Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things this week:

  1. I’ve been accepted into the Southampton Children’s Lit Conference Graphic Novels Workshop. Ordinarily, I would never have applied because of the cost. But in this COVID world, I can participate virtually for a fraction of the usual fee. I’ve been reading graphic novels, mostly middle grade, like crazy. One that blew my socks off with its creativity: Snow White by Matt Phelan (who is the workshop instructor). Of course, the Hereville series by Barry Deutsch is among my very favorites. If you haven’t yet encountered Mirka, do get to know her!
  2. I now have a profile as an agent on Publishers Marketplace. The Children’s Book Insider will be featuring an interview with me around July 5. I am interested in history and historical fiction and Jewish themes for both adults and young readers (prefer middle grade and YA). I am a sucker for a novel in verse but want more than prose with line breaks.
  3. I think I’ve completed my rough draft of my contemporary YA novel in verse and gave it to my critique partner. What are your strategies for getting feedback on early drafts? Do you even want feedback at that stage?

Be safe, wherever you are.

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Why You Should Submit to PJ Library | Authors Speak Up

Welcome to The Whole Megillah‘s cyber-round table of authors whose books were submitted and selected by PJ Library and/or PJ Our Way. Our authors include Amalia Hoffman, author/illustrator of Dreidel Day (Kar-Ben, 2018); Karen Pokras, author of the forthcoming middle-grade historical novel, The Backyard Boys (Kar-Ben, 2021); and Joy Nelkin Wieder, author of The Passover Mouse (Doubleday, 2020).

The Whole Megillah (TWM): How did you first hear about PJ Library?
Amalia Hoffman (AH): I heard about PJ Library for the first time when I attended a Jewish authors and illustrators conference in New York.

Karen Pokras

Karen Pokras (KP): I’d heard the name PJ Library here and there, but have to admit, I wasn’t truly familiar with them until you brought them up. However, when I started mentioning PJ to (non-writer) friends, so many were familiar with and had received books from them over the years. I wish I had paid closer attention when my children were young readers.

Joy Nelkin Wieder (JNW): I first heard about PJ Library through a friend in my critique group. She sent me a link to the first-time SCBWI/PJ Library Jewish Stories Award in 2018, and I had the perfect manuscript to submit. The working title was “Rivka and the Mice,” which was a Passover picture book based on a passage of Talmud. It had received an award back in 2004 but had not found a home in publishing. Although it had been languishing in a plastic bin in my basement, I knew it had “legs” because of the prior award. However, I really had no expectations when I submitted it to the SCBWI/PJ Library Jewish Stories Award. I only knew there was nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I sent it off. I was verklempt when I received an email letting me know that my manuscript had received Honorable Mention (a category created just for my story) and that PJ Library would try to help me get it published with an eye toward using it in their program.

Once I knew about PJ Library, I learned about the TENT: Children’s Literature program at the Yiddish Book Center. I was accepted into the program in 2018 and had a wonderful experience. I learned more about PJ Our Way and PJ Library’s need for more books for older readers. When I got home, I submitted my two early chapter books. I recently found out that my chapter book, The Secret Tunnel, was accepted in the PJ Our Way program and an agreement has been reached with my publisher, Hachai Publishing.

TWM: Did the incentive make a difference to you, if you received one?
AH: The incentive made a big difference to me. A lot of families received my book, Dreidel Day. People kept sending me photos of their kids and grandkids enjoying my book, which by itself was an incentive to keep on writing and illustrating Jewish-themed books. I also got invited to present Dreidel Day in many PJ Library books events in Jewish community centers, libraries and schools.

KP: Receiving the incentive was helpful as well as exciting, as it was the first time I was offered a monetary award to work on a story.

Joy Nelkin Wieder

JNW: While the incentive gave me a sense of validation, it certainly wasn’t the overriding factor. I was more interested in the weight of PJ Library’s backing of my manuscript. I knew that an agent and/or a publisher would finally take notice of my story and the award would give my manuscript the validity it needed to finally become a published book.

 

TWM: How did any editorial comments help you revise and improve your ms.?
AH: The editorial comments I received helped me with some issues I had with the imagery in a couple of spreads. The editor also helped me in figuring out how to better focus on the Hanukkah theme and design a more attractive cover.

KP: The editorial comments were invaluable. My manuscript went through two rounds of deep edits thanks to the amazing and thoughtful comments given by both the young and grown readers at PJ. In fact, my publisher recently returned my manuscript for review with a note that there were very few additional edits because my manuscript was “already in excellent shape.” I attribute that to PJ Our Way and am thankful for their critical eye.

JNW: I went through a few rounds of editing with my agent, Barbara Krasner of Olswanger Literary LLC (and publisher of this blog!) to make the story even stronger before submitting it to publishers. Once it was accepted by Frances Gilbert, Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday Books for Young Readers, my editor wanted to change the title to make “Passover” front and center. At first, we decided on The Passover Mice, but Frances felt the focus of the book was really on just one mouse, so we ended up with The Passover Mouse. I thought it was a brilliant marketing tool to let readers know right away that it is a Passover book. As I said to Frances, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s what a good editor is for!

TWM: How did acceptance by PJ influence getting an agent or book contract?

Amalia Hoffman, PJ Library Booth, Chappaqua Book Fair, 2019

AH: My second PJ Library Incentive Award for my forthcoming board book, Hanukkah Lights, sold (but not yet contracted) in less than a week.

KP: I have no doubt that my acceptance into PJ Library helped get my book in front of editors and publishers and ultimately helped with my offer of publication.

JNW: It had a HUGE influence! When I was at the SCBWI National Conference in New York to receive my award, I met with Amalia Hoffman who had also won an incentive award and had a PJ Library Hanukkah board book coming out soon. She told me that her agent was Anna Olswanger. I have known Anna through the years, and I figured that she would be a perfect agent to submit my manuscript. After the conference, I sent Anna my story and let her know about the award. She was interested in the story but was not taking new picture book clients. She asked if she could pass it along to her new associate, Barbara, and I agreed. Luckily, Barbara agreed to take me on as a client. She submitted the manuscript along with information about PJ Library to several mainstream publishers. I know from talking with my editor that both the award and the interest from PJ Library not only influenced her decision but also helped her sell the book at the acquisitions meeting.

TWM: Any advice to aspiring authors?
AH: Look at other PJ Library books in the genre you’re writing to get ideas of what PJ Library is looking for. Explore fresh ideas for stories that have a fresh feel and appeal to today’s Jewish family.

KP: Write from your heart and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If the words aren’t coming out, do something else … but always keep a notepad close by. Recently, I started baking. Sometimes in the middle, I’ll find myself writing out dialogue on pads of paper covered in flour. Don’t get hung up on rejections. Just the other day, a writer friend of mine wrote that it’s important to distinguish between rejection and failure. I found this interesting because as writers, we sometimes equate the two, but they are very different. Failure is giving up; rejection is moving on. Also, keep reading! We can learn so much from other writers. Finally, don’t call yourself an aspiring writer. If there are words down, even if they’re not the best words, you’re a writer. You can always go back and polish them later.

JNW:  After waiting 18 years to get my book published, my best advice is: DON’T GIVE UP! Several people have told me that my journey to publication has inspired them to keep going and not give up on their dreams of getting their work published. And that inspires me!

For more information about PJ Library/PJ Our Way submission guidelines, click here>>>

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Mid-Week Notes

One quick thing this week:

  1. Even if we’re not able to travel, we might still be able to stage our own mini writing retreats at home. Essential to this experience is a set of books to have on hand for inspiration. Creative writing guru Heather Sellers recommends in Chapter after Chapter that you choose three books like the one you want to write and three craft books. I’m using Nikki Grimes’s Ordinary Hazards, a memoir in verse, and Elizabeth George’s new novel-writing craft book, Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel, as my inspiration as I write my YA contemporary novel in verse. Any other suggestions?

Be safe, wherever you are.

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Author’s Notebook | Beloved Comrades: A Novel in Stories by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

Taub, Yermiyahu Ahron. Beloved Comrades: A Novel in Stories. Quanah, TX: Anaphora Literary Press, 2020.

The Whole Megillah (TWM): What inspired this work, its structure, and its scope? What made the narrative begin with the postwar period?
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub (YAT): Much of my literary project has explored human relationships within the framework of organized religion, specifically Judaism, and the ways in which individuals navigate their own desires, longing, and dreams through and around religious strictures and cultural obligations. The synagogue, with its inherent blend of the spiritual, institutional, social, and quotidian, struck me as an apt vehicle to explore these and other concerns. Having the book’s action unfold over a century enabled me to illuminate changes over time and the long-lasting effects of decisions made many years before. I specifically omitted a plethora of precise markers or demarcations of the time — not to promote a kind of literary ahistoricism— but rather because I wanted the focus to be on the stories and the characters. That said, the book spans much of the twentieth and the early part of the twenty-first centuries. The first part is set before World War II. Several stories are partially set in the eastern European realm. One story (“Dolls, in Limbo”) flashes back to a pogrom. The book includes references to early- and mid-twentieth-century performing artists. The Angel of History is present, and yet I did not want Beloved Comrades to feel quite like a historical novel per se, with an accretion of period-specific details.

TWM: It seems you had a strategy of differentiating characters through dialogue and interior monologue. For example, Yehudah Ariel thinks in parenthetical statements. Please comment on this.
YAT: Both in my poetry and prose, the interior monologue has proved to be a vital tool to express the vibrancy of the life of the mind and spirit of those who may outwardly appear to live not fully realized, or even seemingly “drab,” existences. I find that contrast — between the interior and exterior lives — to be particularly rich ground for investigation. Interior monologue also allows for a register quite different from dialogue, not necessarily more “exalted,” but more contemplative. That said, I am fond of pointed, colloquial dialogue. Ideally, there is a symbiotic relationship between the two.

TWM: How did your knowledge and role as a Yiddish translator correlate to this collection?
YAT: Yiddish has long played a pivotal role in my work. All of my poetry books have some Yiddish in them. The second book is entirely bi-lingual; the sixth is entirely in Yiddish. In my fiction, Yiddish words and expressions appear throughout the books. In Beloved Comrades, Yiddish plays a critical role through the generations. Two of the characters, Zisl and Yehoshua, have formally studied Yiddish. Yiddish naming and Yiddish forms of names and monikers (Mindl/Mandy, Mame/Mama) constitute crucial plot elements. In the original manuscript of Beloved Comrades that I submitted for publication, the story “Face à la Façade” also had a Yiddish version. That version entitled “Antkegn dem fasad” was originally published in the Forverts/Yiddish Forward and in Penshaft: New Yiddish Writing. For a variety of reasons, the Yiddish version of the story did not make it into the final version of the book.

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Courtesy Pearl Gluck

TWM: What is the overall message you wanted readers to get?
YAT: One of my goals in Beloved Comrades was to create a multi-generational saga defined by intimacy, closeness, and emotional intensity. I sought to place the people who are often seen at the peripheries of organizational life into the limelight and at the center of the authorial gaze. Along those lines, I aimed to focus on a gathering place for working people, not on the nearby yeshiva famed for its learning and scholarship. I also wanted to “queer” the seemingly conventional space of a communal narrative centered around an Orthodox synagogue. The novel features a character clearly identified as gay at the outset of their story as well as characters who are later revealed to be gay. The straight characters grapple with the decisions, actions, and selves of the queer ones. In this way, queerness reverberates even in stories whose principal protagonists are straight. Additionally, there are ostensibly “straight” characters and relationships whose interactions and actions could be interpreted by the reader as queer. I wanted the line between the homosocial and homosexual to be decidely blurry.

TWM: What brought you to Anaphora Literary?
YAT: I first learned about the press when the poet Susana H. Case invited me to write a blurb for her wonderful collection Earth and Below, which was published by Anaphora Literary Press in 2013. All of these years later, I decided to submit my work to the press for consideration.

TWM: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this collection?
YAT: Because the novel covers so much time, I had to make sure that each generation was well represented, that the novel had an overall balance. Because it’s a hybrid genre — a novel in stories — I wanted to make sure that each story stood on its own as a discrete entity and yet was connected to others around it to form a cohesive whole. That balancing act took some work to maintain.

TWM: Who inspires you?
YAT: I am inspired by and grateful to the editors of literary journals who provide an early home for unconventional work and to small literary publishers who consider manuscripts without an agent and who create a framework for works on the margins to make their way into the world. Similarly, I am inspired by artists who remain committed to their art over the long haul and continue to make work with little to no mainstream recognition. I am inspired by artists, activists, and many others who are committed to making this world a better place, who insist on forging concrete, creative change for the good.

TWM: How long did this project take you from start to acceptance?
YAT: I wrote the first draft of Beloved Comrades during a residency at the now-shuttered Rivendell Writers’ Colony (Sewanee, Tennessee) at the end of 2016. Rivendell was a place of spectacular beauty, and I feel very fortunate that I got to work there before it closed. Hopefully, the largesse of the setting and its wonderful director Carmen Toussaint and the warm fellowship of the other writers in residence at the time infuse the book. I then revised the manuscript extensively. I wrote numerous drafts and submitted selected stories for publication in literary journals. Anaphora Literary Press accepted the book in the fall of 2019.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak about my book, Barbara!

For more about Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, visit his website.

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Last Chance! Join with Other Writers to Write New Material

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

There’s still room for you!

Launching in June 2020, the Writing Chai Studio offers writers of all genres and all levels the opportunity to find the stories within them and bring them onto the page. Find the voice that makes you unique.

Using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, using time-based prompts as inspiration. All material is considered fiction and all work receives responses about what resonates or sticks. There is no critique. Certified AWA-facilitator Barbara Krasner will provide the prompts.

Writing Chai

This is an ideal workshop for anyone with a work in progress or just a desire to get words down on the page. Perhaps you’re stick in your writing. Maybe you want to explore your setting or characters. Or you want to breathe new life into an existing manuscript. This workshop will give you the gentle nudge to move forward in ways that might surprise you. This is a five-week workshop for two hours each on Sunday mornings at 11 am EDT. Fee: $225, starts June 14, 2020.

About the Amherst Writers & Artists Method

Pat Schneider founded the method through her book, Writing Alone and with Others (Oxford University Press, 2003). Nothing could be more appropriate to the COVID times we’re living through right now. The AWA method adheres to Five Essential Affirmations:

  1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice
  2. Everyone is born with creative genius
  3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level
  4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem
  5. A writer is someone who writes

About Barbara Krasner

AWA-certified facilitator Barbara Krasner has been writing with the AWA method since 2011 and received her training in 2013. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for adults and young readers. Work using the method has appeared in Jewish Literary Journal, Poetica, Michigan Quarterly Review, South 85 Journal, Peregrine, and other literary journals. She has been nominated for a fiction Pushcart and her middle-grade novel in verse about the ill-fated 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis, 37 Days at Sea, debuts Spring 2021 from Kar-Ben.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. There’s still time to join us this Sunday for the five-week Writing Chai writing sessions. Write me at barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net for details.
  2. I’ve been reading Elizabeth George’s new novel-writing craft book, Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel, and getting great reminders about place and character.
  3. Is anyone signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo? I have. Please find me under Buddies.

Even if the lockdown has lifted where you are, take precautions and be well.

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Author’s Notebook | A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine

Levine, Gail Carson. A Ceiling Made of Eggshells. HarperCollins, 2020, 371 pp. $17.99, Grades 4-6.

The Whole Megillah (TWM): What inspired you to write this book?
Gail Carson Levine (GCL): This was a trip into family history. My father’s ancestors went first to the kingdom of Naples after the expulsion, which was the destination I gave to my main character, Loma, and her family. Although this is beyond the time frame of my book, Naples proved to be a temporary refuge, and they continued on to Salonica in the Ottoman Empire, probably in the sixteenth century. When my father was born there in 1912, the city was still part of Turkey, although it became Greek a few months later, and his first language was Spanish (or Ladino).

His mother died of childbirth complications after having him. In early childhood, he came to New York City, where his father died not much later. He grew up in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, an Ashkenazi institution, and lost his connection to his roots though he knew about them.

He didn’t talk about himself much and never discussed his childhood, which made me curious. My first historical novel, Dave at Night, imagines his orphanage experience (and also explores the Harlem Renaissance). A Ceiling Made of Eggshells grew out of the same curiosity.

Gail Carson Levine

TWM: Can you please describe your research process?
GCL: My research had two aspects. The first was to read and read and read, in order to learn and understand the history–because understanding wasn’t a given. For example, one of the first books I read was The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain by Haim Beinart. On my first reading I didn’t get it. Most of its many pages are taken up with court cases and financial transactions. I wondered why the narrative was dry and seemingly heartless when so much human tragedy was unfolding. On my second reading much later, I realized that historians of such a distant time have little to go on and the tragedy was revealed in these transactions. As soon as the expulsion was announced, people who owed Jews money stopped paying and people to whom Jews owed money demanded payment. Jews had to liquidate and had to take what they could get. An orchard, for instance, went for the price of a handkerchief.

I read the major histories of the period, most written more than fifty years ago, thick tomes not meant for ignoramuses like me. The learning curve was steep! For understanding, I reached out to living historians and found a mentor, Jane S. Gerber, professor emerita of Sephardic history at the City University of New York, who was kind enough to guide my reading and answer my questions–which usually led me to more reading.

Most of the histories focused on the expulsion and Jewish history and daily life in Spain, but I read a few more general books, too, like a biography of Queen Isabella and a history of slavery in late medieval Iberia, and these widened my perspective.

The second aspect involved my hunt for the kind of detail that brings fiction to life. What was it like to stand on a medieval wharf? How were amulets regarded? What importance was given to astrology? What did this town or that one look like back then? How would a bedroom be furnished?

For these, I did a lot of googling. The wharf question, for example, took me to the Ask-A-Historian pages of Reddit, where a kind historian steered me to some paintings of harbors during my period. For information about towns, I consulted Spanish Wikipedia, where the articles were more expansive and had more pictures–I used the translate function, which was good enough. In English Wikipedia, the footnotes and bibliographies led me to sources I might not have found otherwise.

TWM: Why do you think it’s important to tell this particular story?
GCL: The history isn’t well known. I doubt that many readers will know that the Jews were expelled from Spain, and certainly few will know how the expulsion came about–but it was, arguably, the worst catastrophe for European Jews before the Holocaust. Everyone does know about the Spanish Inquisition, and many think that Jews were its target. They weren’t, but they were put in danger by it anyway.

The novel provides a historical lens to look at prejudice in general and antisemitism in particular. Also to consider refugees. Much like refugees today, the Jewish exiles had a choice, but a terrible one: to convert and stay in Spain–to give up their faith and also to become the true focus of the Inquisition–or to remain Jews and face the perils of flight, since many failed to reach safety.

TWM: How long did it take from conception to sale of the manuscript?
GCL: My wonderful editor loved the idea right away. She’s my biggest booster and open to the paths I want to go down, though she doesn’t stint on edits when I turn in a manuscript!

TWM: The narrative is intricately plotted. Do you use any particular tools to help you with the writing process?
GCL: I don’t, and the way I create my plots is messy. I’m what’s known as a “pantser.” That is, I fly by the seat of my pants without an outline. Sometimes I get lost or wander down side lanes for many pages. But for A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, a timeline of events gave me a rough outline, although first I had to figure out where to start. The seeds of the expulsion were sown much earlier. For example, in 1391 anti-Jewish riots resulted in the forced conversion of about 100,000 Jews. (Another 100,000 were killed, and 100,000 managed to flee or hide.) These conversions gave rise to a distinction between “old” and “new” Christians, which eventually led to the Spanish Inquisition. For a while, I toyed with the idea of writing a series of episodes that covered important moments that culminated in the expulsion.

But eventually I decided I could write a more compelling story by sticking to the final years, from 1483, when Tomás de Torquemada became Grand Inquisitor, to 1492, when the expulsion was promulgated. Then I had to find characters and personal conflicts to drape around the important moments.

So, for another example, when Muslim Málaga falls to Christian forces, Loma’s influential grandfather is called there to negotiate a ransom for the Jewish prisoners of war, and he brings her along. She’s pressed by the monarchs’ daughter, Princess Isabella, to convert to Christianity. Loma responds without thinking, causing her grandfather pain–and advancing the plot. She also witnesses Christian cruelty to the prisoners, especially the Muslim ones, which strengthens her resolve to remain a Jew–more plot machinery.

TWM: Is there a sequel in the works?
GCL: Not at this point, but I loved researching and writing this book. I continue to read about Sephardic history, looking for another story I think I can tell.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a retelling for kids of the Trojan War from two points of view: Cassandra, the seer whom no one believes; and Rin, an Amazon girl who goes with her band to the aid of Troy. I’m turning the story from a tragedy into an adventure. Homer may be spinning in his grave!

TWM: What was your greatest challenge in writing this book? Your greatest satisfaction?
GCL: The more I read, the more I concluded that the sense of self in the Middle Ages was different from the modern one, that almost anyone in the twenty-first century would act and even think differently from a fifteenth-century person. I knew I couldn’t really create fifteenth-century characters, because the time distance is too great and I would certainly get it wrong. But I wanted my characters, especially Loma and her grandfather, not to feel modern. That was the biggest challenge, the one that most made me long for time travel.

The biggest triumph: In the Middle Ages, gambling was considered a major crime by both Christians and Jews. Since it’s an author’s job to make trouble for her characters, I gave a gambling addiction to one of Loma’s brothers. When he incurs debts of honor I wondered about the consequences. Specifically, I wondered if he could use conversion to Christianity as a one-time get-out-of-jail free card to evade paying. I asked Jane S. Gerber, and she said yes, he could.

Yay! This was confirmation that I was understanding this world. And the gambling debt allowed me to introduce one of the immediate causes of the expulsion, a blood libel case known as the Holy Child of La Guardia, in which several converts and several Jews confessed after torture to killing a Christian boy and conducting rites to destroy all Spain’s Christians. Aside from its outrageousness, the falsity of the accusation is laid bare by two facts: No child was ever declared missing, and no search was ever made for a body. But facts didn’t matter. In November, 1491, the accused were burned in an auto-da-fé, and antisemitic riots broke out across Spain. Only a few months later, the expulsion decree was written, signed, and made public.

TWM: What did you learn by writing this book?
GCL: So much! I’ve mentioned some of it above. Another major discovery, which I understood gradually, is that Spanish Jews were considered, quite literally, the possessions of the monarchs, even though they had freedom of movement and choice of occupation. Their taxes went directly to the monarchs, not to the towns, the nobility, or the Church, and they were more heavily taxed than any other group. An attack on the Jews was also an attack on the monarchy, in that the king and queen suffered economic losses when Jews couldn’t work.

I came to understand the forces that competed in Spain and that caused the monarchs to sway one way and then another: the towns, the nobility, the Church, and the Jews. Laws were passed, then ignored, then promulgated, then ignored. Rights were granted then withdrawn then granted, and so on. Chaos resulted.

And I gained an understanding of the painstaking work of historians of the long-ago. Evidence is incomplete, and understanding is partial at best. I hope my exhilaration is ringing through loud and clear!

For more about Gail Carson Levine, please visit her website.

 

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Starting Sunday, June 14, 2020 | Bring New Inspiration into Your Writing with Writing Chai Studio

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

Launching in June 2020, the Writing Chai Studio offers writers of all genres and all levels the opportunity to find the stories within them and bring them onto the page. Find the voice that makes you unique.

Using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, using time-based prompts as inspiration. All material is considered fiction and all work receives responses about what resonates or sticks. There is no critique. Certified AWA-facilitator Barbara Krasner will provide the prompts.

Writing Chai

This is an ideal workshop for anyone with a work in progress or just a desire to get words down on the page. Perhaps you’re stick in your writing. Maybe you want to explore your setting or characters. Or you want to breathe new life into an existing manuscript. This workshop will give you the gentle nudge to move forward in ways that might surprise you. This is a five-week workshop for two hours each on Sunday mornings at 11 am EDT. Fee: $225, starts June 14, 2020.

About the Amherst Writers & Artists Method

Pat Schneider founded the method through her book, Writing Alone and with Others (Oxford University Press, 2003). Nothing could be more appropriate to the COVID times we’re living through right now. The AWA method adheres to Five Essential Affirmations:

  1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice
  2. Everyone is born with creative genius
  3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level
  4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem
  5. A writer is someone who writes

About Barbara Krasner

AWA-certified facilitator Barbara Krasner has been writing with the AWA method since 2011 and received her training in 2013. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for adults and young readers. Work using the method has appeared in Jewish Literary Journal, Poetica, Michigan Quarterly Review, South 85 Journal, Peregrine, and other literary journals. She has been nominated for a fiction Pushcart and her middle-grade novel in verse about the ill-fated 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis, 37 Days at Sea, debuts Spring 2021 from Kar-Ben.

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Last Chance | Create a New Piece of Writing with Writing Chai Studio Free Introductory Session

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

Launching in June 2020, the Writing Chai Studio offers writers of all genres and all levels the opportunity to find the stories within them and bring them onto the page. Find the voice that makes you unique.

Using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method, using time-based prompts as inspiration. All material is considered fiction and all work receives responses about what resonates or sticks. There is no critique. Certified AWA-facilitator Barbara Krasner will provide the prompts.

About the Amherst Writers & Artists Method

Pat Schneider founded the method through her book, Writing Alone and with Others (Oxford University Press, 2003). Nothing could be more appropriate to the COVID times we’re living through right now. The AWA method adheres to Five Essential Affirmations:

  1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice
  2. Everyone is born with creative genius
  3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level
  4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem
  5. A writer is someone who writes

Join Us on June 7 at 11 am ET for a Quick Introduction!

For anyone interested in generating new ideas, generating new work, or just engaging in a regular writing practice, try out Writing Chai’s Quick Introduction for free!

See what the AWA method can do for your writing!

When: Sunday, June 7, 11:00 am ET

Where: Zoom info to come (you can also dial in for audio only)

Duration: 60 minutes

Send an email to barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net to sign up.

Upcoming Workshops

Writing Family History

Perhaps you’ve come across a photo or a family heirloom that intrigues you. Maybe you’ve found your immigrant grandparents’ citizenship papers. In this three-week cycle, we’ll write to timed prompts to help you put your thoughts on the page. Each session will last two hours via Zoom on Tuesday evenings, 7:30 pm EDT. Family history can be preserved forever if someone, maybe you, writes it down. Fee: $150, starts June 16, 2020.

Writing Memoir

Memoirist Sue William Silverman writes in her craft book, Fearless Confessions, that memoir involves the connection between the voice of experience and the voice of innocence. We’ll write to a variety of prompts to bring these voices together with insight and respect. We’ll meet via Zoom for two hours each week on Wednesday mornings at 10:00 am EDT, for a five-week cycle. Fee: $225, starts June 17, 2020.

General Writing Chai

This is an ideal workshop for anyone with a work in progress or just a desire to get words down on the page. Perhaps you’re stick in your writing. This workshop will give you the gentle nudge to move forward in ways that might surprise you. This is a five-week workshop for two hours each on Sunday mornings at 11 am EDT. Fee: $225, starts June 14, 2020.

Writing Chai Studio Coaching Services

Writing Chai Studio also offers three coaching services: Submission Strategies, Writing Career, and Manuscript Critique. Contact barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net for details.

About Barbara Krasner

AWA-certified facilitator Barbara Krasner has been writing with the AWA method since 2011 and received her training in 2013. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for adults and young readers. Work using the method has appeared in Jewish Literary Journal, Poetica, Michigan Quarterly Review, South 85 Journal, Peregrine, and other literary journals. She has been nominated for a fiction Pushcart and her middle-grade novel in verse about the ill-fated 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis, 37 Days at Sea, debuts Spring 2021 from Kar-Ben.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. There’s still time to join us this Sunday for a free introductory session using the Amherst Writers method of time-based prompts. This method has led me to generate fluid writing without my inner critique butting in. See for yourself! Write me at barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net for details.
  2. One of our members is looking to join an online critique group of Jewish fiction writers, preferably with published participants. If interested, please contact me at the email address above.
  3. I couldn’t sleep last night after working all day on a paper and presentation about Displaced Persons in New Jersey for the American Jewish Historical Society’s Scholars Conference next week. The antidote? I read the poetry of Erika Meitner and the new book, Beloved Comrades, by my good friend Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, whom I’ll be interviewing for the Author’s Notebook very soon.

Be well. Stay well. Be safe indoors.

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