May 2008 Newsletter

creating community for English writers in Israel


  1. Goings On
  2. Your publications and Awards
  3. The Writing Life

1. Goings On

  • The Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University is sponsoring a 3-day seminar in Jerusalem on creative nonfiction with Lee Gutkind, “the leading figure behind the creative nonfiction movement,” according to Harper’s Magazine. Gutkind will deal with the structure of the classic essay and creative nonfiction book, discuss the personal vs. the public stance of the author, book proposals and marketing strategies. There will be short, overnight assignments.

The seminar, August 12 – 14, from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., will take place in a beautiful villa in    Jerusalem’s Yemin Moshe neighborhood, across from the walls of the Old City. This seminar is open to all – writers, journalists, poets, residents, tourists, but space is limited, so register now. The cost is $400 or NIS 1400 until June 1st. After June 1st, $450 or NIS 1575.  Students in the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program pay half price.

Please send your check in dollars, shekels or Euros made out to Bar-Ilan University to Judy Labensohn, English Dept., Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 52900, Israel.  On a separate piece of paper, print your name, address, phone number and email address and mail it with the check.

Registration includes all materials, lectures, and hot and cold drinks. It does not include meals or lodgings. There are six restaurants within a 5-minute walk of the villa. Each day there will be a 2-hour lunch break. For lodgings, Yemin Moshe is close to Jerusalem’s YMCA and Beit Shmuel and five major hotels.

If you write personal essays, travel pieces, history, political analysis, nature essays; if you have an idea for a nonfiction essay or book, this is the seminar for you. Check out and

I urge you to take advantage of this rare opportunity. Space is limited, so register now.

  • The International Writers Festival at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem, May 11-15, 2008. Details at
  • Writing Workshops with Sarah Shapiro in Jerusalem: May 20 and 27 in evenings or May 21 and 28 mornings. For info. contact
  • Reva Mann (The Rabbi’s Daughter) is available to help you improve your manuscript. Details:  Contact Reva at
  • Fern Reiss can teach you how to get media attention for your book. Visit
  • Until May 8th you can bid on manuscript critiques with notable authors associated with the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in poetry, fiction, crreative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults. Go to and for details
  • Mima’amakim is looking for poetry, visual art and fiction. Send to by June 15th.
  • For a wonderful newsletter go to I haved used the services of Writer’s Relief and highly recommend them for helping you market your writing.
  • The Writer’s Journey Seminar is in Jerusalem on May 13, 2008 at the Reich Hotel. For women only. Details:
  • Call for submissions of personal experiences and reflections about global warming. Visit
  • Call for submissions to SageWoman Magazine on the theme of Beginnings; poetry or nonfiction (5,000 word MAX) Email: Anne Niven, Editor with word attachment to
  • Call for submissions to Persimmon Tree, short stories and essays by women over 60; Nan Gefen, Editor;

2. Your Publications and Awards

  • Evan Fallenberg, author of Light Fell (Soho, 2008), was a finalist for a PEN Translation Prize for his translation of Meir Shalev’s A Pigeon and a Boy.
  • Tania Hershman, editor of has had stories accepted by Ranfurly Review; Juice: The Journal of the Ordinary; Mad Hatter’s Review; Greatest Uncommon Denominator; SouthWord; and Riffing on Strings (an anthology inspired by string theory). Her story “Drinking Vodka in the Afternoon” has been longlisted for the People’s College Short Story Competition.  Another story was shortlisted for the Fish publishing One Page Short Story Prize. Tania hails from England and lives in Jerusalem.
  • Gila Green’s “Conversations on Lichen Street” will be published by Pilot Pocket Books 4, Toronto. “Mom’s Visit” will appear in Yuan Yang: A Journal of Hong Kong and International Literature.
  • Judy Gray’s essay on the Ben Yehudah midrachov appeared in In Jerusalem on April 11, 2008.
  • Michael Diamond’s print-on-demand book is available at  Michael lives in Beersheva.
  • Jessica Apple’s story “A Great Civil War,” which she wrote while she was in the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program at Bar-Ilan, just came out in the Bellevue LIterary Review. Jessica lives in Tel Aviv.
  • Jennifer Lang’s “une tete americaine” was accepted for publication in vol. 10 of South Loop Review.  Jennifer had made a goal of getting one personal story published this year and reached her goal.
  • Valerie Farber’s book City of Refuge, most of which she wrote on the bus between Hahashmonaim and Jerusalem, has a web site:

Kudos to all these wonderful Anglo writers in Israel who persevere and send out their work and complete the writing process through publication.

3.  The Writing Life

I can easily convince myself that my writing career is over when I spend all my time working or playing catch with my granddaughter. Then an encouraging email arrives from an agent and suddenly characters begin to emerge from the smog of my mind, still covered in soot. The Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom wrote a fascinating novel about this aspect of the writing process – the emergence of characters – called A Song of Truth and Semblance (Penguin, 1981)  Below is chapter 2, when the protagonist, a writer, is getting to meet his characters – a colonel and a doctor.  Enjoy, and do take advantage of all the wonderful writing opportunities in Israel during the coming months!

Two hours after the other writer had left, somewhat offended because of the abrupt farewell (barely civil), the writer was still sitting in the same position at his desk. There is something indescribably sad about writers alone in their studies. Sooner or later the moment arrives when they start to have doubts about what they are doing. It would perhaps be strange if it were not so. As a person gets older, reality becomes more obtrusive and at the same time less interesting because there is so much of it. Is it really necessary to add anything? Must the invented be piled on top of the existing merely because someone, in his youth, when he had little experience of what is called reality, invented some pseudo-reality and was consequently called a writer?

On the paper in front of him, the writer had written only one line: “The colonel falls in love with the doctor’s wife.”

The utter banality of this sentence made him feel sick. “So what,” he muttered. “The colonel is in love with the doctor’s wife.” Although the writer’s lofty prose poems had won him the reputation of a literary aesthete, he was usually fairly coarse in the mouth when among friends. “The epaulets screw the stethoscope’s wife. So what?” What business was it of his? No doubt, in all the five continents, there were colonels in love with doctors’ wives and doctors in love with colonels’ wives – and since colonels and doctors had existed for several hundred years, his story had obviously been written several hundred times – by life itself. On the other hand, that was true of everything. Every variant had already been invented, because it had already been lived. There were writers who thought that a story written by them would clarify something about reality itself, but what was the use? This clarity would merely form part of the reader’s reality, and was not the reader, finally, nothing other than a possible subject for a story?

Writers, thought the writer, invent a reality in which they are not obliged to live themselves, but over which they have control. He gave the still so empty sheet of paper a little push. Was that strictly true? Did he have control over those two faces he saw so slowly coming into existence? Or did they have control over him?

The doctor’s face was pale and fine-featured (what an invention! As if not millions of pale, fine-featured faces had appeared in the world and disappeared!) But pale and fine-featured it was. Cool, slightly bulging greay eyes that would not change their expression if they saw something terrible, eyebrows and lassshes of soft black hair, the mouth almost colorless and somewhat too shapely. The most masculine thing about the face was really the hair that seemed to pour out of the head and caused a growth of beard that probably had to be kept in check twice a day but remained nevertheless present like a bluish haze under the white skin. Something dark under something light, the writer thought, and on the sheet in front of him he wrote: “like water under ice, where nobody has yet skated.” He put a question mark after that and crossed it all out again. Something now occupied his mind. If it was a form of power to describe the physique of nonexistent people (to give nonexistent people a physique) based on some internal, unverifiable vision – then the height of that power must surely consist in giving names to these nonexistent people, as if they were really registered in the, in a, registry of births.

“Stefan, Stefan, Stefan,” said the colonel, prodding the doctor between the two graceful nickel curves of the stethoscope through which had passed the sound of so many death rattles. “Stefan, I swear that this is the end.”

About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
This entry was posted in Characters, Newsletter, The Writing Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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