Rosh Hashana 2008 Newsletter

creating community for English writers in Israel


  1. One-day Writing Retreat on Oct. 30 and other goodies
  2. Your publications, achievements and awards
  3. The Writing Life

1.  One-Day Retreat and other goodies

  • Evan Fallenberg is inaugurating The Studio for Writers (and Readers) near his home in Moshav Bitan Aharon by hosting a one-day writing retreat on Thursday, October 30, 2008 from 9 am – 5:15 pm.

    Participants will attend three separate sessions. Joan Leegant, author of An Hour in Paradise, will discuss taking risks in your writing.  Evan, author of Light Fell, will lead a workshop on getting started (or picking up from where you left off).  I will lead a discussion on the segmented essay, a structure that invites you to mine your obsessions.

    The retreat is open to writers at all levels. Seating is limited; first come, first served. The NIS 420 price includes a kosher dairy lunch at Capanna Restaurant, a 5-minute walk from The Studio.

    To register, send a check for NIS 420 to Evan at  POB 372 Bitan Aharon, Israel 40294, along with your name, postal address, phone number and email. Email Evan for instructions to The Studio. For more info about the presenters, visit, and

  • Gila Green, who earned her MA in fiction from Bar-Ilan University and has published stories around the world, will be teaching a ten-week memoir course and a fiction course through Touro College’s Continuing Education in Jerusalem. For details, contact Gila at
  • In August Lee Gutkind gave a wonderful 3-day seminar on creative nonfiction through Bar-Ilan’s Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing, which I coordinate. Now we are all invited to the 2008 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference in Pittsburgh next month, Oct. 2-4. Registration is open at
  • Shifrah Devorah Witt (MA and MFA) offers writing classes in Nachlaot, Jerusalem. Tel. 054 801 8483.
  • Jennie Feldman offers private poetry mentoring in Jerusalem. email:
  • Tenth Annual Jewish Children’s Book Writers’ Conference in New York on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008, 9 am – 5 pm at the 92nd Street Y. Registration deadline is Nov. 17. email for registration form and info.
  • Sarah Shapiro will offer a workshop for reading and writing poetry in Jerusalem. email for details.
  • Oct. 7, 2008 is the deadline for the 19th International Reuben Rose Poetry contest. First prize is $500. Judge is Richard Berengarten, founder of the Annual Cambridge Poetry Festival in Cambridge, England. For details,

2.  Your publications, achievements and awards

  • Evelyn Abel had four poems accepted by Bridges for its fall issue.
  • Valerie Farber’s novel, City of Refuge, has been published and can be purchased through the website and through Amazon.
  • Rachel Gurevich has a steady writing position writing about infertility for, a New York Times Company. See  She had a poem, “Five Seeds,” accepted for the “Desiring Motherhood” Oct. issue of Literary Mama ( ). Rachel also did the 3-day novel contest at the end of August. “What an awesome contest,” she writes. “Best writing exercise ever…” ( ) Rachel teaches writing through the Long Ridge Writers Group.
  • Tania Hershman’s first collection of short stories, The White Road and Other Stories (Salt Modern Fiction) came out on September 1st.  See   Tania edits The Short Review:  Recently, she was one of three winners of the 2008 Biscuit Flash Fiction competition and a finalist in the Binnacle’s 140 word Ultra Short Competition. Her 140-word story will be published in the 2008 Ultra Short issue. Two flash stories were broadcast in July on Rethink Daily’s Sharp Things podcast and two other flash stories will be published in Magazine Minima and on a postcard by the Tin Parachute Postcard Review. This fine writer is on a roll.
  • Ruth Mason published an op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post on Shatil’s Ethiopian Domestic Violence Coalition. A piece she wrote for Naamat Woman on Ethiopian women won a Simon Rockower Award. Currently, Ruth is making a documentary film on Ethiopian names.
  • Sharon Bacher’s “60 Years and Here We Are” appeared in Perth, Australia’s “Maccabean.”
  • Shoshana London Sappir won first place in the Simon Rockower awards for “Story of Aliyah” for the feature she wrote about Russian immigrants that appeared in Hadassah Magazine.
  • Esther Susan Heller’s website has been selected as one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers 2008” by Writer’s Digest.
  • Evelyn Fisher Solomonov won 2nd place for Personal Essay from the Simon Rockower Award of the American Jewish Press Association for “The Worst Knock of All.” The piece appeared in Hadassah Magazine,  June 24, 2008.
  • Ruth Fogelman had four poems in the recent issue of The Deronda Review.
  • Eva Eliav has three poems coming out in the next issue of Stand magazine. Eva sent the poems in January 2006. They were accepted in Feb. 2007. “Writers need patience,” she says.
  • Ruth Abraham has just begun the MA in fiction at Bar-Ilan. Her book When Words Have Lost Their Meaning: Alzheimer’s Patients Communicate Through Art (Praeger) was translated into Korean.  “The script is beautiful,” she writes, ” – alien, mysterious and unfathomable, but very aesthetic. The first letter of each chcapter is preceded by a compressed picture of one of my patient’s artworks. This small detail adds an Asian mystique to my original text.”
  • Ira Director had two poems published in Voices Israel 2008.

I hope all these accomplishments inspire you as much as they inspire me.  Send me notification of your publications, achievements and awards for the next newsletter.  Keep submitting  your writing.  Know that in most cases, publications rest on an iceberg of  rejections. Create your iceberg.

3. The Writing Life

Many of you have asked me if I finished my book like I said I would in the June newsletter. Your questions go beyond natural curiosity. I hear in your voices the hope that I did complete the manuscript, because if I finished a book according to a schedule plan, then you can too.

Of course I finished. I couldn’t tell 400-500 people I’m going to do something and then not follow through. In fact, telling you my plan was part of psyching myself up to do it.

Not only did I finish the manuscript Bethlehem Road, a collection of eleven short stories, and mail it to the potentially interested agent on August 28th at 11:30 a.m. from the post office on – Where else? – Bethlehem Road, but I also was relaxed about the process. This relaxation came from the fact that I had a schedule. I never had to wonder when I would find time to write. I merely looked at the calendar and saw that on Monday I would write from 3-6 PM and on Friday from 9-12 AM, etc. From the start, I always scheduled chunks of three hours. I also planned which story I would work on and when. I gave myself deadlines for each story.

For me this was a totally artificial way to work, but if you want to complete a project, it’s a way that works. I know that instead of doing this newsletter, I could be rewriting some of the newer stories. I know I could make myself crazy for another 6-18 months, but I don’t want to. If a publisher bites and asks for rewrites, then I will do so. If nobody wants the manuscript, at least I reached my June 2008 goal.

The day after I completed the manuscript, I was walking down Bethlehem Road. I thought I had finished with the street and the neighborhood where I had lived for thirty-three years — the houses, shopkeepers, neighbors, traffic arrangements, fruit stands, hairdressers, corner groceries, the sidewalks, street signs, memories and history. I thought I had poured it all out on the page. I thought my writing these stories was my way of separating from Ba’aka, the neighborhood whose main artery is Bethlehem Road, the place where I raised my three children. So I was shocked to notice an even stronger love for the place as I strolled from Rivka Street down to Yiftach.

I’m still attached, even though I live in Beit Zayit, a moshav located .3 kilometers from Jerusalem’s city limits and a twenty-five minute drive from Ba’aka. I chuckled when I found myself hoping I would be able to write Bethlehem Road, Volume Two. After all, I hadn’t given my downstairs neighbor who checked the stairwell for suspicious objects every morning at 4:30 a.m. in his striped pajamas, his due; nor the owner of the local makolet who accessed 24-roll packages of toilet paper by striking the rafters with his broomstick; nor the legendary nursery schoolteacher who taught two-year olds that peace could be achieved through singing in Chinese, Spanish, French, Hebrew and Arabic; nor the barber who cut little boys’ hair, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips; nor the butcher who didn’t like people and took out his meanness on chickens.

This welling up of new ideas for stories startled me. Like most writers, I was afraid that once I had finished my current project, I would have nothing more to write. The opposite occurred. Once the current eleven stories were on the page and in the mail, there was room for new material to percolate.

A secondary gain of committing to a writing schedule was that I was able to committ to a vacation for the beginning of September. I knew I would be ready for yoga and singing on the island of Samos by September 5th, having immersed myself in the lives of my characters all summer.

And so it was.

I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year.
May you fulfill all your writing goals.
If you will it, to paraphrase our Zionist father, your dreams can turn into books.


About Judy Labensohn

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

2 Responses to Rosh Hashana 2008 Newsletter

  1. cgwebhelp says:

    Hi, I’d like to hook you all up with Ruth Hirsch, American living in Jerusalem, who teaches Intuitive Focusing (based on Gendlin’s Focusing, Bantam, 1981, 1984), an approach for accessing right-brain wisdom around personal growth, creativity, all kinds of problem solving.

    Basically, you learn to go back-and-forth between the “intuitive feel” of “the whole thing” and words/images/gestures until you find symbolizations that are “just right” to capture “the feel of it all.” You have bodily-felt “Ahah!” experiences, a sense of sureness that intellectual problem solving does not provide.

    You can read about the use of Intuitive Focusing in getting the “next step” in creative projects, including writing, at my website, Creative Edge Focusing,, under Core Concepts, Creativity and find out about Ruth’s in person and teleconference Focusing Classes in The Store, under Creative Edge Associates.

    Sandra Perl has been using Focusing to teach creative writing for over 30 years, and you can find her book in the bookstore at The Focusing Institute, .

    My website is packed with free resources, including articles, Focusing Instructions, e-course, e-newsletter, and e-groups for actual practice of Focusing, and its companion skill, Focused Listening.

    Dr. Kathy McGuire
    Creative Edge Focusing (TM)


  2. Gilllian Hirsh says:

    Judy – I am inspired and impressed -and will try to emulate you and get the darn thing finished! I’m scared of setting a date – but will definitely set aside hours in my weekly schedule, instead of waiting for things to ‘fit in’, which of course they rarely do.
    I must admit I’m also filled with envy at your sticking to it!


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