Elul 2010 Newsletter

creating community for English writers in Israel

Dear Friends,

It’s been a long time since my last newsletter.  Some of you have told me you miss receiving my newsletters, which, of course, made me feel good. I tried to figure out why I wasn’t producing and the only diagnosis I’ve been able to come up with is this: WRT (Writer’s Rejection Trauma).

After the twenty largest publishing houses in NYC rejected my story collection, I was devastated. No matter that the publishing industry collapsed at the same time, that some of the editors never bothered to read the stories, or that editors and agents were losing their jobs. I was a failure.

Fortunately, I’ve overcome the trauma, gotten back on track and though I don’t know when the next newsletter will come out, I do know that my attitude towards publishing is healthier than it was a year ago.

Publishing an old-fashioned paper book depends on so many variables over which the author has no control, so during the past year I learned to read Torah trope. I organized myself a bat mitzvah in July (Parashat Matot-Masei). This was a great challenge, one of the hardest cognitive things I’ve ever chosen to do. I had a marvelous teacher and lots of moral support, so I knew I had to follow through. The bat mitzvah was not dependent on an agent, publisher or industry. It was all up to me. This total sense of responsibility was both scary and empowering.

As a writing teacher and as coordinator of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan, I encounter many people who come to writing late in life. Suddenly, at the age of 40, 60, or 80 they want to write a book. And do. These amazing and wonderful people set themselves a goal and achieve it.

For me, writing was never like that. From the moment I learned script with the Palmer method in second grade, writing was the only language I trusted. It was the only way I knew to explore my inner world. It was the only thing that brought me total happiness because it was totally mine. Nobody could tell me what to write, when to write and if to write. It was my Land of the Free. I wrote for myself and never had any writing goals.

Ten years ago I became aware of The Reader. That happened in the margins of an essay I wrote while working towards my MFA in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. “Will the reader understand this?” my mentor scrawled. His question knocked me out. The reader?  Who cares about the reader, my automatic pilot said.

Oops. Big lesson. Worth the total cost of the MFA.

It was easy to write for myself. It’s much harder to write for an audience.

I over-reacted to not getting my collection of short stories published in the traditional way. I relied too heavily on an agent. Not only did I take the rejections to heart (and ignored the praiseworthy comments in the letters), I added my own rejection. All those nasty voices that live inside us and belittle us whenever the environment is ripe for belittlement had their field day.  I gave them the microphone, turned up the volume, sat in the first row and listened, shaking my head in agreement.

This email was meant as an apology, an explanation for not sending a newsletter months ago, but it has morphed into a short essay for The Writing Life. Which means that all the information below must be the next newsletter.

I can’t promise when the one after this will come, so if you have timely material, don’t rely on me.  Do send me your publication news, though.

This could become an annual newsletter, in which case it’s not very newsy, more like one of those family letters some people send to everyone they know to assure them that nobody has died during the past twelve months.

I wish you all long life.  May all our rejections be only from editors and not from ourselves and those whom we love.

And may we set writing goals and yes, even achieve them.

Shana Tova,


My Writing Classes

This year I will teach a year long writing course at David Yellin College in Jerusalem, So You Want to Write . It will meet on Wednesdays from 5:45-7:15  from Oct. 13th.  The class is part of a larger program on Publishing Studies.  We will read and write in many genres.  This is the link:  http://www.dyellin.ac.il/template/default.asp?PageId=2351&parentId=2357&catId=281&maincat=9  About NIS 240/ month.

I also have two openings in my Friday morning workshop. This group meets every other Friday from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. in my home in Moshav Beit Zayit, ten minutes west of Jerusalem. This workshop is for people who are working on fiction, creative nonfiction or pieces in search of a genre and want intelligent feedback from excellent readers. There are occasional in-class writing exercises.  Begins October 3rd  through May 2011. NIS 100/session in post-dated checks. Email judylabensohn@gmail.com

News from You

 Call for poetry submissions:  Voices Israel proudly sponsors the 21st International Reuben Rose Poetry Contest to be judged by Seymour Mayne.  Prizes up to $500. Entry fee.  Deadline Oct. 1.  Details:   http://www.freewebs.com/voicesisrael/

7 Writing Coaches and 1 Editor

  • Reva Mann keeps you writing. See www.writehelpnow.com
  • Shifrah Devorah Witt at http://www.adwitt.blogspot.com  offers manuscript development and private Writing to Heal sessions.  Tel. 0548018483
  • Ilene Prusher at Tel. 02-6749005 or 0545212777
  • Diane Greenberg at Tel. 02-6719546
  •  Gila Green will lead a women’s group and a virtual group in October.  See  http://gilatal.blogspot.com
  • Ruth Fogelman leads a woman’s writing workshop at the Israel Center in Jerusalem.  email rf97601@yahoo.com
  • Dara Barnat will lead a writing class in Tel Aviv for women from Oct. 3rd.  email darabarnat@yahoo.com
  • Susan Kennedy edits literary manuscripts. Tel. 0524462302

Books Published



Ruth Mason’s first documentary, These are My Names, will have its first showing on Oct. 18th , 6p.m. at the Ashkelon Academic College. The movie explores the Ethiopian Israeli experience through the prism of the immigrants’ Amharic names. See http://www.ruthfilms.com/these-are-my-names.html

A Room With a View

Full board and room with WiFi for writers at Kibbutz Samar in the Arava. Call Ilene at 052-458 7192.

Don’t forget. If you win a prize or publish something this year, send me all the details:  title, name of publication, publisher, date, mode, links.


About Judy Labensohn

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

5 Responses to Elul 2010 Newsletter

  1. Eve Tal says:

    WRT – having been there too many times, I really feel for you. It is so hard to get up from the floor (or the cellar) after rejection and just keep on writing. If there’s a secret recovery formula, someone could make a fortune.
    Mazel Tov on your Bat Mitzvah!
    Hope to have another newsletter very soon.
    Shana Tova – Eve


  2. Lily says:

    Just continue to write and inspire other writers too.


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