MINING YOUR MEMORIES

 

 

 Sometimes, especially in this melancholy wintry weather, you might find yourself indulging in nostalgia, for things from your past that will never be again.  I’ve always loved the quotation:

“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

There are many markets for writers to share cherished memories.   I find that some of my most successful articles came from just sitting down and letting my mind go back to special times that made me smile as I tried  to recapture them.  I called the following article “Among My Souvenirs”  … it brought an amazing number of responses from readers who could empat;hise.

                 AMONG MY SOUVENIRS

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. . 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; 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 ‘challah’ cloth with crooked stitches. A letter on a torn page that proclaims in shaky letters: “, 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 to Israel 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.

 

“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!

I welcome your comments.  If you want to buy any of my books, contact me on dwaysman@gmail.com   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LEGACY OF YOUR LIFE

              “LEGACY OF YOUR  LIFE”           

Why does one write a memoir? There is an old saying that to die without leaving a record is to die without an inheritance. Just as Jewish people are instructed to tell their  children the story of the Exodus from Egypt and how they were saved from slavery, so, on a personal level, we should tell our children  where we came from and how we got here, to this place in life, wherever it may be.

 

The task may have been too daunting until now. Chaim Mazo, a well-known Jerusalem publisher, has brought out a journal to help you every step of the way.  It takes you by the hand and shows you exactly how to do it.

 

His introduction “Why write?” explains the importance of leaving a record for your family; and there is also a copy of “My Ethical Will” which I wrote, as a guideline to how you may wish to express yourself in your own memoir.

 

The bulk of pages in the book are for you to fill in yourself. You don’t have to do it in any particular order or within any time frame. You could just write a page a day in the appropriate section as the memories surface. I am sure it will become a source of enjoyable nostalgia as you go back and recapture the lives of loved ones who may no longer be around… people perhaps whom your children and grandchildren never had the privilege of knowing.

 

Part I deals with Early Childhood, with pages to write “Facts About My Birth”; “My Childhood” ; “My School Years”, even a place to record the movies , music and dances that you loved.

 

Part 2 is very important as you record all that you remember about your family and the words of wisdom they passed down to you that have become your blueprint for living.

 

Part 3, “My Life Today” is an easy section to fill in as you don’t need any research as you write about your marriage, endearing family stories and the proud accomplishments that bring a smile to your face.

 

Part 4 is the largest and most challenging section, which has space for all the elements that make up your life. Your descendants will want to know about its great moments; its turning points; your regrets and sad memories; people that influenced you over the years. It even has space for you to record your favorite jokes and recipes.

 

Part 5 centers on stories …. those you treasure; those you’ll never forget; the story of your family name; and stories that you want the children to ask you to tell them.

 

 Part 6  provides a great opportunity to pass on the values and traditions you hope the family will encapsulate into their own lives.

 

Part 7 is important. Here you explain in “Everyday Matters” the financial situation, your political leanings, the milestones you’ve achieved and the lessons you’ve learned. Finally, Section 8 “The Future” records how you want to be remembered, and what you want to pass on to future generations. After that, there is a place for photos, a visual depiction for all those who love you and care about your life.

 

Filling in the pages of this Journal, perhaps with the help of children and grandchildren, can be a wonderful bonding experience as they learn what you were like at their age; and they discover facets of your life that they never knew existed.

 

I believe we all have a responsibility to leave a record of our lives, and this is an easy and accessible way of doing it. It is a book I wish I could have given to my parents, as there must be so much I didn’t know about them. I wish there had been a record of my grandparents’ lives, who all died before I was born.

 

This Journal will be more than just words written on pages in this fascinating format. It will become a family treasured possession that will keep your memory alive even after you are no longer here. And if you want to publish a number of copies for your family and friends, Chaim Mazo will help you do it in a professional manner. As he says: “Who knows – you may have penned a best-seller ! “  To buy a copy, for $18.95, contact the author at chaim.mazo@gmail.com and tell him you read about his wonderful book on my Blog.

(750 words)                         ______________________

 

Dvora Waysman 5 / 5 Karmon Street, Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem 96308 Israel. Tel: 972 2 6513096 e-mail: ways@netvision.net.il website:

www.dvorawaysman.com

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THE PEOPLE IN FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A well-written story is usually about a person who, for the period of time the story lasts, is worth writing about.  He/she is real, interesting and engages the reader.

 

In the search for interesting characters, the beginning writer must beware of two weaknesses = copying a character directly from life instead of selecting the characteristics that make him seem real and believable; and using stock, stereotyped characters.You can base them on people you have known, but when they appear on paper, they should be a composite of several … select qualities and traits and add to them the characteristics or physical attributes of another.

  Stay away from the mousy librarian, the absent-minded professor and the prostitue with the heart of gold.  Avoid stock characters by not thinking about people as stereotypes.  Your character also has invisible attributes – memories, ideas, feelings, emotions and virtues.  Try to be consistent – a character can change of course, but the change must be motivated.  No-one exists in a vacuum – remember the envirtonment.  Somthing can take place in August that would never have happened in December.  We are all affected by the seasons in some way – how we dress, our leisure activities, if it’s holiday time etc.

 

The character’s words and actions  explain his behaviour better than a long explanation.  Dialogue is very important, so train yourself to listen ; and dialogue between two characters can also introduce and interpret the personality of a third person you may want to introduce.

Another way of projecting character is by simple narration, showing what someone did and how he did it; how he drives on  a freeway; the way he eats his breakfast; how he walks his dog; his behaviour when he’s drunk too much; how he plays with his children; his actions when he is with his wife etc.  Also add color by describing what he wears, what he values.   You will need to know a lot more about your characher than you are going to write down … the more you understand his background, family, education, experiences before he comes into the story, the more realistic he will emerge.  Happy writing.

If you want to read any of my 13 published books, be in touch with me at dwaysman@gmail.com  and I’ll tell you where to get them.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A WRITER

Are you meant to be a writer?  Let’s see what you have going for you:

 

You don’t have to like people, but you must be profoundly, passionately interested in them.

You must have a strong desire to make people see what you see, hear what you hear, feel what you feel.

 

Although you must be deeply committed to what you are writing, you must also be detached enough from it to recognise when it is not your best work.

 

You must learn that writing is often re-writing.  You must be able to cut away at your manuscript without flinching.

 

You must acquire a deep concern for details.

 

Your writing must be a daily routine, not the result of occasional inspiration. You have to find the time every day – keeping a journal is good for the beginning writer.

 

Realise that very few writers can make a living from it. Don’t give up your day job too soon.

 

It’s true that everything has been said,but remind yourself that Romeo & Juliet has appeared in many forms since Shakespeare …West Side Story and Abie’s Irish Rose to mention just two.

Rejection slips are not the end of the world.  Know your markets and try new ones, after studying their writers’ guidelines closely.

 

Be prepared to be lonely – writing is a lonely profession.  It is one road a writer must walk alone.  But what a wonderful sensation when you see your name as a by-line or on the cover of a book.  Good luck!

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SO YOU WANT TO BE A PUBLISHED WRITER!

                       SO YOU WANT TO BE A PUBLISHED WRITER!

                             by     DVORA   WAYSMAN

 This Blog is for young writers just starting out.

It is a very exciting profession to be a published writer. People respect you, you have the chance to influence their opinions; you can create beauty with words. But of course writing is not enough. No-one is going to read your work unless it gets published. You may believe you have written a master-piece, but when you send it out to the market-place, it will face a lot of competition.

 

To be a successful writer, you need an enormous commitment in time and energy, and also the ability to face rejection. The only writers who have never been rejected (even those famous today) are those who have never submitted anything.

 

Getting published is a big achievement and you need to go about it in a business-like way. The difference between a professional and an amateur is in the way they try to market their work. An amateur writes something and then tries to find an editor who will be interested in it. A professional studies the writers’ guidelines of whatever publication they want to write for, and sends query letters to the editor before they invest all their time and effort into the work. If a particular editor indicates that he likes the idea, then write your piece according to the magazine – the preferred length, written in the first or third person, seriously or with humor, for the age group that buys the publication. Read the magazine like a text-book, and study several issues so that your submission meets their requirements. That way you greatly increase your chances of acceptance.

 

You may even be ambitious enough to want to write a book, perhaps for children or young adults. You need to tell a story that rouses the reader’s curiosity, creating a fictional world that they want to explore. A reader wants an adventure – an escape from danger; or being rich and famous. Take them away from the city to where there are blue skies and high mountains. Maybe away from the 21st century – living in the past or the future. Tell them a secret. Solve a mystery.

 

Start with characters and let a plot evolve from them. Something dramatic is happening in their lives. Give them interesting things to say. They must grow, not remain static. Characters bring the plot to life, and dialogue brings the characters to life.

 

Whatever it is you want to write, there are four steps. First a compelling plot and there are ideas by the hundred in just reading the daily paper. Then you need a hook opening that grabs the reader’s attention (and the editor’s!) A successful ending that ties up all the loose ends. And the middle must keep the reader hoping, guessing and involved. Plot is “what if?” Page turners are curiosity and suspense.

 

The first sale of anything is the hardest to make. But if an editor or publisher does accept something you have written, immediately send off a brief “thank you” note, and at the same time, suggest another three stories you would like to write. Chances are at least one of the ideas will be of interest, and you’ll establish a relationship with the editor and be on the way to regular assignments.

 

You are lucky to be living in the internet age, because you can find markets for your work all over the world. 

 . Search engines like Google, Yahoo or Ask Jeeves in the U.K. are your best friends because on them you can locate all kinds of publications on every conceivable subject that interests you, many of them geared towards readers in your age group. The same goes for book publishers of children’s literature and young adult novels. Either e-mail them with your idea, or if you write by regular mail, make sure you enclose either a stamped-addressed envelope for their reply, or an international reply coupon (obtainable at main post offices) to cover the cost of their airmail reply to you.

 

Read everything you can, think up ideas, send query letters to editors – and you’ve taken the important first steps in realizing your dream of becoming a published writer.

 

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(Dvora Waysman is the author of 11 published books, including her novel; “The Pomegranate Pendant” which has been made into a movie under the title of “The Golden Pomegranate”). She is a syndicated journalist world-wide, a teacher of creative writing and has won several literary awards.)

 

Dvora Waysman 5/5 Karmon Street, Jerusalem 96308

Tel: 6513096 e-mail: ways@netvision.net.il website: www.dvorawaysman.com 

 

 

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FINDING SOLUTIONS TO COMMON PROBLEMS

One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my career as a freelance journalist was this:  If you can think of a problem that worries a lot of people, and you have a good idea how to solve it, then you will have no trouble selling the article.  Lots of magazines want these articles, and usually feature them on the cover, such as how to lose weight easily without dieting;  how to stretch your wages to cover all your expenses;  how to choose the clothes that will flatter your figure … the list is endless.

I have a number of friends that have never been successful as gardeners … one tells me she gets gifts of house plants, and they always die on her very quickly.  I thought about this and came up with the plant that it’s almost impossible to kill – and sure enough I sold it to a gardening magazine.  You can think of other problems and if you can come up with a good solution,  send the idea to a suitable magazine and smile when your idea is accepted.  Here’s one solution that resulted in a sale:

 

 

 

 

THE MOST CARE-FREE PLANT OF ALL

 

by DVORA WAYSMAN

 

What plant can you own for a lifetime, neglect for weeks at a time, have in dozens of different varieties, is green but has no leaves, and you can  propagate just by breaking off a piece and sticking it into the ground?  You don’t need to be a genius to come up with the answer.  The cactus plant is the one plant that needs no pampering, and will make a great gift for friends who have never been successful in keeping any other plant alive.

 

Not every gardener loves cacti, but those who criticise it the most, often don’t know all the varieties available, some of which are very decorative and have beautiful blossoms,  even fragrant ones.  I have had one particular cactus for twenty years, which began with tiny thorny balls.  Now ten times its original size, it has adorned itself with a wreath of carmine, yellow and pink blossoms.  There is a beautiful cactus known as “Queen of the Night” which is a snake-like climber and in a single Summer night will produce several big pink or white fragrant flowers. Sadly they fade late the next morning, hence its name.

 

Cacti belong to a large family of succulents, which are fleshy, juicy plants. Their water-storing cells are a reservoir of food and moisture and in arid regions enable them to survive long droughts.  They evolved from related plants that adapted to changing climactic conditions. Once they were probably ordinary leaf-bearing plants, but as their environment changed, they either had to disappear or develop a storage system for emergencies.  They are nearly all natives of the Americas, and can be traced from Canada down through all of Latin America, from sea-level to the highest mountains.  They are capable of growing 15 meters high and a meter in diameter, and some have been known to last for several hundred years.

 

The Incas and Aztecs of ancient Latin America had many uses for cacti.  The large spiked varieties were used for sacrificial altars.  Agave plants gave sisal fiber to make ropes and jute (and still do!)  The spikes made arrow-heads.  From the stem comes a juice used in alcoholic drinks,  The Mayas prepared medicine against fever from cacti, and the Indians used crushed cactus to heal bone fractures.  Aloe vera is a well-known remedy for burns. Some cacti are the source of narcotic substances such as tranquillizers.  Today there are 200 known cactus families with 1,000 different species.  Many public gardens have a cactus corner, and I remember a spectacular cactus garden of unusual varieties at Kibbutz Yavne in Israel.

During the Winter in Israel, cacti in the garden need no watering as they are dormant . If you have them in indoor pots, a light watering or misting every three weeks is enough, and you don’t need any compost or fertilizer until Spring . The only help they need is an occasional “airing” with a fork, and maybe a spray with tepid water to refresh and remove dust from the foliage.  The only real sin in raising cacti is to overwater … they will turn yellow, grey or brown and droop.  If they grow too big for their containers, you can re-pot them in April, using  4 parts red soil, 1 part pulverized brick or broken clay, and 1 part powdered charcoal. That’s what is recommended, but I’ve found cacti to thrive in almost any soil.

 

The Latin names are hard to pronounce and remember, but they are easily identifiable as “snake cactus”, “globe”, “bishop’s mitre”, “hedgehog”, “sea urchin” which is really “echino” and of course our very own “sabra” found growing wild all over Israel.

The “Sabra” (Opuntia) first immigrated to Israel 150 years ago.  Agave, often found in Moslem cemeteries, was used as a symbol of longevity, fertility and decoration. It is an easy to grow, useful plant with its delicious edible fruit.  It was shipped to Spain from the New World and from there jumped via Gibralter to Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Palestine.

 

Although anyone can grow cacti successfully, there are a few hints. They need adequate light and will never produce flowers in full shade. They need direct sunlight several hours a day.  Water them every 3 days in Summer; once a week in Autumn and Spring. From December to February, don’t water them at all.  They don’t need any special fertilizers and grow well without any artificial nourishment.  You can propagate them very easily from cuttings or side shoots.  Species with long stems can be cut  into several parts, and each will take root.  They are a gift that goes on giving, because you can start new plants every Spring and Autumn, and plant them in hanging baskets or colorful pots, knowing that they should last a lifetime.  They are also ideal for a rockery.

 

They say that if you want to be happy for a lifetime, become a gardener.  And to make  a cactus collection or a special cactus garden, you don’t need a green thumb … anyone can do it.  Look for unusual varieties and you’ll find that they become not only a source of pleasure, but a great topic of conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WRITING PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ARTICLES

These are very rewarding, and in most cases easy because you don’t have to do much research.  Isaac Bashevis Singer once said: ” If you write about the things and the people  you know best, you discover your roots. ”   What better form to write about the events in your life than in a personal experience article.

We have all experienced things that can interest others. The events don’t have to be world-shattering, just incidents that readers can relate to and find meaningful.  If you learned something from it, maybe others will too.  Given the right spin and structure, you can turn it into a saleable article.

 

Magasines like Redbook and Ladies’ Home Journal;  some men’s magazines and religious magazines like Guideposts all use true personal experience articles, as do Reader’s Digest, and confession magazines that want fictionalized versions.

You need a tight structure, with a strong focus.  Always start on the day something different happens to you. This incident becomes the hook on which you capture the reader’s interest.  Try to make it provocative, and a shocking statement works well – e.g. “I didn’t think it would feel so good to pull the trigger”  or “snooping through my mother’s dresser drawer , I found out that she was transgender”. These are a bit extreme, but a dark moment or turning point that forces you to make a sacrifice or a choice that teaches a lesson can make a successful article.Your hook is the problem or conflict.  Then comes your reaction .  Finally, the motivation – why you made that choice.  That is often done by way of flashback, or it can be woven in by means of introspection – your inner thoughts – as long as this doesn’t break the flow of the narrative.

 

Build your story towards a satisfactory ending.  This doesn’t have to be a happy ending, because the conclusion doesn’t have to be happy.  After you’ve drafted it, go back to see if you have developed the theme you set out to tackle. Eliminate any tangents or digressions.  Only one theme should dominate.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “A writer wastes nothing”.  Don’t waste your personal experiences.  Look into your own life  and find the experiences that changed you and made such an impression you still remember them vividly.  Then write them down.

If I can help you with your writing problems, be in touch.  If you are interested in any of my published books, contact me for special prices. You can reach  me by e-mail at dwaysman@gmail.com or ways@netvision.net.il.

Write on!

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