creative writing for Anglo-Israelis
ALEF- Organization for Refugee Support Haifa and The Writing Pad Invite you to
A Writing Workshop with Judy Labensohn: The Idea of Home
Thursday, October 21, 2021 9:30 AM – 1 PM
. . . Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore? . . . Carole King
WHAT: As someone who has moved 8 times in the past 23 years, Judy Labensohn is hyper-conscious of the idea of home and its siblings—hometown and homeland—as well as the changing memories these places elicit. This half-day workshop will explore the concept of home, using triggers from writers whose main themes are exile, language, and loss, such as Andre Aciman, Eva Hoffman, Ghassan Kanafani, and Rebecca Solnit. The purpose of the workshop is to generate new first drafts on a universal theme, using your specifics.
WHERE: Haifa, port city, has known anguished expulsions and redemptive arrivals. We will meet in Haifa’s Poetry Place, easily accessible by public and private transportation. Located in the heart of Hadar’s Talpiot Market, at 5 Sirkin Street, Poetry Place serves the literary community of local artists, students and lovers of literature in Israel’s north by hosting literature events, book launches, writing workshops for youth and adults, and story hours for children. Poetry Place offers easy accessibility, located on the ground floor. Covid 19 regulations from Ministry of Health will be followed.
WHEN: There is no better time to think about the idea of home than after Sukkot, the holiday of wandering. Thursday, October 21st 9:30 AM – 1 PM
WHO: Open to anyone who once had or is still searching for a home and wants to explore the subject through writing. All genres welcome.
HOW MUCH: All proceeds go to ALEF- Organization for Refugee Support Haifa. The minimum contribution is NIS 380. You can read about ALEF here:
HOW MANY: 14 participants maximum
HOW TO REGISTER: Email firstname.lastname@example.org saying you want to attend. She will send you links for payment, information re transportation, as well as readings and reading suggestions. Payment assures your registration.
WHO IS JUDY LABENSOHN: Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Labensohn has been mentoring writers and leading writing workshops in Israel since 2001 at The Writing Gym (Tmol Shilshom, Jerusalem) and The Writing Pad (Moshav Beit Zayit, Tel Aviv). In the 80s and 90s, she wrote a personal essay column for The Jerusalem Post and The Nation. Her writing has appeared in Kenyon Review, Lilith Magazine, and Creative Nonfiction, among other distinguished journals and magazines, as well as anthologies. For more information, visit www.writeinisrael.com
Come write in English in Haifa in order to support African refugees in Israel.
Classes you may have missed at The Writing Pad:
PLEASURES AND LANDSCAPES: A Travel Writing Workshop
with Rachel Donadio of The Atlantic Monday, July 1, 2019 9:30 – 3:30
Have you ever read something so vivid that you wanted to get on a plane immediately and follow in the writer’s footsteps? Or something that wonderfully transported you deep inside the pathways of the author’s mind? Sometimes we travel to get lost, sometimes to get found, sometimes to discover something about ourselves. Sometimes we even succeed. But how to write about the journey?
In this one-day workshop we’ll discuss the fluid definition of travel writing. We’ll read and discuss some prime examples of the form—including by Sybille Bedford, whose collection “Pleasures and Landscapes” inspired the workshop’s name—and do some practice exercises writing impressionistic postcards and sharing them with the group. Be prepared to bring a few examples of your favorite travel books or essays, if you want, and a few ideas of places you would like to write about.
The Sentence Wants to Celebrate: A Writing Workshop
with Judy Labensohn Thursday, March 7, 2019 9:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Yes, the sentence wants to celebrate, but so many writers put blocks in its way that it can’t express joy, sorrow or awe, let alone simple facts. What to do with these writers? I will try to show you how your sentences can sing and celebrate by playing with word choice, placement, order, sounds, meaning, and length. You will be amazed what your sentences can do, if you only let them.
In this workshop, we will read and analyze amazing sentences from the past and present, long and short, funny and sad, deep and superficial, high and low. Then we will look at your sentences. (Bring a short piece of writing in its first or fiftieth draft.) We will dive into your sentences to loosen or tighten them. Your sentences will breathe like never before.
Bring your erasures and scissors, because you will need them to release your sentences from the chains that bind them. Consider pliers as well. I will supply a garbage bag.
You’ve heard of clutter, no doubt. Maybe your home is full of it. Once you start clearing your sentences of clutter, you become ready to clean your house, as well. This alchemy works in the opposite direction, too. If you clean one drawer before the workshop, your sentences will thank you. They want to celebrate, for heaven’s sake.
Tracking Our Lives through Reflective Journaling:
A Workshop with Dr. June Leavitt Jan. 31, 2019 10 AM – 3 PM
In this seminar for writers, artists and all creative souls, we will learn how to become more intimate with our own experiences through the craft of reflective journaling. Unlike normative diary keeping, we begin with writing exercises that bring our focus to a recent cycle in our lives. We note down the atmosphere of the period, the people who were important to us, the projects we did, the sensations, images and insights that have stayed with us. We then expand upon our reflections on the period, through writing tasks that involve personification of events, dialogue, and the chronicling of memories. These creative techniques for digging deeper into our experiences can be applied by writers to gain more intimacy with their fictional or autobiographical characters.
Tracking our Lives through Reflective Journaling would not be complete without reading excerpts from the diaries of Virginia Woolf in the context of her very strange life. We will do this in order to compare her understanding of the diary genre with the evocative journaling methods we will be plying.
Participants are asked to bring a new, five-subject, ruled notebook to the workshop.
Sloth Writing: A Workshop with Judy Labensohn
Thursday, December 20, 2018 9:30 AM—2:30 PM
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’ . . .
Feelin’ Groovy by Simon and Garfunkel
If writing rapidly is like a leopard surprising its prey, sloth writing is a sloth contemplating that prey from all angles. Without sloth writing, you end up with a good or a shitty first draft. Just a first draft. With sloth writing, you can produce a hundred drafts and a publishable piece of writing.
Over the years of teaching groups of writers, as well as individual published writers, I’ve become a believer in slow writing. Coming on the heels of a rapid write, slow writing demands your spending time in each sentence, as if each word and its syllables were flowers growin’.
In this workshop for writers at all levels in all genres, after bursts of Rapid Writing, we will practice slowing down. We will use our own rapid writes as raw material. Group discussions will help writers dig deeper into their rapid writes. Bring a magnifying glass, or a metaphorical one. The goal is to help you appreciate the usefulness of the rapid write and the treasures of the slow write. You may not take home a finished piece, but you will learn to respect the process, which is slow, tedious and glorious.
If you want your writing to achieve focus and depth, slow writing is necessary. Think sloth. At most, think tortoise.
Whose Truth Is It Anyway?: Autofiction and Writing Family Stories with
Mother and Daughter Writers Judith Laurance and Tamsin Grey
Thursday, October 25, 2018 9 AM – 3 PM in Tel Aviv
To write about yourself and the people in your life is to accept that, in part, you are a bastard……you must face and come to understand your own demons.
“Ethics in Personal Writing,” by Debra Dickerson in Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, 2007
Judith Laurance and her daughter, Tamsin Grey, come from a family of story-tellers, diarists, memoirists and letter writers. Though the bulk of the written material sits on bookshelves and in drawers throughout England and France, a memoir of a mother by her daughter has been published (The World of an Insignificant Woman, Sabrina Press, 2012), and various works have been housed in British archives and museums. A set of letters was dramatized for BBC Radio 4.
The radio play caused friction among family members, as did a recent article in The Guardian, in which Grey describes helping her grandfather write a short memoir during his last illness. Was it Grey’s story to tell?
Laurance and Grey are fascinated by questions of truth and ownership, as they have conflicting memories of various shared family events. The way we remember things is idiosyncratic. Reporting one’s family experience always incurs the possibility of being challenged by those closest to the writer. Could auto-fiction—fictionalised autobiography that does away with plot and character development—help memoirists in their search for the most appropriate genre to tell their stories?
In this workshop, mother and daughter will discuss the choices available for family stories by drawing on examples from contemporary fictionalised autobiographies (auto fiction), such as My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard; Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn; Outline by Rachel Cusk; Crudo by Olivia Laing; and I Love Dick by Chris Kraus.
Laurance and Grey will discuss their own experiences of writing about family. Through writing exercises, sharing and discussion, Laurance and Grey will give participants tools to take a bold approach to their writing and to help them discover their own truths. They will offer suggestions on how and when to write those truths.
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Writing from the Immigrant’s Point of View: A Workshop with Judy Labensohn
Thursday, August 16, 2018 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM Tel Aviv-Yafo
“An exile reads change the way he reads time, memory, self, love, fear, beauty: in the key of loss.” “Shadow Cities” by Andre Aciman in Letters of Transit
Despite the Zionist ideology of ending the Exile, despite the tax-free car, the Next Year In Jerusalem, the status of “New Immigrant” (as opposed to a used one?), making Aliyah is not only choosing Israel, but also choosing immigration. Of the millions of immigrants and wannabe immigrants in the world today, we are the lucky ones. But we are still immigrants, experiencing that obsessive returning to the past felt by immigrants all over the world, the loss, an internal emptiness that has the potential to become the site of fulfillment.
Join me for a half-day of writing about displacement, as we analyze excerpts from personal essays by Andre Aciman, Eva Hoffman, Bharati Mukherjee and others. We will use these immigrant writers’ essays as inspiration for our own exercises, writing from the point of view of the immigrant.
Write Fast, Write Flash, a workshop with Jennifer Lang
Monday, June 18, 2018 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM in Tel Aviv
Flash is the art of distillation, a form that challenges the writer to create an entire universe in a compact space. There is no definitive word count for Flash—under 2000, 1000, 750, 250, 100 or maximum 6. The goal, regardless of the number, is to create a narrative that feels as expansive as a novel. While most writers associate Flash with fiction, Flash is equally present in creative nonfiction.
In this workshop prize-winning author, Jennifer Lang, will lead a discussion about Flash works in both genres. She will teach us how to write brief, descriptive, thought-provoking and urgent prose, in response to prompts. Some of the writers discussed will be Emma Sloley, Brian Doyle, and Aimee Bender, among others. The workshop is open to writers in all genres and at all levels.
Playing with Forms: A One-Day Writing Workshop
with visiting writer Melissa Mack
Monday, April 23, 2018 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM in Tel Aviv
“There is no creation without tradition; the ‘new’ is an inflection on a preceding form; novelty is always a variation on the past.” Carlos Fuentes
In this workshop of playful experimentation, we will explore how working with different forms can generate new writing. You will be introduced to various historical and contemporary forms, and then do writing exercises following the rules of each form. The forms we may experiment with include lists, news stories, the opinionated Wikipedia entry, the user guide, obituaries and wedding announcements, spells, manifestos, plays, micro-fiction, weather reports, prayers, song, and the serial tweet. In addition, we will play with prose forms and poetic forms and form’s cousins, constraints and “chance operations.”
The writers we will look to for formal inspiration may include Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde, Gertrude Stein, John Cage, Lydia Davis, James Joyce, Bhanu Kapil and M.F.K. Fischer.
Shifting the Gaze: Experiments in Writing Sex
a workshop with Amital Stern Thursday, December 7, 2017 in Tel Aviv
“He turned to her by the road and said,
“Come now, I pray thee, let me come in to thee” . . . Genesis 38:16
Writing sex can be tricky. Often writers play it safe, clinging to predictable tropes, repeating familiar language and narratives inherited through a history of airbrushed or fetishized portrayals. Other writers avoid writing sex at all. But like other acts of writing, writing sex is an encounter with the ugly-messy-vulnerable-pleasure-pain of human life.
This workshop is an invitation to an encounter: an experiment in which we will approach writing sex as entering unknown territory, leaving behind expectations, allowing for new language and form to emerge. Through these experiments in reading texts, watching movie scenes, and writing exercises, we will explore, deconstruct, and re-envision the sex scene.
We will consider questions such as: How do sex scenes set in liminal spaces play with boundaries of sacred/profane, danger/allure?
What does it mean to risk abjection in writing? Where do desire, disgust and creation intersect? Can depictions of pleasure be redeemed?
We will look at scenes from works by Eileen Myles’ Inferno, Book of Genesis 38, Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and texts by Audre Lord, Kathy Acker, and others.
This workshop is suitable for female identifying writers of all genres.
Writing the Multi Multi-Cultural Memoir
with Annette Gendler Thursday, July 13, 2017 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
Multiple languages, historical epochs, cultures and places can overwhelm the writer attempting to create a family memoir that spans centuries and continents. Annette Gendler dealt with these dilemmas in her memoir Jumping Over Shadows, published in April 2017, by hybrid publisher She Writes Press.
In Gendler’s workshop she will share the lessons she learned about how to make a complicated, multi-faceted story work. How does one find the right structure for a story with multiple threads? When do you translate and when do you leave material in its original language? How much research is too much? How do you smooth over the movement through time, bringing a lost world to life for today’s readers?
Participants will read short pieces by Edwidge Danticat, Mara Moustafine and Peter Balakian, among others, as well as do writing exercises, based on the participants’ sharing of their own challenges with their memoirs, no matter at what stage.
Mining for Gold: How to Use a First Draft
A Workshop with Judy Labensohn in Tel Aviv
Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 9:30 – 3:00
“The writer is the person who stays in the room.” Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson
In this workshop you will write a first draft of prose—essay, story or blog post. It may be, in the words of Ann Lamott,” a shitty first draft,” but there is always gold to be found in every first draft. We will share these first drafts with the small group. Together we will ask questions of each first draft until we find that gold.
Among the topics we will discuss are openings, time vs. associative progression, sentence structure, images, theme and word choice.
Later in the day we will begin working on the second draft. By the end of the workshop, participants will want to race home and continue writing. I believe that the more you understand the writing process—the more you know what questions you need to ask your first draft—the less anxiety you have about staying in the room. When you trust the process, it is easier to be a writer—that person who stays in the room and writes.
Me, Me, Me, and Other Pitfalls of Memoir:
A Workshop with Jessica Handler
November 17, 2016 9:15 AM – 3:15 PM Beit Daniel, Tel Aviv
A well-written memoir tells your story, but in order to capture your reader’s heart and imagination, the very best memoirs place the author’s personal story within the beauty and tragedy of the larger world. In this workshop, you will learn ways to develop your memoir or personal essay so that it resonates not only with you and yours, but with readers everywhere.
In the first half of this day-long workshop, we will examine leading examples of the contemporary and classic memoir and personal essay, and undertake writing exercises to learn craft approaches to help shape personal stories that resonate with readers. We will look at works by Joan Didion, Jo Ann Beard and others. Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing about Grief and Loss will be used as a resource, but is not required.
In the second half, we will convene for a facilitated, craft-focused discussion of our writing. Participants will gain strategies for writing memoir with insight, story-sense, integrity and connection to readers. This workshop is open to writers of all levels who want to write truthfully about themselves.
Writing the Light, Writing the Shadow –a Workshop with Poets Dara Barnat and Yosefa Raz Sunday, September 25, 2016 10 AM – 5 PM in Tel Aviv
As morning unfolds we will open our eyes to the world, blink in the sunlight, engage with the five senses, play, let the sun shine on our thoughts, memories, and experiences, so they are not feared, but illuminated. We will write with the energy given to us by the day. As Walt Whitman writes, “The feeling of health…the full-noon trill…the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.”
After a light lunch, as the shadows of the afternoon grow longer, we will write into our own shadows: entwining memories, myths, surrealist writing techniques, fairytales, and dreams. Our writing exercises will transform daily life, our day-work, into what Lyn Hejinian calls “night-work,” a raveling and unraveling of our everyday, a conversation with the dark that might yield a bit of shade, a cool cave-like breeze, coming from the unconscious.
This workshop, like the first workshop Barnat and Raz gave together at The Writing Pad in March, is appropriate for writers of prose and poetry at all levels.
Harnessing Time: How to Make the Past Vividly Present with Michael Golding, Winner of the 2016 Ferro-Grumley Award for A Poet of the Invisible World, Wed. June 15, 2016 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
Whether your writing travels to a faraway court in the fourteenth century or to the fragile landscape of your childhood, the world you depict must feel as vital as this very moment. When historical writing tells us “how it was,” it always falls short. It must tell us “how it is”—using another time and place to offer insight into the truth of being human.
In this master class, novelist and screenwriter Michael Golding will use readings, discussion, and exercises to show how both the fiction and non-fiction writer can bring historical settings to life. Whether you’re crafting a novel about Ancient Persia or writing a story about your grandmother, you will learn how to make the past vividly present.
Inimitable: Finding Your Voice as a Writer with Michael Golding, Thursday, June 16, 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
What makes a work compelling, more than anything else, is the distinctness of its writer’s voice. From Charles Dickens to Virginia Woolf to Kurt Vonnegut, great writers sound like no one but themselves.
How do you find your voice as a writer? How do you sharpen it? Trust it? Allow it to lead you to the stories that only you can tell?
In this master class, novelist and screenwriter Michael Golding will explore what makes a writer’s voice inimitable—and help you to make your own voice shine.
Beginning to Write Again
A Writing Workshop with Judy Labensohn Thursday, April 14, 2016 9 AM – 2 PM
in Tel Aviv
Can I still “write”? That is the question, you see. And now I will try to prove if the gift is dead, or dormant. Oct. 30, 1936 A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf
You haven’t written for several months, maybe years. Was the last time decades ago? You’d like to write again, to find out if the gift is dead or dormant. How to begin and when? April 14th certainly has its downside – eight days before the Seder, but every date has its downside when you doubt the gift is still alive.
Spring is a good season to begin, so on April 14th we will briefly discuss our non-writing lives and then spend the rest of the workshop writing. Lines of poetry and prose will act as prompts. For further inspiration, bring a small object that fits in your purse or carry-all.
We will read aloud to each other and provide the encouragement and support needed for writers beginning to write again. The crux of this workshop will be your generating new work that you can develop later at home. You will want to keep writing, because at this workshop you will reconnect with the thrill and find joy in the surprises writing reveals.
Suitable for all (non)writers of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.
Inward and Outward: A Workshop with Yosefa Raz and Dara Barnat Thursday, March 17, 2016 9:30 AM – 3:15 PM Tel Aviv
Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry. Muriel Rukeyser
How do you write about your everyday experience? How do you write about your regular places, the things that you see, furniture, pavement, your body? But also–how do you write through history, living through momentous times? How do you write about the news? In this workshop we will spend the morning writing about the micro-cosmos, the ant-trails of work and love we trace through our everyday lives, making cocoons from politics and history.
In the afternoon we will turn outward and consider different models writers have employed to write about social transformations, collective actions, fear, and hope in the macrocosm. We will think about writing, both prose and poetry, as an ever-dynamic process of inspirations and exhalation, witnessing our present moment, writ large and small. Among the writers we will read are Hannah Weiner, George Oppen, Marie Howe, Robert Haas, Channa Bloch and Gerald Stern.
Taught by poets, this workshop is suitable for both writers of prose and poetry.
Getting In and Out: Story Beginnings and Endings
a Master Class for writers of fiction and narrative non-fiction with Joan Leegant Thursday, February 25, 2016 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM Herzliya Pituach
Opening and closings are critical for good storytelling, yet they are difficult to craft. How, as Stephen King says, can a writer extend an appealing invitation at the opening, one that’s hard to refuse? And what makes a story feel complete when we reach the end? We all know some of the rules: Begin in media res, hook your reader from the first word, no starting with a dream or a ringing alarm clock, no ending with a Fedex package of insight. These are useful suggestions, but they won’t get you far when it comes to creating the best opening and closing for your unique narrative.
Creating such an opening and closing depends on the voice, tone, subject and overall sensibility of your tale, along with your alertness to what your story is telling you about itself. To write a successful opening and closing, you must learn to listen to your story.
In this class we will look closely at examples of great beginnings and endings by writers such as Edith Pearlman, Toni Morrison, Mary Karr, Raymond Carver, Anthony Doerr and others. We will also discuss how we, as writers, can create beginnings and endings by our openness to the most effective and alive possibilities our stories offer. We will do several lively exercises over the course of the day to put our insight and inspiration into practice.
Writing What You Don’t Know – The Art of Making Something Out of Nothing a workshop with Janice Weizman
Thursday, January 28, 2016 9:30 – 3:00 in Tel Aviv
Writing what you know is one of the cardinal rules of creative writing.
Or is it? What if you are the curious type who wants to envision what it’s like to be someone else, a character of a different age, gender, ethnicity, time period or a radically different psychological makeup? The good news is that writing is also about breaking rules and transcending your own reality in order to understand something new and identify with that which is “other.”
In this workshop we will look at examples of work by writers who dared to take on the challenge of writing outside their zone of familiarity. We will focus on what it takes to conjure up and bring to life a person, place, time or idea that has little to do with your own experience.
Or does it? Looking closely at writing by Nathan Englander, Jessamyn Hope, Jorge Luis Borges and Arthur Golden, we will examine the ways in which a writer can approach the challenges of character, setting, voice, and of course, empathy, in order to write fiction that requires a substantial imaginative leap and yet, feels psychologically authentic.
This workshop is for fiction writers at all levels and wannabe fiction writers. It will include many writing exercises. Along with your writing implements, bring your imagination, ready and willing to be well-oiled and coaxed into high gear.
Through the Looking Glass: Writing and Publishing Books for Children a workshop with Eva Weiss on Wednesday, December 23, 2015 10 AM – 1 PM
in Tel Aviv, new home of The Writing Pad
This workshop will examine the process of developing a manuscript for a children’s book. The aim is to guide aspiring writers through the process of translating their inspirations and first drafts into publishable manuscripts.
How do we approach the challenge of writing for children? The first step will he the examination of classic and contemporary books for children of diverse ages. We will read and analyze excerpts from picture books for toddlers and pre-schoolers, illustrated books for beginning readers and chapter books, with an eye to the way authors respond to children’s interests and needs at varied stages.
We will focus on illustrated classics such as Caps for Sale and Curious George and the delightful contemporary Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type. We will also touch upon changing perceptions of childhood in history and English literature, with a nod to the 19th century’s golden age of childhood and the works of Lewis Carroll. We will analyze characters, point of view, plots and the relationship between texts and illustrations, with an examination of the highly successful Amelia Bedelia and Junie B. Jones series.
The workshop will include writing prompts and exercises designed to help participants move forward with their own concepts for children’s books and works in progress. We will conclude with a discussion of the logistics involved with publishing a children’s book.
Writing Religious Experience, A Master Class with Ilana Blumberg
Thursday, August 6, 2015 9 AM – 3 PM
In this workshop, open to writers of both non-fiction and fiction, we will consider how we can write about spiritual encounters with fresh, evocative language that conveys to a wide audience the demands and rewards of genuine seeking or finding. We will address the following questions: How can we avoid the pitfalls of jargon, abstraction, and romanticisation and instead, offer accounts that will speak to readers of multiple faiths or no specific faith? How can we use the social and material dimensions of spiritual life to give heft to experience that tends to elude our efforts at description? How can the language of prayer help us as writers?
Guided writing exercises will allow us to write religious experience in dialogue with other forms of experience, and as scenarios in themselves.
Writers we will study together may include Patricia Hampl, Kathleen Norris and George Eliot.
Multiplexity in Narrative: A Look at Making Fiction Multiple and Complex
A Master Class with Fred Leebron
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 9 AM – 3:30 PM
Through examining passages from Welty, Fitzgerald, Ishuguro, Denis Johnson, Flannery O’Connor, and others, this seminar will examine both traditional and postmodern strategies to create stories and novels that are constantly engaging, universal, and real.
We will discuss three modes of defining narrative: Freytag’s triangle, Transport and Resonance, and The Three Elements of Story: Meaning, Content and Technique. Multiplexity in Narrative will focus on achieving Complexity of Character, Dialogue, Setting and Complication; as well as Complexity of Form/Structure and Texts/Voices.
Throughout the class, writers will be given prompts and strategies to try both in-session and at-home writing, and, from time to time, writers will be encouraged (but not required!) to share their writing. In addition, a month before the class, each participant will receive a thirty-five page (digital) course pack to reference throughout the session.
The master class is for writers of fiction at all levels.
The Segmented Essay, a Master Class with Judy Labensohn Thursday, May 28, 2015 9 AM – 3 PM
You’ve done your research, written some personal notes and interviewed a few people. Now it’s time to write your essay on birdwatching or the Intifada or your bar mitzvah. How to organize the material? The segmented essay –collage, montage, mosaic, episodic—offers an organizing principle that can be adapted to any subject matter. The white spaces between bodies of text signal to the reader that you are not on a linear chronological journey, but rather, one of imaginative associations and/or rhetorical devices.
The segmented essay can bring out your creativity in structuring your material so that the form is organic to the subject matter. Writing your essay can resemble child’s play.
In this class we will look at several examples of segmented essays that appear in The Next American Essay, (Annie Dillard, Susan Mitchell, Paul Metcalf, David Foster Wallace) Edited and Introduced by John D’Agata. We will focus on the relationship of the segments in each essay to each other. After studying these innovative forms, we will play together with your subject matter by discussing the various structures that your material can generate. We will write and share. Participants will leave this class with excitement and inspiration to go home and write a segmented essay.
“What I Really Want to Say Is…”
A workshop with Ruth Ebenstein on how to make your prose shine with specificity, power and emotion (and banish the flat and cliché)
Thursday, March 12, 2015 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Each of us has a trove of stories to tell—accounts of love and loss, betrayal and redemption, journeys of discovery. When we sit down to record those experiences that have seared our psyches and souls, we find that the results often fall flat. The emotional depth and vicissitudes of our journey get erased by explanation; our rendering is muted in cliché. As a result, our readers may walk away.
How can we write cinematic scenes that capture the tone, texture and tempo of our experiences? How can we write prose and poetry that pull readers in and make them stay?
In this workshop, open to writers of prose and poetry as well as curious readers, we will visit the characters, scenes and settings of authors who draw us in: Andre Dubus, Grace Paley, Joan Didion, Frank McCourt, and William Wordsworth, Robert Hayden and Elizabeth Bishop, among others. We will explore and discuss how they use language that works its way inside. Rolling up our sleeves, we will dig in to render the watershed moments of our own lives. Through exercises and writing prompts, we will practice specificity, concrete detail and emotion.
Sometimes, the things we want most to convey elude us. But when we succeed in writing from the gut and “saying what we really want to say,” great is our joy and satisfaction.
Paths & Directions: A Workshop on Writing and Dance with Miriam Rother and Judy Labensohn Thursday, February 26, 2015 Moshav Givat Ye’arim
Choreographer Miriam Rother and writer Judy Labensohn return for their second workshop together to enable you to write like you’ve never written before. You will be amazed at what you produce after simple dance exercises to music that loosen your body and open your imagination. You will follow paths and directions that begin in your body, move into the room, turn, backtrack and move forward, eventually ending on the page. During the course of the day your writing will become lively and your movement more meaningful.
This workshop, held in beautiful Givat Ye’arim in the Jerusalem hills, is suitable for men and women of all ages, writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, those who dance and those who don’t. It is also suitable for people with physical challenges, thanks to Rother’s vast experience working with physically-challenged adults. Personal boundaries are totally respected throughout the workshop.
Give Sorrow Words: A Writing Workshop on Grief with Judy Labensohn Thursday, February 12, 2015 , Beit Zayit
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak/ Whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break. Macbeth, Act. IV, Scene 3 William Shakespeare
This is a workshop for those who experienced a death in the family when they were under the age of eighteen. It will be especially helpful for those who grew up in families that discouraged the open expression of grief.
Perhaps your heart did not break. You coped, but your headaches, chronic pain, tics, apathy, frustrating relationships or tens of other symptoms and addictions that have accompanied you through your life might be connected to that unexpressed grief. Unresolved grief goes underground, but does not disappear. It compounds and complicates future losses.
Over the past thirty years, while Labensohn has worked on her own memoir of grief, she developed a range of writing exercises that helped her recreate a lost past in the center of which was a death in her family. She hopes these exercises will help others explore the many feelings, expressions and sounds of sorrow. In addition to these exercises, participants will use elegies and short prose pieces by contemporary writers to trigger their own writing. The process of giving sorrow words is slow and difficult work, but with each exercise, a minute internal shift occurs in the writer, like a sliver of light beginning to shine on what feels like an endless bog of darkness. Short prose and poetry writing exercises can loosen the grief from “the frozen sea within” (Kafka) and make it accessible.
The emphasis in the workshop is always on the writing, the creation, re-creation, structuring and re-structuring of detailed, precise prose.
Home & Away (and Back): A Master Class with Linda Zisquit Jan. 22, 2015
In this class, open to both poets and prose writers, experienced and new writers, we will discuss the idea of home – the sounds, colors, smells and other sensual qualities of those childhood places, as well as significant experiences—leaving those places, returning through writing, remembering turning points around specific events and people, journeys away and towards those places we call “home.” We will read Biblical texts that focus on journeys and looking back, as well as modern poems that embrace sacred texts. And we will write our own pieces—“poem epiphanies”—on these poignant excursions.
Writing The Other, Writing The Self: An Exploratory Workshop Thursday, December 11, 2014
The Benedictine Monastery, Abu Ghosh
In these trying and painful times, we find ourselves grappling with Otherness that is raw, real and frightening. As writers, how can we draw from this experience and deepen our understanding of peoples who are not like us? How can we examine the acute Otherness found even in our parents, siblings, spouses, children, and, dare we say, ourselves?
This workshop will be held in a locale that invites us to do just that: the Crusader Benedictine Monastery in Abu Ghosh. We will begin our journey in this serene setting with a tour led by Brother Olivier, who will share his story of passage from the French navy via Paul Newman’s portrayal of Uri in the movie “Exodus” to becoming an Israeli citizen.
Stimulated by these sights and sounds, we will unpack the concept of “Other” and see how it surfaces, or slips away, in our writing. What is the meaning of its presence—or its absence? Ruth Ebenstein, journalist, blogger and author of a memoir, will explore and discuss how different authors tackle the topic of Otherness, drawing from Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language and Krista Bremer’s My Accidental Jihad: A Love Story, among other writers. Ebenstein will share the challenges she has faced in writing a memoir about her close friendship with Ibtisam Erekat, a Muslim woman from Abu Dis, whom she met through their Israeli-Palestinian breast cancer support group.
Through writing prompts, we will flesh out Otherness on the page. With a little luck, we will find that this journey sheds light on the very person we hope most to better understand – ourselves.
Twist and Write: A Workshop on Movement and Writing with Miriam Rother and Judy Labensohn Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 Moshav Giv’at Ye’arim
A body that turns and twists, stretches and writes. That’s what you will experience at this unique workshop led by choreographer Miriam Rother and writer Judy Labensohn. According to Rother, physical movement resembles the English language. It is ever-changing and unbridled by an overseeing academy.
In this workshop physical movement will elicit writing and writing will elicit movement. Rother will use clear directions to invite participants to move, based on decades of experience in expressive movement. Labensohn will encourage you to use these movements to expand the boundaries of your fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. Your writing will become more lively, your movement more meaningful.
Come take advantage of the opportunity to create a unique movement language, a dialect in which you will feel at home in both dancing and writing, to explore the endless relationships between writing and movement, to twist and write, write and twist.
This workshop is suitable for men and women of all ages, writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry who have no dance or movement experience and dancers or movement therapists who have no writing experience. It is also suitable for those with physical challenges, thanks to Rother’s vast experience working with this population. Although this may be a mixed group, personal boundaries will be respected.
The most important figures in our early lives are our parents. Our earliest memories are bound up with them and they determine much of our childhood life. Many of us seek to write about them later, but are faced with a variety of questions, ethical and practical. How can we write about our parents honestly yet ethically? What stories are for telling and how should they best be told? How do our own memories of childhood, in particular, need shaping and new understanding as we ourselves age? And what is it like to be an adult and yet be the child of parents? How do our parents change shape in our memories and imaginations as they move into old age?
This workshop will examine literary models applicable for fiction and nonfiction writers. Writing exercises will be tailored to the group, but will likely focus on inhabiting a child’s perspective; moving between two time frames (past and present); finding a narrating voice suited to exploring parent-child relations.
The novel is one of the great forms of Western Literature: deep, expansive, a mythic journey that yields endless rewards. Perhaps you yearn to write one. Or perhaps you would like to bring the richness and complexity of the novel to your stories, essays or poems.
In this master class, novelist and screenwriter Michael Golding (Simple Prayers, Benjamin’s Gift, Silk) will discuss the art of the novel. In addition to offering a brief history of the form and insights into its basic elements, he will give you ideas on how to give shorter fiction a novelistic depth. Writing exercises will help you discover whether an idea is truly the seed of a larger work that will—in the words of Henry James—“lift up the heart.”
Thursday, June 5, 2014
We all know the power of being fully immersed in a fictional world. We feel as if we’ve stepped into a landscape more vivid and real than our own lives. Most writers take care to create that landscape with strong visual images. The cracks in the pathway that leads to the empty house. The streaks of red in the sky at sunset. But what about the other senses? Can your readers hear the rumble of the traffic on the highway? Can they smell the tar on the beach or taste the sweetness of the grapes? Can they feel the icy air against their cheeks?
In this master class, novelist and screenwriter Michael Golding (Simple Prayers, Benjamin’s Gift, Silk) will use readings, discussion, and exercises to explore how the writer can strengthen his or her use of the senses to create a fictional world so compelling the reader will not want to leave it. Whether you are a beginning writer or an experienced one looking to go deeper, you will discover how evoking the senses can transform your writing.
Each art must nourish the other, each one can add to the other. I would take into writing what I learned from dancing, what I learned from music, what I learned from design. A Woman Speaks by Anais Nin
The arts have a profound way of connecting to one another, thus connecting us to the arts. We say, “That painting moved me,” and “A picture paints a thousand words.” After a gentle meditative movement warm-up, participants in this workshop will explore how writing resonates with and echoes other arts—photography and drawing. The goal of the workshop is to enable the participants to deepen their writing through exercises in drawing and photography. No previous experience in the arts is needed. Writing exercises will be shared with the class. The atmosphere will be playful, improvisational and nurturing.
The Art of Beginnings and Ends: A Master Class with
Have you been trying to write a book, but finding it difficult to design an overarching structure that works? How do you decide where to end a chapter and begin a new one?
In this workshop, we’ll look at the important art of beginning and ending chapters. We’ll examine ways that writers can use their chapters or other section breaks as opportunities to hold the reader’s attention and propel the story. We will read some examples of narratives with successful structures in contemporary fiction and creative nonfiction with an eye towards discovering new strategies for shaping our own writing.
We’ll pay particular attention to how good writers use plot, sequencing, foreshadowing and dramatic tension to create what Wayne Johnson, a prize-winning author and expert on novel structure at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, calls “forward lean.”
Dr. June Leavitt Thursday, March 20, 2014
Franz Kafka, after staying up all night to compose a short story, wrote in his diary, “The fearful strain and joy. In this way only can writing be done; only with such coherence; only with such a complete opening out of body and soul.”
For those who are intrigued by Franz Kafka or would like to be, in this one-day seminar at The Writing Pad, we will explore the deeper realms of literary creativity through some of Kafka’s lesser known prose. What did Kafka mean by “the fearful joy of writing?” After all, he burned most of his stories once they were completed. Why did his writing demand a complete opening up of body and soul? Why was he willing to do this when he suffered from insomnia and tuberculosis? These are some of the questions we will ask as we learn about Kafka’s life. Then, basing ourselves on methods he seems to have used to “open out the soul,” we will do some writing exercises to tap into the wells of creativity.
A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, “Do you think I could be a writer?”
“Well,” the writer said, “I don’t know …Do you like sentences?” from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
If you like, preferably love, sentences, this class is for you. I’ve discovered two sources I want to share with you during this day of dissections: Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11721647-building-great-sentences and “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place,” by Gary Lutz http://www.believermag.com/issues/200901/?read=article_lutz
Using Landon and Lutz as guides, we’ll learn the secrets of successful sentences, both long and short. We’ll learn new words like “consecution” and “sibilance,” strategies used to ensure that each sentence you write forms a community. A community? By the end of the day we will appreciate what that means and why it’s important.
For inspiration we will analyze great sentences by George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bruno Schulz, Annie Dillard and Joan Didion, among others. Inspired, we will write our own great sentences. Remember those weird trapezes we drew in junior high with words dangling at all angles? This master class will be nothing like that, but if you loved diagramming sentences, you’ll love learning how to write long sentences that propel the narrative and short sentences that dazzle.
Bring one page of your writing to the class for you to rewrite during the day. Bring, too, your magnifying glass, because we are going to dive deep into the spell of sentences.
Wish You Were Here: Writing about Place A Workshop with Ayelet Tsabari Thursday, January 23, 2014,
You couldn’t write a story that happened nowhere. ―Eudora Welty
Evoking a profound sense of “being there” in writing is one of the most important elements of prose. It is one way of immersing the reader in what John Gardner called “the fictional dream.” Mastery of place involves more than just using descriptive words. Vivid setting emerges as much from the character’s point of view, actions and voice as it does from imagery, sensory details, and figurative language.
Participants in this workshop will learn new techniques to approach writing about place. We will begin thinking about place as a potential character in stories and creative nonfiction. Drawing from examples by successful practitioners of the craft and through guided writing exercises, we will learn how to use setting as the basis for creating dramatic and engaging prose.
This workshop is designed for both fiction and creative nonfiction writers at all levels. Each participant is asked to bring a writing sample of 1-3 pages, preferably one that engages with place in some way.
I have been told, both in approval and in accusation, that I seem to love all my characters. What I do in writing of any character is to try to enter into the mind, heart, and skin of a human being who is not myself. Whether this happens to be a man or a woman, old or young, with skin black or white, the primary challenge lies in making the jump itself. It is the act of a writer’s imagination that I set most high. —Eudora Welty
Creating, understanding, and conveying character are among the writer’s greatest challenges. Writing about people, real or imagined, tests not only our technical ability, but also our mettle in turning over psychological stones we might otherwise leave undisturbed. Successful character development sets plots in motion, commandeers readers’ loyalty, and draws the reader into moral challenges otherwise inaccessible. When done well, character development is an emotional magnifying glass, through which even the most ordinary events can appear momentous.
The process by which an author comes to understand his or her characters is highly individual. Some writers keep diaries for their characters; some conduct character-interviews; others take wholly different approaches. In this workshop, we will discuss pros and cons of several approaches to revealing character. We will read together, write together, and consider the technical and emotional challenges of allowing our characters their full humanity. Most importantly, we’ll push ourselves to let our characters delight us, disturb us….and lead us, one sentence at a time, into the terrains of human experience we find richest and most compelling. This class is suitable for writers of both fiction and creative nonfiction.
Getting It Done:
Do you have a piece of writing—a story, essay, book—waiting for you in your desk drawer or saved somewhere on your computer? Have you been successfully resisting working on it? What would it take for you to get back to it? What would it take for you to finish your work?
This workshop is about taking that deep breath and renewing your commitment…again and again. You will acquire helpful management tools to keep you on track, on the ball and on time. This is a hands-on practical workshop to learn how to use new tools. You will practice them and share the results. Expect insights, breakthroughs and new possibilities for managing your time and your writing so you can complete your work.
From Annie Kantar: Aristotle said that of all the figures of speech, metaphor brings us the most pleasure. Far from being merely decorative, metaphor brings a writer’s private associations into view, making meaning out of them that is as much semantic as it is visceral. As the word’s Greek root suggests, metaphor “carries across” from one realm to the next, linking what are often otherwise disparate modes of thinking, feeling, and seeing.
In our workshop, we will dig into a variety of ways this favorite figure of speech is used (and abused). We’ll explore what works and what doesn’t, and expand our sense of what qualifies as “creative” or “imaginative” language. As we practice the strange and often mysterious combination of understanding, skill and receptivity that go into making connections that quietly surprise and sometimes even astonish, we’ll learn how to make use of metaphor as a way of clarifying the subtler registers of our experience.
Techniques of Reflection and Contemplation in the Personal Essay and Memoir: A Master Class with Sherri Mandell September 11, 2013
What differentiates both the personal essay and memoir is the quality of reflection. In this workshop, we will practice simple techniques that enhance contemplation in our writing so that our essays become richer and more textured. We will learn to slow down the text so that we can manage both the concrete details of scene and action, as well as meditate on experience through speculation, imagination, association and interpretation.
You’ve written a first draft of your story or essay. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. But how do you take your work from that unpolished, awkward first draft to a piece of accomplished writing that attracts readers? The answer, of course, is revision—the difficult and often challenging process by which you return to your story or non-fiction piece, this time as an editor.
We’ll talk about common problems of first drafts, looking closely at language, exposition, pacing and structure, as well as what you need to focus on when you sit down to edit your work. We’ll discuss how a draft might open itself to new possibilities, how to figure out what’s missing and cut what’s superfluous. This seminar is for those who have completed a story, chapter of a novel or essay in need of revision. Taking cues from David Michael Kaplan’s Revision, and Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, our goal will be to set you on your way to resolving problems and looking at your own work with a critical eye.
The question of voice is crucial, and it is a question that comes up anew with each story we write, whether fiction or nonfiction. Each one of us plays many different roles in our lives: We are mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, friend. From this multitude of selves, how do we choose which one of us should write the story we want to tell? And do we choose this persona, or are we chosen by it?
Vivian Gornick writes in The Situation and the Story, ” . . . the creation of such a persona is vital in an essay or a memoir. It is the instrument of illumination. Without it there is neither subject nor story. To achieve it, the writer of memoir or essay undergoes an apprenticeship as soul-searching as any undergone by novelist or poet: the twin struggle to know not only why one is speaking but who is speaking.” Together, we will briefly look at excerpts from Philip Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint and his memoir Patrimony, and two essays from Nora Ephron’s collection I Remember Nothing, in an attempt to understand the importance of finding the right voice for the story we wish to tell. We will also further consider what Gornick, Pico Iyer and other writers have to say on the subject of voice. And then, using the bulk of our time to write and respond to each other’s writing, we will begin the process of discovering some of our own voices.
Writing about family is one of our richest sources for memoir. But it can also be one of the most difficult. Where to start in writing about the families we grew up in and the families we have since founded or entered into? How can we balance the demands for truth and the wish to exercise empathy and compassion as we recall and describe the people we have lived with in close quarters and relations? And how can we write about ourselves and our family ties in ways that get beyond cliché and old assumptions to offer new understandings that shed light on the families we build as adults and the selves we seek to be? Working from some exemplary texts, we will both analyze models of writing that achieves such depth and interest, and begin to work on our own.
“Truth,” the writer George Saunders said, “resides at the level of the sentence.” But how do we find those sentences, the ones that ring with revelation and truth? Is this something that’s accomplished only on rewriting, or is there a way to approach the act of composition that allows us to create work that’s fresh, alive and true?
In this one-day intensive class for writers of fiction and narrative non-fiction, we will look at ways to allow our language, rather than our pre-conceived ideas, to drive our narratives. Through readings, exercises, and writing, we will consider what is needed in the act of composing in order to discover our characters and uncover our stories so that our work is as vivid and true as we can make it.
If you would like to receive announcements re The Writing Pad, email me at email@example.com and I will add your name to the mailing list.
Location 2013-2015: The Writing Pad hosts full-day or half-day writing classes in Moshav Beit Zayit.
All events are for men and women, unless otherwise stated.
I look forward to greeting you at The Writing Pad, no matter where it is.
Posted in April 2013:
I’ve rented a writing room of my own, a seven minute walk from my home, in Moshav Beit Zayit. Inside are a desk, sink, fridge and tea kettle. Also a toilet. Outside, a cozy deck overlooks a plant nursery. Two tables that seat fifteen people fit on the deck. Olive and lemon trees border the deck on one side and a trampoline on the other. Beyond the trampoline live two horses. On the horizon the jagged pines of the Jerusalem hills comb the sky.
What more does one need to start a new venture?
Welcome to The Writing Pad, first cousin to The Writing Gym. In Beit Zayit, ten minutes west of Jerusalem, I plan to organize monthly writing events for Anglo-Israeli writers.
The summer 2013 season opens with Joan Leegant (www.joanleegant.com) on May 22nd leading a class on “Letting Language Drive the Narrative” (Sold Out!) followed by Ilana Blumberg (http://www.aauw.org/2008/11/07/meet-ilana-blumberg/ ) on June 20th (details available at the end of April.)
Local and visiting writers will give all-day, half-day or two-day master classes.
Let the wild rumpus begin!
If you would like to receive updates about the monthly programs at The Writing Pad, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will add your name to my mailing list. Events fill up quickly, so don’t obsess for long.
If you are a visiting writer with extensive teaching experience, feel free to contact me months before your visit to Israel with an idea for a master class.
I look forward to helping create a nurturing environment for Anglo writers in Israel.
I look forward to sharing this glorious green corner of calm with you.
Now, excuse me while I run over to The Writing Pad to say a Shechechiyanu.