your greatest satisfactions?
HBN: Family, friends, writing, reading, art, a sense of community.



hadara lullabyTWM: Among your own work, is there a particular poem or set of poems you hold most dear? Why/why not?
HBN: Usually I’m most interested in my recent work—what I’m actively grappling with.  But I do hold my book Lullaby (with Exit Sign) (Saturnalia Books, 2013) close to my heart.  It was inspired by my father who died in 2007, my mother, and my ancestors.  Writing that book taught me about the elasticity and musicality of language and form.  It also helped me believe in language again as I investigated the elegy (poems in honor of the dead) and collaborated with Emily Dickinson’s poetry (her work still dazzles me).  Through the writing of Lullaby (with Exit Sign), I was able to commune with the dead in poems that were also energetically charged and, in that way, very much alive.  It was marvelous and challenging and exhausting work, but it brought my family back to me.  I’m still grateful for that.

About Hadara Bar-Nadav

Hadara Bar-Nadav’s newest book of poetry, The New Nudity, is forthcoming from Saturnalia Books in 2017. She is the author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign) (Saturnalia Books, 2013), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin (New Issues, 2012), Runner Up for the Green Rose Prize; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie/Intuit House, 2007), awarded the Margie Book Prize. She is also author of two chapbooks, Fountain and Furnace (Tupelo Press, 2015), awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and Show Me Yours (Laurel Review/Green Tower Press 2010), awarded the Midwest Poets Series Prize. In addition, she is co-author of the textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed. (Pearson/Longman, 2011). Her poetry has recently appeared in American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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Making a Commitment to Your Writing

poetryAlthough I don’t think it was premeditated, I realize I’ve made a commitment to my writing, specifically poetry. Here’s the evidence:

So, my question for you: Are you making a commitment to your writing? Are you engaging with your local or a genre-specific writing community? Have you made a commitment without consciously planning it? Please share!

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Two-in-One Notebook: Novelist Ruchama Feuerman and Agent Anna Olswanger

Ruchama Feuerman

Ruchama Feuerman

The Whole Megillah (TWM): You write for children and adults. How do you balance your time and interest?
Ruchama Feuerman (RF): I don’t.  I’m all over the place. When I resonate with a project, I devour it and it devours me.

TWM: Does writing in one genre help with writing in another?
RF: Could be.

TWM: How did living in Israel affect you as a writer?
RF: It gave me unending material and  imprinted itself on me. Practically everything I write is set there, and even if it isn’t, it’s in my mind. I don’t think I could live a day without thinking about Israel.

TWM: Would you recommend an MFA for aspiring writers?
RF: Did you say ‘perspiring’ writers? Because you do have to sweat to get anywhere.   An MFA is psychologically helpful because it makes you regard yourself as a writer.

TWM: How do you balance time between nurturing other writers and pursuing your own work? What are the challenges? What are the satisfactions?
RF: I guess I don’t think of it as ‘balancing.’  I feel very lucky in that way. Lots of writers work at careers  that have nothing to do with their creativity or passion. Sometimes their job chafes against their soul, not to mention exhausts them. But here, working with writers, helping their stories reach their potential, that too is a passion of mine.  It’s enriching, it’s fun and crazy intense and gives me a sense of creative community – and writing, as we all know, can be so isolating.  Nurturing other writers is using my words in a different way than the ones that get slapped down on a page or computer screen.  I’m seeing how words my words can affect another person in real life, in real time.

TWM: How alike or different was your writing process for your novels, The Seven Blessings and In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist?
RF: Both novels were peopled with extra characters who had to be “eliminated.” At times it could feel like slaughtering the defenseless sheep of my imagination.  It was painful because these characters had a psychological life for me. Anna was hugely instrumental in helping me ditch a major character in my latter novel.  I don’t know if I could’ve done it on my own.

TWM: Where does your inspiration come from?
RF: Israel.

TWM: What’s next for you?
RF: I’m thinking of a novel set in the South in the sixties.

TWM: Anna, what attracted you to Ruchama’s writing?
Anna Olswanger (AO): The rhythm of the sentences immediately struck me. I found the writing complex and beautiful. I was drawn to the characters.

TWM: Here’s a question for both of you: Would you recommend writing for adult literary journals before working on a novel? What are the pros and cons?
AO: If you’re asking whether writing for a literary journal is a way to learn how to write a novel, I think the best way to learn how to write a novel is by writing a novel and solving the particular problems that occur during the writing process.

If you’re asking if being published in a journal is a way to find an agent or publisher, it may be. I know some agents and editors have found authors that way, and also through blogs and even YouTube.

And if you’re asking if an agent or editor finds a writer more credible because of prior publication in a journal, again, that may be true for some agents and editors. I personally don’t care where an author has been published. I only care about the quality of the manuscript that I’ve received as a submission. I believe many agents feel that way.

RF: It’s a good idea to work on short stories in general before attempting a novel.  The former is like juggling with three balls, the latter with, say, eighty or a hundred. As for literary journals, why not?

For more about Ruchama Feuerman, click here.

For more about Anna Olswanger and Olswanger Literary LLC, click here.

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Elie Wiesel, z”l |1928-2016

I met Elie Wiesel at the 92nd Street Y a few years ago. He gave a talk about the MS St. Louis. Afterward, I stood on line so he could sign my original copy of Dawn (I couldn’t find my copy of Night). I babbled a phrase in Yiddish. He shook my hand. I felt like I was in the presence of greatness, because I was.

The world mourns his loss. Here’s a link to one literary obituary.

Join me in a moment of silence–perhaps the only silence Elie Wiesel would allow.

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In the Spirit of Poetry Has Value | June 2016 Report

Here are my June statistics:

Poetry: Sent to seven journals (Tiferet, Solstice, Hunger Mountain, Green Mountains Review, Ploughshares, Sugar House, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review), three acceptances (Tiferet, Naugatuck River Review, and Montclair Historical Society), five rejections (Poet Lore, Solstice, Pedestal, Bennington Review, Rattle Adjunct Contest). 

I wrote a poem, “Quilted,” in March/April at the Mature Poets Workshop led by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss. One of the other participants asked me for it. He was working with the Montclair Historical Society on a “quilt” theme. Apparently the poem was read while I was in Ohio (see below) and it will be published by the Society.

Short fiction: Update: My short story, “Red,” will appear in the Summer issue of Michigan Quarterly Review. The same story was rejected in June by Washington Square Review.

Creative nonfiction: No action here. But I just received my copy of Minerva Rising—my essay about my time at “fat camp” the summer before my Bat Mitzvah appears in the Body Image issue.

Other June activities: As a recipient of a fellowship, I spent the month at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati researching Emma Lazarus. The connection with other scholars prompted deeper inquiries and suggestions for additional exploration. I came away with tremendous insights, a deeper understanding of her place and time and am now exploring her intersectionality, especially her impact on reform liturgy.  I gave a research seminar, “Finding Emma Lazarus: A Historiographical Pursuit,” and I wrote two poems in Emma’s voice.

I also discovered at least four other potential subjects for picture books and short stories. I took advantage of Ohio culture, too. I was in Columbus one weekend to present, “Recovering Marginalized Voices of the Holocaust through Children’s Picture Books and Graphic Novels,” at the annual Children’s Literature Association conference, and while there, went to see “Singing in the Rain” at a historic theater. In Cincinnati, I wandered the galleries at the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Taft Museum of Art. marveling at the sheer talent of both local Ohio painters and those of international fame. (Okay, at night I also binge-watched Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime and saw three movies at the local independent theater.)

And since it’s now been announced, my poem “Grandma Ruth” received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest. I know it’s not first, second, or third prize, but it’s the highest my work has placed in this contest so far.



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Select Seats in Fiction I Class Still Available |The Whole Megillah

A few seats are still available in The Whole Megillah’s online Fiction I class.

FictionOnline Fiction Class I

Whether you’ve been writing fiction for a while, want to reconnect with your fiction, or are just starting out, the Online Fiction Class I can help.

Using a combination of Google Drive and a private Facebook page, students engage in a six-week writing experience covering:

  • Imagery
  • Characterization
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Point of view
  • Revision

There is one short story to read for each class (from an online source, so no purchases required) and visual and other prompts to spur your writing.

Cost: $300, including a 15-page manuscript critique

Start date: July 10, 2016

Reviews from January 2015 participants

“I had never taken an online class before taking this fiction class, and I was hesitant. But I enjoyed it and learned a lot, and will be open to taking other online classes. Barbara Krasner’s lessons were interesting, clear, and easy to follow. The writing exercises were appropriate and increased understanding of the ideas emphasized in each lesson. Posting the writings online allowed participants to read and learn from Barbara’s feedback on each person’s writings. Overall, the class was both challenging and fun. I’m sure what I’ve learned has already improved my writing.”—Diane Khoury, New Jersey

“Barbara challenged me to create outside of my comfort zone. The exercises encouraged me to stretch stories that I had, and reach for new stories to fulfill the writing styles and concepts. I look forward to continuing to grow my writing through this helpful process.”—Drora Arussy, New Jersey

“Barbara Krasner’s online fiction course provides a thorough and clear description of the elements of a good story. She provides helpful, detailed commentary that gets straight to the point. The reading assignments made me focus on the techniques of excellent writers who employ a variety of styles. The writing exercises helped me to uncover a new way of thinking and provided an opening to a whole new way of writing for me, one that is both inspiring and exhilarating.”—Madelyn Hoffman, New Jersey

“This course was profoundly rewarding. I’d been a nonfiction writer who wanted to explore some of the more fanciful aspects of writing. Now I’ve learned that the elements of fictional craft can also enhance my narrative nonfiction. I’ve taken many workshops before, but the online experience gave me the inspiration to take risks and gain nurturing feedback from Barbara and my classmates. All within the comfort of my home.”—Barbara Walsh, New Jersey and Florida

About the instructor

Barbara Krasner is the award-winning author of several hundred short stories, poems, articles, and books for adults and children. Her literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly ReviewLilith, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Jewishfiction.net, Jewish Literary JournalNimrod, Paterson Literary Review, and other journals. Her debut children’s book, Goldie Takes a Stand! Golda Meir’s First Crusade, was named a 2015 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Barbara teaches creative writing at William Paterson University and works one-on-one with writers to shape their fiction and nonfiction manuscripts.

For more information, contact Barbara at barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net or reply to this post with a comment.

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June 2016 Jewish Book Carnival

The Whole Megillah is pleased to once again host the monthly Jewish Book Carnival!

Here are this month’s links:

  • From Shiloh Musings, Batya Medad reviews Witness to History by Sybil Kaplan. Medad calls it an amazing book of modern Israeli history written by a tireless freelance writer. It’s based on Kaplan’s life in Jerusalem in the 1970s, “a true story and only a storyteller like Sybil can tell it.”
  • In May, Jill at Rhapsody in Books reviewed Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, a heartwarming children’s book about two boys, one black and one Jewish, who live across the alley from one another and form a secret friendship.
  • The newest episode of The Book of Life podcast, hosted by librarian Heidi Rabinowitz, features an interview with Angela Cerrito, author of the middle-grade novel The Safest Lie.  Click here to hear the podcast online.
  • In May, the Fig Tree Books blog took note of Short Story Month with a popular post. Add your thoughts about your favorite Jewish short stories.
  • Over on the My Machberet blog, Erika Dreifus routinely shares “Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links.” Here is a recent sample entry.
  • Life Is Like a Library offers a report from the 2016 Jerusalem Women Writers’ Seminar.
  • Deborah Kalb interviews a wide variety of authors on her website. Here’s a link to a recent interview she did with Rita Gabis about her book A Guest at the Shooter’s Banquet: My Grandfather’s SS Past, My Jewish Family, A Search for the Truth. The book examines her family—part Lithuanian Catholic and part Eastern European Jewish—focusing on her Lithuanian maternal grandfather’s role in World War II.
  • Over at The Best Chapter, Diana Bletter interviews Frances Dinkelspiel, author of Towers of Gold and Tangled Vines.
  • Booksandblintzes is a celebration of Jewish learning and living. This post describes why books play such an important role in how Rabbi Deborah Miller thinks about this mission.


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