I hope you are staying cool, healthy and sane this July! As I write this, we are in the midst of a second wave of the virus here in Israel, and we are “a step away” from a full lockdown, according to the Prime Minister. Here’s hoping that this newsletter - with some book recommendations, writing events, links to new short stories, a yummy recipe and more - will be a welcome distraction.
Quick writing update: I have not made much progress on the two stories I’ve previously mentioned here; however I have completed a brief essay about my corona victory garden and parallels to the wartime victory gardens of World War I and World War II. (You may recall a picture from the June newsletter of my tomato seeds, a fine looking cucumber plant and more). Fingers crossed I’ll place the essay!
In other writing news this past month:
My flash fiction story, Bender’s Sister Speaks, was published in CRAFT, along with an author’s note on how this story came to be. Yeah! Thank you to everyone who has given this story some love on social media. Working with CRAFT editors Katelyn Keating and Kristin Tenor was my best lit mag publishing experience to date.
I took an online class through WriteSpace Jerusalem with the brilliant and insightful Ilana Blumberg on writing childhood. It was like being back in an English lit class in college as we engaged with texts and deconstructed them on a sentence-level to understand their power. Loved it!
Together with my fellow American-Israeli author Avner (Avi) Landes, I had the pleasure of speaking about publishing and the writing life with fiction and CNF students at Bar-Ilan University’s Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing (which Ilana Blumberg directs). Look for Avi’s debut novel, Meiselman: The Lean Years, coming in January 2021 from Tortoise Books.
I’m at 34 books for the year, four ahead of schedule according to Goodreads :-). To see all of the books I’ve recommended in these newsletters, visit my complete 2020 list here (the link is to 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).
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel - Fans of Station Eleven will not be disappointed with Mandel’s newest novel. I read this quickly, voraciously, extremely impressed with her wide cast of characters, the empathy I felt for the protagonist Vincent (a woman), and the way Mandel weaves themes of love, money and memory together. To quote Ron Charles of The Washington Post: “Mandel is a consummate, almost profligate world builder. One superbly developed setting gives way to the next…The 300 pages of The Glass Hotel work harder than most 600-page novels.” Highly recommended for book clubs!
The Round House by Louise Erdrich - This National Book Award winner came out several years ago but I only read it a month or so ago. The novel takes us to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, where an adolescent boy, Joe, is seeking justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime inflicted on his mother. The result is a moving coming-of-age story about love, resentment, duty and pain. Recommended for book clubs!
Educated by Tara Westover - Wow, wow, wow, I kept saying as I listened to Westover’s highly-acclaimed memoir. It’s easy to see how this made “all” the “Best of” lists the year it was published. Raised in a strict Mormon family in Idaho, Westover was not allowed to attend school and spent her childhood working in her father’s junkyard and helping with her mother’s herb business. The book chronicles her journey from “uneducated” to receiving a PhD from Cambridge, and the price she has paid for her education. Highly recommended!
Moby-Dick update: I’ve finished! :-) I’ll admit to skimming the chapters dealing with whale physiognomy and phrenology, but Melville’s writing when it comes to his characters is delightful and the final scenes of the chase are downright poetic.
Stories of the month: Three in Prime Number Magazine
I served as the guest editor for Prime Number Magazine's 10th anniversary issue, which came out on July 1! It was not a small amount of work, to say the least, having to read and evaluate over 340 stories. Click here to read the three stories I chose: "Genetics, Human" by Elizabeth Edelglass, "Off-Ramp" by Tim Fitts, and "High Above Horse Tail Falls" by Milena Nigam.
Events, events and more events
July is a busy month, with three virtual events and two meetings with book clubs in Woodbridge, CT, and Tulsa, OK. I’d love to see you at one of my events and at the Literary Modiin Summer Virtual Author event on July 26.
Sunday July 12 at 2 pm Eastern / 9 pm Israel time - Everyday Lives: Three Authors in Conversation on Finding Inspiration, Characters that Resonate, and Writing in 2020 I’ll be joined by fellow Press 53 authors Shuly Cawood (A Small Think to Want) and Gerry Wilson (Crosscurrents and Other Stories) as we discuss the writing life in 2020 and much more! Register here.
Wednesday, July 22 at 12 pm Eastern / 7 pm Israel time - Together with Press 53, Virginia Pye (Shelf Life of Happiness) is hosting Storytelling in Poetry and Prose I’ll be joined by fellow Press 53 authors Cliff Garstang (House of the Ancients and Other Stories), Jodi Paloni (They Could Live with Themselves), Shivani Mehta (Useful Information for the Soon-to-be Beheaded) for a reading. I’ve read their books and they’re all amazing, so if you’re free for a lunchtime reading, please join us. Register here.
Sunday, July 26 at 1 pm Eastern / 8 pm Israel time - Literary Modiin is once again hosting a virtual author event, featuring R.L. Maizes (Other People’s Pets; We Love Anderson Cooper), Sara Lippmann (Doll’s Palace), and Ilana Masad (All My Mother’s Lovers). While I hope resume our in-person author evenings soon, I’m excited by the opportunity to hear from these fabulous authors. Register here or on Facebook!
Monthly Writing Prompt
I’m taking a page from Levi Andrew Noe’s prompt in my Kathy Fish Fast Flash workshop last June, which inspired my Breakfast Club story above: Choose a character from literature, TV, cinema, pop culture or wherever and place them into the world and subgenre of your choice.
Recipe: Barbecued Tofu with Peppers and Onions
Welcome to the end of the newsletter, where you’re rewarded with a yummy recipe. Whether or not you held a BBQ on July 4th, here’s my go-to recipe when I’m hosting one and want to make something for the vegetarians. Super easy and tasty. At the time I got engaged, my then-fiance (now husband) was a vegetarian; as a result, we received numerous vegetarian cookbooks as engagement gifts. This recipe is from Main-Course Vegetarian Pleasures, our hands-down favorite.
1 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4 cubes and patted dry
1 green or red pepper, cut into squares
1 onion, diced
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP natural peanut butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 1/2 TBSP ketchup
1 tsp mustard
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp molasses or dark brown sugar
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Preheat the oven to 450 F / 225 C. Combine tofu, red/green pepper, onion in a large bowl and season with the soy sauce and 1 TBSP vegetable oil. Let it marinate for 15-30 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, then spoon on the rest of the sauce, tossing gently to coat everything. Return to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes or until lightly browned. Enjoy!