Jewish Book Carnival: October 2014 Edition

Hear ye, hear ye. Step right up to the October 2014 Jewish Book Carnival, where www.thebestchapter.com is happy to host. This is a monthly event for those who cover Jewish books online to “meet, read, and comment on one another’s posts.” The posts are hosted on a participant’s site on the 15th of each month.

Ladies and gentlemen, here are links to wonderful sites, in the chronological order in which I received the notices.

Batya Medad covers a magical adventure book based on the Bible.

Over at Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod’s blog, she explores how she “ended up writing a Bible story for kids (and why you might, too).”

The newest episode of The Book of Life podcast, hosted by librarian Heidi Estrin, features three live interviews from Book Expo America with representatives from Charlesbridge (Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons by Alice McGinty), Image Comics (Noah by Darren Aronofsky), and Dundurn (Fields of Exile by Dr. Nora Gold, and Stealing Time by Anne Dublin) about their forthcoming Jewish titles for kids and adults. You can hear the podcast online here.

Anna Levine has recently begun a new website here. The website links reviews and recommendations of Jewish picture books for children with activities for educators of young children. These last few months, Ms. Levine has been looking at children’s books for the High Holidays. The site is not restricted to the newest books but also to old favorites–with “hopes that we can make the old seem new again.”

Children’s book author, Barbara Bietz, shares her link about Jewish books for kids.

In October, Jill Broderick at Rhapsody in Books reviewed The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff.  This is a story about an 18-year-old Polish girl in 1940 who falls in love with an injured American Jewish intelligence officer.  Broderick writes, “The author nicely weaves a bit of background into the story about what happened in World War II to both Jews and non-Jews in Poland, as well as providing some insights into Polish anti-Semitism.”

Sandra Bornstein has written about several Jewish authors and their books on her website, as well as favoriting picture books for Sukkot.

On My Machberet, Erika Dreifus spotlights Ronna Wineberg’s new novel On Bittersweet Place. Erika writes: “In the pages of Ronna Wineberg’sOn Bittersweet Place, one finds echoes of Anzia Yezierska and Betty Smith; in the fictional story of Lena Czernitski’s immigrant family in the first quarter of the 20th century the reader recovers a piece of our larger American history.”

And, The Fig Tree Books blog joins the Carnival with an exciting announcement about a project FTB has launched. They’re looking for smart, enthusiastic readers to write about specific fiction titles that evoke and engage with American Jewish experience. (And they pay their reviewers.) Please be sure to read the detailed overview and query guidelines.

Over at the Behrman House Blog, there’s an post on “ My Kids are My Best Testers.” And, on “Reinforcing Your Expectations for a Respectful Learning Environment Today.

AtKathe Pinchuck’s blog, Life Is Like a Library, Pinchuck looks at From Foe to Friend, a graphic novel by Shay Charka using three of S.Y. Agnon’s stories.

Thank you to all of the participants! Please visit the linked posts and share your comments and responses.

Finally, here at www.thebestchapter.com, I’m taking votes on the following question:

What is your favorite Jewish book? And ten extra points if you can answer: What makes a book Jewish? Is Daniel Deronda a Jewish book because it has a Jewish character? Is The Sun Also Rises an anti-Jewish book because of its portrayal of Robert Cohn, called “the morose Jew”? Does the same answer apply to Huckleberry Finn? Feel free to comment!

Thank you,

Diana Bletter, Author of the forthcoming novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins, August 2015)

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When We Don’t Always Know What’s Best for Us.

In my last blog post, I wrote about looking for spiritual lessons in difficult situations. I wrote about trying my hardest with my step-son, Izzy, to find a way to reach him. I’d made a conscious decision to love him without expecting anything in return. And the miracle was that our relationship grew and now it’s quite strong.

After I posted the blog, Izzy told me, “It was so hard in the beginning for me to share my Dad with the other four kids—and my older sister. But now, when anyone asks me, I always say I have two brothers and three sisters. I’m really proud of that.”

Shlomie always complained that Libi bossed them around when they were younger. Libi thought Shlomie was really annoying.

Shlomie always complained that Libi bossed them around when they were younger. Libi thought Shlomie was really annoying.

They fought hard back then. ‘Twas challenging. We’d burn rubber getting out of our driveway just to calm the three boys down because they were fighting in the back seat. (I’d look in the rear-view mirror and see legs and fists flying.) If you had told Izzy then, down the road you’ll appreciate this big family, he would not have believed it.

We don’t always know what’s best for us.

As I wrote, sometimes our hardest lessons are our best teachers. Sometimes things we think are awful turn out to be wonderful.

Sometimes it takes us years to figure out why something happened, why the puzzle pieces fit into place.

In the tent

In the tent

If you look at the photo of all of us in our tent—we were camping in a lovely place called Horshat Tal in northern Israel—you can see how Izzy is clinging to his Dad (Jonny’s) neck. It was definitely tough for him to go from being the youngest child sharing his father with only his big sister, Libi, to having four new step-siblings all younger than him and vying for his attention.

But if we try to look at all our problems as a chance to learn lessons for our spirit, then we can grow. And we have to remember not to step in when people we love are suffering. We don’t want to deprive them of the lessons they need to learn.

It takes time to figure things out. Sometimes it takes years until the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Sometimes we never know the why. All we can do is try our best to muddle through and hope that eventually we will understand things in a different way.

At the kitchen table, reenacted a few years later. Back row, Libi, with Eyal, her son who's now two, Amalia, Ari, Libby with Abigail, Izzy and Shlomie.

At the kitchen table, reenacted a few years later. Back row, Libi, with Eyal, her son who’s now two, Amalia, Ari, Libby with Abigail, Izzy and Shlomie.

 

Posted in How to Change Your Life, Transformation | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

New Twist on the Old Serenity Prayer.

Your toughest experience can be your best lesson.

I learned this when my husband, Jonny, and I combined our six children—three boys and three girls all under the age of eleven—into one blended family.

I had the hardest time with my stepson who, at the time, had serious ear infections causing partial deafness and serious ADHD. I really tried hard with him. I prayed that I could use the challenge as a lesson in my spiritual journey.

What’s the spiritual lesson? I kept asking myself. What can you learn? And oh, I kept praying that I’d find it.

A few years into our relationship, after making a lot of effort, things startedgetting better with my stepson, whom I nicknamed Izzy. That was when I met a woman who had just become a step-mom to two boys, one of whom she didn’t get along with. I shared my experience with Izzy and told her that I hoped she could look for the spiritual things she could learn about herself. She said, “Oh, I’m not spiritual at all…we just don’t get along and that’s that.”

It’s been about ten years since that conversation. Her relationship with her stepson got worse. My relationship with Izzy has only gotten better. We had our rough spots but I looked for things I could do to improve things within myself. Like being more patient, being a better listener, doing things that he liked and not things I necessarily liked, and loving unconditionally, without any guarantee I’d get anything back in return. I had to learn to be less me to be more me. To be the best me I could be. I learned to make sure I was taking care of myself and that way I could take care of him.

If someone had asked me at first, I would have wanted to change him. But I learned of course the twist on the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the courage to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s ME.”

The toughest challenge turns into the best lesson.  Izzy and me.

The toughest challenge turns into the best lesson. Izzy and me.

So there you have it. True love now grows when we’re willing to just give it out. We can do the things we have to do with grace and love by being grateful for all we have. It’s a miracle because we can make a conscious decision to love. We really can. 

Posted in Acceptance, How to Change Your Life, People, Relationships, Transformation | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Tool For Tuesday: Even in the Midst of War, Celebrate Life. Photos of a Henna Ceremony in Israel

Even in the midst of war, celebrate life.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Especially in the midst of war.

A lot of Islamic terrorists boast that they will win against the West because they celebrate death and we celebrate life. As if that’s something to be proud of.

Glorifying death is not the point of living. Let’s celebrate life. No matter where you are and how bad things are. Life is so short and death is forever. So in the midst of all the terrible tragedies, life goes on. It has to. It must.

Only a few days after the Hamas-Israel War ended, we attended a henna ceremony for our friends’ daughter who’s about to get married. Which is why I’m dressed like that in the photo above.

Lee & Ofri at the start of their Henna Ceremony. They don't usually dress like this.

Lee & Ofri at the start of their Henna Ceremony. They don’t usually dress like this.

Henna ceremonies are still popular among Jews from Morocco and Yemen, as well as in communities in India and many other Arab communities. The ceremony, where henna is applied in beautiful designs on the hands and gifts are exchanged, has its origins in the Bible.

Henna by Sienna designs

Henna by Sienna designs

Often henna was applied to the skin to celebrate different rites of passage. (I got information on this from Henna by Sienna.)

The groom’s family is from Morocco

The groom's father and uncles

The groom’s father and uncles

and even though the bride’s family is originally from Eastern Europe, everyone joined in to celebrate.

The ceremony was held a week before the wedding. Close friends and family came to the bridegroom’s house. There was Moroccan food and desserts.

Jonnyand I weren’t going to put on these

traditional Moroccan clothes but then we said, we gotta do it. We can’t sit on the sidelines of life. So there you have it.

This is what Jonny and I would have looked like if we weren't born in New York or New Jersey. But, alas, we were. Notice how I've got instant full body. Why is that? It looks like I have half the buffet table under my gown.

This is what Jonny and I would have looked like if we weren’t born in New York or New Jersey. But, alas, we were. Notice how I’ve got instant full body. Why is that? It looks like I have half the buffet table under my gown.

 Meanwhile, we still have to celebrate. No matter what our situation is, we can find one thing to listen to, see, smell or touch to make it better. We can find someone who’s hurting and try to lift their spirits. We can do a small act of kindness anonymously.

No matter what. Despite everything. Or, because of everything.

At the ceremony, everyone got dressed in Moroccan clothes. The women lit candles and carried trays of sweets. 

The bride's mother

The bride’s mother

The crowd carried the bride and groom in a special chair.

The bride.

The bride.

And then the two families exchanged gifts and sweets.

Why is this a Tool for Tuesday? Because it proves that life is what we make it. I’m still working for peace and praying that there won’t be any more wars and hoping against hope that dialogue in the Middle East is still possible.

Gotta keep choosing life. 

Exchanging sweets and gifts.

Exchanging sweets and gifts.

Posted in Tool For Tuesday | Tagged | 6 Comments

Good News from Israel (For a Change): Got My HarperCollins Contract for My Novel, A Remarkable Kindness

There may or may not be a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But you want to know what is definite?

My novel, A Remarkable Kindness.

Here is a photo of the contract from HarperCollins Publishers signed and stamped by them and by me! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Along with that, I got an email from the William Morrow editor at HarperCollins, Rachel Kahan, with notes for me on how to revise the novel.

Here’s an embarrassing fact. Well, why not get it out in the open?

Rachel told me: The word “said” appears 1566 times in a 385 pp manuscript, which is far too many.

Who’dathunkit?

So, writers, here’s what Rachel says: “In a lot of cases, you don’t need “said” at all—it’s enough to show what the characters are doing or how they’re saying something. If the dialogue and action are clean and in context, you shouldn’t need to say “he said” all that often because it’s understood who is speaking and it’s not necessary to draw attention to the fact that they’re speaking. There are also plenty of instances where you can substitute a different verb for “said” that will give context and color to the way characters are behaving or speaking; those improve the scene and cut down on the repetition of “said.”

 She is totally right. Going through the book, I see that I am down to 836 “said’s” and I’m still deleting. Yikes!

Her viewpoint goes against Stephen King who, in his fabulotastic book, On Writing, said, (and I’m paraphrasing), do not say, exclaimed or shouted or chuckled but said. Go figure.

Here’s a totally wonderfully utterly terrific fact. Rachel also wrote, “I so enjoyed re-reading this and found it even more affecting the second time around—I never fail to tear up at the end, and I don’t tear up too often when I read! It’s that good!”

So, folks, get ready for A REMARKABLE KINDNESS, due out in July 2015!

What do you all think of the title? It went from THE DEAD CAN NEVER THANK YOU to THE WOMEN’S BURIAL CIRCLE to A REMARKABLE KINDNESS. The novel is about the intertwined lives of four American friends who are members of a traditional Jewish society and prepare dead women for burial in a small beach village in Israel. 

Final fact: Writing feels like walking down a long long road. But I kept walking and walking and working and writing and I didn’t give up. Refused to give up. So, if you’re writing something or creating something or dreaming of something, keep doing it. Do not give in to those voices that tell you what you’re writing is silly or bad. Just keep on. I told myself, if you give up, you will never forgive yourself.

IF YOU GIVE UP, YOU WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOURSELF.

The long road leading to my village, Shavei Zion, in Western Galilee, Israel. It's a peaceful sunny day, Hamas wasn't shooting at us. Hezbollah has, though. Katyusha rockets landed in the field on the left in 2006.

The long road leading to my village, Shavei Zion, in Western Galilee, Israel. It’s a peaceful sunny day, Hamas wasn’t shooting at us. Hezbollah has, though. Katyusha rockets landed in the field on the left in 2006.

Posted in Being a Hero In Your Life, miracles, Writers, Writing | 19 Comments

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Speaking the Truth

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

OK, so what does the Israel-Arab conflict have to do with living our best chapter? Everything. Because it’s about living our truth and not being afraid to speak up for what we believe in.

I came across Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s one-sided, lopsided, naïve plea to Israel that “Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence. Missiles, bombs and crude invective are not part of the solution. There is no military solution.”

Tell that to Islamic terrorists now operating around the world.

Yes, all of us living in Israel would love to lay down our arms and seek peace. We’d love not to send our children to war. We’d love not to have to build bomb shelters. We’d love for the Palestinians to agree to a peace accord in which Israel is allowed to remain a Jewish, democratic country. Will that happen? Well, let’s look at what’s happening in the real world.

Tragically, Tutu confuses Islamic terrorists with freedom fighters in South Africa. But Islamic terrorists (who provoked this war) are not freedom fighters but fighters for an Islamic state which denies freedom. Which is totalitarian, anti-civil rights, and anti-everything that Tutu stands for.

Let’s talk about Tutu’s preposterous idea that Israel is an “apartheid” state. That is absurd! So dangerous and wrong and a lie. Here’s an article about a Christian Arab woman elected to the Knesset, Israel’s governing body.

Here’s my article in the Huffington Post on diversity in Israel. (There’s more interactions among various religions than I ever encountered living in the USA)

And about the valedictorian at Israel’s top medical school.

This is apartheid:

saudi good

Tutu writes about Israeli military attacks, but for the record, British Colonel Richard Kemp said the Israeli Army has  made more attempts to avoid civilian casualties “than any other army in the history of warfare.”

What would happen if the Arab countries laid down their arms and declared peace? Israel would help build a flourishing, lively, vibrant, artistic, strong, democratic region. What would happen if Israel laid down its arms? We would be destroyed by Hezbollah, IS fighters and Hamas and Iranian-backed terrorists.

It’s what happened when Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon in 2000. As soon as Israel left, Hezbollah terrorists backed by Iran (there is no other name for an organization with Naim Qassem, a leader, who says, “There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel.”

What about Hamas and its view of peace? Its charter states, “There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

So, is Tutu suggesting that Israel tries to make peace with people who don’t even believe in making peace with Israel?

I am all for a Palestine state to flourish in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel.

Israel has consistently tried to make peace with its neighbors. The truth is that Arab countries don’t really care about returning to the 1967 borders. They care about returning to the 1947 borders—with no Israel. So, speaking out against Israel without mentioning or addressing this fact is dishonest.

Speaking of Iran, in the years since Iran became an Islamic State, what has it done to contribute to the world? Can anyone name one positive thing? One artistic achievement? One small step for womankind? One scientific contribution for something beyond its nuclear aims? And why doesn’t Tutu and other peace-seekers speak out when the Iran announces it will wipe Israel off the map? It’s all too reminiscent of the way world leaders reacted to Hitler, the man who couldn’t possibly mean that he wants to really kill Jews, the man with the funny mustache.

I could go on and on. Speaking up for Israel now is taking a brave stand against Islamic terrorists who, as Geerts Wilder points out, will take over Europe and turn all of Christian western society into a medieval wasteland. It’s happening already.

My question is this: why can there be 238 Christian countries and 48 Muslim countries? Look at the Swiss flag.

Switzerland flag with a cross, in case you didn't notice.

Switzerland flag with a cross, in case you didn’t notice.

Now here’s the Pakistan flag.

Pakistan, with Islamic symbols.

Pakistan, with Islamic symbols.

So why are Jews not allowed to have their own country?

It ain't just a symbol on a flag, I guess.

It ain’t just a symbol on a flag, I guess.

Israel for the record guarantees Arabs more freedom and civil rights than any Muslim country in the world. (Especially Muslim women!)

Tutu and other naive leaders who have fallen prey to the red-green alliance (the alliance of leftists with totalitarian Islamic movements) won’t say the Z word. Zionism means believing that Jews, like others in other national movements, have the right to self-determination and to have a Jewish, democratic state. Leftists won’t accept Zionism as a nationalist movement. They’ll say that they’re against being “anti-Jews” but they’re anti-Zionist, which, when you come down to it, is the same thing.

And why isn’t Tutu and others speaking out against the injustice within Gaza? The 160 children who were used as slave laborers to build the tunnels and died? The Christians who live in utter fear there? Why does he overlook the Hamas charter which calls on Israel’s destruction? And not just calling for a Palestine side by side with Israel but an eradication of Israel?

Why are there no rallies against the ISIS (now known as IS) murderers executing people?

z 20140613_ISIS8

Because…? Why no outrage over the 5-year-old Christian boy cut in half by Isis terrorists?

I know Israel is not a perfect country – no country is. But please, if you’re going to speak out to help Israel out of this quagmire, then speak out to leaders around the world to stop Islamic organizations from destroying any chance of peace. Archbishop Tutu, Israel is not South Africa. Hezbollah and Hamas and Iran and Afghanistan and Iraq and Saudi Arabia, etc. etc. are South Africa. Bring about peace by telling Islamic leaders what you told Israel,

“The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.”

Living our best chapter: Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, “Some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”

Posted in Anger | 11 Comments

On Hamas Missiles, Motorcycles, and the Lost Summer of Rock & Roll in Israel

Mick Jagger in Concert 2014

Mick Jagger in Concert 2014 Getty Images

Long time no write…Tough to concentrate on living our best chapter when it feels like the world is collapsing all around us. Here’s my article in The Wall Street Journal about life in a war zone.

Moving Targets in Israel

My my, hey, hey is Mideast war here to stay?

By

DIANA BLETTER
July 29, 2014 3:04 p.m. ET

Shavei Zion, Israel

On the 14th day of this war between Hamas and Israel, my husband Jonny and I had business in Tel Aviv, about 80 miles from our village in northern Israel. We wanted to avoid traffic so we rode on Jonny’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

As we approached Tel Aviv, bomb sirens sounded, coming from all directions around us. The sirens meant we had about 30 seconds to seek shelter from rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip. Immediately, all along the highway, drivers pulled over to the right side of the road, turned off their cars, jumped out and crouched with their arms over their heads or lay down on their stomachs.

“Pull over!” I shouted from under my helmet. But Jonny—who served in the Israel Defense Forces in the Golani Brigade, the elite unit that lost 13 soldiers on the first day of this war Israel calls “Protective Edge”—continued riding.

“It’s safer to be a moving target!” he shouted back to me.

We rode through that siren and then another. Missiles fell, but that time, there were no casualties. We reached Tel Aviv safely. Has this kind of life become the new normal?

It doesn’t seem possible that only a few weeks ago, I was standing in a crowd of more than 50,000 people in a Tel Aviv park, listening to the Rolling Stones perform a sold-out concert. At the time, I thought that Israel had somehow made it, that we’d finally been accepted as just another stop on a rock-and-roll tour. Jonny and I even had plans to go with four of our six children to a Neil Young concert scheduled for mid-July. That concert, of course, was cancelled soon after the war began. “And it was supposed to be a summer of rock-and-roll,” my son Ari said.

Instead it’s the summer of a war that reminds me again of the fragility of peace in the Middle East. All around us, there’s more instability than the region has seen in decades. Countries such as Syria have turned into raging maelstroms. The Rolling Stones’s tour this summer was billed as 14 stops in 2014, or “14 on Fire.” On fire, indeed.

Since the start of the war, several rockets have landed near our village, launched from Lebanon 12 miles away. For the moment, there’s relative quiet. But the war has cast a shadow of fear, hopelessness and sorrow on this start-up nation. As the director of a small summer camp in our village, one of the first things I had to do with the children was hold a bomb drill.

“If the sirens go off, then we’ll all go in here,” I explained to the kids in the cheeriest voice I could muster. Then the other counselors and I herded them all into the closest bomb shelter. It’s a dark, dreary room. It’s a room that was used around the clock during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. It’s a room that quickly unravels the myth that Israel is aggressive, mighty and strong.

There’s really no place in the country that feels safe anymore. Homeowners drawing up plans to build new houses must now, by law, include a bomb shelter with one-and-a-half foot thick walls made from concrete and reinforced steel, which jacks up the price of construction by at least $20,000. People grumble about it but they have no choice.

Most days, I take Israel’s version of reality in stride. It’s part of my daily life, the way people in San Francisco deal with the threat of earthquakes. But somehow, with Islamic State fighters invading Syria and beheading people, and Iran’s leaders still threatening to wipe Israel off the map, and with critics of Israel growing more and more vociferous and belligerent about our right to defend ourselves, the threats against us seem more and more real.

For the first time since I moved here in 1991, I feel genuinely shaken. I don’t know how this latest conflict will end. Or will it never end at all?

Ms. Bletter is the author of “The Mom Who Took Off on Her Motorcycle” (Kent & Cordell, 2013). Her next book, “A Remarkable Kindness,” is forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2015.

Be real cautious believing everything you read about what’s happening in the Gaza Strip war. Here are some articles about how reporters are being intimidated from telling the truth.

 

Posted in Thought For The Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

While Bombs Fall On the Start-Up Nation: How To Keep On Keepin’ On

children in israelWe interrupt this blog to report on the war that Hamas is waging against Israel. (Do not be deceived that it is the other way around.)

What other country warns people that they should leave their houses because a bomb will fall? None, except Israel. And what happens? Hamas uses their own people, including women and children, as human shields, prohibiting them from leaving so that they can use photos of the victims as proof that Israel is waging a war against the innocent.

As of now, more than 360 rockets have been fired into Israel in three days. If hundreds of rockets fell on Washington, DC and San Francisco, would the United States not respond?

rockets

 

OK. But this blog is about living and writing our best chapter. So, to keep with that theme, here is the question: How do you live well in the war zone, or in any zone not of your liking?

Here are 5 thoughts to inspire you, calm you down, and make you put your life into perspective:

“The world is not a wish-granting factory,” says the wonderful narrator, Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars. Wish it weren’t true, but alas, tis so.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White, author of one of my top-favorite books, Charlotte’s Web.

“There is no situation too difficult to be bettered and no unhappiness to great to be lessened.” We can find something to see, smell, touch or hear to make our day a bit brighter. Or someone else’s day. Is there someone you can visit to sprinkle a little joy?

Keep your head where your feet are. Stay in the present. Don’t jump ahead into that terribly frightening future void.

Worrying about terrible things that might come to pass won’t make it any easier. We can concentrate on feeling strong, centered and grateful so that if those terrible things do come to pass, we will be prayed up and ready.

Ask yourself, if they were making a movie about your life and you are the hero, how would you act? We can remind ourselves that we are each a hero in our own life story, and sometimes we have to slay our own dragons. (That idea is courtesy of Marian McConnell, author of Emergence.)

For further information on Israel, check out debka which has breaking news. Also, if you have been hearing about Israel and apartheid, read this booklet for the truth about who is sponsoring apartheid (gender and religious) around the world. (Spoiler: Islamic countries, not Israel).

And you would think that after all these centuries, humans would have figured out how to resolve conflicts without war. So every time we are in a potential conflict, let’s do our best to bring it down, instead of making things worse.

Posted in Thought For The Day, Your Best Chapter | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

One Way to Get a Happy Ending? Write a Novel, Says Reuters Journalist Dan Williams.

I’m happy to welcome Reuters Journalist Dan Williams, based in Jerusalem, who has just self-published his novel, Strip Mine.

Diana Bletter: Strip Mine is your first published book starring an unflappable heroine, Jodie Moore, a Mossad agent, who tackles nothing less than global jihad. The novel is set in the Middle East, where you live and work. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got the idea for this book?

Dan Williams: Back in 2002, I was covering the Israeli siege of Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. At one point, a group of foreign pro-Palestinian activists, in quite a dizzying show of solidarity, burst through the military cordon and managed to get into the sanctuary. One of my colleagues joked that there might be Israeli spies among them. That idea stayed with me, and provided the back-story for Jodie’s induction into the intelligence world. I later came upon the idea of Israel and Hamas, though locked in their own conflict, finding themselves aligned against the common threat of the nihilistic and catastrophic violence championed by Al Qaida. “My enemy’s enemy, etc.” has abiding appeal.

Diana Bletter: You are a journalist, now for Reuters. How do you think your career has helped you in your writing, and how did you take the leap into fiction?

Dan Williams: Journalism affords excellent opportunities for first-hand experience, be it in meeting decision-makers or witnessing major events. That’s obvious grist for fiction. But much of the mechanics of fiction involves contrivances that, in my experience, seldom occur in reality – conspiracies, coincidences, convenient story arcs and (dare I say it?) happy endings. So, over time, I’ve found that fiction was the right depository for the imaginings that might arise while I was reporting – the stuff that might otherwise have been left on the cutting-room floor of my mind, as it were.

Diana Bletter: You’ve self-published Strip Mine. Do you have any thoughts about self-publishing that you can share? Any suggestions for aspiring self-publishing writers? Are you pursuing traditional publishing as well?

Dan Williams: I’d be very happy to see Strip Mine picked up by a traditional publisher. But self-publishing has been satisfactory, so far. The Amazon Kindle service is exceptionally easy, and there’s a crucial advantage in terms of contemporaneity: The book’s out within minutes of you hitting the button. By contrast, even the best traditional publishing deal will means waiting long months until the book hits the market. That’s a problem when you’re writing about current events in a place as geopolitically changeable as the Middle East. 

Diana Bletter: You live in Jerusalem, where not a day goes by without something happening for you to report on. With a spouse and three children, everyone wants to know: how do you possibly find the time to write? Can you tell us a bit about your writing style? Did you know the end of your novel before you got there? Can you tell us about the next book in your Jodie Moore series?

Dan Williams: It’s all about plotting. Once the story is planned out, then the writing schedule should fall into place. With thrillers, I find that the structure works in reverse, as you must know the denouement in order to unspool it to toward the disparate beginnings of the story. Yes, finding the time is not easy when there are other obligations. But consider this: If you manage just a page a day, then by year’s end you should have a decent manuscript in hand. As for Jodie’s next adventure: Afghanistan, Iran, Kurdistan.

Diana Bletter: Finally, www.thebestchapter.com explores how to write your best chapter and also how to live your best chapter each day in the story of your life.   Is there something you do to take care of yourself each day?

Dan Williams: Jog, joke with my kids, and watch some quality television with my wife.

Thank you so much, Dan! You can follow him @DanWilliams for breaking news.

Dan Williams’ writer’s tip: “If you manage just a page a day, then by year’s end you should have a decent manuscript in hand.”

You can buy an e-copy of Dan Williams’ spy thriller, Strip Mine, at amazon. And while you’re at it, pick up your The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle, too!

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One Country Where Muslim and Christian Arab Women Are Free: Israel.

The Arab girls next to me looked like they were having fun. I was sitting one palm frond hut away, trying to understand what they were saying in Arabic, a language I’ve been casually studying for the past few months. They wore tee-shirts and shorts, laughed a lot, went to play soccer and dove for goals in the sand, and then jumped into the turquoise water. They were on the beach…having fun…without male guardians…in Israel.

Having Fun on the Beach in Northern Israel. This is in Response to Islamic Fundamentalists Who Threaten Women's Freedom Around the World.

Having Fun on the Beach in Northern Israel. This is in Response to Islamic Fundamentalists Who Threaten Women’s Freedom Around the World.

What were Arab girls in Islamic-ruled countries doing, I wondered? Girls in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Egypt don’t have any kind of freedom to be on the beach with their friends…Islamic fundamentalists around the world have made women prisoners. In Iran, women who defend themselves against rapists are jailed, sometimes hung. In Darfur, Islamic fighters raped and slaughtered millions. Do not think that the genocide in Darfur was some vague African-African conflict. It is part of global jihad. Only in this small, democratic and Jewish country—Israel—that Muslim and Christian Arab women have any kind of freedom. Name any country headed by an Islamic regime, and you will find women hung (see Phyllis Chesler‘s bone-chilling article about women and children being hung in Iran here) are sequestered, enslaved, squandered, sold, secluded.

ISIS, a Sunni-offshoot of Al-Quaeda, has taken over one-tenth of Iraq; it is now reported here that there is a striking upsurge of violence against women there. Taliban is in power in Afghanistan, where girls are forbidden to even go to school. You can read about the Taliban against women in a report by the US State Department here.

There is no such thing in the world of Islam as civil discourse. The Sunnis and the Shiite, who are both Islamic, are killing one another in vast numbers. And if that is what they are doing to one another, just think of what they’ll do to Christians, Jews, and other non-believers. Islamic fundamentalists are the one single force threatening human civilization today. You can read Czech President Milos Zeman’s speech about this threat here.

Make no mistake, there is a reason to fear the rise of Islam around the world. There’s no “live and let live,” or let’s agree to disagree” in Shaaria law. If you look at Muslim countries, do you see advancement, openness, liberalism, democracy, arts, education, scientific research and contributions to the earth? No and no and no, again. Islamic fundamentalists are aiming to yank society back one thousand years, to a dark age.

You cannot make peace with totalitarians. Chamberlain tried to make concessions with Hitler thinking that it will appease Hitler, and soon thereafter Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia. Hitler squashed him completely. There is no compromise in Islam. Israel is not the problem. The settlements in the West Bank are not the thing standing in the way of the Palestinians and the Israelis reaching some kind of peace. The Islamic empire will not back down until there is no more Israel, period. (How come nobody says anything when Israelis are threatened with extinction?) Oh, and Islamic fundamentalists won’t stop here. They will continue until Jews and Christians are converted, killed or slaughtered.

So that was my relaxing day on the beach.

I was too busy thinking to really relax, however.

I was too busy thinking to really relax, however.

I took pictures with the girls. I want it on record that Israel, the country being boycotted by blinded, naïve people, is the only country in the Middle East where Arab girls are protected. (Though men are still killing their sisters in honor killings.) The world is under siege by Muslims and while it’s burning, the Metropolitan Opera in New York is putting on an anti-Semitic opera, “Klinghoffer,” glorifying the terrorism aboard the Achille Lauro Cruise Ship in 1985, and the murder of an elderly wheelchair-bound man, Leon Klinghoffer, whose only crime was that he was a Jew. The terrorists dumped his body overboard. And the terrorists are glorified. These are some of the lyrics: Wherever poor men / are gathered they can / find Jews getting fat / You know how to cheat / the simple, exploit / the virgin, pollute / Where you have exploited / Defame those you cheated / and break your own law / with idolatry.” Freedom of speech is one thing. Writing “Jews getting fat” is a typical anti-Semitic stereotype that is NOT art. It smacks of currying favor with the very same people who are threatening to take away society’s religious and civil liberties. Send protest letters to the Metropolitan Opera here.

Getting back to the beach, by the way, one of the girls had a tattoo on her arm, Only God Can Judge Me. That’s religious freedom. We have to do what we can to defend our religious liberties.  That means our freedom of expression and being allowed to write blogs like this. It is vital that we take a stand before it is too late.

 

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