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Shalom and Good-bye to 2016 and Hanukkah and some Book Reviews

So tonight we lit the last light of Chanukah for this year, which coincides with the last night of 2016. Here on the West Coast, we have 4 more hours to 2016 and about 22 hours left to Hanukkah.

And I still have 3 books to review. Books that were sent to me by Kar-Ben Publishing company. These books were delightful reading for my grandchildren this past week.

First, the board book, Hanukkah Delight by Leslea Newman is a perfect book for bonding with a toddler. Here’s some of the text:

“Friends and neighbors to invite, Ancient blessings we recite, Gleaning candles burning bright, Crispy latkes taste just right…”

I will leave you in suspense about the ending! The language is a perfect fit for our 2-year old grandson who already loves words that rhyme with light, bright, and so forth. Seven syllables on every page keeps things predictable and the bunny rabbit characters celebrating Hanukkah were very creative and fun. I’m wondering why the illustrator chose bunny rabbits over other animals but my grandson loved pointing to the bunnies and the various objects and symbols of Hanukkah.

So, if you want to snuggle up with your toddler kid or love bunny, get this book and discover the cute and fun Hanukkah world of dreidels (tops), latkes (potato pancakes) and menorahs (candelabras).

Next, the graphic book Joseph, The Dreamer was a perfect book for this past weekend where we read about the dreams of Joseph in the weekly Parsha (Torah/Bible Portion). The book tells the story in pictures and graphics and my grandsons were excited to talk about the story at our Shabbat table this past Friday night. Becky Laff does a great job telling the story (using bunny rabbits again…hmmmm) of Joseph and his brothers. The artwork is excellent and well done. However, bunny rabbits pictures disturbed me in this particular book because I felt it cheapened the story in the Bible. When I gave it to my grandson to read, I made sure to tell him that in advance. Not that he woul think his favorite characters from the Torah were actually rabbits, but still…

Finally, the coloring book L’Dor VaDor a Keepsake Coloring book  uses as its title the Hebrew words (L’dor Vador) to express the theme of generation to generation how we pass on our values of spirituality from one generation to another. Judy Freeman does a superb job of creating art pieces that any age can fill in. From child to adult to middle-ager, anyone can benefit from the calm and relaxation from coloring in this book. Each picture stands on its own and can be colored, framed and displayed as a work of art. Trains, shells, turtles, valleys and more…. are some of the images in this coloring book.

So, as the holiday of Hanukkah and the year of 2016 wind down, let’s find some good books to read to our children and ourselves.

 


Conversations With Grandparents

 

It’s  Chanukah and we’ve had a few family get-togethers with all grandparents (my husband and me!) and great grands (my mother-in-law), plus a few aunts and uncles and cousins. I always enjoy being with family, especially when the various generations get to mingle together on the holidays. During holidays, some grandparents reminisce about their past. Others are more quiet about their histories and need to be drawn out and engaged in conversation. And finally, there are those who try to reminisce and no one really listens. Or even worse, no one asks.

As a child, I was one of the few who had  grandparents. Most of my friends’ grandparents had passed in the Holocaust and my friends’ parents emigrated to the US to start new families.  My grandparents each survived the War and traveled to the U.S. with their children – my parents – in the late 1930’s and early 40’s respectively.

Many of my friends tell me that they didn’t grow up hearing stories about the Holocaust from their survivor parents.  Aside from the stamp that their parents  had on their arm indicating the years in concentration camps, there was little proof that they had experienced atrocities. These survivors were reticent to share their horror stories with their children and grandchildren.

And then there are those who do talk about their experiences. In his later years, my father-in-law who passed in 2001, freely shared stories of how he and his brother escaped from Poland and other interesting stories. My husband and his siblings lapped up these stories as well as those still being told by my mother-in-law who is well into her 90’s (may she live till 120).

Children ask a lot of questions but adults don’t always want to prod. They may have the dilemma of how much to probe, to ask, to engage in conversation. They may wonder: Do the elders really want to talk? Are their memories really accurate? Is this act of eliciting reminiscence really for their catharsis or therapeutic benefit? Or is it for us – so we can record it all for posterity?  How do we know if we are being sensitive to their needs?

This is the subject of a book that I’m reading now called The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H. Konis.  Mr. Konis recalls his Grandma Ola whom he adored and spent a lot of time with, but after her death twenty years earlier, felt regret at not getting enough information from her about his family’s history.  His father never asked questions and he repeated the trend of not asking anything, despite having spent a lot of time with his grandmother. And so, he set out to write this book which is a recollection of his thoughts on his grandmother combined with what he did know about the Holocaust and his conversations here and there with his father. He weaves together all the warm and loving memories about his grandmother.

The book’s  title is somewhat self-deprecating if not self-critical. He wishes he would have asked more, started more conversations and he has a fantasy that his grandmother might have poured forth with story after story.

Notwithstanding his not having war discussions, the author had a most loving relationship with his grandmother.  His Grandma Ola –who actually was his “real” grandmother’s sister, raised his father after the war because the actual grandparents died in the War before his father turned nine.  Grandma Ola found her little nephew hiding on a farm in Poland and brought him  to America to raise him as her own.   Thus, Grandma Olga (“Ola”) was the only grandmother Mr. Konis  knew.  As a young adult, Mr. Konis spent time with Grandma Ola when he was in law school, living in her apartment which was close to his school. She doted on him, made sure he was comfortable and gave him the space to study, party, and be his own person.

Many of the elderly who went through the Holocaust do not want to relive their past. My own father (RIP) and my mother (till 120) were/are Holocaust survivors. Although their stories may be fewer and less dramatic than those of my in-laws as they did not experience concentration camps, they did not regale stories of their past. The only thing I remember is my father telling us bedtime stories about his childhood in Antwerp before the war. A few years before his passing, my brothers recorded him as he spoke on tape about some of the more fascinating escape stories – leaving Belgium, France and coming to the USA.

The opportunity to interview our elders – both informally and informally – are many but often we don’t grab the chance.  Either we think they aren’t interested in talking, or perhaps they really are not interested. Or maybe we aren’t asking the right questions to get them to talk and share.

Bottom line is that many of us go through our lives without having these important conversations with our grandmothers, grandfathers and even our parents.  Later we may regret those missed moments and conversations.

I think the message of Mr. Konis’s book is that we ought to delve into the situation with our elders and find out what and how much they are willing to share. If they are willing to share and reminisce, then we take out a pen and paper and write down what they say. Pull out the tape recorder or  video camera and record them talking. Make a collage or scrapbook using old pictures. Interview them, tape them and give out a CD to the cousins.

But if they are not willing to share, accept that reality. Enjoy their presence and glean your own stories from the time you had with them. That’s what Mr. Konis did and his story “Conversations We Never Had” is a testimony to his great love and memory of his time with his grandmother.

 

 


Why “A Hanukkah with Mazel” Inspires Hope (A Book Review)

Sometimes we need a little extra touch of  optimism in our lives. Maybe we are feeling sad. Maybe our children seem a bit hopeless about stuff in their lives. We pray, we hope, we sing, we laugh… but nothing seems to be working for us.

Words can help. Stories can inspire.

That dose of faith or spoonful of hope and promise for our future that everything will turn okay is often found in a good story. No matter if that book is truth or fiction. Never mind if it is short or long; for kids or for adults.

Recently, I was asked by Kar-Ben Publishing Company to review some books. Subsequently, they sent me several Hanukkah books. These were: Hanukkah Delight, L’Dor Vador, and Joseph The Dreamer, all of which were delightful and will be reviewed in a future post.

In particular,  the picture book story, A Hanukkah with Mazel by Joel Edward Stein, hit the spot and helped me feel optimistic and hopeful. I got that good fuzzy feeling in my stomach and I just had to read it again and again. Then, I shared it with my grandsons who loved it.

A Hanukkah with Mazel by Joel Edward Stein, (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2016), tells the story of Misha a poor farmer, an artist who has barely enough money for his own food and what happens to him when a cute stray cat  appears in his barn next to the cow. How he uses his kindness and resourcefulness to make a better future for himself. The cat, whom he names “Mazel” symbolizes the hope and gratitude he feels for having found and helped the cat. And then,  after that, as Misha celebrates the holiday of Hanukkah,  things just become better for him.

The illustrations by Elisa Vavouri are realistic without being trite. The language is simple and unpretentious without being too childish. The book has a universal and classic and Jewish feel to it without being cliché.

Hanukkah is  when we gather round with our family and loved ones. It’s a great time for instilling feelings of hope and faith in our children and ourselves. This story mirrors the one of Hanukkah where one little amount of oil lasted for eight days. Misha has no money or much oil but he does have talent. Talent for art. A heart to care for the cat and a brain to figure out what to do. All that combined with someone else who comes into his life, combine to make  a story of small and large miracles.

This book can be purchased online on Amazon or at the Kar-Ben website.

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate! And may all our days be happy and filled with light.

Disclaimer: I received the listed Hanukkah books in compensation for this review.

 

 

 


Best Momisms by Vikki Claflin (and a book bundle giveaway!)

My funny midlife boulevard friend, Vikki Claflin, author of  award winning blog, Laugh Lines, has guest posted here today, and is holding a book bundle party. Check out her link during the next week and enter to receive a book bundle giveaway.
Vikki Claflin, author of Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch, and I are co-
sponsoring a fabulous new book giveaway called “The Big Booty Book Bundle Giveaway!” It’s
FIVE books by talented female writers that will keep you laughing out loud. And it’s free! For
details and to enter, click http://thebigbootybookbundle.com
vikki
During the week of 2/22-2/26, my own book, Mazel Tov It’s a Bubby  will be featured together with a few other books chosen by Vikki, in the Big Booty Book Bundle Giveaway.
Upon reading Vikki’s guest post below, I noticed that Vikki’s mom’s lessons were pretty similar to the lessons my own mom gave my sisters and me. The only difference is that I don’t always follow these rules. Oh well. And Vikki does! Check out her picture…she’s svelte!
 (Maybe that’s why God gave me sons, ya think?) In any case, hope the following gives you a few laughs, if not wrinkles. (And Mommy Stern – that’s my mom – if you’re reading this, I hope you get a good laugh…Vikki’s in the same league as Erma Bombeck)
MOMISMS
By Vikki Claflin
  • Mom grew up in the 50s. She was slender, with a perfect, blonde beehive hairdo,
    and smelled like Youth Dew from Estee Lauder (before the unfortunate change in formulation).
    She wore slim skirts and stilettos, and always “freshened up” by fixing her hair and her makeup
    before Dad came home. This was not a home that fostered tomboys. My sister and I grew up, not
    surprisingly, to be girly-girls, with a love of fashion, makeup, and all things beautiful.
    Sissy and I learned very early that beauty was work. One had to pay attention, so nothing slipped
    through the cracks and pronounced us as “lazy” or “tacky.”
    Beauty came with rules, and Mom knew exactly how to deliver them with the conviction of
    Moses reading the Stone Tablets. With 6 kids at home (3 hers and 3 his), she had no time for
    chatty mother-daughter discussions and lessons on how not to disgrace ourselves and ruin the
    family name for future generations. Mom had a quick, dry wit, and a scathing sense of humor,
    and she delivered most of her advice on the fly. One-liners or pithy instructions would
    spring forth spontaneously at home, in the car, or in the produce department of the local
    supermarket. At a young age, I learned to carry a pencil and a notepad in anticipation of her
    sidelong glance that told me something I needed to know was forthcoming.
    By the time we were in our teens, Sissy and I had memorized The Rules, through repeated daily
    reminders from our personal Beauty Sherpa. Some have been easier to follow than others, and a
    few are now more relevant to an earlier time, but at 70+ and still fabulous, Mom has a certain
    credibility that can’t be denied.
    Mentally reviewing The Rules the other day, lest I find myself dropping the ball, I wrote down
    my favorites:
    1. You have to suffer to be beautiful. I learned this one at 14, while getting braces put on my
    teeth. 40+ years later, it’s about stilettos, Spanx, skinny jeans, and Botox injections. Some truths
    never change.
    2. At a certain age, a woman has to choose between her face and her hips. A little fat softens
    facial lines, but you’ll have hips like battleships. Too thin and…
    be smaller, but your face will be lined like a Texas saddle. (Repeat after me, “Life is not fair.”)
    3. The difference between a beautiful woman and a not-so-pretty one is either God or a ton of
    money.
    4. Beauty comes from within, but the outside needs a little makeup.
    5. If you think you’re fat, you probably are.
    6. If you’re wider from the side view than from the front view, you’re definitely fat.
    7. Walk lightly, and don’t tromp. You’re a girl, not a Clydesdale.
    8. A woman is instantly judged by her shoes and her handbag. Economize somewhere else.
    9. If you paint your nails, no chips. If you color your hair, no roots. It looks tacky.
    10. If you keep frowning, your face will freeze like that. (Fortunately, Botox freezes it back.)
    11. Keep your nails short.
    12. Stand up straight. It projects confidence.
    13. Never chew gum. People who chew gum look like cows chewing cud. 
    14. Whenever you’re trying to change something about yourself, be realistic. Only God can
    make a tree.
    15. A woman has the face God gave her at 20 and the face she’s earned at 50. Wear
    sunscreen. And don’t squint.
    16. Be sparing with cosmetic intervention. Your face should never look younger than the rest
    of you.
    17. When your makeup is done and you’re ready to go out, take half of it off. Less is more.
    18. Look good when your husband gets home, and look happy to see him.
    19. Get your hair off of your face. You look like a sheepdog.
    20. SMILE. It’s the most beautiful thing you can wear.
    Thanks, Mom, for these pearls of female wisdom over the years. Some make me think. Others
    still make me snort-laugh out loud (which I know is terribly unladylike). But most of these have
    stood the test of time and I’ll be passing them along to my granddaughter when she’s ready.
    Until then, I don’t chew gum, but I still can’t master those  stilettos.
    book bundle ed_ 3
     
    Vikki Claflin
    Author, Blogger

    541-490-5200 | vikki@laugh-lines.net | http://laugh-lines.net | Hood River, OR
    Vikki Claflin writes the award-winning blog, Laugh Lines, where she doles out irreverent advice
    on marriage, offers humorous how-to lists galore, and shares her most embarrassing midlife
    moments. She shows us how to master midlife with a little common sense and a lot of laughter.
    Check out more of Vikki’s hilarious writing in her newest book,Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch

Are We Jump Start Responders?

27CHARACTER-master675 This morning I saw an article online published about a month ago that  piqued my interest. The photo of the smiling elderly lady on my Facebook feed plus the headline and the stamp of 20 or more likes and hundreds of comments were enough to get me to read the article. I love reading pieces about anything that even remotely has to do with seniors and elderly.

Born in Basement and Never Left.  The photo’s caption was “Lived her entire life since the day she was born on West 135th street…”

As I often do, I skimmed through some of the comments.

“What? She lived there her entire life? She never left the house? The basement? Huh?”

“That’s so sad. Oh no.”

A few more of the comments were about how sad or how terrible it was that this hermit of a woman would stay in her home for her entire life. And suddenly I lost my taste for reading this article.

I wasn’t really in the mood of a sad and depressing topic today so early in the morning. Maybe I’d bookmark it and read it later. I thought of responding with my “humble opinion” (yeah right) to some of the comments. I thought of flipping to the next article on my feed (or turning off my iphone and getting on with my day!).

But my curiosity about this cute lady on the photo (never underestimate the power of a great image) got the better of me and I read the article in its entirety.

And boy, am I glad I did. It turned out to be a charming article about a woman who turned 93 last month and has lived in the same building (literally) her entire life.

She is a happy, positive woman who was born, raised and lived her entire life in the same NYC building. She tells the interviewer about how after she got married, she moved to a larger apartment upstairs, raised her children there, and how today she still lives there, engaged in  the evolving neighborhood over 10 decades, and attending the same Church as her children and grandchildren. She relates her life experiences all taking place in a several square mile radius of Manhattan-ville and she’s grateful for her blessed life.

Okay, okay. I won’t tell you everything about the story. Go read it here.

So why the negative comments?

Could it be all the  commenters missed the point of the story? (Did I miss the point??) Or did they simply not read the story and just commented on the thread to engage in the conversation already taking place?

To keep busy typing opinions that may or may not relate to the article, but who cares? Just sound clever. Smart. Click “like.” Click “reply.”

I know I’m guilty of this sometimes. I’ll read something or part of something (maybe half the article?) and then write a comment on it.

listening

As long as we can act and seem interested in some fodder for discussion, it’s okay. We may not take the time to follow the author’s thoughts through from beginning to end, or really think about his or her point.

Nope. We just jump start our engine and spit out a response. A clever one. A complimentary one. Or even (G-d forbid) a troll-like one.

Some of you may be shaking your heads and thinking, nah. I don’t do that. And honestly, maybe we don’t do that all the time in such an extreme way.

Hey, we know that headlines of newspapers are meant to get us to read the article. And we know that we can’t always judge an article by its headline (yeah, wrong expression but you get the idea) so of course we can’t glean information from a title (or the other commenter’s comments!) so we take the time to read the article – or most one line of it, and then write a comment. And we are sincerely interested in what the other person or author has to say.

Right? Ummm. I’m not so sure. Some of us are in such a rush in our busy day that even in our daily conversations we don’t always take the time to listen fully to what the other person is saying. Or texting. Or emailing.

I know I’ve written emails and received responses from the other person, wondering, “Did he/she even read what I wrote?” Probably not.

We all recognize the person (sometimes ourselves) who listens to what someone says but has that glazed look in the eyes showing that they really couldn’t care less exactly what you’re saying. Just more or less. Just the gist of it, so they can respond in the politically correct way and then move on with their lives.

When my husband and I are discussing something intense (happens at times) and I interrupt him (yeah I know…), he will often say to me, “Listen, I may be wrong. I’m often wrong. But at least let me finish what I’m saying before you tell me I’m wrong!”

Hahahahaha. Funny.

But seriously, he’s got a point, doesn’t he?

We often joke (this time it’s both of us) that there are people out there who will ask you how you are feeling when they meet you at the market, and they don’t even take the time to listen to your answer.

Sample conversation:

Acquaintance: “Hi, how are you? How’s everything?”

Me: “Oh, I got sick and almost died yesterday ——-”

Acquaintance interrupting: “Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m soooo happy for you!”

How does that feel to you (or me) when someone jumps to comment before actually taking the time to listen or read what you’ve said? Not so good. Kind of like they already know what you’re going to say. Your thoughts are not so unique so they can second guess your thoughts and not only that, even respond with a helpful/wise response.

In short, it hurts. Badly.

As I said above, I’m guilty of this as well as everyone. But I do have the awareness. After being around the social media community for several years, I realize a tendency to want to engage. To respond. To share. To answer. To come up with quick and witty – and on target – answers. All good things. But take the time to read first. Listen first. Assimilate first.

Listening, reading, pondering over, taking notes – not so in vogue these days.

I remember writing articles back in my early days of writing. Before social media was big. I’d sit down at my desk and take notes on all my thoughts about a topic. I’d hold on to those thoughts, mull about them, come to conclusions about them, and then after a few days I’d begin to formulate them into a thoughtful draft. Then rewrite. Revise. Edit. And so forth.

And that was regarding my own thoughts. My own ideas.

How much more so when someone else is sharing their thoughts, isn’t it worthwhile to take their ideas into consideration before bouncing back with a response that may or may not be on target?

So how about we (talking to myself here!) try from now on to really listen to what the other person says. Or writes. Or texts. Read it. Then read it again. Maybe you missed something. Maybe you skipped a line or paragraph or thought. It’s all important. The person wrote it there — or spoke it — for a reason.

And just as I was glad I read the piece (in its entirety) about the lady who lived in the same building and neighborhood for 93 years, you will be happy you listened to the entire story told by your friend or acquaintance.

Wait till you’re finished hearing before jump-starting and responding. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

 


Beyond Knitting in the Rocking Chair

somegrandmasOne of the best things about being a grandmother is that I get to define my role as I go along. I can be hands-on sometimes, hands-off other times, fun-loving when I’m in the mood, and too-busy-to-take-care-of-them at other times. It’s all good and it works; my relationships with my grandsons are really comfortable. My daughters-in-law appreciate the time I spend with the kids, and the family dynamics are great (most of the time!).

So when last week, photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein from Kansas City,  emailed me and asked if I would I write a review of her new children’s read-aloud photo book called Some Grandmas, I said yes!

Some Grandmas is a collection of photos taken by Gloria of  all kinds of grandmothers from all over the world doing all kinds of things with their grandchildren. Short captions accompany each photo for reading aloud to a child.  While one grandmother might be flying a kite with her grandchild, another will be painting. While one grandmother might be in a wheelchair talking to her grandchild, another will be riding a bike. All the photos are captivating, and capture the mood of love, caring, and bonding between grandmother and grandchild.

While the stereotypical grandmother with the silver or white bun and spectacles who sits in a rocking chair and knits is one type of grandmother, she is not necessarily the only image of a grandmother nowadays. Just as 60 is the new 40, grandmothers’ hobbies are getting more youth-oriented these days. Grandmothers are free to be who they are, and bond with their grandchildren in ways that they (and the children) choose. The opportunities are endless and it is helpful for all generations to realize that.

The words on each page of Some Grandmas, as is typical of children’s read-aloud books, are few. Every page starts with the words, “Some grandmas…” and is followed simply with what the grandma in that picture is doing.

My own grandmothers who were from Europe, were the free-spirited kind of women, who liked art, photography, literature and theatre, and I had close relationships with both of them, sharing my hobbies and passions with them. I would go to one grandmother’s house and we would make arts and crafts projects together. My other grandmother took me by subway to plays on my days off from school. She helped me with my French homework and cut out newspaper clippings for me for my school projects. Some of my friends had grandmothers who were less hands-on, but were equally warm, loving and friendly.

Nowadays, with life expectancy hitting a record high,   the types of activities and pastimes that grandmothers do with their grandchildren are evolving from knitting to  playing Chinese checkers to doing sports to shopping and other active games. All of these activities – from the wheelchair bound grandmother to the hiking or bicycling one, are worthy of getting grandparent and grandchild to bond.

Gloria Feinstein is an experienced and renowned photographer living in Kansas City, Missouri, with her work displayed at various exhibitions. The idea for this book came to her after she had already written adult books. Gloria had photographed a woman, Linda Cohen in her Sukkah before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot with her grandchildren and both grandmother and child were looking up at the roof of the sukkah. Gloria noted the wonder and curiosity in both of their faces and decided to explore the expressions and wonderment of other grandmothers in their activities with their grandchildren.

That photo and her grandchild is now on the cover of Some Grandmas.

The Grandmother Appellation

A grandmother of two, with the older one only 4 1/2, Ms. Feinstein, who is called “G-Lo” by her grandchildren dedicated her book to “all the Grandmas, Omas, Abuelitas, Savtas, Gramma, Gran, Bubbie,  Nonna, Yaya…..” and listed no less than 54 (yes, I counted!) names for grandmothers. I was proud of myself for knowing many of them, although I learned quite a few. (I had never heard of Yaya!).

One on One Relationship

What I liked about this book is that each picture has only one grandmother and one grandchild in it. That is significant to me because it shows the quality time and closeness inherent in the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Naturally, grandchildren often share their time with their grandmothers, but for this book, Ms. Feinstein photographed the one-on-one relationship.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books Some Grandmas, go to a large care center in Kansas City to help support their Volunteer Grandmother program. The center provides services to children of the working poor.

Ms. Feinstein also made a creative set of items:  tee-shirt and tote bag, which are featured on the site with the book. Take a look there for those and other items!

Some Grandmas is currently available from the author (gbfeinsten@gmail.com), from local stores in Kansas City, and on Etsy. For more information, please contact the author.

teeshirtgrandma

 

totebaggrandma

 

 


Writers Wondering About Writers

A few weeks ago, writer Kristen M. Ploetz wrote an article called “Nine Questions I Wonder About Writers,” where she invited other writers to answer some questions about their own writing.    Some of my blogging friends, Nina Badzin, Rivki Silver, and Rebecca Klempner  followed through on their respective blogs with extremely insightful answers to Kristen’s questions. I read and enjoyed  their ideas, and commented on their blogs.

I briefly thought about following suit on my own blog, but wasn’t sure whether I had enough material in my conscious mind to respond coherently to many of the questions.

Anyway, today I decided to stop overthinking, and to formulate Kristen’s answers on screen, thereby sharing my process with you.

Here are Kristen Ploetz’s questions in bold, followed by my answers:

1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?

Yes, I often share my work with my husband, usually before I submit to online or print magazines.  I print out hard-copies of the drafts and he goes through them with his pen, circling and commenting on material that he thinks is not working  My husband is an avid reader of sci-fi and math books so he knows what does or doesn’t work clarity-wise! He also tells me if he thinks something is not ethically okay to write.  I don’t share my blog posts with him, though. Those I just write, edit myself and post! Now I’m thinking maybe I should share some of those with him too before publishing…hmmmm.

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?

My mother is my biggest fan and reader of my blog and other material. Not kidding! When I first had my book published, I was told she went into the local stores and made sure my book was prominently displayed. Ha ha.  A mom’s job! But seriously, some friends and family follow my blog, read my posts and often comment. Others don’t and that’s just fine.   I write for a weekly print magazine, Binah Magazine, and I often get spontaneous comments  from people whom I meet out and about,  telling me they enjoy my writing. Regarding feedback, I generally go to my husband for that, even published stuff, because I trust him to tell me the truth.

3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go? 

Usually, after a piece is rejected, I just put it aside. I can’t deal with it right away, because I’m too close to the situation and topic at that point and I’m kind of tainted in my opinion  of the piece initially. But I keep it in a file  and then sometimes come back to it,  edit and tweak it, revise, and then often resubmit, with success. Sometimes I put a condensed version of it (if it’s too long) on my blog, or use parts of it later for other pieces.

4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

With one particular site, I’ve submitted  different pieces repeatedly over time, and have been continually rejected. I’ve been told my style doesn’t speak to them. I tried reworking the rejected pieces into other forms or styles, and written completely new pieces. But so far no luck there. Something tells me it’s time to let that one go already, and realize that it’s not meant to be.

5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

I like self-help books, blogs, magazines, and novels. I don’t enjoy anthologies (of myriad writers in the same book) so much. I generally get through half the book and then stop, or pick out the few writers whose writing I can relate to.  I enjoy Jewish non-fiction and biographies also. Regarding essayists, I enjoy humor writers. When I was a kid, I read a lot of Erma Bombeck’s books.  I also like articles on writing, such as William Safire’s work,  and satirical writing by Russell Baker.

6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

When I read other people’s blogs, I get sparks of ideas from my own life for future writing. But most of my ideas come from my own experiences in life as a mom, mother-in-law, daughter, friend, etc. When I have an inner conflict or some issue in a relationship, I try to figure out what went wrong, and to find some insight and humor in it. Then, when I have clarity I write about it. Incidentally, the material for  my book came about, after I experienced bumps in my new role as mother-in-law and then grandmother, and wrote about those experiences.

7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

There is an author, Riva Pomerantz, who writes books, magazine articles and online material for the Jewish Orthodox audience, and is completely brilliant, in my opinion. I love her stories, characters and also the dialogue she writes. I could never write such perfect and natural dialogue! (not yet, at least!).

8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

I started a book by Elizabeth Berg, which was very helpful to me.  I need to go back and finish that. Someone recommended William Zissner’s “On Writing Well” as a must have. I once wrote a post about improving our writing craft. So now I’m going to re-read that post and start to follow my own advice!

9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? 

I think the longer I write, the more I regret writing stuff. I think it’s because I become more honest in my storytelling.  and venture into areas that may have felt unsafe for me to touch in my earlier writing years. Recently I published a piece for a certain magazine and went back and forth in my dilemma while I was writing it, whether to submit or not.  Even after I submitted it and it was accepted, I worried that I would regret it. I recall emailing the editor and asking her if she felt it needed tweaking. (True story). When they sent me the final draft, I toyed with some phrases, trying to reword to make it more p.c. But in the end, I just left it as is.  And my husband backed me (he’s my reality check!) Anyway, now that it’s published, I’m trying to let it go and realize that it’s important to tell a story as is, even if it feels raw to do so.

So there you have it. My 9 questions answered. Thank for reading, and thank you, Kristen for writing up these questions for all of us to answer!

Happy writing and reading to all!


Another Kids’ Book Review: “Look What My Parents Give Me!”

An Antidote for Entitlement

 

I don’t know about your mom, but every time Mother’s Day rolled around, my mother would say, “Every day  is Mother’s Day.”  As children, we were taught from very early on to honor our father and mother.

Doesn’t the Torah (Bible)  teach us that we should respect  our parents all the time?

Yes, it does. But respect and honor don’t always translate into appreciation. Nowadays, children and teenagers seem to have a sense of entitlement, feeling that adults owe them. We are living in the Me Generation, and it’s never too early to educate kids on the important value of appreciation for their parents. Continue reading


“Imagine If…” – A Children’s Book Review

By Rabbi Zeegel; Illustrated by Darrel Mordecai

By Rabbi Zeegel; Illustrated by Darrel Mordecai

Way back  when Theodore Seuss Geisel wrote a zany                 rhyming book for children, I wonder if he realized that he’d be so successful with the series that future  authors would attempt to imitate him.

I mean, imagine imitating green eggs and ham. Or a cat in a hat. Or a fox in socks.  It’s kind of ridiculous, wouldn’t you say? Still,  for  years, wannabe Dr. Seusses congregated in coffee houses, libraries and living rooms trying to mimic the flavor of the venerable Dr. Seuss. Continue reading


“Boy Oh Boy!”- A Book Review

When I had my fifth son, friends and relatives seemed to think they had to console me.  Maybe they needed to – after all, I was overwhelmed….and it must have  showed.

Apparently, moms of boys (and especially those moms with no girls) are deserving of sympathy.

Where was this book back in the days when I needed it??

Where was this book back in the days when I needed it??

You see, back in those frantic days, it would have been really nice had I had the book, “Boy Oh Boy!” – Beily Paluch’s guide for mothers about the wonderful world of boys. Because if I had read this adorable and helpful book, maybe I would have breen more secure in my role as mom of boys.

If nothing else, maybe I would have been confident enough to let the annoying comments roll off my tired and harried back.

“Just think, you’ll have five wonderful daughters-in-law!”

Or: “Now you have a basketball team!.”

Yup – just a few of the comments from well-meaning friends, acquaintances and yes, even family. Continue reading


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