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October 2020: A time of our happiness, a 15th anniversary, and many, many books

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Dear friends,

Happy October! The past month has had some highs and lows for me, and as the numbers of COVID cases are skyrocketing here in Israel, I’m trying to focus on gratitude. For example: there’s no end in sight to our second lockdown, but at least I can get out for a bike ride in my beloved southern hills. I’m grateful that my orders from Book Depository continue to arrive! (I’ve ordered 30 books since April - yikes). Tomorrow begins the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, also known as the “time of our happiness.” May your month be filled with happiness, health and forbearance.

Brief writing update: After handing in 200 pages for my upcoming “Big Picture” novel workshop, I’ve been revising the remaining 55 pages of the draft. Once that’s done, I may take (another) break from the novel to work on a new Molly story.

Other good news:

  • This beautiful review of The Book of Jeremiah by Book Nation by Jen came out in August but I forgot to include it in last month’s newsletter! If you share my taste in books, I highly recommend subscribing to Jennifer’s blog.

  • A hearty congratulations to Press 53 on it’s 15th anniversary this month. Press 53 has published 245 titles since 2005! Scroll down to the events section to see what’s planned during the month-long celebration, and be sure to check out the cool merchandise (I, for one, will be ordering a #kickasswomenwriters t-shirt)!

Recommended Reading

I’m up to 56 books for the year, 12 ahead of my self-imposed Goodreads challenge! Highly recommend all three of these books:

House of the Ancients and Other Stories by Clifford Garstang - The stories in Cliff Garstang's latest collection take us all over the globe, but the characters are familiar, and often troubled. In the words of another reviewer, the stories force us "into an uncomfortable and daring consideration of culpability." Garstang is a talented writer, causing the reader to sit up and think, which, for me, is the mark of an excellent book.

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker - Hidden Valley Road tells the true, heartrending story of the Galvin family, six of whose 12 children have schizophrenia. With great compassion, Robert Kolker interweaves the stories of the siblings and parents together with attempts by the medical and scientific community to understand the disease. This is nonfiction that reads like fiction, and I am sure it will be on many awards lists this year.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas - Set over the course of three time periods, this novel (winner of the Sami Rohr Prize) tells the tale of the al-Raqb family, watchmen of the Ibn Ezra Synagogue. The modern-day protagonist is the American son of an Egyptian-born Jewish woman and Muslim father. The family’s story is interlaced with the efforts (by Solomon Schechter and others) to recover sacred fragments from the synagogue (aka the Cairo Geniza). It’s a delightful novel!

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

On a separate note, I sent off blurbs for two forthcoming novels - Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzales James (SFWP Press, 2021) and The Lockhart Women by Mary Camarillo (SheWrites Press, 2021), both of which were fun reads - look for them soon!

Story/poem of the month:

Happy Jack (Joyland Magazine): This excellent story by Shelby Kinney-Lang - about a young man who’s come adrift in the wake of his father’s death, came to me via a GrubStreet email. Enjoy!


I don’t know about you, but literary events give me something to look forward to during these dark days! And as always, if your book club would like to discuss The Book of Jeremiah, I’d love to Zoom in.

  • Literary Modiin’s October Author Event will be held on Sunday, October 18, at 20:30 Israel / 1:30 pm Eastern / 12:30 pm Central. I can’t wait to hear from Nessa Rapoport, whose new novel, Evening, came out last month; Aaron Hamburger, whose novel Nirvana is Here, came out in 2019; and Riva Lehrer, whose memoir, Golem Girl, comes out next week (mazal tov)! Register here to get the Zoom link.

  • Press 53’s month-long 15th anniversary celebration includes dozens of free, online readings. Check out the full schedule here. Together with Cliff Garstang (above), I’ll be speaking about the writing life at the online book fair on Saturday, October 10 from 7 - 8 pm Israel time (noon - 1 pm Eastern), a few minutes after we conclude the holiday here in Israel. Here’s the Zoom link.

Monthly Writing Prompt

Time of our happiness: Write something that builds to a time of intense happiness or celebration. Let me know how it goes!

Recipe: Carrot & Ginger Soup

Welcome to the end of the newsletter, where you’re rewarded with a yummy recipe. Back in the ancient days when I got married, my dear friend Abby Sosland put together a recipe book from our friends and family. My cousin-in-law to be, Debbie Snyder, contributed this recipe, which I continue to make to this day.

6 TBSP butter (for a dairy-free version of the recipe, substitute olive oil)

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp ginger root, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

5 cups vegetable stock

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 lbs. carrots, cut into 1/2” pieces

1 TBSP lemon juice

dash of curry

Salt & pepper to taste

Sautee onion, garlic and ginger for about 10-15 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the stock, wine, and carrots. Heat to boiling, and then reduce and simmer for about 45 minutes. Puree with a hand-stick blender and add the lemon juice, curry, salt and pepper. Garnish with chives or parsley. This soup can be served hot or cold. Enjoy!

I forgot to take a picture of this soup when I made it last Friday. And in case you’re wondering, the only thing growing in my victory garden right now (aside from spices) are about five of these cute little eggplants. Aren’t the flowers pretty?

See you next month with book recommendations, writing notes, recipes & more! To those celebrating: chag sameach! To my fellow Americans, especially those of us who need absentee ballots, don’t forget to VOTE!


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