Which Part of “Trust Yourself” Don’t You Get?

The hairy guy is Ari; the statistics gal is Libby, on the left!

The hairy guy is my son, Ari; the statistics gal is Libby, on the left!

My younger daughter, Libby, left her statistics test feeling fine about how the test went for her. Then she spoke to other students. Comparing answers, she realized that she got a lot of them wrong. No surprise there, she told me. Every one of her brothers and sisters who had taken statistics had struggled with it. Her brothers even called the subject, Sadistics.

Then she called me yesterday to say she got a 97 on the test. Those other students? Their answers were wrong, not hers.

How often do we discount our own abilities? We assume the next guy is smarter. In the middle of a test in high school, I glanced at the answers of the boy sitting next to me. The kid was smart. Waaaay smarter than me. I cheated. I changed my answer. When I got the tests back, I saw that my original answer was right. But I didn’t trust myself.

That was the last time I cheated. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time I questioned myself.

We can trust ourselves just as much as we can trust someone else.

Today, I can trust my own mind, my own perceptions and my own abilities.

If you are one of the three people who did not see this review about my talk in Rome, read here.

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Behind the Scenes at i24TV News: My Television Interview and a Marketing Secret

Reporting from i24News.TV :

Live on i24newsTV

Live on i24newsTV

To entertain all of you folks who are battened down because of Snowzilla ’16, here’s a replay of my day at i24news TV at the Jaffa Port where I went to speak about A Remarkable Kindness. First, I got there and saw fishermen working on their nets and preparing their catch of the day.IMG_0313

Then I went up to the studio. Little did I know, there are more than two hundred people working at i24TV, serving up news in English, French and Arabic. The offices had the hum of newsrooms, once, long ago, when people still read newspapers. (If you visit the newsroom of a newspaper these days, you will see that they’re kind of lonely places because most of the editors now work at home.)IMG_0378

My meeting was called for 2:45 PM and at 2:47 PM I was whisked into the make-up room where Aaron applied my make-up.

IMG_0367 IMG_0369

From there, I went to the dressing room. Liat Lukatch is a shoe designer who also serves as dress-up, go-to gal. (Keep an eye out for li-lu shoes.) No stripes, by the way, and no white. The sweater I was wearing got the green light.

I met Oded Grober, host of Culture Daily.

Oded Grober preparing to go on air.

Oded Grober preparing to go on air.

He went through a quick run-through of some of the questions he might ask. “You’ll only have six minutes and you’ll see, it will go very fast,” he warned me. Due to technical difficulties, I had to wait a few more minutes in the cafeteria that overlooks the sea.

See the sea in the background?

See the sea in the background?

I made sure to get all my coughs out (I’m battling a cold) and then went into the studio. I was on the air. Afterwards, I went into the editing studio; the producer is Keren, a powerhouse of a five-foot-tall young woman.

That's Keren, who has more energy than ten people put together. Those guys do the editing of each TV segment.

That’s Karen Snir, who has more energy than ten people put together. Those guys do the editing of each TV segment.

IMG_0413

It was fun! Here’s the link. I learned not to tease about myself, which I do when talking about THE MOM WHO TOOK OFF ON HER MOTORCYCLE. It is said that we should not speak badly about anyone, and that includes ourselves.

Humility is something to strive for but that does not mean putting ourselves down.

Here’s the link.

From wikipedia:

The channel’s owner is Patrick Drahi, and the CEO is Frank Melloul, who previously played a critical role in establishing the French 24-hour news channel France 24. journalist Lucy Aharish is one of the leading anchors. She is Israeli, Muslim, and wonderful. You can read more about her here.

One of thegoals for the station according to Melloul is to change the international “point of view about Israel.”[2] Although the station receives no funding from the Israeli government, Melloul has said that i24 will battle prejudice against, and ignorance about Israel with “facts and diversity.”

All this shows me is that it is never too late to try new things. All the people there were half my age but I think I was having the most fun!

 

Posted in A Remarkable Kindness, How to Change Your Life, publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pope Francis in the Great Synagogue and Guess Who at the Open Door Bookshop in Rome on the Same Day.

Pope Francis visiting the Great Synagogue in Rome, January 17, 2016

Pope Francis visiting the Great Synagogue in Rome, January 17, 2016

Just an hour before I spoke at the Open Door Bookshop in Rome, Pope Francis was speaking at the Grand Synagogue just a few minutes away. It was the third time in modern history that a pope visited the synagogue. Quite incredible. Just to put this in perspective, historian David Kertzer, who wrote The Popes Against the Jews, said that throughout history, the Vatican forced Jews to live in ghettos (the word itself is Italian) and subjected them to forced conversions, expulsions and persecution. And now the Pope said, “Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, regardless of his or her origin or religious affiliation.”

The first Pope to visit the synagogue was Pope John Paul II, now a saint, who made his historic visit in 1986. That visit came after the Vatican’s 1965 Nostra Aetate declaration that repudiated the charge that Jews were collectively responsible for killing Jesus, and stressed the religious bond between Jews and Catholics.

The Pope's Visit at the Synagogue in 1986

The Pope’s Visit at the Synagogue in 1986

The Great Synagogue in Rome is at the heart of the Jewish ghetto. When the Pope spoke at the synagogue (which is breath-taking, lovely and oh-so-inspiring), he said, “From enemies and strangers we have become friends and brothers.”

Jewish Ghetto street in Rome

Jewish Ghetto street in Rome

So what does this have to do with my speech? In my novel, A Remarkable Kindness, I stress the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion divides people; spirituality is what unites us. Religions stress their way is the only way; spirituality is each of us defining our own path to God, however we understand God. Someone once asked Rabbi Abraham Twerski, “What’s the difference between a religious person and a spiritual person?” He replied, “A religious person is scared of going to hell; a spiritual person has already been there.”

Here are a couple of things I learned from giving this talk:

Never let fear stop you from trying to do what you want to do. I was scheduled to give my talk in English but in Rome…do as the Romans do. I thought, perché no? Why not? I lived in Rome for a few months in 1980, working as a freelance journalist. If I could ride a motorcycle after six lessons to Alaska, I could still speak in Italiano. Si? Not really, but I did my best. Everyone was friendly, empathetic, and they all helped me out when I stumbled, which brings me to my second lesson.

Never be ashamed to ask for help. 

The Open Door Bookshop is in Trastevere, a special part of Rome that is filled with cobblestone streets and winding passageways. The bookshop — filled from floor to ceiling with used English and Italian books) is located in a building that dates from Medieval times. When Jonny and I decided to go to Rome for our birthday weekend January 16-17, I sent an email to the owners of the shop to inquire whether they’d be interested in my coming to speak. I was delighted to receive a reply from Lavinia and Paola, two sisters who own the shop with their third sister, Sabina. They live up to their name, Open Door, open mind. (And how rare is that these days?)

The Fabulous Sisters, (from left, Paola, me, Sabina & Lavinia Mauriziio)

The Fabulous Sisters, (from left, Paola, me, Sabina & Lavinia Mauriziio)

Always, always use humor. While giving my book talk, I told the story about how I once took a ballet class in Rome and the teacher pointed at me during one lesson and kept saying, “Jew! Jew!” Or so I thought. “Jew,” written as “giù” means “Down.” She was just telling me to go lower!

Open Door Bookshop

Don’t give up hope, no matter what. I wanted to bring a bit of light to this dark world. I wanted to share with the audience how in our region of the Galilee, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze work and live in peace. That is a rare, rare thing these days. It is my message of hope. I am reminded of the Midrash, “Only in darkness can we see the light.”

Give it all you’ve got. No matter what you’re doing, doing it as well as you can. I thought there were going to be five people at the talk (including Jonny and me). No matter. I still would have spoken and tried my best. I made LOTS of mistakes but I bet I gave people expressions to laugh about later.

Signing after my talk

Signing after my talk

Finally, for all you writers out there, you can do marketing wherever you are. Be willing to write emails and ask people if they’d be interested in inviting you to speak. And for everyone else, the truth is that a stunt woman rode my motorcycle for me and that same stunt woman spoke in Italian for me.

When we step through our fear and into the fire, we find our stronger, braver self waiting for us on the other side.

 

Posted in A Remarkable Kindness, Being a Hero In Your Life, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Women’s Fiction Writer Amy Sue Nathan: “Don’t Let Anyone Tell You that You Can’t.”

AMY SUE NATHAN

AMY SUE NATHAN

I’m delighted to welcome back Amy Sue Nathan, author of the novel, The Glass Wives, and her newest novel, The Good Neighbor. Amy has honored me by being my cover girl! Huh? Her spectacular blurb is on the cover of my novel, A Remarkable Kindness. So, here is our Q&A.

Diana Bletter: After writing The Glass Wives, how did you so seamlessly write The Good Neighbor? Some writers (me, included) say their second book is a struggle. You seemed to have accomplished this well.

Amy Sue Nathan: Thank you! I’d had the kernels of the idea for The Good Neighbor since before my debut novel was published, so I was thrilled to have the chance to write it! I have heard about the “sophomore novel” curse, or struggle, or issue, but I think every novel is different and poses new challenges. First novels often take years and are the culminations of many goals. The next novel may be under contract before it’s even written, or when it’s partially written (my situation) so there’s a deadline and some knowledge of how it all works, which can be daunting. I think that accounts for a lot of the stress.

Diana Bletter: Tell us a bit about your fabulous blog, Women’s Fiction Writers Blog, (named one of Writer’s Digest‘s 101 BEST WEBSITES FOR WRITERS 2015!), and why you think it’s so successful.

Amy Sue Nathan: I started my Women’s Fiction Writers blog in March 2011 (we’re coming up on the five-year blogiversary!) because I wanted a place to write and read about the kinds of books and authors I liked most. While I read widely, I enjoy women’s fiction most of all, and the blogs or sites I frequented didn’t touch on this genre at all. Part of that is the ambiguity of the label. To me, women’s fiction is a story that is character-driven and centers on a woman’s emotional journey. What does that mean? It means that her goal is to be okay with herself, with or without a romantic relationship or anything “conventional.” I also call it a family drama, or book club fiction. I also think that women’s fiction is upmarket usually, meaning that it does take language into account, not only story. Well, it makes sense to me! :) I think the blog is successful because we hit on these topics, general writing topics (a lot of blog readers write many things), and in my interviews (over 150 authors so far) I ask questions I want the answers to. I figure I can’t be the only one!

Diana Bletter: What are you working on now?

Amy Sue Nathan: I’m revising book #3 to send off to my editor this spring! It’s about a woman who leaves her hometown during her best friend’s funeral and goes back six years later to deal with the fallout.

Diana Bletter: With two books published and a third on its way, what are some tips you can give new writers? Is there anything you’ve learned that you’d like to share?

Amy Sue Nathan: I guess my main advice is to be open-minded, to learn, and to write. We get stuck sometimes, thinking we know it all. We don’t. So while you’re writing, continue to read, learn about craft, and admit that there’s always more to be done. Most of all, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it.

Diana Bletter: Finally, this blog, www.thebestchapter.com, deals with how we can make each day part of the best chapter of our life. Are there any new ways you are taking care of yourself since we last spoke?

Amy Sue Nathan: Hmmm…I do try to work for an hour or so and then GET UP. I also have a part-time job outside the house a few mornings a week. Writing is very solitary, and my kids are grown and flown, so this forces me to be out of the house with other people. Also, the more I have to do the more I get done. I’ve also ramped up my freelance editing. And yes, I’m working on balancing it all. That’s trickier than novel writing! nathan cover

I really like the cover of Amy’s latest book–you can find it wherever books are sold. (And please support your independent bookstores!)

Thank you, Amy! And folks, remember Amy’s motto: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. That goes for anything you set your mind to.

Posted in how to write, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

What People Say About You is None of Your Business.

Libby and I jumping for joy by the stormy Mediterranean Sea.

Libby and I jumping for joy by the stormy Mediterranean Sea.

That goes for writers, too. If someone likes your book, that is great. If someone doesn’t like your book—well, not everyone is going to love it.

A writer friend once told me how she was so excited because her book was going to be reviewed on The New York Times Book Review. I was a wee bit envious at the time since that has never happened to me. But the book reviewer found her book superficial, shallow and unimportant. Ouch! My friend said it took her a while to start writing again, she was so pained by those stinging words. They slashed right through her.

So on Friday, I read a wonderful review of my book here. Just a few adjectives made my heart soar:  fantastic. Poignant. Grace. Sensitivity. Really, it was a physical thing. I could feel myself floating. Then, of course, to remind myself that I am not so all-that, I read a review of my book with a completely different take. This second review found my book predictable, and said I used a lot of subject-predicate-adjective sentences. I had to look it up! I had no idea what she was talkin’ about. The review was lousy. The previous sentence is an example of what she meant. Ouch, ouch and ouch! Oy vey.

I was asked a while ago to write a blurb for a book that’s coming out next year. I didn’t love the book and at first I wasn’t even going to write something. But then I thought, why not be generous with praise? Someone out there is going to like this book. Someone will find it helpful and interesting. As I always told my kids, “It’s the same price to be nice.”

What people say about us is none of our business, whether we’re writing a book or simply being ourselves. As Rokelle Lerner wrote, (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We can’t use other people’s criticism as ammunition against ourselves.”

So, if you are writing, keep writing, no matter how many bad reviews you get. If you are in a writing group, however, or if you are in the process of writing and someone gives you helpful suggestions, that is different. If you need to work on changing something, change it. We cannot be defensive. We must be willing to change. Avoiding sentence similarity, that is me from now on. Working, writing, living. Yup! We gotta keep doing the best we can. And we have to fill our own well. Not with any outside thing. Not with any glittering sparkly praise but from the inside.

Here is a new take on the old Serenity Prayer: G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.

Handling a bad review? Criticism? How have you dealt? My new policy. Do NOT read reviews about A Remarkable Kindness. Oh, I take that back. I have 25 5***** reviews on Amazon!

Posted in A Remarkable Kindness, Acceptance | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Christmas Eve, My Sister’s Birthday, and Nittel Nacht.

xmas 2When I was growing up, my family hung out at home and played cards on Christmas Eve. Like eating Chinese food on Sunday nights, I thought this was just another quirky thing that my suburban Jewish family did. Little did I know that my parents were following a distinctly Jewish tradition for Christmas Eve that began as early as the Sixteenth Century.
Known as Nittel Nacht, the holiday derived its name from Natal Domini, the birth of the Lord. According to scholars such as Michael Wex, since Jews in Europe and Russia were deathly afraid of pogroms and attacks on Christmas Eve, they closed their synagogues, darkened their study houses, and stayed home. They held a vigil—not for the Messiah but for marauders—and passed the time by playing cards. Until I learned about Nittel Nacht, I felt like a Marrano, a secret Jew, who followed inexplicable customs like lighting Sabbath candles in the closet.

My sister Cynthia’s birthday is December 24. (Happy birthday, Shmoogie!)

Cynthia and I getting a hug mixed with Chanel Number 5 and cigarette smoke from our mother

Cynthia and I getting a hug mixed with Chanel Number 5 and cigarette smoke from our mother

It was always tough for her because when we were young, nobody was around to celebrate with her, and her birthday was way overshadowed by Christmas. Every year, we watched with envy as other children sat on Santa Claus’s lap and handed him their gift list.

Except for movie theaters, everything else in the vicinity of our house was closed on Christmas Eve so Cynthia and I continued to hang out with our parents long after it was all that appealing. Once we were old enough, we went to comedy clubs in New York City, discovering that they’re the perfect refuge for patrons (as well as the stand-up comics) who are either Jews or who want to stay away from home sweet home.
According to a 2012 Pew Research survey, thirty-two percent of American Jews have a Christmas tree in their home. A couple of times, I am sure that Cynthia and I begged for a Christmas tree, but our parents quashed that idea: to them, it was akin to being Jewish Uncle Tom’s. But they did teach us a game they’d invented called Points, in which the four of us drove around town, looking at decorated houses and giving the most points to the most elaborate Christmas displays.

We shouted when we spotted baroque manger scenes, life-sized Santa Claus figures (this was long before inflatables) and houses with more than just a wreath or two. Cynthia and I favored extravagant multi-colored light displays with angels and enormous candy canes but my mother argued that they were ongepotchket, or too much of everything slapped together, and preferred giving more points to elegant, understated homes.

xmas light
In the early 2000’s, when Jonny and I spent a few years living on the East End of Long Island, we passed on Points to the next generation. Then I discovered that our sons had joined some other friends and placed some reindeer on their hind legs behind other reindeer in the display on the village green. Sorry to those who are offended. The boys weren’t being sacrilegious, just pulling off a bawdy adolescent prank.
But now that I am back in northern Israel, I confess (mea culpa) that I really miss Christmas. I miss the holiday muzak, store cashiers with their red-and-white stocking hats, and the gift-giving. Most Israelis don’t even exchange gifts on Chanukah—they do their gift-giving on Rosh Hashana, the start of the Jewish New Year. This past Sunday, feeling nostalgic, I drove around the nearby town of Akko, trying to play a game of Points. There was one store selling Christmas decorations but there wasn’t much going on.
Later, I went to work teaching English in my after-school program. In the middle of the lesson, bomb sirens went off and we ran in the direction of the synagogue where the rabbi happened to be just leaving. There is a high wall and we stood there. Three rockets were fired from Lebanon, believed to be in retaliation for the targeted killing of Hezbollah terrorist Samir Kuntar. (He was the terrorist who infiltrated Nahariya by sea in April 1979 and killed Danny Haran, and his four-year-old daughter Einat. Their other daughter, Yael, two years old, was accidentally smothered to death as she and her mother, Smadar, hid from the terrorists.)
The rabbi recited a psalm. We waited, listening. After ten minutes, when everything grew quiet again, we all went home. We might not be playing cards on Christmas Eve—but we’re still keeping watch.

What’s the best gift we can give ourselves on Christmas? Remembering that tomorrow is uncertain and yesterday is gone forever. All we have is right now. That’s why it’s called the present.

Posted in Gratitude, Thought For The Day | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Jillian Cantor: This Writer’s Secret? Butt in the Chair.

jillian cantorI’m delighted to welcome Jillian Cantor, author of, most recently, The Hours Count as well as Margot, and The Transformation Things, as well as several young adult novels including Searching for Sky and The September Sisters. I had the pleasure to meet Jillian when we spoke at a Jewish Book Council luncheon in Boca Raton, Florida. Here’s our interview:

Diana Bletter: The Hours Count deals with a fictionalized account of the neighbor of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the only Americans put to death for spying during the Cold War. In another of your novels, Margot, you invent a new life for Anne Frank’s sister, Margot. What draws you to these controversial stories?

Jillian Cantor: It’s not the controversy that draws me to the stories but just the normal, familial relationships at the heart of them. With Margot, I was drawn to the sister relationship between Anne and her older sister, Margot. I also am an older sister and I was interested in thinking about Anne and Margot as normal girls, normal sisters and exploring the sister relationship. With The Hours Count, I was drawn to the idea of Ethel as a mother. What first interested me in writing the book was reading the last letter Ethel ever wrote to her sons (aged 6 and 10 at the time) on the day she was executed. She implored them to always remember that she was innocent. I have two sons, about those ages at the time I first read the letter, and I was horrified by what happened to Ethel. I wanted to reimagine her as a mother.

Diana Bletter: Blending fiction with historical fact seems tricky. Can you tell us about your research? And how did you get started writing?

Jillian Cantor: The Hours Count spans the years 1947-1953 so before I really started writing I did a lot of research about those years, both what was going on with the Rosenbergs and what was going on in the world at the time. I made a huge timeline on the wall in my office, noting key dates with real events that I wanted to include in the book, and then I began to shape the fictional events in my main character’s, Millie’s, world around those.

 

The novel goes back and forth in time between the night of the execution in 1953 and the years leading up to it. I always knew I wanted to begin the novel with Millie driving towards Sing Sing that night. I wasn’t sure why she was going there and what she was doing when I first started to write. But I knew she was driving there, and that she was in trouble. I wrote that first scene of the book months before I wrote anything else or even finished researching. Then I put it aside and let it simmer in the back of my head for a while as I researched. And once I had my timeline constructed I began to figure out how the fiction fit in with the history.

 

Diana Bletter: You’ve also written a number of young adult books, including The September Sisters and Searching for Sky. How does writing for young adults differ from writing for adults?

Jillian Cantor: I don’t really see it as different, other than the ages of my main characters. No matter what kind of book I’m writing I’m most interested in the characters, their relationships and telling a good story.

 

Diana Bletter: Do you have any suggestions for new writers? Are there any writing exercises, tips or tools that are helpful for you? What is your routine?

Jillian Cantor: My routine is to write when my kids are at school during the week days. I’m very disciplined about that time. I don’t clean my house or do laundry or sometimes even clear the breakfast dishes from the table before I sit down there with my laptop and coffee. I treat writing like a job and put in time every weekday. I think the best suggestion I have is something a professor told me in grad school: very simply, butt in the chair. I make myself sit down and write, even if the writing isn’t always good. The first step is always getting some words on the page. If I’m working on a first draft I set goals for myself, usually about five pages each weekday, and once I hit that I let myself stop for the day. Sometimes I do it in two hours. Sometimes I come back to it after my kids go to bed and sit there until midnight just to get my pages in!

Diana Bletter: What are you working on now?

Jillian Cantor: I just finished a draft of my next historical novel and sent it off to my editor. It’s about a fictional stamp engraver in Austria in the late 1930s and a woman in LA in 1989 who finds a letter with one of his stamps and begins to unravel his long forgotten love story. It’ll be published by Riverhead, probably sometime in 2017.

 

Finally, this blog explores how to write your best chapter and also how to live your best chapter each day in the story of your life.  How do you balance your writing with your family life? What are some of the things you do to take care of yourself each day?

Jillian Cantor: I really try to write only when my kids are at school or sleeping, and when they’re home I try to be present as Mom. It doesn’t always work out this way – for instance, I just left to tour for The Hours Count and wasn’t home for days at a time. But, most of the time, it does work, and I feel really lucky that I get to have a job I love and be really present for my kids.

 

As for taking care of myself, I try to exercise every week day. Since I treat writing like my day job, I give myself some time off in the middle of the day as a lunch break, but generally exercise instead (and then eat lunch at my computer when I’m back). I try to get at least 10,000 steps in every day – I find taking a long walk, hike, or run, always helps me solves problems I’m working out in a story too!

Thank you, Jillian! 

Readers, if you have any questions for Jillian, ask away.

Posted in how to write, novels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Are You a People-Pleaser?

man boy donkey.jpgThen here’s a story for you: The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A man and his son headed to market with their donkey. A man on a horse passed them and asked, “Why aren’t you riding your donkey?”

The man placed his son on the donkey, and they continued on their way. They passed by a family working in their fields. A young girl said. “Look at that lazy boy riding while his father is walking.”

The man told his son to get off the donkey, and he climbed on. They passed a group of women and one said, “What a selfish man, making his son walk while he rides.”

The man asked his son to climb up on the donkey with him. They passed a traveler on the road, who said, “That poor donkey is carrying too much weight.”

Not knowing what to do, the man and his son began to carry the donkey. But the donkey kicked so violently they released their hold and the donkey ran away.

The Moral of the Story is: When we try to please everyone about everything, we wind up with nothing.

Posted in change, inspiration, Other people and us, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

10 Important Questions To Ask on Thanksgiving

thanks1  We shouldn’t wait 364 days each year to give thanks. Don’t you think Thanksgiving could be incorporated into our routine each day?

Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself every day:

1.When you wake up in the morning, do you say thanks for another day? Important to go from, “Oh, God, it’s morning,” to “Good, God, it’s morning.”

2.  Do you say thanks for the basic things? Not necessarily the things you want, but the things you need? Those are the very things we take for granted. Food in our bellies, a roof over our heads, brains that function, limbs that move?

3. Do you try to substitute positive thoughts for negative ones? Move from resentment to acceptance? Which means also—as hard as it is—saying prayers for those we resent? I know this sounds almost impossible, but it truly works.

4. Do you try to pass on a kindness each day? A sincere hello to the supermarket cashier? The traffic policeman? The person making your coffee?

5. Do you refrain from gossip? Do you zip the lip instead of criticize? Our sphere of influence is only the circumference of our arms. Everything outside of our personal space is not our business.

6. Do you avoid the PLOM’s (Poor Little Old Me)? Remember that self-pity is a parasite on our mind and heart. It drains us of our energy. There is always, always, always something we can do to improve our situation, even if only a wee bit.

7. Do you try a new behavior? Instead of manipulating to get something you want, can you try asking directly? Or doing something for the other person first? Remember, if you want generosity, let’s say, or courtesy, from someone else, you must be the first person to give it away.

8. Do you remind yourself that you don’t have to do everything perfectly? Actually, you don’t have to do anything perfectly. You just have to do things. Try to start doing something badly, just to get into the habit.

9. Do you give people the benefit of the doubt? I wrote about my mistake at not doing that here.

10. Do you go over your day right before you go to sleep and say thank you for all the small things that add up to the big things? The minor stuff is really the major stuff. It is all we have.

Let’s make each day a day to give thanks, a Thanksgiving Day.

Here is the answer to why turkeys are called turkeys. And here is from the Israel Christian Embassy in Jerusalem about how volunteer soldiers in the Israeli Army celebrate Thanksgiving.

Posted in Acceptance, awareness, change, Gratitude, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Writers Alice Hoffman and Jillian Cantor: On Writing What We Don’t Know

alice hI I was honored to be one of the speakers along with two amazing writers, Alice Hoffman, who recently published The Marriage of Opposites, and Jillian Cantor, author of The Hours Count at a luncheon with more than 450 women in Boca West Country Club, sponsored by the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center in Boca Raton, FL.

Here is what I learned from Cantor and Hoffman about writing. First, Jillian Cantor’s newest novel is about a fictionalized neighbor of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, two Americans executed for conspiring to pass atomic secrets to Russia during the Cold War. Ethel wasexecuted, Jillian pointed out, on flimsy charges brought by Ethel’s brother, who recanted his testimony before he died. Jillian shared that she had researched that era of the early 1950’s, and then relied on her imagination.

I was inspired by the idea that writers of historical fiction (well, any kind of fiction) must stick to the truth but then must stick to their own truth. Poetic license also means that writers have to rely on historical facts and then imagine and invent. Jillian got the idea for the story when she read Ethel Rosenberg’s last letter to her young sons, then six and ten, in which she stressed her innocence. . . (I will be interviewing Jillian for this blog in a few weeks, so stay tuned.)

Alice Hoffman said that she loved reading when she was younger; in order for her to read the stories she wanted she had to write them. She stressed that she prefers to write what she doesn’t know. She uses writing to answer questions.

Hoffman’s latest novel is based on the story of Rachel Pisarro, the mother of Camille Pisarro, the father of Impressionism, who lived in a small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition and moved to St. Thomas in the early 1800’s. There is not much historical information about Rachel Pisarro;Hoffman breathed details into her story. She said it was the same way she wrote The Dovekeepers, imagining the world of women on Masada in about 73 CE, right after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Speaking of the Inquisition, the director of the Levis Jewish Community Center’s educational programs, Susana Flaum, told me a story that took place in her hometown of Medellin, Colombia. Susana’s aunt, who was member of the hevra kadisha, the local burial circle in Medellin had received a call one day from someone who explained that a woman named Maria Isabel Rodriguez had died. In her will, she requested that the burial circle take care of her. Nobody knew that this woman was a Marrano, a secret Jew, whose ancestors had also fled the Inquisition. She had hidden this secret from her family until after she died.

I shared Susana’s story when I spoke about the hidden gems found in the burial circle rituals and why it is so powerful. Nobody had written a novel about women in a hevra kadisha and that was how I came to write A Remarkable Kindness.

So now it is three weeks since I have been on the road, sharing stories about my writing and my life in South Bend and Munster Indiana; Benton Harbor, Michigan; San Antonio, TX; Omaha, NE; Batavia, IL; West Des Moines, Iowa; Providence, RI; Glen Cove, NY; and finally, Boca Raton, FL. I met some wonderful people and thank everyone who hosted me and shared their own stories.

Books are the symbols of liberty. They were burned during Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany. Just thinking about what happened in Paris by Islamic terrorists who are against free speech and writing–especially women writing and speaking their truth–makes me more aware of how vital it is for writers to keep writing and readers to keep reading.

Thank you!

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