Nisan/Pesach 2007 Newsletter


  1. April events in Israel
  2. Interesting web sites for writers
  3. Publications, a plethora
  4. Deadline and live wires
  5. The Writing Life

Dear Friends,

1. April events in Israel

  • “To Be a Jewish Writer,” an international conference, will be held at Beit Avi Chai, Jerusalem, April 16-19. See for details.
  • On Friday, April 27th, I will lead a half-day Hike ‘n Write at Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve, near Modi’in. This is an opportunity for those who once fell in love with a place to reconnect with that love and place. We will use biblical quotes and landscapes as inspiration for writing exercises. We will visit the “Jericho Oasis,” climb the “Hill of Milk and Honey,” sit in the shade of “Isaiah’s Vineyard,” and explore the “Garden of the Seven Species.” Time: from 8:30 to 1-ish.; Cost: NIS 165. (Does not include NIS 25 entrance fee) Pre-registration a must — limited space. Send your check, made out to Yeul Sachir, to Judy Labensohn, POBox 15306, Moshav Beit Zayit, 90815. I will send you more details.

2. Interesting web sites for writers

3. Publications, a plethora

  • Dropped from Heaven, a collection of stories by Sophie Judah of Hod Hasharon, published by Random House, is now on sale in America. Sophie’s book is based on her MA thesis in fiction from Bar-Ilan.
  • Gerry Berman’s play, “Explostion at Geha Junction” was chosen to be read at the 15th Annual Last Frontier Theatre/Play Conference in Valdez, Alaska, June 22-30, 2007. Gerry lives in Jerusalem and Alaska.
  • Ruth Fogelman’s poem “Rachel’s Eulogy for Her Grandmother” won First Place in the Reuben Rose Poetry Competition. The poem was part of her MA thesis in poetry from Bar-Ilan. To read this and more, visit Ruth lives in the Old City of Jerusalem.
  • Laurie Bisberg’s “Forever Slim” will appear in the March-April issue of the ESRA Magazine, which is all about food. The svelte writer lives in Haifa.
  • Sue Tourkin-Komet, Jerusalem, has poems and essays forthcoming in Soul Fountain, Jewish Bible Quarterly, Matrix, and Heartbeats from Heaven, the Voices Israel Poetry Anthology.
  • Susan Sachs, Beit Shemesh, published a story, “A Day Like All Days,” in the annual Studies in American Jewish Literature.
  • Faigie Heiman, Jerusalem, had an op-ed in on Feb. 28, 2007.
  • Eva Eliav’s poems are forthcoming in Stand in 2007.
  • “Explosion,” the opening story in my collection, Stories from Bethlehem Road, will appear in the June issue of Hadassah Magazine.

Mazal tov to all writers who complete a project, send it off, and live to see it accepted. Keep sending me your acceptances.

4. Deadline and live wires

  • Mima’amakin, a Journal of Artistic Exploration of the Jewish Religious Experience is seeking submissions until May 1st:
  • Applications are now being accepted for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University. The program begins on August 16, 2007.
  • Robert McKee’s Story Seminar is a world-class event. The next one is in London, April 27-29, 2007.
  • Varda Branfman, Sarah Shapiro, and Roberta Chester from Israel and Maine will be leading a kosher, vegetarian writing retreat for women in Bar Harbor, Maine. The one week retreat begins on Sunday, May 27, 2007. Visit for inviting details.
  • For a non-kosher, one-week writing retreat on a 50 foot cruising yacht called “Enchantment,” sailing north of Vancouver, BC on July 24, 2007, write to drkurtz@MAC.COM.

There are so many beautiful places in the world to write. Make your desk one of them.

5. The Writing Life

As a teacher I am privy to writers’ stories. I want to share some with you, because they are inspiring.

A woman joined a writing group because she had always wanted to write, but never got around to it. How do I start? What do I write about? Who cares? After a few months in a weekly class, she shared her delight. “It’s like magic,” she said. “I sit down to type and these words come out and I don’t know where they come from.” Her innocence and enthusiasm awed and silenced the group. This woman, over eighty, talked about writing as if she had fallen in love.

Another woman joined a group because twelve years earlier someone had told her she should try creative writing. This woman let the idea percolate and finally, after an almost two hour drive, made it to the first of a four-session class. Unfortunately, her work prevented her from coming to the second session. I don’t know what prevented her from attending the third and fourth sessions, but I do know that this woman will write. Once the decision erupts, one slowly overcomes all obstacles.

Another woman, a mother of nine, was on the way to a Sunday retreat and her car broke down on Highway Six. Furious, she called her husband to pick her up, left her car on the road, and arrived at the retreat, panting, an hour late. “I feel I crash-learned about five years in as many hours and my smugness turned to doubt and then to alarm,” she wrote me afterwards. “Much traumatized, I spent Monday in a daze, getting my car out of a faraway garage.” She avoided eye contact with her computer and a particular wall cupboard in her home that housed clothes from every daughter for every season in all sizes. On Tuesday, she planned to reorganize the cupboard. On Wednesday, she did it. A week after the retreat, she began to rewrite.

A young man finishing his MFA in the States wrote to ask me how I began teaching. As an aside in his email, he wrote the following about my essay on the get ceremony that he had read in In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction. “I am Presbyterian, married, and live in Atlanta, GA, yet the beauty and poignancy of your Jewish divorce ritual and experience spoke volumes to me… Thanks for sharing your talent with the world.” When I wrote that essay, I wasn’t thinking about the world. I was only thinking about how to describe a complex world of ritual and emotion. Every week, when I sit with Anglo-Israeli writers, we wonder if our unique experiences will resonate with people who don’t know the difference between a get and a gat. This young man’s letter assured me that our experiences will resonate, as long as we reveal the crux of the story that lies beyond the Jerusalem Rabbinate and the archaeological park, a place we share with readers worldwide: it is the human heart.

Chag sameach,


About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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