The Literary Shaddchan

Authors: find the right places to publish your work. Editors: find the authors you need. Writers: find workshops and courses that will help you develop and grow.

THE WRITERS’ LIFE IN ISRAEL

By Esther Heller (appeared in The English Update)

When we made aliya, we left our family and friends and our comfortable and predictable lifestyle. I also thought I was saying goodbye to having the opportunity to be part of a community of writers in English.  In Jerusalem I could hope to meet writers, but we were headed for Tsfat and at that time it had only a fledgling Anglo community. How could I dare expect to find other writers?  I decided this was part of my meseires nefesh of coming to live in Eretz Yisroel. I brought along the novel I was working on and hoped I could sustain enough inspiration to finish without a writing group to cheer me on.

We moved to Tsfat the week after Simchas Torah, and the very next day a creative writing class in English was offered at the regional college. That meant that one day into my new life in Tsfat I had already met the town’s talented writers. The class met for one academic year and was never offered again. But that year was enough time for the writers of Tsfat to become cohesive and create an ongoing writers’ workshop.

It’s challenging to work as a writer when your language isn’t the main language of the land. You don’t have the abundance of books stores or libraries that you took for granted. You hear English spoken poorly and see it misspelled in astonishing ways on menus. Yet English writing is flourishing in Israel. Writing workshops abound and a seminar where over 150 women writers converge each year to meet and be inspired will be offered once again after Pesach.  Here is a small sampling of some of the workshops in Jerusalem for women who want to write in English.

Sarah Shapiro, noted author

Sarah Shapiro began her writing workshops in 1992. Through the years, much of the writing that has appeared in her well-known “Our Lives” Anthology series had its beginnings in one of her groups, and many of the writers well known in the Orthodox world today were first published in one of those volumes.

Sarah believes that the art of teaching writing is based on a few basic ideas.

“The first,” she says, “is that anyone who has a desire to write, to capture and transform life with the written word, is probably by nature a writer, whether or not that gift has been developed. Secondly, there’s no such thing as an objective standard when it comes to the value of a work of literature; literary judgment is a matter of taste. It’s your privilege to dislike Shakespeare and say you can’t make heads or tails of this or that famous poem.

Third, each and every piece of writing has to go by its own internal rules; what works for one piece will not by any means necessarily apply to another.

Fourth, a person is like a garden; the flowers that arise from that person’s soil, out of his or her unique life experiences and fertilized by his tears and joys, will be unlike any other writer’s. What makes for good writing is the sound of that individual’s particular voice and way of seeing things. The job of a teacher is thus to trust and encourage the writer’s natural inclinations.

Fifth, the best teacher is the ongoing act of writing itself; if one indulges regularly, writing turns into a habit that is hard to break, and one gradually becomes one’s own best editor.”

Shifrah Devorah Witt M.A., M.F.A.  Growing as a Writer

Shifra Devorah’s aim is to create a safe space to grow as a writer. She believes in creating a warm and supportive environment so that a person can grow into the writer she wants to be and flourish whether she has been writing for years or for the first time. She says, “My classes are very much about support as well as growth. Each week we workshop each students assignment from the previous week, giving constructive feedback and guidance on what worked in the piece and where there is still work to be done. At the end of each class I give an assignment that is meant to be generative, i.e, to help generate new ideas for new writing. The following week writers come in with copies of their writing for the class to be work-shopped. Certain students choose to skip the assignments entirely because they are working on novels, manuscripts, or other personal projects like, children’s books, poetry books, memoir etc, which is fine and welcomed.”

The women are warm, kind, bright women who have something to say, a story to tell or are looking for a voice inside of them to have a place to be expressed.

“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help people with their writing and watch people grow in their creative journeys,” she says. Many of the writers she has worked with have gone on to publish books from work that was written in her groups or from ideas that were generated in the group.

Shifra Devorah’s training is as a writer and a writing instructor.  She is the Author of Inside Secrets to the Craft of Writing : http://www.sdwitt.blogspot.com For more information please contact her at consciousliving@hotmail.com

Gila Green MA   Strength in Diversity

Because Gila’s background is in journalism, creative writing, as well as secular and religious publishing, she is able to work from the backdrop of a wide canvas in all classes.

Her groups aim to help writers bring their writing up to the level that it can be published. Women work on short stories, personal essays, or novels. On the first day of class, each participant is assigned a date for her critique, as well as a date for her revision. The groups spends the first hour of class going over a reading that Gila has sent out to the group in advance, looking for what can be learned from the author.

Next is an in-class writing exercise. The last hour is dedicated to critiquing two students, per class.

Gila’s writing workshops attract a wide variety of participants. The ages of women range from young single women to grandmothers. There is much strength in diversity and women are able to “see” their work through the eyes of Jewish women from all backgrounds.

“There is a terrific blend of women,” says Gila,  “there are published writers writing alongside women who are trying their hand for the first time at publishable level writing, baalat teshuvas, ffb’s, career women and stay-at-home-moms. This allows each participant excellent feedback from many points of view.”

The course is also very focused on how to read a work; which is critical for excellent writing.

Please see her site: www.gilagreenonline.com

Tzipora Price M.Sc. The Writers’ Workshop

The Writer’s Workshop is an ongoing writing workshop that meets mornings in Ramat Beit Shemesh for 10 consecutive weeks per session. The small group size provides a nurturing environment to support writers as they learn how to take their writing to the next level, and develop a more professional presentation.

Tzipora says, “at the workshop you can actualize your dream of becoming a writer and learn how to discover your unique voice. You will discover what editors expect from your submission. You can join the ranks of many successful students who have already begun to publish their own work!  All this and more is possible at The Writer’s Workshop.”

“The small nurturing environment is open to everyone,” says Tzipora. “Writer’s blossom in this unique and gentle environment. Feedback is provided in a kindhearted and growth inspiring manner. Hard work & rewrites are encouraged.”

Tzippora is an acclaimed mental health journalist, who has made significant contributions towards increasing public awareness of mental health and mental illness. She is a regular contributor to thejewishwoman.org, chabad.org, aish.com and Binah magazine.  She is the author of two books, “Mother in Progress” ( Targum Press, 2011) and “Into the Whirlwind” (Lions’ Gate Press, 2010)

Poetry on the Terrace

‘Poetry on the Terrace’ started nearly two years ago on the terrace of a lovely villa in Ramot. “Our women’s group enjoys writing and sharing our individual poetry, though occasionally we read from the works of poets/poetesses who have inspired us,” says organizer Sara Feld. “We usually have a writing catalyst, using a variety of poetic styles for some impromptu writing. We are presently compiling an anthology of our poetry.”

They meet every fourth Wednesday at the home of Tirtza Singer in Ramot B. Tirtza, a very talented singer and musician, lends her talents to rounding out the evening.

“Writing poetry helps to make sense of life – enhancing and releasing innate wisdoms. Sharing our writing in a warm, encouraging ambiance allows our creativity to soar.

We welcome others to join us.”

Please contact Sarah Feld feldfamus@yahoo.com

One Response to The Literary Shaddchan

  1. Chaya Sara (Zirkind) Ben Shachar says:

    I am an author of fiction for children. I am looking to branch out into fiction for adults and other writing for children. I have had books published by Targum Press and Judaica Press. Shorter pieces of my writing (including articles for adults) have been published by Hamodia, Spirit Magazine, Horizons and Arachim.
    In addition to writing I also teach esl to kids in Israel.

Leave a Reply