My interview with Rivka Galchen today in Times of Israel

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.

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Husband Envy

It’s not the first time I daydreamed I was

Nicole Krauss, authoress

all-around good

woman good Jewish but not so Jewish

writer I could aspire towards

and as a matter of curiosity

exactly one day

(perhaps only hours!)

older than I.

But today most of all

when I learned husband

Jonathan

Safran

Foer

(even his name sounds groovy out loud with line breaks forcing teeth against my lips)

cuts up old books to make

new books

Fresh! Magical!

I thought I couldn’t stand to

be me another day

I just want to be Nicole Krauss

just to be married to a man

who thinks up cutting up

old books to make new ones

who writes books called

Extremely Loud

Incredibly Close

and then writes a book

about not Eating Animals

because sometimes he

doesn’t eat them

out of kindness or conviction

and then – to top it all off with an all-natural maraschino cherry –

lives in Park Slope and wears

smart but sexy glasses.

I imagine him sitting there

next to her

at a wooden desk in their house in Brooklyn

(the desk was his

found at an antiques shop in New Paltz)

separating their two laptops is an

antique robin blue typewriter

maybe even with Hebrew letters like

the one I drooled over but

didn’t haggle over

(4000 shekels!)

in the artist’s colony in the Golan Heights.

There is an imposed silence every week day

in Chez Safran Foer Krauss

from 8 am to 12:45 for

Writing Time.

They write and write and write

while sipping organic espresso

a matter that is serious to both of them

but they’re considering giving up

because of stomachaches.

On Wednesdays they listen to

Van Morrison for inspiration.

On Fridays he makes her a spinach and goat cheese omelette

and takes out the recyclables

and this is their life

I imagine

unless one of their kids is sick –

then she is downstairs

on the couch watching

Phineas and Ferb and

gritting her teeth in

frustrated agony

the way writers who are also

mothers grit their teeth.

She considers calling the nanny

but she won’t while he is upstairs cutting up

old books

to make new books

new stories.

She’ll wait.

Or that’s what I’d do.

Wait and wait and wait

and grit teeth

until Wednesday when the fever breaks

and she takes

her laptop

to the café down the corner

and stays there

til the sun goes down

til closing time

so he can sing the kids to sleep

and she can see if her Wikipedia page

is longer than his or

for once write a novel on the napkins

like she’s wanted to for

the last three years

and glue them together

with Juicy Fruit gum.

Fresh! Magical!

Sometimes, she writes

in her journal

how she wishes the internet would break

so she could start over

and find the wooden desk

in New Paltz first.

Or marry a carpenter.

And this is when

I understand why

she is keeping her name

and writing poetry again

and practicing the Law of Attraction

on the door to the cafe

daydreaming it’s a portal

to that kibbutz she volunteered on

in the summer of 1990-something

a kibbutz in the Lower Galilee

a lemon tree in the front yard

that looks remarkably

like the one I see

through my bathroom window.

Book deal? I write just for fun.

Three people, in as many months, have told me their creative efforts are “just for fun.”

This was in the context of showing me their wares — a brilliantly crocheted flower vase or a cat carrying-case re-purposed from a plastic water jug — and me remarking astoundedly, “This is fantastic. Are you selling them?”

Each smiled and said matter-of-fact, “No. It’s just a hobby. It’s just for fun.”

Once, I had a creative hobby that was just for fun. Once.

I used to be a scrapbooker.

<Pause for effect>

Yes, for about two years, I scrapbooked. I even had a scrapbooking friend — Debbie — who took me to a midnight scrapbooking event at a local crafts store in Tucson.

It was pretty much what you imagine.

Then I had kids, and unlike many moms who go scrapbooking crazy after birthing photogenic children, I just went plain crazy. Said craziness left me no time for cutting decorative borders and captioning weekends spent at the Jersey Shore.

My one creative hobby since then, which has only increased over the years since my day work has become more marketing focused, is creative writing.

In the last two years, especially, I have become a pretty serious creative writer and even started this year submitting some of my pieces to literary publications. No published pieces as a result of those submissions… yet.

So when each of those above-mentioned creative types told me they weren’t selling their pieces — not at a crafts fair, not to fancy shmancy boutiques on the lower east side of some city — I was taken aback; impressed, actually.

And I wondered.

Would it be possible for me to write … just for fun?

Without any expectations?

Of course, I do this already.

There are pieces (many) I have written that are sitting in a file somewhere, on a floppy disk in WordPerfect 2.0, that will never see the light of day, let alone end up in a literary journal. There are drafts of posts I don’t have the heart to delete sitting in limbo in a folder on the backend of this blog. There are starts of stories I never felt compelled to finish.

Were those all “just for fun?”

Before I get too didactic, let me clarify that I’m talking about the process, here. The intention.

Can I really write just for fun? Without the hope that what I write will become more than just an exercise,; will become

THE ONE?

The one that gets noticed?

The one that hits the right chord with the right person?

The one that gets me the top literary agent?

The one that enters me into the roster of authors that appear in a Prentice Hall Language Arts textbook?

The one that ends up sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard wrapped in a gorgeous cover with my name on it?

If “just for fun” means the same as, “for the sake of my sanity,” then yes, I write just for fun.

Or if “just for fun” means “I self-laughed a lot when I read my own blog post back to myself” then yes, I write just for fun.

But, more than anything, I write so that I will be read.

The reading by others is what makes my writing fun. This I know.

I just wish, sometimes, it weren’t so.

My so-called writing life

The other day, I asked out loud on Facebook whether my friends thought that writers were born or made.

Most answered some version of “born, but….”

As in: Writers are born with the creative spark that’s a prerequisite to creative talent, but it’s a spark that requires not only nurturing, but also education, practice, and perfection in order to mature into talent, and then success.

Mostly, I’d agree.

I think about my own journey as a writer, and sometimes, admittedly, I even hiccup a little calling myself a writer at all.

When I think of myself as a writer, I still think of myself as the girl who wrote love poems in a small, tear-stained spiral bound notebook that I hid in the back of a drawer.

When I think of myself as a writer, I still think of the jittery young woman who spilled coffee on her pants on her way to her very first feature story interview for a newspaper article.

When I think of myself as a writer, I still think about blogging as playing for a minor league team, and published literary novels as the World Series.

I still think of myself as a novice, and sometimes as a would be somebody if only I had the time.

Then there are moments, hours, days even, when I catch a scent of my destiny and it smells like poetry and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and an antique oak writing desk facing a picture window.

The leaves casually drop from the trees as if there’s still time…

As if there’s only time.

…and words to discover.

Words slowly strung together like colored beads on a braided rope.