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?
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.