Mid-Week Field Notes | March 17, 2021

Three quick things this week:

  • I think I’ve done all the revisions for a book-for-hire about the Holocaust. Doing this kind of work can be rewarding but also quite tedious and frustrating.
  • I won an AWP raffle for a free membership to the American Literary Translators Association. My goal is to translate from Yiddish to English and to help make great Yiddish writers accessible.
  • Coming up on April 7 to commemorate Yom HaShoah: The Mercer Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Center is hosting a conversation with Scott Miller, retired Director of Curatorial Affairs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and co-author of Refuge Denied; Hans Fisher, professor emeritus of Rutgers University and MS St. Louis passenger; and me, Barbara Krasner, director of the Mercer Center and author of 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the MS St. Louis, 1939. Attendees can take advantage of a 20 percent discount on the purchase of my book from publisher Kar-Ben.

 

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#52snapshots–Week 11

I have a bit of a sketch about my great-uncle Meyer Krasner. I’ve been thinking about his possible attention to detail and precision as a tailor. His grandson tells me he’d been known to make himself a ham sandwich when visiting my grandparents at their store’s deli counter.

This Week

This week I’m writing about the basement in my childhood family home. It’s one of those places that both scared me and gave me room to play. For my father, it was his man-cave where he worked at his hobbies in his tiny office and recorded classical and big-band concerts on reel-to-reel tape from public radio broadcasts. For my twin sister and me, it was a place for playing and parties as long as we stayed away from the earthen corner of the laundry room.

Other Work in Progress

I’ve been reading Sonja Livingston’s Ghost Bread to get a better feel for these snapshots. But the one thing I relish in my own writing is the moment of epiphany.

Who else among you is writing #52snapshots?

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Mid-Week Field Notes

Three quick things this week:

  • I attended so many virtual AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) sessions and have access to them for the next month. My favorites were about writing World War II nonfiction, literary translation, Jewish fiction (with panelists who were finalists for the Sami Rohr Literature Prize for Fiction), and family secrets in memoir. I admit I was dismayed when the historical fiction panel said that imagination is more important than historical accuracy.
  • On Sunday, March 7, following a 90-minute program, about 40 of us Gratz students had a private audience on Sunday with Art Spiegelman, author/illustrator of Maus. It was a unique opportunity to ask direct questions that will help me teach Maus the next time.
  • For those interested: On March 18, the Mercer Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Center is hosting a conversation with Dr. Jeff Benvenuto, co-editor of Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America, and Kerri Malloy (Yurok/Karuk), lecturer at Humboldt State University about Native American Genocide.

 

 

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#52snapshots–Week 10

I finally managed to figure out a way to write about the DNA secrets that emerged through DNA testing of various family members. I wrote a letter to my great-grandmother and explained why I’m not able to find her family as I had promised when I set out on the family history journey some 30 years ago. The secrets that came up are not my secrets to tell, and while I certainly have my theories, there isn’t anything I can do about them without the cooperation of those family members involved. They don’t seem to want to engage in any real exploration. I find it highly frustrating. Even when I reach out to others in my DNA matches where it’s obvious we have a somewhat close relationship, their lack of response also frustrates me. On the plus side, some DNA matches have responded and I’ve been able to fill out the branches of the family tree.

At AWP this past week, I attended a session on family secrets in memoir where Inheritance author Dani Shapiro participated as a panelist. The idea for a letter to my great-grandmother developed from listening to panelists. I plan to routinely listen to Shapiro’s Family Secrets podcasts.

This Week

This week, inspired by a photo a second cousin sent me of his grandfather, my great-uncle, I want to write about Hillel Meyer Krasner, the first Krasner to immigrate. I never knew him. One of his daughters is still alive at 105, so maybe she can tell me something.

Other Work in Progress

I did send out my “boys go off to war” essay to a few places and am exploring venues for other snapshots. Received a few rejections along the way, too, but that’s always part of the journey. If nothing else, I am adding some flesh to the genealogy bones by digging more deeply into photographs, objects, and stories.

Are any of you attempting these #52snapshots?

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Mid-Week Field Notes

Three quick things this week:

  • Starting today through the weekend I am attending virtual AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) sessions as often as I can. My first session: Revisiting History: Diverse Approaches to Historical Fiction.
  • For six weeks I’ve been facilitating a cancer survivor writing group, Healing Words/Spoken Words, sponsored by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. It’s been a great experience to get our emotions onto the page through poetry, audio (e.g., Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”), and visual prompts (photographs and watercolor paintings). Two more weeks in this cycle.
  • I’ve signed up for a few more Creative Nonfiction Wednesday webinars. You can find the list of upcoming events here

I’ve now received both doses of the Moderna vaccine and look forward to seeing my granddaughter next month at her one-year-old birthday party!

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#52snapshots–Week 9

In 2018 I attended two memoir-writing sessions at the Princeton Library given by well-known memoirist Mimi Schwartz, author of When History Is Personal and co-author with Sondra Perl of Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction, Second Edition. I wrote about photos of my maternal grandmother, Rose Entel Perlman, and her older sister, Sarah Entel Bayewitch. One photo was a tintype of the two of them in white shirtwaists. Two others were their wedding photos, one from 1917 and one from 1918. For Snapshot 8, I leaned on this 2018 writing and added material about the differences between a younger and older sister.

This Week

This week, inspired by reading Libby Copeland’s The Lost Family, I’m writing about DNA analysis and the family I’ve found through AncestryDNA. I will hint at some surprises, but since they’re not surprises within my immediate family, and therefore not my secrets to tell, I will offer no details.

Other Work in Progress

I’m about to send out my “boys go off to war.” I’m beginning to question whether I can realistically keep up this momentum of writing a snapshot each week. I have eight snapshots so far; most need some level of revision. But then I checked Sonja Livingston‘s book, Ghost Bread, which she wrote in “snapshots.” Turns out her snapshots are about 250-400 words. Mine have been essays of more than 1,000 words. This is my “aha” moment to not expect so much of myself and to ease up.

Are any of you attempting these #52snapshots?

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Last Chance Event Reminder: The History of Genocide in Cinema

Please RSVP to HGHRCenter@mccc.edu to register and receive the Zoom link.

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Mid-Week Field Notes

Three quick things this week:

  • I’ve signed the contract and it’s been countersigned: My short story, “I, Divided,” will appear in Volume 13 (probably September) issue of Consequence, an international journal dedicated to the consequences of war.
  • Emily Stoddard of Voice and Vessel Studio has been running free, 15-minute prompted writing sessions since last year’s lockdown. I’ve gotten back into these “Hummingbird” sessions and they are really helping me shape my new novel in verse. Check them out.
  • This week I’ve been obsessed with Jewish DNA analysis and joined a new Facebook group. DNA has unearthed at least three family secrets and gives new meaning to some photos. I am reading Libby Copeland’s The Lost Family as inspiration.

Stay healthy and safe!

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#52snapshots–Week 8

In the generative memoir writing group I’ve been with since August, I found myself inspired by the prompt I gave, pulled from Sonja Livingston’s 52 Snapshots, about what’s lost and what’s found. I thought about Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” and the line: “Losing isn’t hard to master.” In my case, and especially with genealogical objects, that’s proved to be true. And I’ve adhered to Bishop’s missive to lose faster. In this snapshot, I wrote about my great-grandmother Pesia’s ring that I found in a cigar box in my parent’s house–and that I lost it. I wrote about a knotted sock I found in my father’s armoire and how those contents, including the photo pin below (about the size of a quarter) have perplexed me since 1991 when I found it.

I’ve been trying to discern whether this is a family member, and if so, whose side of the family? Could it be my paternal grandfather’s sister Malka? Or could it be my father’s mother’s mother, Pesia Seife Zuckerkandel?

This Week

This week I’m writing about sisters: my grandmother, Rose Entel Perlman and her older sister, Sarah/Sheyna Entel Bayewitch. I may weave in my mother, Lillian Perlman Krasner and her older sister, Bella Perlman Jacobowitz.

Other Work in Progress

I am still revising my “boys go off to war.” Stars & Stripes, at least what I could access online, wasn’t much help. My “snapshot” about my great-grandfather and the Baron Hirsch School was just rejected. I’ll have to find more possibilities for that one.

I’m hoping these snapshot “field notes” inspire someone out there.

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Mid-Week Field Notes

Three quick things this week:

  • I’ve been listening to records my uncle and my aunt (his sister) made circa 1943-1944. What a hoot! The records were to be played at “victory speed” and were sent in lieu of letters. My uncle sang “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “Pack Up Your Troubles.” My aunt sang “Three Caballeros.” Her friend, Ethel, sang “Say a Prayer for the Boys Over There.” I’m so glad my cousin found these.
  • My next Yiddish course at YIVO starts March 3. I’m eager to resume. But that also means I have to give up my Amherst Writers group I’ve been writing with for the last six weeks.
  • I’m practicing my pitch for the Jewish Book Council’s Author Network to promote my forthcoming middle-grade novel in verse, 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the MS St. Louis, 1939.

Stay healthy and safe!

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