Tuesday, May 17, 2022

THE MOST IMPORTANT “W”

 

Of all the “W”s of a story, (Who/Where/What/When/Why) there’s another WHY that may be the most important. Another blogger, Jennie Nash, addressed it succinctly here.

 

It’s the why you must tell this story.

 

I see this more and more with critique exchanges, of which I have done too many to count, and maybe most of all for picture book manuscripts. I’ve read nicely constructed stories based on tried and true formulas that are spelled out in writing craft books and repeated in writerly conventions or blogs. “This is how you should do it,” is their essential message, which the writer then followed to a T.

 

Many use so-called mentor texts. Every bit of how-to advice is incorporated.

 

What’s missing, sorely utterly absent, is the passion for the story.

 

These painted by the numbers creations remind me of birds without wings. Nice colors, pleasant faces, point-on beaks.

But they don’t fly.




It’s far easier to comb the feathers of inspired stories that, even in an un-polished state, already soar.

I’ve seen feedback that try to blow air beneath these flightless stories by suggesting a stronger action, more tension, tighter phrasing, etc. What the person giving feedback is not saying (because we try to be polite and kind) is that the passion is missing.

 

If you ask: “Why did you write this story?” A likely answer is a version of “I read publishers/agents are looking for such.” Or, “my kids liked that other story so I used it as a mentor text.”

Better: “Why were you burning to write this story?”

 

Putting it this way, I find that with wingless stories there’s rarely an answer.

 

For myself,  I start with that WHY. Why must I write it?

Then it’s a GO.



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Less is MORE

 

SO MUCH MORE

I just finished reading a novel whose author, in the Acknowledgements page, thanked so many people that the page turned into pages, plural.


I’m one of those readers who always reads authors’ Thank Yous. There, I encounter the good feel of gratefulness, and occasionally a deeper glimpse into the writer’s process. I rarely know any of the names being thanked, but it matters not. I like the ambiance; being in the presence of expansiveness and joy, something I feel deeply for my beta readers and anyone who ever helped me be a better person.


But here comes my pet peevishness: when the number of people mentioned goes over, say, ten— it’s diminishing returns multiplied exponentially with every addition.


Like everything else in writing, (and life), curtailing exuberance actually has the effect of giving a statement power. I lamented this in an old post about overuse of exclamation points, here.


I actually went on to count the number of people thanked by name in the above mentioned author’s river of gratitude. As I did so, I wondered if some dark part of me wasn’t envious that she not only had so many people to thank, but even knew this many people. (The number is two-hundred and thirty-six, but who’s counting.๐Ÿ˜ฎ) I’m sure every one of them is diminished by the size of the crowd.


I don’t have an exact number not to exceed. I just wanted to remind myself (and anyone reading this) that less is more.

©Mark Anderson 2015




Tuesday, May 3, 2022

CinderElliot : A Scrumptious Fairytale

 There are many variations on the Cinderella story. This one is different. And yes, it's scrumptious.


The story of Elliot, the unrecognized master baker, outdoes the traditional tale by giving him a talent where he shines. More than the original Cinderella, who mostly charmed with her beauty, this hero is spectacularly gifted. Like her, CinderElliot works hard at home. But what he has to offer the prince, beyond his good nature, is his brilliant creativity. 

 

And the illustrations by Stephanie Laberis, do just that. They are scrumptious.

 

Written by Mark Ceilley and Rachel Smoka-Richardson, the text flows seamlessly. I've known one of the co-authors, Mark Ceilley, for fourteen years. We are in a picture book critique group and I have witnessed as he wrote, revised, polished, and continued to create despite the steep odds to publication. As far as I'm concerned, Mark’s own journey to this momentous day is a CinderElliot story in itself. His distinctive style of marvelous verb use is amply displayed in this luscious tasty tale. CinderElliot's  sweet concoctions guarantee they will indeed live happily ever after.

 

Happy Birthday to a wonderful book ๐Ÿ’Ÿ


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Oh, No. Not about them* RULES, Again

 

*Yup, I know the extra ‘m’ is not grammatical. I’m making a point

 

Some months ago in a writerly Facebook group, someone lamented at her discovery while editing her own work. “Turns out,” she wrote, “I’m a fan of passive writing and telling not showing.” ๐Ÿ˜ฐ


While I’m paraphrasing and also omitting some of her original pulling-one’s-own-hair in-shame post, I will quote my response post in full because I don’t need my own permission to quote me:

 

“Passive construction and telling have their place. Just make sure they don't sit and stay where they are not serving their purpose. Passive is what you use when you want to fuzzy something and cover with fog. (Someone *was killed,* no idea by whom.)

Telling is an economical way to get through parts so the showing parts get to shine by contrast.

 

The first writerly mistake is not knowing the rules and why they’re there. The second is to treat writing advice as absolute. 

You can quote me on it. ๐Ÿ‘†

 

Getting off the preacher’s pedestal now.






Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Passover Brings Matzo* and a Recipe for You

 

*{Matzah in Hebrew pronunciation. Matzo is Yiddish}


The commandment to eat Matzo* to the exclusion of other bready/crackery/pastry thingies during the eight days of Passover divides the Jewish people into those who love it and those who suffer through it.

I’m decidedly on the side of the matzo lovers. In fact, I eat it all year round, which is actually a defiance of the original intended commandment. We are supposed to experience the difference that befell our ancestors during their exodos from Egypt. So if you eat matzo every day, how is Passover time different from all other times?

 

But I LOVE matzo, so sue me.

 

Matzo tastes like pure wheat. If you like wheat, you’ll appreciate the plainness of this subtle but fortifying taste. It isn’t mixed with any other ingredients like salt, sugar, fats or dairy. It’s a lot of flour and very little water mixed, pounded rolled and baked quickly into thin sheets. Glorious.

 

But here I am about to mix it with other things for those who want to do something with leftover matzo. The only reason you have any left over is because you didn’t eat the whole box plain. I take pity on you, and offer my mother’s Matzo Brei,(Yiddish for “fried matzo”) the savory version:

4 eggs, beaten

2 ½ cup milk, mixed into the eggs

A sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper, a ½ t. of onion powder mixed in

4 matzo broken into small pieces

1 cup grated mild cheese

Mix all the above and let it soak together for about an hour.

In a large frying pan that has a lid, melt 2 T. butter, add the Matzo mixture and spread evenly. On the lowest possible flame let is cook slowly, covered, for 45 minutes.

 

That’s it. No turning, no fuss.

(Another version skips the cheese, pepper and onion powder and adds vanilla instead, then top with cinnamon sugar when serving. But I swear by the savory one as a full dinner in a pan, with a side of green salad.)

 

This serves two, and can be multiplied as needed, depending on the size of the pan. My favorite comfort food, not only on Passover.

(The photo๐Ÿ‘† is one Matzo Brei that was flipped and browned on both sides. I prefer to have a custardy top and crisp bottom)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

THE BEST MONEY I EVER SPENT AS A WRITER

The title of this post is misleading in my case, because technically the money was spent by DH, which technically isn’t me.

 Here goes:

Confession time: I’ve not spent much $ as a writer. I spent lots of time, thought, and effort. Money hasn’t been in the equation. I imagine for the self-published the money they spent and how they chose to prioritize is pivotal.

 

But there was some money spent, regardless. Count membership at SCBWI, a few conferences, paper & mailing (in the ancient days pre-all digital submissions) and a few books on the craft or business of writing. It adds up to something.

 

The latter brings me to the best money spent from my address. It was a birthday present from DH twelve years ago; a curiously titled The Complete idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.

Note that the word “complete” refers to the idiotic reader. In reality, this book is more of a complete guide and the reader is no idiot but a smart person because they know they don’t know.

 

This basic book was the best investment, as it did cover almost anything a novice needed answered. As a tiny bonus, it also served as an acknowledgement of one’s status as a know-nothing, something to keep inflated egos in check for the barrage of inevitable rejections to come.

For the novice it’s $ well spent.



Tuesday, April 5, 2022

DESCRIPTION in MIDDLE-GRADE NOVELS

 

Those who write picture book texts know that descriptive passages are best left out for the art. But what about novels for middle grade readers? They are (usually) not illustrated. Surely, there’s room for descriptive passages telling of landscapes, indoor settings and physical details of characters.

Time was, there were ample spaces in the narration for such. Something happened to change this. Middle Grade books written today are better served keeping descriptions to a minimum.

In fact, the how-to mavens insist that these passages are too “telly," an anathema to the show-don’t-tell principle of strong writing.

Descriptions also slow the action, and if there’s anything more verboten, it’s slow-moving  plot.

Then, there’s the matter of descriptions tending to quiet the tone, and “too quiet” is another no-no.

 

But-but-but you say. How is a setting to come alive? How would a character be more than their dialogue words? Does the young reader ever gets to smell the roses?

It isn’t that novels for young readers are to be devoid of all description, say the mavens. Just be economical. Have setting or physical characteristics be inferred by actions of dialogue. By all means, insert a sentence here and there pertaining to a descriptive detail. What a writer should avoid is long, languid, lulling descriptions we all read if we read the classic books of yore. La-di-da and all that.

It’s a reminder that we’re competing for shorter attention spans conditioned by video games and motion pictures.

 

I know this is solid advice, but it makes me sad. Some of the best writing I’ve encountered in my life bore the vestments of detailed descriptions that went on for pages. But the world of literary commerce has moved on.

 

Some months back, I served as a beta reader to a talented writing friend’s middle grade story, whose descriptive paragraphs were beautifully done. In my humble opinion, her strongest writing lay in those paragraphs. It hurt to suggest she might consider cutting them out or changing the way the settings materialized on the page. But nineteenth-century writing does not work well in the twenty-first century.

 

A new era requires new skills. No use fuming or crying about it.




Tuesday, March 29, 2022

IF I WEREN’T WRITING...

 

Or—

What Would I Do Instead?

Our neighborhood trusted gas station/car repair shop has had the same sole owner for fifty years. I wasn’t here to verify this, but so I’ve been told. For at least twenty, we’ve brought all our cars to him and he has always been scrupulously honest. His loyal assistant has been there for as long as I remember. Bridgeway Service is venerated and loved by all who had experienced the decent way they conduct their business.

 

A few years ago, I got into a conversation with the owner, who told me he would love to retire. What he really wanted to do was experiment making homemade barbecue sauce and invite his neighbors to sample his ever-evolving creations on that front.

 

This stayed with me, and every time I drive in to get gas or inflate my tires, I think of a dream delayed when I see Steve, the owner, still at it.




At this stage of my life, I have the privilege to be able to dedicate myself to doing what I most want to. I write fictional stories for young readers almost every weekday. I try to imagine what I would do if writing fiction became impossible. A few notions float by on wispy clouds~~~~~

Run a cat rescue

      Write movie reviews

                  Make biscotti from a family recipe I improved

 

Those misty billows evaporate as quickly as they appear. I could do any of the above, but not every day or every week. This cements my feeling of gratitude. I’m lucky to be where I am.

 

It also seems unfair, as Steve from Bridgeway has worked harder all his life, and has earned his right to make barbecue sauce full time. Life, really, isn’t fair.

 

Do you have any dreams delayed you would be open to sharing? I wish you the vision to see clearly the way to fulfilling those.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

SEASONS and SEASONINGS

 

Where I live, in California’s bay area, there is basically only one season.

Lucky us, the season is SPRING.


It goes something like this:

Bay area summer = Spring with morning fog

Bay area fall = Spring without the morning fog

Bay area winter = Spring with some rain

Bay area spring = well, just spring


I have dealt with this boring blessing by creating seasonality in artificial ways.

Example—

I change the bed’s quilt, and thus my bed reflects seasonality.

SUMMER^


FALL^


WINTER^


SPRING^


The cats are perennial.

 

It occurred to me that the stories I write are similar. My life is a steady road with mini-bumps for variety. The stories are life accentuated, outlined, marked with eye-popping swatches of drama.

The bed frame is akin to the daily discipline of writing, and the cats (i.e., the stand-ins for the narrator who is me) are the constant sentient beings. The quilts serve to delineate the titles from each other. 

Thus, stories are life with spicy seasoning.

๐ŸŒปHappy Spring๐ŸŒป


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

PANDEMIC STORIES

 

Or—

THIS STORIED PANDEMIC

At the two-year mark of the first Covid-19 global pandemic lockdowns, it occurred to me that this life altering event has barely registered in books, movies, TV-series or any of the many ways we tell the stories of our lives.

Where it’s missing most is in children’s books.

The global pandemic brought not only lockdowns with their school closures, but also face masks, vaccinations, and protests against both. It made older relatives spend their last days without family, and some families that lived and worked entirely from home. It ushered shifting directions from authorities, travel restrictions, fluctuating supply chain shortages, and daily experts' updates that often added to confusion.

But most of all, there was prevailing fear.

This not-brave new world we found ourselves in should have been a feast for storytellers. (“So, what else is new?” “PLENTY.”)

Instead, it’s as if we can’t digest any of it, and thus we keep producing reflections that bypass the elephant in the room

At the very beginning of this game-changing reality, I wrote a picture book that told of it; a pet chinchilla found that it couldn’t go outside. Using animal protagonists is a way of distancing hard realities while also giving them full emotional agency.

My then-agent felt it would all be over soon, and so it was never shopped to editors. I understood agent’s point. But I also thought that regardless of whether it be a brief episode— barely a snippet in time, or one that lasts a while, it has a place in stories.

Especially for the youngest readers, who barely remember how it was before.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

NEVER RUN OUT OF STORIES

 

Our lives are filled with possibilities that haven’t materialized. Stories are conjured of things that do.

 

      When the story-well feels empty, I think of it this way:

1.      Here are the blessings I have. (I count them). Blessings do not make for story-hooks, but I need to do this in order to take the next step.

2.      Here are the frustrations and lackings I experience. (I list them)

      Every one of the items on the lacking list begs for a “what if...”

{As in what if instead of having an editor pass on my manuscript, it got multiple offers. Or what if instead of having my old clunker of a car stolen, I won a brand new one in a raffle and got to donate the old one to someone who needed it.}

 

Most of the what-ifs are stories. My mind lets the possibilities in. Starting from the point of lack, and moving through challenges, to a point of either triumph or acceptance of the lack, which is an inner triumph.

 

I didn’t develop this exercise in order to think up story ideas; it’s something I always did naturally. But it also assures I will never run out of ideas.

Unless, of course, I find myself counting my blessings and having not a single lack.

Well, that’s not going to happen. Nevermore.



Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Welcome March

     

& Keep Marching

The month we’re ushering in, March, gets its name from Mars, the Roman god of war. The Roman calendar actually began with the month of March. Leave it to the Romans, those talented empire builders, to start off with war.

 

It is the pronunciation in English that gives it an added feel. MARCH, as in to march, evokes movement. Not just any movement, but the rhythmic kind that propels forward.

 

And this we must do. Walking backwards is something we do when we reminisce, delve into history and read fiction set in past eras. It’s a mental glide backwards, something that deepens understanding and cements ownership of acquired emotions.

 

On the level of action, the single most important thing to do is to bravely march forward, open to the unknown. Storytellers attempt to unveil the future with utopic and dystopic stories, but those are just attempts to quell the fear of what the next steps hold.

 

As it turns out, these stories are mostly unsuccessful as future times bear out. Sure, some futuristic stories turned out to have prescience. So have some religious prophecies. But most did not. We just forgot about the majority that didn’t, and kept marching.

 

Which is my order to self today, as the first of March happens to also be my birthday: get up and march.



Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Self-Promotion, a Promethean Duty

 

We live in a world that says self-promotion is what effective individuals do, and if you want to be one, you must as well.

 

Just glance at Facebook, Twitter, or (if you absolutely must) TikTok.

 

At the same time, the echoes of past ethe reverberate, reminding us that best praise does not come from oneself. Let others toot your horn.

 

The second feels much better to most writers, who tend to be introverts. Most artistic sorts would rather think about creating than marketing.

 

Another blog post speaks of this in more detail. Its title, Does the Idea of Promoting Your Book Make You Feel Queasy?— contains the operative word.

Queasy.

Yup, that.

If you self-publish, that’s a given. But today it’s also required of the traditionally published. It is one thing to go on a book tour or give interviews, all arranged by a publisher. These days, such is reserved for a tiny percentage of the big-five publishers’ A-list authors. Even that makes most writers queasy.

I know so many who lament this aspect of the creative life in private exchanges.

 

Here’s one way to cope with this aspect of work: think of it as a price to pay for the sheer joy of living creatively.

Because in life, there’s always a price.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Better with CATS

 

A few years back, a friend who only lives with humans asked me what use are my cats.

“They don’t, like, improve anything. You take care of their needs and they do nothing,” she said.

 I tried meekly to pry her feline guard door. “It’s better with cats.”

“What’s better?”

“Everything.”

I should have known better. Some folks just don’t get it.

So indulging here and celebrating with those who know how cats improve on everything.

{If you’re allergic, I’m so sorry for you. But a blog post won’t make you sneeze.}


Better with food~๐Ÿ™€



Better with drink~๐Ÿ˜บ


Better for R&R~๐Ÿ˜ธ


I think I learned these lessons early~๐Ÿ˜ป


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Advice to Take---

                               ---Or NOT

If you hang out in writerly chat boards or groups, there is a lot of advice bandied about.

Shared experience and help sought and given are wonderful things.

This is obviously true for all matters of living. But it’s up to us, individually, to sort what is working and what we can (gratefully and respectfully) bypass.

Because the gift of leading a life includes the burden of being responsible for actions, never laying it on the person who gave the advice.

I was thinking about writerly advice I chose not to take, and how that choice served to keep me running this marathon instead of collapsing after a short sprint.

*Write every day [Almost every weekday is just fine for me]

*Follow writing trends/Don’t follow writing trends [๐Ÿ˜ตCouldn't if I wanted to, as I've never been a trend catcher. Trends are ephemeral things]

*Get a degree in writing [This requires spare money ๐Ÿ’ธ๐Ÿ’ฒ and doesn't in any way guarantee a return]

*Go on a retreat to write [Besides time and money, this is better for the 19th century leisure class than real people living today IMO ]


I’m not dismissing any of the above. Each of these is fine for somebody, just not for me.

That is to say that the hard work of learning how you work has no shortcuts.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

 

    Political activists frame their efforts as wanting to make a difference.

    Artists wonder if their art will ever make a difference.

    Writers question if their writing can make a difference.

House cleaners doubt the same; is there a point if tomorrow the house will need cleaning all over again?


On the face of it, very little difference from efforts of few actually make it into the history books.

But here’s the kicker—

From my not humble enough perch, it seems the notion of making a difference is like a picture placed in the wrong frame.


“What do you mean? Is this another one of those artsy sayings meant to sound thoughtful, but is really a trite consolation?”

I can visualize a reader’s eye-roll.

 It seems to me that most efforts we make in our time in this world do make a difference. Our actions make a difference to us.

And therein lies the meaning; small acts, continuous efforts, meaningful in real time. Making a difference every day.

Now go get ’em.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Do You Have a Favorite Room?

 

There are beautiful coffee-table books about rooms. Rooms where famous people live, rooms where important events took place, rooms that matter.

Then there are decorators' pride rooms. Rooms that exemplify styles, show off design know-how, or used to teach Feng Shui = notions of balance and flow.

 

In the end, beyond all abstractions, are the rooms we live in. They are both neat and messy (depending on the moment), cozy and annoying (when things just don’t feel right), and most of all they are ours.

 

When my kids were little, their room was my favorite. It had the most design integrity and remarkable functionality, carefully put together for their respective arrivals. Now that the room is a guest room and a storage room for the belongings they chose to leave with us, it holds little charm for me.

 

My current favorite is my bedroom. Its corner is my office, i.e. where I write. It is the favorite hangout for three felines who confirm the room’s supremacy.



If you love to cook, perhaps your most-loved room is your kitchen. If you garden, maybe you managed a sunroom. If you are fond of bathing, maybe your bathroom is the one you favor.

 

As comments on Blogger don’t accommodate photos, sharing your favorite here will have to rely on descriptive abilities. This brings me to the writerly side of this post. Describing rooms in a way that makes them come alive and doesn’t cause reader’s tedium is an art all its own, and it belongs in good books.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

THE THING MOST NEEDFUL

 

I had an epiphany when reflecting on last week’s private events.


What made me happiest was not having finished draft #2 of my current  MG WIP. (Yay!)


It wasn’t getting a request for the full finished MG manuscript (not the WIP ๐Ÿ˜€) from an agent I could only dream would ask. (Yippy!)


It was not agreeing to a critique exchange with a writer whose opinion and work I think highly of. (Hoorah!)


It wasn't even penning a first draft to a Picture Book whose character tickles my funny bone every time I think of it. (Hee-Hee!)


No. What made me truly happy was that one day I had an hour and a half video chat with DS, and he looked handsome and healthy. 


What made me happy was seeing DD’s post on an upcoming months’ performing schedule, which looked robust and promising. I know how important this is for her.


What made me happiest was that family members in Israel, all stricken with Covid, passed through it quickly and in fine shape.


This is what I realized: none of the things that made me happiest were up to me. The things that are up to me were good, but they ranked behind.


And all of this reminded me that happiness is not something to seek. Just count the moments of grace and appreciate they happened.


Appreciating you, if you are reading this, right now.



Tuesday, January 11, 2022

INTERNET TROLLS and OTHER PESTS

 

For the one percent who do not know what a troll is, there are two definitions.


1.      (In folklore) An ugly creature depicted as either a giant or a dwarf. 




1.      A person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content. In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word "troll" to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities.—




Neither is pretty, but the first have use in fairytales while the second are as useless as can be.

 

It’s tempting to engage with #2 trolls. Here’s my way: NEVER-EVER do that. This is precisely what these dark tormented souls want us to do. We can’t fix them. We can block them on sites we control, but they will pop up on others. They don’t change/reform/see the light from thoughtful responses.

 

Putting on my psychologist hat, I understand the online trolling impulse comes from the need for attention. If they can’t get it constructively, they get it any which way. It’s a misunderstanding of the notion of “being somebody.” To these poor souls, any attention is better than being ignored.

 

My prescription: IGNORE.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

SOME SANTAS ARE JEWISH

 

Yes, Virginia, I’ve seen it with my own eyes

When DS was in preschool, one of my mothers’-support group friends related a scandal in her daughter’s pre-school. Like us, my friend’s family is Jewish. Unlike us, who sent our kids to a Jewish pre-school, Christian families were the majority in her daughter’s school.

Shortly after Christmas one of the kids asked her daughter what Santa had given her. The three-year-old gave an answer, which set the stage to a scandalous reaction.

 

“We’re Jewish,” she said. “We get presents from real people.”

 

Other parents wanted my friend to teach her daughter that it was not okay to infer that Santa isn’t a real person, and do it ASAP.

 

The thing is— Santa is real if you dig deeper.

Santa Claus, the giver of presents to bring joy to children on the darkest days of the year, is an idea. As such, it is real. But abstractions are beyond children’s literal thinking and so various individuals dressed in red, and donning floppy red hats with white pompoms, have taken to manifest the spirit of gift-giving on this one particular day.

 

Some years later, our next-door neighbors, a Norwegian family, asked if their friend could come over to our house on Christmas Eve and dress up in the Santa outfit so he can make the appearance for their twin daughters, then barely a year old. As he’d be coming straight from work, they needed a place for him to get into the outfit. Of course, we said yes. They left his outfit and a sack full of presents for their twins at our house. Our kids, by then teens, found the whole thing rather funny. It hadn’t been part of their childhood.

 

When the friend showed up, he was so drunk I had to help him wiggle into the outfit and catch him so he wouldn’t fall down while doing so. He needed help at every step. I lit his way to the neighbors’ door, holding my breath so he not collapse on the sidewalk. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw their door open and their arranged-for Santa waddle inside.

 

The next year, our neighbors asked if our son, by then in first year of college, would do the favor of being their Santa. “Last year didn’t go too well,” they said. Apparently, they had no other friends who would volunteer.

 

I asked DS, and he said he’d do it. It would be like a fun acting gig. The day after, our neighbors told me they had never had such a great Santa. Apparently, DS prepared Norwegian sentences to utter in an altered “Ho-Ho-Ho” voice, and his whole act was so hilariously memorable that as far as they were concerned he has the volunteer job for life. This Jewish Santa was the real deal.

And he did indeed materialized the spirit of Santa Claus for the next few years. The year he went to graduate school in Paris, the neighbors were bereft that he would not be there for their yearly tradition. By the time he returned from France, the twins no longer needed this concretization of holiday spirit. Santa now came in their own gift giving and receiving, no red hat and white cotton wool beard needed.

 

But I can attest at least one Santa was Jewish. I have the picture to prove it.


Please, no humbugs, folks. May the joy of gift giving and receiving be with you the whole yearlong.


Generosity and blessings

for the

๐Ÿ‘‰New Year๐Ÿ‘ˆ


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

HAPPY HOLIDAYS (?)

 

This week is “Happy Holidays” greeting time. Everywhere I go, this is part of casual exchanges.

    Regardless of which holidays, these words cover all. But do they?

    Seems like an obligation to be happy. With such an obligation, comes guilt if we can’t.

There are lots of reasons to encourage gratefulness, wish better health, and let others know you value them. I’m less sure about happiness; that thing we so casually spew out as a wish or even half a command. I’m actually not sure what it is.

 

My mulling is much less about whether it’s okay to say Merry Christmas to people who may not be Christians (its fine with me, but this is no longer a universally accepted notion) than about feeling I wish I had something else I could put out to casual passersby.

 

There is the “stay safe” I’ve had my fill of hearing. One friend replaced that with “stay sane,” which I like much more. I almost want to substitute STAY SANE for the happy holidays utterances, except...

©Kristen Feighery

...except that doing so with strangers will likely be taken as a sign of insanity.

But you here know what I mean. Stay sane, everybody. Happiness is a blessing but not an obligation. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Exotic Christmas?

 

Christmas lights all around.

 

I have two close friends who, like me, are Jewish. Unlike me, they feel “excluded” at the sights and sounds of Christmas.

We’re the kind of Jews who don’t do “Hanukkah Bushes.” I’ve been guilty in the past of overdoing Hanukkah presents for my kids instead of Hanukkah Gelt, the traditional giving of money without fancy wrapping.

 

I now relish the modesty and wistfulness of our holiday of winter lights with a single Hanukah menorah and something fried.



My two friends grew up in a Christmas majority culture. I had the advantage of having grown up where Hanukkah was at home as well as on the streets, and Christmas was something you had to seek if you wanted to spot any of it in certain quarters.

Hanukkah was commonplace; Christmas was exotic.

For me, It still is, . I’m delighted looking at this celebration of lights, plethora of glistening wrappings under trees, music that mixes old beauty with some sappiness, and lots of people trying hard to look cheerful in colorful sweaters.

Unlike my two friends, I’m very comfortable being an outsider looking in. Christmas is exotic, still.

No need to say Happy Holidays to me. Your Merry Christmas is welcome. I’ll say it right back to you, and mean it.

Celebrate!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

“The Gates of Heaven Opened”

 The saying in Hebrew that describes rain, speaks of the gates of heaven opening. Admittedly, it’s more meaningful for a land that is often parched.

 

I have heard some describe the smell of rain as their favorite. Rain doesn’t have a smell, so it’s the wetness bringing out the earthy smells that they resonate to; the smell of leaves, the ground, the life mushrooming from below.

 

Rain is all about resonance. It’s how it hits other matter, and what that interaction brings forth.

 

Resonance is what life forces are, not only the physical, but also the spiritual. In this way, the expression of rain as the gates of heaven opening always makes sense to me.

 

Listen to the falling rain
Listen to it pour
And with every drop of rain,
I can hear you call,

Call my name right out loud,
I can hear above the clouds
And I'm here among the puddles
You and I together huddle.

Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it rain.

 

From RAIN by ©Josรฉ Feliciano & Hilda Feliciano

 

Listening to my muse on a blessed rainy day~~~


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

“A DATE THAT SHALL LIVE IN INFAMY”

 

If the title doesn’t ring a bell, listen to this speech

The iconic line reads:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941— a date which will live in infamy— the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

 

The attack on the U.S. navy in Pearl Harbor, which led the sleeping eagle to wake up and enter a world war that would reshape our place in the century to come, was the September 11th of the twentieth century. Those who live in the 21st century commemorate the September date, but December 7th changed the American destiny in arguably more profound ways.

 

So today, a date that might have lived in infamy and served to remind us of the nature of the world we are making, is but a whiff of a distant memory that few think about when the digital calendar/phone says it had arrived.

 

It’s today.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

FINDING YOUR VOICE

 

The writerly voice is the personality of the narration.

This blog, for example, has its own voice. A touch of angst, a sprinkle of wistfulness, and an evident struggle with preachiness that I don’t always win.

 

Writing fiction is similar in that the narration, even when not in first person, is a person of sorts.

 

I have rarely gone in the lyrical direction, but some pieces just did it anyway. I recall both my critique groups and later my agent’s surprise to get lyrical writing from me. Those pieces write themselves and sing that-a-way.

 

I’ll be honest; the lyrical pieces feel as if they come from some other source. My everyday writing voice has a touch of angsty attempted wit, which I hope isn’t too self-conscious.

 

My experience is that the writerly voice is the same inner voice that talks/tells to self, but more organized as writing must be.

 

In other words, the voice cannot be taught but the organizational aspect can. In fact, that mechanical/organizing craft is something you improve with practice and reading. How your inner voice speaks, however, is innate. All you can do is shape and polish it.

 

Musing on a wistful end of fall day here.