Elul 2009 Newsletter

creating community for English writers in Israel


  1. Events and other information
  2. Your publications and prizes
  3. The Writing Life

1. Events and other information

  • On Sept. 7th at 7 PM storyteller Donna Jacobs Sife from Australia will present an evening of stories from world folklore, drama and writing exercises at the Stern House in Jerusalem, 34 Tura Street, Yemin Moshe. Sife will show how to let metaphor speak for itself. See www.donnajacobsife.com This program is sponsored by The Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University. Limited seating. Reservations a must at: judylabensohn@gmail.com NIS 30 entrance fee.
  • Evan Fallenberg is hosting “Crossing Genres,” a writing retreat at Ma’aleh Hachamisha Hotel on Oct.28-30, 2009 for all writers at all levels. This retreat will enable you to learn about and try your hand at various genres. Teaching creative nonfiction will be Sherri Mandell; playwriting, Madelyn Kent; poetry, Jennie Feldman; and fiction Evan Fallenberg. For full details and bios of instructors, go to www.evanfallenberg.comand click “writing retreats.” Register now!
  • Here’s a partial list of creative writing teachers in Israel:

    When choosing a teacher/mentor/writing coach, check for good chemistry, teaching experience and publishing credentials. Don’t be afraid to meet with a few teachers until you choose one. Do not rely only on family and friends for helping you grow as a writer. Find yourself a qualified instructor or certified writing program that will push you to become the best writer you can.

  • For a good listing of literary magazines, go to Poets & Writers Magazine online at http://www.pw.org/literary_magazines?apage=*
  • Bar-Ilan is inaugurating the Creative Writing Semester in Israel in February 2010. This 5-month program is for college students (20 or older) to spend the spring semester at Bar-Ilan concentrating on creative writing. Please pass the word to friends and family abroad. Web site should be operable within days at www.cwsiprogram.orgMadelyn Kent, a playwright and new immigrant from New York, is the founder and coordinator of this exciting project.

2. Your publications and prizes

  • Yakov Azriel, who did the poetry track at Bar-Ilan, was awarded a fellowship from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (NewYork) for 2009-10. His third book of poems, Beads for the Messiah’s Bride: Poems on Leviticus, recently published by Time Being Books, has been nominated for the 2009 National Jewish Book Award in poetry.
  • Glimmer Train has awarded Ruth Abraham, currently in the fiction track at Bar-Ilan, an Honorable Mention for a short story. Abraham’s story was in the top 5% of over 1,000 entries.
  • Yonatan Sredni,a graduate of the fiction track from Bar-Ilan, has been publishing columns in The Jerusalem Post online and in print editions. Google him to read his articles.
  • Mike Benn has been published several times during the summer in Upfront, the weekend edition of The Jerusalem Post. His articles also appear online.
  • Tania Hershman’s short story collection The White Road and Other Stories was commended by the judges of the 2009 Orange Prize for New Writers (England). She is also the Grand Prize winner of the 2009 Binnacle International Ultra-Short Competition. Her first published poem is included in the summer issue of Contrary Magazine (http://www.contrarymagazine.com/Contrary/Baby.html) The bad news (for us) is that Tania is moving to Bristol “for a few years” at the end of August. We wish her well and look forward to following her continued success.
  • A couple of Eva Eliav’s flash stories have been accepted for publication in The St. Ann’s Review and Horizon (online lit. journal).
  • Cradled in God’s Arms, a book of poetry and photography by Ruth Fogelman is now available. Visit http://www.geocities.com/jerusalemlives. Ruth graduated from the poetry track at Bar-Ilan.
  • Batsheva Pomerantzhas self-published a collection of her writings entitled To Walk Four Cubits: Forty Pieces in Honor of Forty Years in Israel. For purchasing, contact Batsheva at bdpom@netvision.net.il
  • Jeffrey Green’s story “Overlaps” appeared in the online Vox Humana Literary Journal. See http://voxhumana-lit.com/?p=162
  • I am especially excited to announce that Dina Wyshogrod Zlotogorski’s book about her relationship with her late and beloved mother has been accepted for publication by SUNY Press. I am proud to have been one of the midwives for this wonderful book.

Congratulations to all these writers on their publishing successes. If you have published a poem, story or book, or won a literary prize, please let me know by emailing me the exact details and I will spread the word. Know that your success inspires others in Israel to send their writing into the world.

3. The Writing Life

One of the best reasons to attend a writing retreat or seminar is that listening to experienced writers can inspire you to go back to your own work and see it with fresh eyes. A writing retreat can jump start a new piece of writing or encourage you to experiment with a new genre.

As organizer of the writing seminars held this summer at the Stern House, under the auspices of The Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, I was fortunate to be able to listen to and learn from two fabulous teacher/writers—Ilana Blumberg and Ehud Havazelet. When I recovered from the physical strain of eight days of total concentration, I was eager to tackle (again) my own short story collection, which I hadn’t been able to look at for six months. (Flannery O’Connor’s term for such a work is opus nauseous.)

On looking with fresh eyes, I saw new flaws. Rather than feel discouraged, I felt elated, because now I knew how to fix them, armed as I was, as were all the participants in these  seminars, with a quiver full of craft techniques. One of those techniques is to turn your story (article, poem, novel, play) upside down and see what falls out. This is the way O’Connor describes the technique in a 1954 letter to her friend, Elizabeth Fenwick, whose novel was rejected.

“I hope the novel proves to be retrievable. I enjoy retrieving mine better than I do writing them. Perhaps you finished it under a strain. Try rearranging it backwards and see what you see. I thought this stunt up from my art classes, where we always turn the picture upside down, on its two sides, to see what lines need to be added. A lot of excess stuff will drop off this way.”

My excess prose rained down on me on a hot summer day. Most of it was the narrator interpreting the action to the reader, or the writer telling the reader See how clever I am. No reason to hit the reader over the head. Assume your reader is intelligent. Show, and your reader will follow. These are basic lessons, but we have to constantly relearn them.

Another basic truth for most writers comes from Ilana Blumberg’s talk on “Meditation and Action in Nonfiction.” Almost all writers need to slow down. I think this is marvelous advice. Stay with your narrator or character while s/he looks out the kitchen window, rides the subway, climbs the Gilboa. Slow down. Look. See. Smell. Touch. Hear. Give the reader the world filtered through your character/narrator’s imagination or memory. Know that in all description and meditation the seeds of action and plot lay dormant, waiting.

I wish you all a year of wonderful writing retreats, stimulating seminars, intelligent writing groups and supportive mentors—whatever it takes to keep you writing your best.

Shana Tova,

About Judy Labensohn

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

2 Responses to Elul 2009 Newsletter

  1. Judy – thank you, for your lovely message and for your service to the writers of Israel!


  2. Lois Michal Unger says:

    Judy, your blog is personal and generous…Lois


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