Thursday, August 18, 2011

Novel Ideas

With the short story anthology put to bed for the moment and a little vacation time, I'm back to the novels I've been working on for the past six years. Each new bit of knowledge precipitates a journey back to the first one to incorporate what I've learned. Currently I'm doing rewrites on the second.

On the whole, Please Say Kaddish for Me, the first of the trilogy has been an immense learning experience. Because it has required tons of research to keep it as accurate as possible I've learned more history than I ever did in school. Of course, back then, I never saw the reason to pay attention.

The three novels with working titles, Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes, and As One Must One Can chronicle a Jewish woman and her family's survival of the pogroms (Czar-sanctioned, organized massacres of the Jews in Russia and surrounding areas of Eastern Europe known as the Pale of Settlement) and subsequent immigration to the United States. The stories take place at the turn of the twentieth century. I've referred to PSK as "The Dark Side of Fiddler on the Roof."

The first novel has been turned down by four agents so far and accepted by one. Unfortunately, at the time the one accepted it, I was in the process of preparing it for a NY agent who'd shown an interest but said it was too short. In the end she turned it down. The next NY agent said it "was incredibly moving" and brought her to tears, however, it was too long and needed more editing than she was prepared to deal with.

I am in a heated debate with myself as to whether or not I should approach the one who accepted it two years ago to see if she still might be interested in the first one and, possibly, the series. I've made a lot of changes after expanding it and then shrinking it. I don't want to sound desperate or groveling but, on the other hand, I could use an agent. Right? Of course right.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Hold the cakes!

At present I'm in California visiting my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter Olive. Everything else can wait for a while. Just this morning she turn from her back to her tummy and her bubbe got to see it first.

Now that's something to write home about!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What? My writing's not perfect just the way it is?

Someone thinks my writing is worthy of publication! How intoxicating is that? I have arrived! Right? Well...not exactly.

The first galley arrived two weeks ago with an encouraging note from the editor. She loves my stories. Strong voice, she says. But...(here comes the inevitable)...I have a lot of work to do.

Overuse of gerund. For those of you, who like me, are running for your dictionary because you slept through English grammar, gerunds are "ing" words. She says I've also overdone the punctuation.

My OCD kicks in and I go on a witch hunt, pencil-slashing through every colon, semi-colon and out of place comma. Gerunds, beware! You're going down next. Then I change words and questionable syntax.

At last I'm satisfied and ready to send it back and wait for the second galley. It arrived Monday with a nice long letter from the editor. Now she says she didn't mean for me to whack all the gerunds.

After a nice long chat with her on the phone yesterday, I feel less daunted. Gratitude for the opportunity to learn the craft floods me. It's good to have another pair of eyes with more experience to help me along. I turn the page to make more corrections. A printed book I'll be proud of can't be far behind.