A few days late, but happy March! I’ve settled into my new routine of 10-12 hour work days while squeezing in writing, reading, exercise, and taking a break once a week to meet a friend in the park for a Bri’ut sandwich (see my Jan. newsletter :-). I hope you’re finding time to do things you love. Scroll down for book recs, a new Lit Modiin event, recipes and more!
Not-so-brief writing update: I was plugging away at my third draft of my novel-in-progress, about 2/3 through, and I hit a wall. I spent an entire Friday morning - my main writing day - with a list of scenes, craft books, notebooks, and tried to brainstorm my way through the wall. I may have made some progress. There are scenes I’ll have to rearrange (and thus rewrite) and many I’ll probably end up throwing out. It’s daunting, but I’m trying to write a bit most days. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but usually the month of March means I’d be getting ready for the Jerusalem Marathon, working my kilometrage up to run the half-marathon. (Sadly not this year or last). There’s a killer hill around kilometer 17-18 — Kovshei Katamon for those who are familiar — and let’s just say it would be a stretch to call what I’m doing at this point in the race “running.” More like plodding. Somehow, I make it to the finish line. Somehow, I’ll make it through this novel draft. Yallah, onward!
Some nice news: There’s a new interview with me on Cliff Garstang’s website, in which I talk about the book, my favorite jobs, my to-be-read pile and more. Check out all of the great resources on his website. Thanks, Cliff!
Quick request for help & PSA: I’d love it if you could take a few minutes to ask your local library to carry a copy of The Book of Jeremiah. Often you can make this request online (though you might have to first search the catalog and then look for the “Suggest a Purchase” button). Thank you in advance!
One of the first things I did upon receiving copies of The Book of Jeremiah was to donate one to my local library in Modiin. My mom did the same in Trumbull, CT.
Here are three great recommendations for this month:
The Cold Millions by Jess Butler - This novel follows brothers Gig (23) and Rye (16) during the labor disputes and free speech riots of 1909 in Spokane, WA. I’m going to quote author Anthony Doerr because he says it so well: “The Cold Millions is a literary unicorn: a book about socio-economic disparity that’s also a page-turned, a postmodern experiment that reads like a potboiler, and a beautiful, lyric hymn to the power of social unrest in American history. It’s funny and harrowing, sweet and violent…it walks a dozen tightropes.” I loved learning about this time period and the real-life figure of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a 19-year-old union organizer, feminist and agitator for the poor.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - It took me a little while to figure out what was going on in this book, especially listening to the audio version, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Saunders is a creative genius, and I highly recommend his story collections. Here, he’s taken the tragic death of young Willie Lincoln in 1862, one year into the Civil War, and turned it into story of “familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.” The audiobook features 166 (!!) different narrators, including David Sedaris, Don Cheadle, Lena Dunham and the author himself. If I was doing this again, I’d do the Whisper-sync thing to follow along in the Kindle while listening.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert - This was a fun, lighter read, set in the New York City theater world of the 1940s. The novel, told from the perspective of an older woman looking back on her life, centers on Vivian Morris, a 19-year-old dropout from Vassar sent to live with her eccentric aunt in NYC. Vivian has quite a romp in New York, and the book explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, regret, forgiveness and love.
Newsletter love: Speaking of reading, I want to give a shout-out to the newsletters I look forward to each month. Erika Dreifus’s The Practicing Writer is a fountain of information on calls for submission and more. Matt Bell for his monthly exercises and Jami Attenberg for her weekly craft messages. Shuly Cawood and Nina Badzin, for their general wisdom, recommendations and recipes. If you’re a fellow writer, you’ll want to subscribe to all of these! And if you’re simply looking for more book recommendations, you can’t go wrong with Jennifer Blankfein’s Book Nation by Jen and Bill Wolfe’s Read Her Like an Open Book.
Story of the Month: And the Sea is Not Full
And the Sea is Not Full (the Jewish Literary Journal) by Edna Shemesh. I had not heard of Edna Shemesh before coming across this story, but now I’m glad I have! A very Israeli story, with perfect details and images, that begins with a father making adventures for his two children.
I don’t have any book events of my own this month, but I’m super-excited for our March Literary Modiin event! As always, if your book club would like to discuss The Book of Jeremiah, I’d love to Zoom in.
Literary Modiin’s March Author Event will be held on Sunday, March 21 at 20:00 Israel / 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central. (The US will have changed it’s clocks by then, we won’t have…) Join me to hear from Avner Landes, whose debut, Meiselman: The Lean Years, comes out next week (mazal tov)!; Rachel Beanland, whose debut, Florence Adler Swims Forever, won a National Jewish Book Award this year; and Jane Bernstein, author of several novels and memoirs, who will be discussing her latest novel, The Face Tells the Secret. Register here to get the Zoom link.
If you missed February’s event with Jennifer Rosner, Lori Banov Kaufmann and L. Bordetsky-Williams, which was excellent, you can catch the recording here. Or check out the full playlist of all Literary Modiin virtual events.
Prompt of the Month: Under a desk
The other day on Twitter, I was tagged to post five things from my work-in-progress. One of mine was “a person hiding under a desk,” which a friend said was a great prompt. This month, write a story/poem/essay about someone hiding under a desk. Go!
Recipe of the Month: No-patshke pizza
There are about five or six different spellings for the Yiddish word patshke (potschke, patchkey, potshke, potchke, potchkey…), but the meaning is the same: no-fuss. This brilliant pizza dough recipe is exactly that. Throw all the ingredients together in a bowl, mix, and let rise. This is so easy that I make it once a week.
5 1/3 cups white flour (either regular or self-rising works)
1 TBSP kosher salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 TBSP sugar or 1 1/2 TBSP honey
2 cups + 2 TBSP water at room temperature
2 TBSP olive oil (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and mix! I do it by hand, which takes about five minutes, but you could also use a mixer with the dough hook. That’s it! Let it rise for several hours. Divide the dough in half, and roll out two pizzas, adding flour if necessary. Top with sauce, grated cheese, and your favorite toppings. I also recommend homemade sauce, which is also super easy: dice an onion, sauté in olive oil until translucent, add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste…). Pre-heat the oven to 235 C / 450 F and use a pizza stone if you have one. Bake for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!
I always make one half plain for the picky eaters in my family. The fancy half has tomatoes, onions, Bulgarian cheese (it’s like feta), and eggplant (from my garden!)
Lastly - Passover is coming! If you missed my Passover cookbook, which went out in my first-ever newsletter a year ago, download a copy here.
See you next month with book recs, writing notes, recipes & more! I’ll leave you with some pictures I snapped two days ago on my bike ride.