May 2009 Newsletter

creating community for English writers in Israel


  1. Jerusalem Summer Writing Seminars 2009
  2. Your publications and classes and tidbits
  3. The Writing Life

1. Jerusalem Summer Writing Seminars

In 1990 I went to a writing workshop in a town in northern Wales which I could not pronounce because it had three l’s, two y’s and some silent letters. I slept in a room with a woman who, the first night, after my travelling all day from Israel to northern Wales, denied the Holocaust. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. Fortunately, the third woman in the room was a lively and conscientious recovering alcoholic Catholic American. She defended the Jewish People while I tried to sleep. The Irish Sea made loud, scary noises outside our window.

Such a scenario could never happen to you if you come to a Bar-Ilan writing seminar this summer in Jerusalem.
I’m not sorry I went to Wales, but if I could have stayed in Israel to improve my writing, I would have.

This summer Ehud Havazelet is coming from Oregon to teach a three-day seminar for experienced fiction writers and a two-day seminar for nascent fiction writers. Ehud is a fabulous, prize-winning writer and a gifted teacher. This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone who wants to learn about writing fiction from a master writer.

And Ilana Blumberg is coming from Michigan to teach three days of creative nonfiction, specializing in the memoir. Ilana is a prize-winning author and teacher.

These are brilliant people who are excited to teach you in Israel. Please Google them to read about their writing and accomplishments. Both Ehud and Ilana will give you their all if you are willing to devote 1, 2 or more days to nurture your creative lives.

It is not a bargain; this is not Wal-Mart. One day costs $150; two days – $285; and 3 days $392. If you come for six days, it will cost you $652. You can pay in several installments.

The Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University is sponsoring these writing seminars. As Coordinator, I would like to turn Jerusalem into a center for summer writing. Would you like this to happen, too? You can make this happen. Come write in Jerusalem this summer. (Bar-Ilan is the only place in Israel where you can earn an MA in English, specializing in writing fiction or poetry.)
If you want all the details about summer writing in Jerusalem, email me at

Places are limited. I suggest you not obsess for more than two weeks, because you may find yourself on the Waiting List.

2. Your publications and classes and tidbits

  • Yael Politis wrote a novel called The Lonely Tree. It is set in the Etzion Bloc pre-1948. Find out more at
  • Steve Kohn’s first short story ever “Galit and Yossi” was published in the Pesach issue of ESRA Magazine.
  • Michael Dickel’s free online ebook The World Behind It, Chaos is now available at Dickel, along with Sheryl Abbey will be co-editors of the poetry journal Voices Israel 2010. Details at
  • Leah Kotkes’ memoir for women is now available. See for details.
  • Yonatan Sredni published the story “Sukkah of Dreams” online at The story is part of his MA thesis at Bar-Ilan.
  • Sharon Bacher published “Enough to Break Your Heart” in ESRA Magazine.
  • Shifrah Devorah Witt, MA, MFA teaches creative writing in Jerusalem and works with writers on manuscript development. Tel. 054-801-8483
  • Check out
  • Carol Ungar suggests and
  • Check out for its Spring writing contest rules. Deadline is July 31, 2009. $20 submission fee.
  • is the link for a wonderful essay by Debora Freund that appeared in Missouri Review. It’s called “A New Youth” and it’s about her moving to Tel Aviv in 1959. Debora lives in Belgium, but is joining at least one of the writing seminars in Jerusalem this summer! What about you?

3. The Writing Life

I’m in Waiting Mode. In Waiting Mode I check my email every hour to see if an editor at one of the large publishing houses in the US fell madly in love with my book, felt so passionate about the stories on Bethlehem Road that s/he has to buy, edit, produce, and market it at a time when book stores across America are closing and short story collections are about as much in demand as pet pigs.

Checking email every hour for an acceptance is not a healthy way to live.

I am way off balance.

For the two months before Waiting Mode, I was in Writing Novel Mode. That also wasn’t a healthy way to live. It gave me, for the first time in my life, a visual migraine. Actually, two, since I didn’t get the message after the first one. A visual migraine, also called an “aura,” is when you see the world as a cubist painting.

Being in Writing Novel Mode made me think that writing a novel should be a psychiatric diagnosis. It made me glad never to have written a novel before this, because it is a crazy way to live: no friends, no outings, no home cooked food, no patience. Waking up at 3:30 a.m. if a character discovers something big while I was sleeping. Working til 7 a.m. to get that big discovery onto the page. Back to bed to catch up on sleep. Up at 11 a.m. to reread the big discovery in the light of day, the discovery that now seems meager, pitiful, limp.

Way off balance, the Writing Novel Mode.

I listened to my body after two visual migraines. Slow down, take a rest, relax, my body said in the only language it knows.

I’m trying to relax in Waiting Mode, but it’s like taking a sunbath during a sandstorm.

Sometimes I entertain the fantasy that I could become a yoga teacher. How easy it would be to go to Wingate once a week for two, three, four years. Anything would be easier than trying to conjure characters that breathe and sneeze on the page, lead exciting lives full of action, suspense and depth, and then trying to sell these characters’ stories to a brilliant and successful Manhattan editor who is younger than my own children.

The question is: Do I have a choice?
Well, Yes.
Can I stop writing “my novel?”
Apparently, not.

Can I take away those quotation marks and take the work seriously, relax into it, dive deep and hope my oxygen will last until I come up for breadth without my entire beautiful world crumbling into a series of cubist formations?

Yes, if I write only an hour a day, rest, take a walk, breathe.

It’s all a matter of choice.

Have a great month,

About Judy Labensohn

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

2 Responses to May 2009 Newsletter

  1. sarita perel says:

    Between the Writing novel mode and the waiting mode you have not neglected the funny mode…and anyway, isn’t cubism just a funny way of seeing the world?
    all of us would be writers continue to be inspired by you and your newsletter.


  2. I got an article published in the Jerusalem Post today. Read it and enjoy!

    Yonatan Sredni


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