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Julie's August 2020 newsletter: victory gardens, summer of CNF, and a morning meditative read

Dear friends,

I hope you are keeping cool and staying healthy! It’s been a few years since I’ve spent the entire month of August in Israel, and my thoughts keep going to these words from a popular children’s book* (can you name it? answer below): “In August it will be so hot, I will become a cooking pot, cooking soup of course. Why not?….”

Brief writing update: I’ve been writing scenes by longhand, which is definitely helping my two story drafts. Fingers crossed that by next month I’ll be able to report that I’ve finished at least one of them! I had three pieces of excellent news this month:

  • My essay, Seeds of Sustenance, which discusses wartime victory gardens and pandemic-era gardening, was published by the Jewish Women’s Archive. I pitched this to JWA Digital Content Editor Rebecca Long back in April, and she was kind enough to wait a few months while I worked on it. This one was fun to research! Here are a few of my favorite wartime victory garden posters (courtesy of Creative Commons/via US National Archives).

  • I was very honored to learn that Temple Sholom of Chicago, where I spoke last fall, has been reading The Book of Jeremiah and discussing it, chapter-by-chapter, in a weekly study group! Wow!

  • ‘Tis the season for CNF (creative nonfiction) acceptances! I received word on Sat. night that Atlas & Alice, an online journal, will publish my essay about biking. Looking forward to sharing the link once it is up!

Recommended reading (& reviewing)

I’m at 41 books for the year, six ahead of my 2020 Goodreads challenge! Last week, I spent time catching up on writing reviews for several books I’ve enjoyed recently. I always post these on both Goodreads and Amazon, and I encourage you to do the same! All of this month’s recommended reads are great selections for book clubs.

  • A Small Thing to Want by Shuly Cawood - There is so much to love in Shuly Cawood's new collection, which came out in May from Press 53. The characters in this excellent short story collection may think they are striving for "small" things in the grand scheme of things, but within the realm of one's life, these desires -- for love, acceptance and wholeness -- are not small at all. These stories will sit with me for a long time, and I was sorry for the book to end.

  • The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl by Marra Gad - Adopted by a white Jewish family at birth, Marra Gad has faced racism from many angles, including members of her extended family. Reading her memoir, I was both heartbroken for the hurt she's had to endure, but also extremely impressed by her honesty and her ability to act with grace and love, particularly towards those who have caused harm. Gad and her loving parents have much to teach the rest of us.

  • Other People’s Pets by R.L. Maizes, is exactly the book you want to read this summer! It follows La La, an animal empath (meaning she can feel what animals are feeling) as she is forced to drop out of vet school to pay the legal bills for her petty burglar father. Though handling weighty themes -- crime, abandonment, wrong choices -- Maizes manages a perfect balance of comic and tragic.

One book I’m reading slowly, my “morning meditative read,” is Meir Shalev’s My Wild Garden: Notes from a Writer’s Eden (translated by Joanna Chen). Sitting in my not-so- wild (but at times overgrown) garden, I feel like this book was written for me!

Here’s the full list of all the books I’ve recommended in these newsletters.**

Story/poem of the Month

Islands (PANK): I’ve never been to Corpus Christi, Texas, and it’s been a while since I’ve been an 11-year-old girl like the narrator in this excellent story by Elizabeth Gonzales James. I have an Advanced Reader Copy of James’ debut novel, Mona at Sea, coming in 2021 from SFWP Press, and I’m looking forward to digging in.


I’m meeting with three synagogue book clubs in August - the aforementioned Temple Sholom of Chicago, the Books of Jewish Interest series through the Bethlehem (NH) Hebrew Congregation, and the book club of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield, MI. Looking forward to these discussions!

My September (and onward) calendar is wide open and I’d love to meet with more book clubs or take part in other virtual events! As for Literary Modiin, I hope to announce our next event soon.

If you missed any of these July events, you can catch the recordings here:

Monthly Writing Prompt

Write about that vacation you’ve always wanted but have never taken. An elegy? A satire? A hermit crab story/poem/essay? You decide!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Welcome to the end of the newsletter, where you’re rewarded with a yummy recipe. Of all the vegetables in my corona victory garden, one zucchini plant in particular has been the most successful. It’s massive leaves now hang over my balcony. Naturally when I harvested my first “crop” of zucchini (seen here with the first two cucumbers), I went with an unhealthy recipe, because, well…why not? Years ago, my cousins Wendy Glantz Swain and Carole Glantz Yorkes put together our family cookbook, A Glantz in the Kitchen, with inputs from three generations, and this delicious recipe is Carole’s.


3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

4 tsp baking powder

2 cups zucchini, grated

3 eggs

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

Mix all the ingredients and pout into two small or one large loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 F / 175 C. Enjoy!

See you next month with more book recommendations, writing notes, recipes & more!

* The words are from Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the whole series, as well as Carole King’s musical version as part of the play Really Rosie. It’s a favorite from my childhood and my parenthood.

**The list of books is compiled in Bookshop, a socially-conscious way to buy books online that dedicates most of its profits to supporting local, independent bookstores, authors, and publications that cover books.

As always, if you’ve read (and liked) The Book of Jeremiah, please leave a brief review on Amazon or wherever you purchase books online. Thank you!

I’m new on Instagram, and I don’t 100% know what I’m doing there, but if you’d like to see more pictures of the books I’m reading, my garden, or my biking exploits, please follow me there!


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