AMONG MY SOUVENIRS

One of the very human foibles that writers have, along with everyone else, is collecting things that may not monetary value,  but are important because of the memories they evoke.  We should remember this when we are creating characters for our fiction, because it makes them realistic to share the same sentiments we all do when it comes to holding on to things from the past.

I never set out to be a collector.  Whenever I’ve read about millionaires with fabulous private collections of art and sculpture, I’ve thought why not just keep a few pieces you really love and give the rest on loan to a museum or gallery so that others can share their beauty.

 

Yet I find now that I do have collections.  They’re not worth any money and probably no-one else would want them. Most people in my age group have accumulated possessions they can’t bear to part with, despite moving homes and maybe even countries several times in their lives.

 

Who remembers that song of yesteryear: “Among My Souvenirs”?  Part of the lyrics were:

“Some letters tied with blue,

A photograph or two,

I find a rose from you

Among my souvenirs….”

 

What we are really collecting are memories.  There are times in our lives we want to hold on to forever and when we handle these mementoes, they bring a smile to our lips, a tear to our eyes and a bittersweet wave of nostalgia.

 

I have more than a thousand books, and nowhere to put them all. Those that overflow my bookshelves are stowed in cardboard cartons. Many are paperbacks, yellowed pages and tattered covers. But to throw them out would be like disposing of dear friends. Lots of poetry – some by almost-forgotten writers like Alice Duer Miller, Rupert Brooke, A. E.Housman, Dorothy Parker.  Old novels by Somerset Maugham,  Evelyn Waugh, Hemingway, Steinbeck.  Wonderful books of Jewish essays.   Books on philosophy, psychology, the craft of writing. They all represent my youth, when I discovered the world and the wonders it contained. No, I can’t throw them away!

 

Then there are the photos. They started out in albums, but now there are too many and I’m too lazy. Beloved family no longer with us . Friends of my youth. Weddings. Babies bright-eyed and dimpled.  Rites of passage – first day at kindergarten and school; barmitzvahs; graduations. Grandchildren. Holidays. They are all cherished, and overflow in drawers and cabinets.

 

Bric a brac.  One earring (the other lost) given by your first boyfriend.  Small children’s awkward drawings. Their clumsy efforts at making you strange things from wood or papier mache.   A letter on a torn page that proclaims in shaky letters: “Grandma, I love you.” How could you ever toss those?

 

And now I also have a collection of shells and rocks. Most were gifts from grandchildren who wanted to give me something in return for the toys I gave them.  There is a pine cone and a curiously-shaped rock. Shells you can put to your ear and hear the sea.  And stones I gathered at the Dead Sea on my sister’s last visit here, when we spent a perfect day of peace and tranquility together, exchanging memories of our parents and siblings, our childhood, the dreams we realized and the ones we lost along the way.  All precious.  All irreplaceable.

So when you are creating characters, remember to give them a few things to hold on to, that you can refer to and reveal the sentimental side of their lives.

 

“Get rid of the clutter” we’re told. Not me.  I shall go on collecting mementoes and memories until I die. And I hope my children, even then, will save a few of them.  Because some things are worth more than money!

For any Israeli readers of my Blog, I will be giving a talk in Rehovot on April 27th at 10.30 a.m. where my books will also be available.  The topic is “When Life Touches You – turning emotions into memorable fiction.  The address is Swiss Hayavot Community “Center, 52 Sireni Street, Rehovot 76249.  Would love to see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ANNUAL CELEBRATIONS

There are anniversaries and celebrations that come round every year, making it easy for freelancers to plan in advance. It is important to realise that papers and magazines prepare special issues for these holidays very early for issues such as Christmas, Easter, Passover, national holidays etc.-  send in your proposal at least 2 months in advance.  Mother’s Day is a bit tricky because it’s celebrated on different days in various countries,  but in Australia it’s always the first Sunday in May, in England I think it was in March, for other countries find out on Google.  Below is the story I wrote that was published last year for this endearing and enduring holiday.

MOTHER’S  DAY

by DVORA WAYSMAN

We only have one mother in our life-time.  This unique person is the greatest influence on our lives from the moment we take our first breath – perhaps even before, while we are still in the womb.  She protects us when we are small, disciplines us when we need it, and is there for us through every single rite of passage.  Inevitably, one day in our lives we lose her.  Perhaps that is the saddest part of growing older – the losses we sustain along the way.  And she is irreplaceable – we can make new friends, even marry another spouse, but we can never replace a mother.

She stays with us throughout our lives, even when we are mothers, or even grandmothers, ourselves.  How do we remember her?  Perhaps we give her name to a grandchild.  Perhaps we make dishes that we loved as children, and for which  she once gave us the recipe.  Perhaps we wear a piece of jewelry that came to us after her death, and while it may not be valuable, it gives off wonderful vibrations simply because she used to wear it.

I have some earrings that were my mother’s.  They’re only made of coloured glass, but whenever I wear them, I find myself smiling.  She had so little in her lifetime.  Her old-fashioned kitchen in Melbourne’s seaside  suburb of St. Kilda  sported none of the appliances we take for granted today.  No refrigerator, but an old ice-chest.  A man in a horse and cart used to deliver the ice twice a week.  No washing machine, but a big copper and a mangle and scrubbing board. Monday was always washing-day, and I can still smell the wonderful fragrance of clean sheets billowing on the line in the sun and wind.  The clothes lines were held up by a wooden prop.  The big event in our lives was when we got a telephone, just in time for my teenage years, but I was strictly limited to how often I could use it, and for how long I could talk.  There was no television, of course, but we had a wireless and the whole family would gather around it each night for our favourite serial, “Dad and Dave.” Then late at night there was that scary program “The Witches’ Hour.”

There was not a lot of entertainment when I was a child, but the big treat was when my mother would take me to the local town hall, for Community Singing.  All the words of the songs were up on a screen, and everyone would sing along.  I felt so close to my mother then, and thought she was the most wonderful woman in the world.

Born at a time when schooling for girls was not considered a priority, she probably had only eight years of education.  But she was wise, from the lessons of life.  Mother of five, with little in the way of worldly possessions, she nevertheless created a haven for us, where we all felt safe.  She taught us honesty and decency, morality and ambition. She never laughed at our dreams, but tried to help us make them come true.

In some way, I think of my mother almost every day.  I teach my grandchildren the songs she taught me, and the nursery rhymes.  In the food I cook from her recipes, I can still taste the flavor of love.  I find myself using expressions that were hers. Now I see her image reflected back when I look in the mirror.

Life moves on.  Everything changes.  We travel around the world, achieve things that she never dreamt of.  Yet what always remains constant is a mother’s love, whether she is still here or long departed.

It’s sentimental, I know, but at least once a year – on Mother’s Day – we can celebrate or just take some time to remember.

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WHEN THE MEMORIES COME

Maybe it’s something to do with growing older, but it’s amazing how a few words, a casual incident, an unexpected phone call, can trigger memories that take us back decades, sometimes across oceans, to a life we have almost forgotten.

My parents both passed away a very long time ago and yet I often find myself quoting maxims or proverbs they once used to educate me.  One of Dad’s favorite sayings was: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”  He was a model of tidiness, and I can’t ever recall him mislaying even trivial objects.  My mother had the sweetest nature, and often trotted out the cliché:  “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  When she died at 88, she had friends from every walk of life and in every age group, who loved her sense of fun, her kindness and her caring for others.  Another truism she taught me was:  “People may forget your words, but they will never forget the way you made them feel!

Back in 1971, when we first came to live in Israel, we were sent to an Absorption Center (Mercaz Klita) in Upper Nazareth.  The best friends we made there were a couple from South Africa named Edna and Bert (we were from Australia).  Sadly, Bert  passed away and because we settled in Jerusalem and they went to Haifa, the connection gradually weakened.    But a year ago I called Edna to tell her I was writing a new novel based in the Absorption Center where we had studied Hebrew together 40 years ago.

As we talked on the phone, powerful images came back to me of how it felt to move to a new country, leaving behind beloved family and friends, your culture, your language.  In my mind’s eye, I saw again the bare mountains outside our window, ;with a lone Beduin shepherd leading his flock of black goats.  I heard the Winter wind screeching at night; the church bells ringing and the muezzin calling from the Arab city of Nazareth below.  I also experienced again the warmth that came from finding a friend in this new country where everyone was a stranger and the future a big question mark.

All of these feelings I was able to write more vividly in my novel “In a Good Pasture”, which tells the story of 7 new immigrants trying to come to terms with their Judaism and their Zionism.  Just a short phone call brought them all rushing back.

I remember reading Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” when I was young.  I have never forgotten her words: “How wonderful it would be if we could bottle memories like perfume; and whenever we wished, we could just remove the cork and live them all over again.”  Well, I think we can.  We just need to close our eyes, relax and let the memories we want to hold on to come flooding in.  If pain comes with them, because of loved ones we have lost, remember the words: “Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.


Dvora Waysman is the author of 13 books, including “The Pomegranate Pendant” (now a movie and which recently won the Shabazi Prize for Literature), “Seeds of the Pomegranate”; “Woman of Jerusalem” ;  “Esther – a Jerusalem Love Story” and her novel “In a Good Pasture”  Contact her if you are interested in any of her books.


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GOOD INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES

The first thing to understand is to talk naturally , appropriate to the person you are interviewing – formal with formal people, relaxed with others.  Be on the same wavelength.  Try not to walk in with a notebook in hand – some people will be put on the defensive and dry up.

Be at ease. Chat generally at first, maybe comment on an ornament in their home, or the decor of the restaurant, even the weather – start your dialogue on friendly terms.

It is a good idea to state again  who you are,  why you are there, the angle of the interview  and the publication it is aimed at.   When you are both settled and feel comfortable,you can produce your notebolok or tape recorder  and suggest taking notes to confirm dates,names, particulars etc.  Check the spelling of unusual names.

Never offer to show the finished product – people who are not journalists tend to believe they can do your job better and will nit-pick trivial points and want to take them out.   If you come across a startling fact that will make the interview fresh and different, ask to use that fact.

Don’t delve too deeply if you feel the interviewee is embarrassed. Discuss how you intend to shape the article, so he/she  has a rough idea. They need to be reassured.

Ask for contact details in case you need to get back to them to check a fact.  If they tell you something “off the record”, respect that and don’t use it without permission.

Don’t use a tape recorder without his/her permission – that is illegal. In a one-on-one interview, you can place the tape recorder on the table and after the subject is comfortable with you, ask for permission to turn it on.  If the interview goes well,  you not only will have a good article, you have made a new friend!

Let me know if I can help you with your writing problems, if you would like to buy  “Autumn Blessings” my latest e-book or any other of my 13 published books, which you can read about in the Books section of this Blog.

Happy writing!

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN

Can fiction writing be learnt? That’s a question I am often asked. Although no-one can teach you how to be a great story-teller, it is certainly possible to learn technical expertise.

First, yo0u need to ask yourself some hard quesions – and you may not like all the answers.  First, are you enjoying writing your novel or story? It’s hard work, but can also be fun. At the end of the day, do you feel tired and drained, or do you feel fulfilled and happy?

It is an advantage if you can provide a publisher  with what he wants at any given time- a novel set in the present and focusing on a modern theme or contemporary issue has a better than even chance of attracting a publisher; but if you desperately want to write an historical novel, you should go ahead and do it and if you are patient and persistent you may one day see it in print.

Whatever you are writing, ask yourself :  am I obsessed with my characters, living their lives  and emotionally bonding with them? That is what is needed.  Examine your plot and see if every scene moves the story forward . Don’t introduce fascinating minor characters, exotic locations  or entertaining anecdotes unless they have a part to play- they will distract the reader and might even irritate him.

Does your hero/heroine change or grow and not merely get older?  Do they make a moral journey, learn from their mistakes and also teach the reader something too?  As you write you should become your hero , should suffer and rejoice with him/her . Novels are not biographies  and it’s not your job to make judgments about the characters; instead let the reader feel great empathy .

Don’t keep changing the point of view – stick with one character for a real impact.

Avoid cliches – replace them with originaql one-liners or jokes to make the reader smile.  Finally, ask yourself  do you write about what interests you. If it doesn’t fascinate you, neither will it interest the reader.  But if you are inspired, it will make the subject compelling , and  an editor will pick up your manuscript and become hooked – and the rest will be publishing history.

 

Good luck. Let me know if I can help you with your writing problems.  Contact me if you want to know how to buy any of my books.

 

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A WRITER’S LIFE

 

There are two qualities you need to succeed as a writer  the first is talent, the second is determination.  No, it’s more than determination, it’s compulsion.  Writing must be such an integral part of your life that if you are breathing, you are writing.

 

Talent is a gift and you will know if you possess it. It enables you to “share your eyes” so that readers see what you are seeing.  More than that, you share your other senses too, enabling them to hear, smell, taste and touch the world you have created for them.  If your words speak to them and you can make them feel joy and pain, smile and weep, feel empathy and compassion, then you are a talented writer.

But it is no good being talented if your words don’t reach others.  That’s where the determination comes in.  All writers face rejection, often on a fairly regular basis.  Don’t give in to despair and depression, you must search until you find the perfect match – the idea you want to write and the correct medium in which to express

Writing is only half the job, selling is equally important.   Craft  magazines such as “The Writer” in U.S.A. or “Writing Magazine” in the U.K  and of course “Poets and Writers”  are invaluable tools  to find markets for  your work, as is reading (and studying) as many papers and magazines as you can. You should look for the age group they are aimed at, and  the income level (their ads. will tell you that)

Study the problems and special interests of their target audience.  If you know, for example, of a problem shared by many in that group, and you have a solution for it, your article will be a sure winner, whether it’s on: “How to make your salary stretch further” or “How to prevent your kids trying drugs.”

When I undertake a major project such as a book (I have published thirteen).  I give myself periodic encouragement rewards.  The length of time needed to complete a book can be awesome, so during its writing I submit short stories (if I’m writing a novel) or magazine articles (if it’s non-fiction).  These are much easier to sell and the temporary triumphs are confidence-boosters that provide the stamina to keep working on the much longer projects.

Even with submitting articles, I don’t invest time in writing and researching the whole piece until I’ve sent out a few query letters.  Only when an editor, without obligation, indicates that he/she is interested in my idea, do I complete the work.  However, I do make my query letters as creative as I can and give the projected article a title as irresistible as I can make it.

As a teacher of Creative Writing for 25 years, I tell my students that the only way they will never be rejected is never to submit anything.  Then I remind them that every achievement in life begins with the two small words: “I’ll try.”

If you would like to acquire any of my books, described in the Books section above, contact me at e-mail dwaysman@gmail.com or ways@netvision.net.il

I am happy to try to help with any writing problems you have and enjoy your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LET’S WRITE A NOVEL

It sounds daunting, but a novel is just a very long story.  In the course of making it, the storyline changes before your eyes.  It always happens.Some writers need to make outlines, character lists and plot lines before they start; but even these careful preparers admit changes are forced on them as the characters insist on taking the story in new directions,  perhaps quite unexpected ones.

 

Most novels run between 60,000 and 150,000 words.  If you find you have padded your story too much, cut down on descriptions.  Try to make your dialogue speak for itself without unnecessary adverbs. Instead of John said angrily, John said coldly or John said smilingly, go for strong verbs:  e.g. John snarled.   Adjectives are less worrisome, but don’t overdo them either.

Sometimes a novel makes you lose your way, which is why it is a formidable thing to undertake.  It is hard to keep track of all those words over the long time you are engaged with them.  But when the novel  is completed and you have the self-confidence you get from having completed such a ;huge task, you can round up the words that have strayed off and bring them back into a lean, clear line.  This separates professionals from those who just wish they were novelists.

 

Part of the task of writing is knowing when to finish – it may not be a great novel, but maybe it is the best you could have done at the time.  We all know of people who go off for 30 years, writing and writing until they feel they have reached perfection. The perfect novel probably does not exist. So write the long story you have in mind, get it down, self-edit it, and then send it out to the market-place.

 

Here are 4 pointers for writing your novel.

1) Write every day.  Even when you’re not inspired, because it is too easy to be seduced by other things – the television, guests, going out for coffee…. excuses are easy to come by.

2) Read the previous day’s work before you continue.   It helps bind the book together as you go along and keeps the action cohesive.

 

3)  Set a goal in terms of number of words per day.  If you can write a thousand words a day, you will have a first draft in three months – and the remaining work – cutting, editing, improving,will be quite easy in comparison.

 

4)  When you have finished the first draft, take a week off and let your brain cool down before making changes.  There are other tricks that you will find for yourself – maybe writing at a certain time of day; in a certain place; using outlines, character lists, maps etc.  If it works for you, it is good.

 

Finally, the most important thing about your novel is that it has tot have a kernel of truth, even if it is fiction. to be of any worth.  Shakespeare said it beautifully:  “This above all, to thine own self be true,

And it shall follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not be false to any man….”

 

So, keep the unwritten promise you have made to the reader – entertain, educate, share true emotions, keep the plot plausible,  aim for the heart and you will have a satisfied reader who will be looking out for your next title.

Most of my 13 books are obtainable by contacting me  – read the above sections Books or About Me for details.  I always enjoy your comments.

 

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