I’m giddy to let you know that my lyric essay memoir, ‘Til I Am, was chosen as a finalist for the Autumn House Press full-length book prize for the 2nd year in a row. Maybe the second time is the charm? Cross your fingers, cast your spells, say your prayers.
These days, I am actively trying to cultivate self-confidence during a stretch of life in which my self-confidence is waning. (From what my 40+ female friends tell me, I’m not alone.) That said, from time to time, the confidence of the Self benefits from the love and appreciation of the outside world.
An unexpected email last night from my editor at District Lit led to a huge boost in productivity and output. I woke up to an urge to clean the fridge, sweep the floors, then work on a essay chapbook I’m hoping to submit next month.
After that, I dug up an old, short flash CNF piece I never quite perfected, edited it and submitted it.
What’s gotten into me? For sure, a healthy dose of acknowledgement, which isn’t so bad, really, as long as it’s not the only drug you’re into.
Head on over to District Lit to see which two pieces were nominated. While you’re there, please check out the work of the other nominees, too, in poetry and fiction.
I recently interviewed Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir for Drunken Boat’s blog.
Above and beyond the interesting tidbits about her process writing the book, Sarah provides wisdom for emerging writers on how to navigate the potential strains writing about family or friends can have on relationships:
“Don’t overcome your fear of writing your truth in spite of potential fallout. Keep that fear, because you need it. It will guide you to make better decisions about what you do and don’t want to become public knowledge about your private life and the private lives of those around you.”
Read the full interview.
The winner will only be announced at the end of the summer, but for now I’m pretty excited to join the high-caliber writers of nonfiction on the list of finalists for the Autumn House Press 2016 full-length book contest.
Cross your fingers…
I so enjoyed Little Labors, the latest book out from award-winning novelist Rivka Galchen. A stunning, intimate, but thoughtful hybrid work, Little Labors is definitely a recommended read for this summer.
Check out my review and interview with Galchen, up on The Times of Israel today.
It’s more than half a year since I started writing the bimonthly creative nonfiction column, “My Time, Your Place” on District Lit.
If you have the chance today, please check out my latest entry “Second-Person Point of View.” (If you were a Choose Your Own Adventure enthusiast, you might especially enjoy it.)
It’s one of the best times of year in Israel for those of us in the writing-in-English biz. This week the 5th Jerusalem Writers Festival kicks off with author David Grossman in conversation with author Colum McCann. I’ll be heading down on Thursday to see Amanda Stern host Happy Ending, a NY-based literary series, for the first time in Israel. I interviewed Amanda for the Times of Israel a few weeks ago and hearing her background and stories made me even more excited to see her in action, along with Anthony Marra (whose book I will finally buy, if it’s on sale, as it’s been recommended to me by a few people who know my book also “features” mixed tapes), Etgar Keret, Colum McCann, and Nell Zink.
Then on Sunday, I’ll get my chance to hear David Grossman as he kicks off the Tenth Memorial International Writing Conference at Bar Ilan University. So much over three days: writing workshops and readings by new authors/ fellow alums Anthony Michael Morena and Joanna Chen. The conference is free and open to the public, so other than skipping work or other duties, there’s no reason not to come.
Hope to see you at one of the events! If not, check out my instagram feed so you can feel like you were really there.
Up in The Times of Israel today is an interview I conducted with Curtis Sittenfeld, the New York Times bestselling author of “Prep” and “American Wife.” Sittenfeld has a new book hitting shelves this week: “Eligible,” a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
I’ve been a big fan of Sittenfeld’s since my NJ book club (make that my beloved and sorely missed book club) read “Prep” as our first selection back in 2006. “Eligible” was cleverly entertaining and I definitely recommend it. It was a huge pleasure to speak to Sittenfeld by phone from Israel recently. Check out my article in TOI for more.
Last night after I returned home from ten days away, I lay down next to my daughter to chit chat before she fell asleep.
“While you were away, mommy,” she said. “I prayed to God for something I know I’ll never get.”
“What?” I asked her, even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer.
She sighed, “A real baby.”
“You’re right honey,” I replied. “I’m not having any more babies, but maybe God will listen anyway, and hang on to your request ’til you’re a mommy.”
With that, she sighed again, and held Nadav, her American Girl baby-boy doll a little tighter than before.
* * *
This morning on Twitter a journalist posted there would be an air raid siren in the southern Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod.
“This is part of a tsunami drill,” he wrote. “Don’t panic.”
As if the poor people of Ashdod and Ashkelon haven’t been traumatized enough over the last few years of rocket warnings. Shouldn’t they devise a unique alert sound for a tsunami? And, anyway, what are the residents of Ashkelon and Ashdod advised to do in the case of a true tsunami?
Certainly taking cover will not save them from the rushing waters of a churning Mediterranean sea.
* * *
I never realized it before, but jet lag is a necessary and appropriate method for transitioning from one culture, one point of view, to another.
* * *
If I were to have another baby — which I will not — I wouldn’t have named it Nadav if it was a boy, or Shaked if it was a girl, even though both are my favorite names for new babies in Israel.
It occurs to me this morning after I read the message about the tsunami drill, however, that tsunami would actually be a lovely name for a girl. The word rolls off the tongue like the wave it describes, but more gently. Like a ripple in time.
Tsu – Nah – Me.
* * *
When I land in New Jersey, I like that I have traveled backwards.
When I land in Israel, I like that I have lost a whole day.
I like to be pummeled by time like that.
I like that I am able to anticipate the absolute engulfment caused by change in time, even if I can’t control it.
I just finished reading Station Eleven, a post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel. I highly recommend it. It’s the one of two five-star ratings I’ve given on GoodReads after going a long stretch without being able to give more than a three-star. (The other recent five-star was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, more to come on that soon.)
Whenever I read a dystopian novel — and moreso when I read a well-researched, well-written one like St. John Mandel’s — I can’t help but examine my own life and my own “what ifs” in the face of some future life-altering catastrophe I somehow survive.
Lately, as my mind has been busy with the America vs. Israel conversation (a two-sided dialogue I engage with myself at least once a day exploring the pros and cons of leaving or staying in Israel), I considered the events of the novel. The Earth is ravaged by a pandemic, killing off 99% of the population. Those who are not sickened and killed by the flu are left figuring out how — and more existentially, why — to survive. Some survivors are stranded in an airport far from home. They understand quickly they will never return. And this, today, is the question that occupied my mind:
What if I knew I would never see America again? Would never see my parents? My brothers? Any of my friends who live there?
Could I be happy, or satisfied at least, living in Israel, remaining here on Hannaton?
What if it weren’t the apocalypse (meaning: what if I abandoned the upset of knowing my loved ones were ill or gone), but an event that meant the end of international travel?
Could there be such an event? After which my parents were still alive, but inaccessible? Following which we in Israel still lived a somewhat normal life, but simply could not fly anymore? Or buy passage on a ship, even?
No. All I can imagine is disaster. There is no in-between in my imagination. There is no mild cataclysm. Either things are as they are now or the worst-case scenario.
* * *
However, if I were to play fiction writer, for a moment, I might say, “Hold on now. Let’s consider Donald Trump.”
Donald Trump as American president is possibly the in-between disaster I can’t imagine; the wonky future in which the world still runs on electricity and internet and Dunkin Donuts, but international travel is forbidden. Let’s say, for instance, a Trump presidency leads to a law being passed in which American immigration is on hiatus, but citizens living abroad have a brief window to return. Once they do return, however, they are required to remain on American soil for the next four years. America, in this fictional scenario, is testing out a new policy for the duration of Trump’s term. It’s called something like “No American Left Behind.”
“The In-Or-Out” law, the talking heads dub it.
Would I leave then?
Would we pack up our belongings and run back home?
What if there was no time for belongings? Only time for the five of us with one-way tickets and that which we could fill in our suitcases?
Would that be a home we would want to live in anyway?
What’s scarier? I considered. America as a gated-community? Or the idea of being stuck in Israel for an indefinite amount of time with no certainty of ever seeing my family again?
What kind of decisions, I asked myself, do we make in the face of black-and-white? Of choose this or that?
And what kind do we make in the face of seeming interminable uncertainty?
* * *
To be honest, I’m not paying too much attention to the U.S. presidential election, but I noticed on Facebook today someone saying they planned to vote Republican in the primary — vote for Rubio — as a way of derailing Trump’s run. But what if that was the plan all along? Democrats, for all their intellectualism, can be pretty stupid. Conservatives are wiley. Strategic. Cool cats. Liberals, with all their free love tend to act irrationally, emotion-based, don’t think enough before jumping in heart first.
Then, on Twitter later in the morning, someone wrote they thought the media hype equating Trump with Hitler was an exaggeration. I don’t quite align myself politically with this person, so I can’t put my faith in his ease. But as a reader of post-apocalyptic fiction I can say with certainty that there is always the guy on Twitter who thinks it’s not as bad as everyone says it is. This is classic disaster narrative. Bad guy/bad storm/bad killer disease. Makes no difference. The experts keep it quiet at first, but then feel compelled to reveal the danger to the masses as they realize their calculations were too understated. Upon learning of the now likely unavoidable danger, half the masses freak out, and the other half cry hysteria. Usually, there’s the goofy teenager who makes fun of the hurricane/flood/asteroid (he’s the first to go), and often, the old guy saying in his old guy voice “I never thought I’d see the day.”
No matter what, though, there’s always the guy who — just before the shit hits the fan — says most assuredly, “It can’t be as bad as people are making it out to be.” This is the point at which you should start storing water and supplies.
I haven’t started shopping, though. In fact, my storage room/bunker is as empty as it’s been since we’ve lived here. And I wonder why. I wonder if it’s acceptance or if it’s resignation.
And does it matter? Am I saner if I am accepting or saner if I am resigned?
Acceptance: Yes, this is the world we live in.
Resignation: Yes, there will be disaster.
Acceptance: There is no certainty.
Resignation: Why bother? You will likely not survive the apocalypse, anyhow.
I don’t know which it is. What I do know is that reading Station Eleven has me grateful for my flushing toilets, and for my Google search, and especially for my at-home, self-grinding espresso machine. It had me abandon for a few hours my ongoing, inner turmoil over where to live now or next; which direction to choose.
Neither decision, I suppose, would be the end of the world.
My latest column is up on District Lit today. It’s not about real estate, nor about ghosts, but about the lies I tell myself about the idea of home. Check it out.