I’ve always loved the slogan: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!”Nothing could be truer when submitting an article or story to an editor.  What sells a feature article?   Interesting content of course, but more important, instant appeal.   Readers have to be grabbed – to really want to read our work.

Next time you are in an airport terminal, railway station or large magazine shop, observe the customers.  See how they skim through a magazine,  flipping rapidly through the pages, pausing only when something grabs their attention.

Their roving eyes are caught by titles and illustrations. Once they pause, they will probably glance  at the opening lines.  If those first words interest them, they will probably want to read on.  So as a writer, you have those first three or four lines to grab their attention.   And remember, the first reader whose attention you want to grab, is the editor.

For maximum impact,  the opening paragraph should be about half the average length.  You have about 25 – 30 words to grab the reader.  Here are some hooks you could try:

A provocative question.

A simple, but interesting, statement.

A relevant quotation.

A shocker, or an anecdote.

All of the above are effective.  Start your next article with one of them.  It works for me!

My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available, direct from me at discount price.

Contact me at:  I am always glad to hear your comments, and willing to help you with any of your writing problems.  Happy writing!







Almost every aspect of the craft of writing can be taught, except one.  Everyone knows those great shows like “Britain’s Got Talent” or “America’s Got Talent”. Why am I mentioning them in a writers’ Blog?   Because it’s all to do with teachers.

If you ask a writer, what was there favourite subject at school, you can be almost certain that they will say English.  But it goes further than that.  It would seem that most of us have been influenced by a teacher at some time, and often it’s their English teacher.

Yet I wonder how many of them know about their former students’ literary successes.  Be they great or small, I am certain they would be proud of you.   Many, many decades ago there was a Miss O’Donaghue  and a Miss Ryan back in Australia who introduced me to the magic of literature, that has stayed with me my whole life.   They encouraged me when others thought my wish to be a writer an impossible dream.


I’ve heard of students who came to my workshops in Jerusalem, who told me of teachers who discouraged them, or even made fun of them, but it didn’t stop their dreams.  And some have told me of teachers in their High Schools or even Elementary Schools who encouraged them.  And this is something I have tried to do with the many students who have attended the Creative Workshops I have given over the years.  Some of them now are published writers – either as journalists, and one or two have managed to have books published.  I am very proud of them.

I taught them many things – how to approach an editor;  how to do research;  the elements of fiction and short story writing … these are all things that you can learn. But no-one can teach that innate creativity which comes with talent.  That is something inborn, that can be nurtured and burnished, but is unique to each writer.  Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone divert you from fulfilling your dreams.

(I am always happy to hear your comments or to help you with any writing problems.  My latest novel  “Searching for Sarah” is available from Amazon, or at discount direct from me . You can contact me at   Happy writing!)




















































Although I started my writing career as a journalist, when I began writing books, they were for children and young adults.  I imagined that would be a lot easier than writing for adults, but that is far from the truth.

There are a lot of myths out there about writing for children. First, you do not need to be a parent or teacher to write books that kids will love.  What you do need is an understanding of what appeals to them. Find ways to broaden your experience and that will feed into your creativity.

If you don’t know any children with whom to interact, spend time watching children’s programmes or reading recently published children’s  books.  This will give you an idea of what is popular  and the appropriate language.

A lot of writers worry that they are not illustrators, so they can’t do picture books. Most of these are written by an author-illustrator team.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw.  Some are able to do their own pictures, but often the publishers provide one.  So you can send a text without pictures if you’ve come up with a great idea.

Although it sounds easier to write picture books or books for young children because of the low word count,   it is a challenge to write a truly captivating story in a few words, with a coherent beginning, middle and end.  Adult books may in fact be easier  – even though they are more complicated, you have thousands more words to play with.

Never let anyone belittle you for writing children’s books or make it seem like you have an easy job.   It’s never easy to create any idea, develop it into a fully-fleshed story and then write it.  So if you have done this, congratulate yourself.

My latest novel  “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon, from the publisher Chaim Mazo, Jerusalem or direct from me at

I am always happy to help with any writing problems, and look forward to your comments.   Stay in touch.




Usually when we write something, we have in mind what we intend to do with it – part of a book; a freelance article etc.  But sometimes, there are words inside you that you must just get out, just for you.  Today was one of those days, and I indulged myself by writing a few lines just for myself.  And I feel good about it!






It is hard to be old!   There are all manner of things that, at nearly 87, I can no longer do.  Some of them are physical.  Many relate to dear friends I once had, who have passed on.  They were the ones who knew you when you were young; who could reminisce about things from the past that made you smile; who could reference things that are long past and today’s friends don’t really know what you are talking about.

But what I truly miss, is the music.


Once I could mention names that brought instant recognition, but today only blank stares …. Who remembers Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin,  Nelson Eddy and Jeannette Mc Donald?  And my grandchildren talk about bands with strange names like

Radiohead and Pearl Jam.   But they know nothing of the Big Band era , back in the 40’s and 50’s – oh, that was music.


Just to hear their names again – Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman and |Harry James is to imagine yourself on a ballroom, dancing to music so sublime you feel you are in paradise!  And the songs, with lyrics that had you both smiling and heart-broken all at the same time.  Mel Torme “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”;  Sarah Vaughan singing “Tenderly”;  the incomparable Ink Spots reminding us “When You Were Sixteen”;  Kate Smith breaking our heart over lost love with “I’ll Be Seeing You” and Patti Page asking “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”


No television then,but we felt we knew all these artists intimately, just hearing them on the radio, or playing His Master’s Voice records on an old gramophone.  The magic of Ella Fitzgerald, the finest female jazz singer of all time, telling us with Louis Armstrong that “Love Is Here To Stay.”  Then there was Billie Holiday.  And later, Frank Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes.  Yes, some of the young ones have heard of him, and every now and again my grandson, musician and singer David Lavi, learns one of his songs and sings them to me, admitting that his music “had something” – “My Way”; “The Way You Look Tonight” and “The Girl from Ipanema”.   But no-one can love the music the way my generation did.  It shaped our world.  It sent us soaring to the moon.  It made us smile;  It made us cry.  What is there now to compare to Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” or  the heartbreak in the lyrics of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”?


Life moves on.  Everything changes.  But, as I take my walk down Memory Lane,

what I am missing most of all, is the music.


Write something just for yourself.  If you need help, I am here.  My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount –

Happy writing!



Although I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from Writers’ Block (my problem is the opposite – how to keep up with all the ideas crowding for attention) I know that many of my students have.  So here are 7 ruled for avoiding it.

  1. Busy:  The day job, the household, social engagements, TV /// the list goes on and on.  The only way to deal with it is to make writing your priority, and move everything else around it. Writing time is sacred, and you must protect it.
  2.  Lazy:   Don’t listen to that inner voice that says: “Relax.  Take your time.”  Writing requires effort and energy – don’t be lulled into laziness.
  3. Flighty:  You keep getting new ideas that you think are better than the ones you’ve already started working on.  You have to work through each project until you reach the end.  Just jot down a note of new ideas for future projects.
  4.   Foggy:  Don’t obscure your vision.   Know where you are going and what you are doing. Sharpen your perceptions.  Try coffee, a cold shower or long walks but fogginess of the mind will get you nowhere.
  5. Caution:  Writing is risky. Forget that – just wrote with flare and passion.
  6.  Doubt:   Don’t let it interrupt your efforts. Contradict it over and over when it tells you your efforts are not up to par.   Believe in yourself and your own abilities.
  7. Dull:   This haunts us all at some stage.  You can’t get your inspiration to shine through.   Try something different – write in a different place, listen to different music, set yourself a challenge and inject a bit of adventure into your life and your writing.        You can do it – just have faith in yourself!

I am always happy to hear your comments, or to help with any writing problem. You can contact me at   My latest novel (no. 14) is “Searching for Sarah”. This and many of my earlier books are available by contacting me direct.  Happy writing!



Sometimes it’s a struggle to get started on a project, but the best thing to do with a blank page is to put something on it.  I have come across a lot of inspiring words from successful authors, and always saved them.  Now I’ll share them with you.

Author Anne Rice says:  “On writing, my advice is the same to all. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again.  Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less.”

Will Self advises: “Always carry a notebook, and I mean ALWAYS.  Short-term memory only retains information for 3 minutes. Unless it is committed to paper, you can lose an idea for ever.”

An amusing one from Geoff Dyer:  “Do it every day. Make a habit of putting  your observations into words and gradually this will become instinctive.  This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.”

Stephen King wrote: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write.  Simple as that!”  He also wrote: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching lives of those who will read your work… Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

Famous Jodi Picoult:  “You can always edit a bad page.  You can’t edit a blank page.”

Wonderful words from Anton Chekhov:  “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

And my favorite comes from Isaac Asimov:  “If a doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood.  I’d type a little faster!”

I hope these quotes got you moving.  My 14th book “Searching for Sarah” is available on Amazon, or contact me direct at  I also have copies available of most of my earlier titles, including “The Pomegranate Pendant”, now a movie titled  “The Golden Pomegranate.”

If I can help you with any writing problem, write to me direct.  Happy writing!



You’ve heard the old maxim: “Don’t let the sun set on a rejected manuscript.”  Well, I now believe this is very bad advice.  Don’t send it out again the same day.  When your rejected article comes back to your mailbox, look at it as an opportunity, not a terrible defeat.  It’s an opportunity to make it a bit better, and raising its quality just a notch may be enough to bring an acceptance next time you send it out to a different market.

Whenever an editor says “Sorry”, suppress your despair and set about making your freelance work irresistible.  Look at it with greater detachment and clarity, and let new ideas emerge.   Here are some tips:

FOCUS:  Your topic may be too broad, robbing it of impact.  Hone in on just one feature, and don’t try to cover too many.  LEAD:  Is it exciting enough to make today’s “I’m in a hurry” reader  keep reading?  Good writers come up with outstanding leads.  A bicycling article I read recently started with this: “Life is like a 12-speed bike.  Most of us have gears we’ve never used.”  A lead like this can turn dashed hopes into victory.

ANECDOTES:  These are the lifeblood of a feature. They underscore the theme and make it more memorable.  Try for a lively anecdote to reinforce your point, and a new quotation can also help.   MARKETING:  Don’t overlook this dimension.  Perhaps your article is fine, but you sent it to the wrong medium.  Read new magazines and study their Writers’ Guidelines … today, there are so many choices, you should be able to find the right fit.  Finally, EDITING:  Have you done enough?  Is the story as crisp as it might be?  In “The Elements of Style” we read that vigorous writing is concise.   A sentence should contain no unnecessary words; a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.”   Look at your rejected ms. in the cold light of reality.  Don’t send it out again without making some improvement.  Double-check your accuracy.    Go the extra mile, and you’ll get a cheque instead of a rejection.  Happy writing.

I look forward to your comments, and am happy to help you with your writing queries.

My latest novella, “Searching for Sarah”, and most of my other 13 books are available on Amazon or direct from me at a reduced price – contact my e-mail:   Happy writing.