Saturday, December 30, 2006

Love and Space Fright in Steel City

Well, a little more love from a couple of editors. Julia and Stefani are the co-editors of the Steel City Review a new lit journal published out of Pittsburgh, which to my scientific delight states that:
We are interested in publishing stories that explore techy, mechanical, dry and scientific issues by providing them with juicy plots and characters we'd like to chat with. Weare interested in stories featuring implements, code, machines, procedures, and expertise; academics and workers; masters and rebels.

I saw that and thought of another story which I wrote a few years ago but never found a place for (this one not a flash piece). So I sent them Space Fright four days ago, and today they emailed to say that they would "love to publish it" in the April issue. What a thrill. I hope that they realise how much it means to me to have an editor not only accept a story but to use the word "love". I will sleep sweetly tonight.

They also made my day by saying that they'd seen my stories on LabLit and the Entelechy Journal and are "honored" that I sent them my work. Blimey. It's quite a strange feeling, my writing is out there, people are seeing it in different places, looking at the name of the author, forming an impression about me. It's all new to me, all of this. But somehow everything seems to be falling into place.
A good way to start a new year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chemistry at Hiss Quarterly

Good news: just had a lovely email from the folks at Hiss Quarterly accepting my short short, Chemistry, for their next issue. Nothing better than a publication telling you they "love" your story. This is a flash piece I wrote years ago, had hanging around at the back of the drawer, never quite knowing what to do with it. Then I saw Hiss' call for subs on the subject of "Birds&Bees" and it felt like a fit.

Made my day.

Makes all those rejections worthwhile.

It'll be up there Feb 1st. Thanks, Hiss.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


It's snowing in Jerusalem.... only two days after Xmas. The entire city has come to a standstill over a few flakes. What fun!

Monday, December 18, 2006

back on track

It's a beautiful sunny day and, despite being woken rather earlier than I am used to by drilling right outside our house, I am in a great mood and feeling productive and creative again. I am attempting to adapt one of my short stories into a one-act play which will probably be around ten minutes long. I didn't know until I did a one-act play course a few months ago that there were such gems as ten-minute plays, the stage's version of short stories. Actually, I discovered an even shorter form: one-page plays, flash drama! What a joy!

Anyhow, adapting my story is a very interesting and enlightening process, trimming away the fat, so to speak - seeing what I can show and imply without directly telling the audience everything. The thought that actors might become the characters I have created is intoxicating - the flesh-and-blood realisation of my story. But whereas in the short story you have to put a certain amount down on the page, on the stage you can have silences, just movement. I worry: have I put in too few words or too many Will they know what the hell is going on? I've been thinking about what I would want to see as a member of the audience.

And also, as someone who has done quite a bit of acting in am-dram, I am trying not to force too much down the actors' throats but leave it open to their interpretation without overwhelming them with stage directions (assuming it ever gets put on!). The play should get the story across clearly enough without me having to state that a character is embarassed at a certain point, or flirty.

The power of words.

We'll see how it goes. I find it very hard to read it in script form and imagine how it will look, but one of the writing communities I have joined has a scriptwriting section so I will post it up there and open myself to their critique.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bitterness, Guilt and Shame

Part of me is ashamed to even write this blog, but I think it may help so I will get it onto the page. I went out for some fresh air and ended up sitting in a local cafe with a cup of tea and the latest issue of the Stinging Fly. As is my wont, I turned first to the Contributors Page, and took a look at where the 22 writers were coming from and who'd done what. One writer's name was familiar from something else I had read today, so I decided to Google her on my cellphone (yes, fancy one with Internet, just adds to time wasted). Through various digressions from this author etc.., I ended up on Fish Publishing's Alumni page, where they have followed up on those who have won or being finalists in their competitions, to see where the accolade took them next.

As I read the descriptions of how each writer had gone on to win more, to be published, to release collections, etc.. etc..., I found to my disgust that a wave of bitterness was rising up inside me. It swelled until I became, frankly, distressed. I desperately didn't want to read of other writers' achievements and feel bitter, so my ensuing guilt and shame compounded the feeling. I stopped, switched off the phone, and sat there with my tea, thinking about why I was feeling this way.

I quickly realised that it was not that I was reading about their success and thinking

"Why them??"

but that what was buzzing through my brain was:

"When me? When me??"

The mere asking of that question then opened the floodgates and what came rushing through was "you, you'll never get there, you'll never make it, they're great writers, who do you think you are, why do you even bother", a whole stream of self-doubt and flagellation.

I paid for my tea and walked slowly home, forming this blog post in my head, knowing I needed to get it all out there. What do I make of this? On the one hand, I definitely do not want to write in order to win things, to see my name on a myriad of publications, to make money. I want to write because I need to write, because I feel ill if I don't, because what I write makes me laugh, moves me.


Yet, I have a Word document on my hard drive, a table with a list of everything I have submitted stories to, and all the upcoming deadlines, and that list is growing, I add to it daily, and daily I check through the publications, the competitions, to see if they've announced, I check several times a day, I constantly refresh the pages to make sure they are up to date, I click and click - and it is making me crazy. This isn't what it is about. It isn't, is it?

And I have an agent. Well, I have been in touch with an agent for a few years. But nothing is moving on that front. I know it is because she believes I am not ready, my material isn't ready. And I know she's right. I don't have enough stories I love passionately to put in a collection. But still... I feel a rush, I want it now, I want it all.

So, do I delete this document? Do I forget about the agent? Do I stop sending off stories? Do I shut myself off from potential readers and just write?

I feel I am in a real transition period now - a few months ago, three or so, I stopped working as a journalist to try and write short stories full time. I am now a full time short story writer. This means I write for two hours a day, on the good days, but the joy of it is that I don't have a head full of editors clamouring for articles, of people I have to phone and interview, of technologies I have to look up on the Internet and try to understand. No, all that is in my head are stories, characters, ideas. And it's bliss.

So perhaps I need the bitterness and the guilt and the self-doubt to push me, because no-one else is pushing me. Perhaps in moderation the negativity will keep prodding me to do it. Moderation, that is the key. I have to keep positive. I have to have other writers around me, physically and spiritually, in person and on line.

I feel a little better now. Not fully. It's still inside me, all of it. It will take a while to dissipate. Maybe I can turn it into something, maybe I can work with it. We will see.

I imagine I am not the only writer who feels this way. Of course not. If anyone is out there and has some words of advice, wants to tell me to quit whining and just get on with it, be my guest! I need it!

Most overrated books

Ah, nice to see Prospect magazine giving people a chance to bitch about books . I was happy to see Saturday by Ian McEwan in there, I personally found it unreadable. Sadly, the list of underrated books was very thin on fiction, and short story collections were non-existent. Funny, since they are pretty much the definition of underrated in England, it seems.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

quick note on writing and health

PS I was feeling really crappy this morning, sore throat, stuffed up head... but after my 45-minutes writing with V, I am feeling so much better, my head has cleared, I feel a certain clarity and focus, my throat isn't bothering me anymore.

This isn't a scientific claim, but I don't believe the two are unrelated. Writing might just be good for your health.


remote writing karma

I have just had the wonderfully surreal and extremely productive experience of writing together with my friend V, although we are in different countries. She suggested that we pick a time, and then write for 45 minutes using a list of prompts that she prepared, weaving each one into the story until we had used them all. I just finished my 45 minutes and sent her my offering.

While I was writing, I really sensed that we were working in the same space, I felt that energy that comes from writers writing in close proximity. When I first read through the prompts, I was a little taken aback and unsure what would come - but a full and contained 928 word story emerged, with a beginning, middle and end. I don't think it's my best work, but it wasn't there an hour ago and now it is in the world, and that is something worth celebrating, no?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Just a quick note to say - I thought I had no new stories in my head right now, but I sat with my friend and fellow writer D in a cafe this afternoon, and wrote a new flash and started another longer piece. Out of nowhere.

It's magic.

May it never dry up!

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I have had a revelation.


Yes, I am of course not as naive as to assume that the first words that get put on a page are it, and should never be messed with. But I hadn't quite realised - or, let's say, allowed myself to realise - how much a writer can "mess with" a story, draft after draft. This revelation came about thanks to a book called
Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by David Michael Kaplan which my friend Vanessa highly recommended. This book gave me permission to do things I had never imagined to the stories I felt needed work - change everything, kill characters, switch a character's sex, change the place, the time, the voice, the plot. I don't know why, but just reading the open few pages of the introduction to the book liberated me to try all sorts of things I had never tried.

Now, one of my new favourite pastimes is taking a story I wrote a few years ago, a story a few thousand words in length, a story parts of which I liked but which always irked me (like the story I thought was poignant but other people found hysterically funny), and rewrite the story in under 300 words. Make it flash.

Wow, this really works!

I've done this with two stories now, and it is amazing what comes out. A whole new twist emerged in both cases, which made them far more interesting than the longer, more cumbersome version.

I love flash fiction, I believe you can say almost everything in 250 words, so I am not now going to try and "scale up" these stories, even though I would like more words for my eventual collection, but that's another story for another post. But these stories make me happy just the (brief) way they are.

Thank you David Michael Kaplan.
Thank you Vanessa.
Thank you all for your attention.
Post over.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

searches and wierd art

Ok, I've never done this before, but I just had a look at the stats for this blog on my Sitemeter page, and it tells you the referrals that led people to your blog - including what key words they were searching for when they found your blog.

So, here are some of the key words that will , through Google, Yahoo or MSN, bring an intrepid reader to titaniawrites:

Shavua tov" ok, not so strange.

IsraelLand" who would be searching for this??

clean page to write on" .... stranger and stranger. I'm the third hit on this search!

research and "alcoholic teacher"" - well, I come in Number One on this.

wierd art" - yes, I spelled weird wrong. So, it seems, did rather a lot of other people.

world watsu week" - and this on Brazilian Google!

Well, this is all rather interesting - and quite frightening. I hadn't thought that my blog posts were find-able through Google et al. I thought they were tucked away in BloggerWorld and I could say anything I liked in confidence to the few people who might be reading this.


And now I am going to turn up on the search page for BloggerWorld. Aaaaarrrggghhhh.

the joy of community

Well, more on brief moments of fame: I have enjoyed twice in the past few days being accosted in various cafes around Jerusalem by people (well, two women) who saw me in the play and wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed it. And I have to admit that I got a kick out of it. This is a small city, there aren't that many places to go, and so it's bound to happen. Then again, people could see me, think "Aha, wasn't she in that play? I really didn't enjoy that/her", and completely ignore me. So I do appreciate it when someone takes the time away from their cappucino to make me blush a little. Thank you. That's one kind of community that is very heart-warming.

Another is the community of writers. I realised that as much as I love writing this blog, I would love it even more to have other short story writers' blogs to read and for them to read mine and for us all to swap tips, condolences on rejection, congratulations on acceptance and everything else the insecure writer requires to keep her afloat. I have one great writer friend, VanessaGebbie, with whom I engage in mutual commenting, and this week I decided to look at who comments on her blogs, follow the links to theirs, make my mark there and see what comes.

Well, I was delighted to discover today (suprisingly, since for some reason blogger has stopped notifying me when someone posts a comment, bloody beta versions!) that two of the writers whose blogs I stopped into took the time to pay a return visit. Nice to meet you, B.A. GoodjohnHilaryMack. I hope this mig
and ht be the beginning of something beautiful - in an online, short story writer kind of way.

Friday, November 17, 2006

shortlisting & performing

I know it's not a winning strategy in life to place too much importance on the praise of others, but I can't deny the fact that it is a good feeling. I am performing in a play this week, my character is the comic relief, and making an audience laugh has got to rank up there with one of the best sensations. (However, when they laugh at the part where I am actually being serious.... that's a little upsetting, I am obviously doing something not quite right, will work on that for the last two performances next week).

And along those same lines - and far more importantly in terms of my chosen vocation - it is such a boost when one of my short stories gets somewhere - and this week I found out I have been shortlisted for a competition. It just makes my day, well, my week, really. But there is that downside: when I don't get anywhere, I feel crushed, rejected. That's life, eh? I could try and coast along, not caring whether anyone likes what I write or not, but then I would miss out on the excitement as well as shielding myself from despair. There are no easy answers.

Now my most pressing concern is finding a good quinoa recipe with carrots. Suggestions welcome.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Historical One-Page is History

Ah well, my oh-so-clever 300-word story-that-I-thought-was-historical didn't make it into the shortlist for the Fish Historical One-Page short story contest. But congrats (again!) to Frances for making the short list, fingers crossed.

Still waiting for a few other comp results this week or next, and I have 'flu, which doesn't make things any better. I was supposed to be at Robert mcKee's STORY screenwriting seminar today, but 12 hours of it yesterday, listening to him rant and rave, plus my fever today, and that's enough to keep me home in bed.

Just found a whole load of competitions to enter in the US - except all but one of them require entries by post (by post!!) and entry fees in dollars. Do they
want non-Americans to enter? Doesn't look like it. Have they heard of PayPal? Is email a foreign concept? Some of them have been very kind when I have emailed to say that I can't get a dollar cheque, and they are trying to make alternative arrangements. I think that sometimes Americans might forget that there are other people outside America... and we want to get our hands on your prize money. Make it a little easier for us, please!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Films in the afternoon

I just went to see a film. At two o'clock in the afternoon. Doctors should prescribe afternoon films. What a restoratative! It didn't even really matter what the film was (The Prairie Home Companion, very cute) , just the mere fact of sitting in the cinema, with only four other people, when you know that it is daylight outside, a time when other poor drudges are slogging away in offices, making phone-calls, sending emails, drinking coffee... Ahhh, the decadence of the pre-5pm (cheaper tickets) afternoon movie.... When the lights dimmed, every muscle in my body breathed out, my joints loosened, my jaw relaxed, I became like jelly. And for that hour and a half (with a five minute break during which I fought the urge for cheap chocolate) I was tranquil, I was in another world, spirited away.

I walked out into the busy mall, which normally sets my teeth on edge, with a huge grin on my face, as if I had just had a two-hour deep tissue arometherapy Swedish massage, rode down the escalator beaming, bought some not-so-cheap dark chocolate (isn't that what you need, girls, when all is well with the world?) and made my way home, even the asinine drivers on the roads not getting a rise out of me.

I must do this regularly. Under the excuse of "listening to how writers write dialogue". I think that'll fly with the boss (i.e. Me). No?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Two lives - past and present

Just a quick note... I spent today, Shabbat, reading, and what I was mainly reading was Vikram Seth's excellent and moving non-fiction book, Two Lives, about his Indian great-uncle, Shanti, and his German Jewish wife, Henny. I am half way through, absorbing in reading of the letters sent to and from Henny by her German friends, talking about how they had tried to help Henny's mother and sister before they were deported and murdered, and about life in Germany just after the war. It is deeply upsetting, all of it.

And then, just after Shabbat, I get online to check in with the news and I see this on the front page of the BBC: Envoy: 'German Jews feel unsafe' :

The Israeli ambassador to Germany has said he is concerned for Jews in Germany, against the background of what he says is rising anti-semitism there.

In a newspaper interview, Shimon Stein said the number of neo-Nazis in Germany had also increased. The interview appeared as neo-Nazi sympathisers gathered outside Berlin's Tegel Prison to demand the release of a singer jailed for three years. A court ruled that Michael Regener's band was spreading racial hatred. Mr Stein told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung he believed there was a greater willingness on behalf of neo-Nazis to use violence.

"I have the feeling that Jews in Germany do not feel safe. They are not always able to practice their religion freely," he said. "

It is hard to adequately describe my feelings at reading this. It is hard for me to find words for them. I don't think I need even find words. I want to lose myself again in the world of fiction, in my characters and their stories, a world in which, perhaps, I have some measure of control.

Shavua tov to everyone, a good week, a better week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

funniest thing ever

OK, this is hysterical.
Maybe it's only funny to cat-lovers... but actually I think it's universally side-splitting.

Hmm, I know, should be writing about fiction.



Thursday, October 12, 2006

plays etc..

I've been thinking about plays. I am in a play right now, in rehearsals, me with an American accent. We go up in a month. Now, I won't mention the title of the play but it's award-winning. Yes, fine, but it ain't exactly Arthur Miller or Pinter, know what I mean? And I've been thinking to myself "I can do this. " It helps that I took a short play-writing course (or a short-play writing course). It's liberating to write in a different form. As part of the course, I've tried to adapt one of my short stories, The White Road, into a ten-minute stage play.

It's hard.

First, because the short story is in the first person and it is entirely in her head. Well, that and talking to her dog.

Dogs on stage are not what a director longs for. So the dog has become "virtual". Sorry, Fluff.

Next, you can't just have her talking to the audience all the time, telling us what she's thinking. Ah no. Need a little more subtelty (how do you spell that??). Show, not tell. Hmmm.

And finally, there can be no two-dimensional, un-fleshed-out characters in a ten minute play.

So basically, a total rewrite is called for. Right now my main character is American, hint of a southern accent. I'm thinking of moving the accent to Yorkshire instead. Maybe. I dunno. And how many stage directions can I give? I can't map out her every move, can I? Gotta leave something for the actors to do, eh.

Urgh, this is hard. But fun. I've been thinking that maybe scripts are the way to go. I've applied for a place on Robert "Story" McKee's upcoming three-day screenwriting workshop at the beginning of Nov. I've got an idea for a film. For the beginning of a film. Problem is I can't get to the middle and I have no clue about the end.

Hopefully, Robert will help. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ilkley 2

Well, just discovered I know the person who won the Ilkley Short Story comp - we met at a short story festival a few years ago, so congratulations Frances! If I couldn't win, I'm happy that it's someone I know of, at least.

OK, sore hand, must stop typing.

No, it's not from all the writing I've been doing. More's the pity.

Friday, September 29, 2006

My first launch

Well, I went to my first launch last night, and it was pretty thrilling! My short story, Express, has just been published in Issue 6 of Transmission, a literary mag in Manchester. I've never been to the launch of anything to do with one of my stories... I thought, Why not? Don't I deserve a little love from the literary community? And I graduated from Manchester Uni in the "early nineties" (let's leave it at that) and was dying to see how it had changed.

Boy, has it changed.

But more later, when I've uploaded my pics.

The launch at the Cornerhouse last night was everrything I hoped it would be, at the back of a bar, loads of people milling around, me chatting to the editor (Graham) and the designer (Joe - who actually said "Ooh, let me show you my favourite line in your story"... which no-one's ever said to me before! Ok, so then he couldn't fine it, but it still thrilled me.) The mag looks fabulous, each story was illustrated, and my story is actually the first one the highly-literate and discerning reader comes across - another thrill! I chatted to another contributor, C, and we swapped tips on short stories.

Then I have to admit I wimped out and went back to my hotel at 9.15. Well, I was jet-lagged (yes, a two hour time difference does affect you) and I had had a very hard afternoon shopping. Manchester is the place to shop, let me tell you. I researched the subject thoroughly.

OK, back to the fiction. Wheee, I feel very enthused by it all! Graham and I discussed the literary scene, who their contributors are, how he started the magazine, how he picks stories etc... He's editing Transmission on a voluntary basis. That is true dedication to the short story. I hope that someone rewards him for his trouble at some point soon. Richard Branson - are you reading this? In a world where publishers are interested in the next best-selling novel, because "no-one reads short stories", what would we short story writers do without people like Graham and magazines like Transmission? Keep up the good work!

Am now sitting drinking fresh orange juice at Manchester Picadilly station, also changed beyond all recognition since the "early nineties", with a big TV screen above the platforms reporting a BBC news piece that is warning me of "Lingering Pregnancy Fat Danger". Nice at 8.54am, eh?

Pictures coming soon, when i find the right cable.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

back to fiction

Well, seems like I didn't win the Ilkley Literature Fest's short story competition . Another one bites the dust. Don't you just love it when they don't acknowledge receipt of entry and don't even send you a polite little email saying:

"Thank you so terribly much for sending us your delightful piece of creativity. We are sorry but we were deluged with four million entries from across the universe, all of which were of an incredibly high standard, but, well, we can't give awards to everyone now, can we?"

Where is Ilkley, anyway?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I just heard about this. It sounds a little like someone who is hard of hearing talking to a friend called Susan - but no! It's Water Shiatsu invented by someone called Harold Dull. How cool is that? I can't wait to try it... Seems they do it at Kibbutz Lotan down south, where they have a centre for Natural Health.

Will report back when I have been down there.

All in the interests of research, of course. I am very thorough.

Monday, September 18, 2006

laptops saving the world?

I went to a business conference today in Tel Aviv, ostensibly for the free fancy hotel buffet lunch, but also to hear the keynote lecture by an Internet guru, the former head of the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of WIRED magazine. He was supposed to talk about the future, the next ten years, technology trends etc... Well, it was the future as he sees it. He's the founder of the One laptop per child non-profit organisation and he has come up with a $100 laptop that looks like this:And he wants to give this to every child in the world. All 500 million of them.

Ok, fine.

But then he started talking about how he is giving it to poor children in remote villages with no electricity or water. He joked that the first word these kids learn in English is "Google".

And I thought, Hey... shouldn't they perhaps get water and electricity before they Google? Where are our priorities?

Sure, it's admirable that NN wants every child to have an opportunity to educate themselves through the World Wide Web, but I'm sorry but I don't subscribe to the view that Internet kiosks in the jungle will bring peace and harmony to the world. I am sure the esteemed Internet guru is fully aware that the Internet, as well as helping nice people to connect and share, is a mecca for terrorists, providing them with the ideal infrastructure for transferring funds and know-how and recruiting new members.

No, you can't blame the technology if it is put to nefarious use, but all I am saying is that the Internet is not the panacea for all ills. Surely clean drinking water, a regular food supply and access to healthcare come first? Or should the kids just order that over Amazon?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

weird art

This was displayed in the window next to very expensive clothing shop Comme Il Faut (thin summer scarf - 1500 shekels - £200!!!).

It's a carcass.

If you look closely you'll see it's made of sweets.

Art, eh. It's beyond me.

group with a view

This is where my writing group met for our meeting on Thursday.

Not bad, eh?

Yes, we did get some work done.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Girl shortage could cause rise in crime

Who knew? Apparently, according to cool science mag SEED,

"...over the next 20 years, in parts of China and India, there will be a 12 to 15 percent excess of young men—men who will have to remain single in societies that also place a high value on marriage. Because women will be able to select high status males to marry, the men who remain single are most likely to be members of the lower classes or those who are otherwise undesirable.

These unmarried, low-status males are the people most likely to be perpetrators of violent crime, the authors suggest. Previous research has shown a strong correlation between sex ratio and violence."

So girls, get out there and marry, for the good of society, and pay particular attention to the "lower class male", save him, save him from a life of crime!

Your nation thanks you.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Where's the fiction?

PS This blog was supposed to be about fiction - me writing it, reading it, talking about it etc... ooops.
Will get back to that.

I am working on adapting one of my short stories into a radio play. And just started a playwriting class, which is fun fun fun....

US versus British

I'm in rehearsals for a play. Proof, the one about maths, except that it's not really about maths. As someone who studied maths (or "math" if you're American), the play and the film really pissed me off when I saw them, because I feel that the playwright just shoved a bit of maths in there as a gimmick. Whatever.

Anyhow, a friend persuaded me to audition so here I am and I am thoroughly loving the rehearsal process. But I have to do an American accent. I have to get rid of my Britishness. It's so odd, because when I say the words rolling my rrrrrrs like I was on some daytime soap, it rings so wierdly in my ears. But not just that - I can't think properly. It's almost as if my personality has been taken over. I can't be funny. I'm not saying that Americans aren't funny, because that would be a ridiculous statement. I fell on the floor with laughter during Friends, the first series anyway. Jon Stewart is hysterical. But when I don the accent, I lose my sense of humour. Apparently, when I am funny, my accent is pseudo-American but my intonation is Monty Python. Problem. Not good.

Just an observation. Curtain up mid-November. Will keep you all posted on the personality changes I undergo along the way.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Up north: Breathtaking

A view from the road on the way back from the healing day in Tsfat. It was breathtaking just being up North.

Jerusalem's 1st organic cafe

How exciting, it finally arrived. I know you can't see much from the pic, but Cafe Zmora has a lot of quinoa dishes... and more. Warms my heart.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

healing in tsfat

Sunday was a very interesting and unusual day. For me, the unusual part started with waking up at 7.15am, which never happens. Despite J's comments of "how lovely it is this early in the morning", it won't happen again soon. But it was for a worthy cause. My friend Y had taken it upon herself to organise a group of artists, therapists and healers, and take us all up to Tsfat, which is right by the Lebanon-Israel border, to provide post-war stress relief to as many women as possible.

On the bus on the way up, with an artist, a dancer, a Life Coach, a consegrity healer, a masseuse, a mandolin player and several baby-sitters for the babes, worries were expressed. How will they welcome us? How will we organise it all? Will it go well? I was especially nervous because, although I am trained in energy healing, specifically Reiki, I have never practised on strangers. I've zapped the odd headache and period pain, but never had someone I don't know lying down in front of me with their eyes closed, expecting healing. What with that and the very strong coffee I had at the Kvish 6 service station, I was not in the best frame of mind.

When we got there, though, to Ascent, a religious institute which particularly welcomes those "new to religion", shall we say, we all got quite excited. Every healer got her own room with beds and towels (I didn't know what I'd do with my towels, but left them there anyway), and a sign on the door. Then we waited for the influx.

In the end, I gave 8 treatments, of 25 minutes each, pretty much one after the other, and it was an amazing experience. The scientist in me always voices scepticism, while the "other" side of me says, No, this fits in with science, it's energy fields, it's quantum physics. And what I found so astonishing was that I felt something, and each woman was totally different.

One woman who desperately wants more children, I told that she had wonderful energy flow from her head to her waist, but then there was a blockage. Another woman, I sensed that she had angry feet, and that seemed to mean something to her. Another "client" had a weight sitting on her stomach that was pushing people away, and had something to do with a little girl. My first client, I sensed that she really wanted someone to brush her hair for her, and when I told her she said, "How did you know?"


I told them what I felt and left it at that. We didn't have time to discuss in detail. But they were all extremely grateful. All in all, we jointly saw 80 women that day.

Kol HaKavod to Y! Another day is being planned for Nahariya, also heavily attacked during the war - and this time men will get treatments too.

Here's to less stress and more energy flow!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


the only thing that gives some hope in this endless cycle of conflict and more conflict are inviduals who don't let anything stop them from trying to talk to "the other side". Went to see a film last night that brings these amazing people and their stories to a wider audience. I highly recommend seeing Encounter Point wherever and whenever you can. These people are very real, some of them have faced the worst tragedies a person can face, and if they can try and humanize "the other", then can't we?

It's hot, so so hot. I've turned on the aircon for the first time this summer. I feel bad, enivironmentally, for doing it, but I was going a little loopy so it is a necessary evil. Will turn it off as soon as the temp drops below 25 and the humidity below 30%.

whine, whine whine.

Knitting's coming on well, I've finished the back and have started the front.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I recently put a stats counter on my website , and just had a quick look. How exciting, people that I possibly don't even know have stopped by! Of 10 recent visitors, one was using Linux operating system, open source, good for you. But then only two out of the ten were Firefox users (bizarrely, they were using more updated versions than me, and I thought I was cutting edge), the rest coming to me on Internet Explorer... boooo.
Switch to Firefox now. Go open source!

All's well

Things have been patched up with the friends with whom J and I were have some, shall we say, "difficulties" last week. That's good, because it was eating away at me. My acupuncturist had suggested that if it was not sorted out by my next appointment, she would show me how to do some special "Soul to soul" healing. I found that thought rather scary.

Glad I don't have to do that now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Not in the playground any more

Re: last week's trouble with friends, I had a revelation last night at yoga, something to do with being upside down, perhaps. Headstands can turn your perceptions on their head too.

I realised that I had been searching for a "best friend", the type girls had when we were twelve, the kind of "best friend" you spend all your time with at school, you giggle together, whispering about everyone else, doing each other's hair, and then talk on the phone to for two hours every night, because you just have to discuss the TV program you just watched or what was number one in the charts.

That kind of best friend.

But I'm not twelve any more and that kind of friend doesn't come along when you're on the wrong side of 35. Unless of course you're lucky enough to still have that best friend from the playground, to have managed to hang on to her through all the twists and turns of twentysomething years.

But I realised you can't make that kind of best friend any more, because we're older, because some of us are in couples - and perhaps because we shouldn't need it. In the years that have passed since the age of twelve, we should have learned to look after ourselves, trust our own intuition, praise our achievements and ride through the rough times.

I'm not saying we don't need friends, has v'khalila, friends are vital! And really good friends are precious commodities, and I treasure them as I should. I am lucky to have J, a great shoulder to cry on, a wonderful PR man trumpeting my successes when I am too English to mention them, who makes me laugh, cooks me dinners and tries to break up the cats when they fight.

But I have to give up on the search for a "best friend". She doesn't exist. And she shouldn't. Because if she is in a couple, then she has other loyalties which, as I came to understand rather bitterly last week, conflict with her friends. She can't be there to giggle with me and only me.

So, feeling a little older and wiser, I get back to life, musing to myself about writers being hermits and about pouring my angst into my fiction. I started knitting a new jumper today, with this stunning yarn that is actually ribbon not wool. (It's Number 5, the top left on the chart above.)

It feels good to be creating something tangible and beautiful, sparkly and unworn, untainted. I can't knit for long because my hands get sore, years of computer use have made them sensitive, despite all the yoga. But I enjoy it while I can.

Time for the wine

Just spoke to D - G is out of Lebanon. Thank goodness. She called his commander last night, was told to call back at 4am. She's a journalist and was already up north for a story, so when the commander said, Come to the border now, she went. She was there as Israeli soldiers streamed past her in the darkness, khaki-coloured figures in the early light, returning from the hell they had been in, elated, she said, to be out of there.

It took her a while to find G, and then she managed to get permission to hop on their jeep with them and head for their next destination, which happened to be close to where she was staying. She called. She said,

"G is in the shower",

and I could hear the relief in her voice, mixed with many emotions puzzling at the strangeness of all the night's - and month's - events.

Now they can crack open the bottle of Tishbi I bought them.

Monday, August 14, 2006

all quiet?

I hate to tempt fate, but things do seem quieter today up North. I say that from my comfortable nook in Jerusalem, I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be in bunkers for 34 days straight. Fingers crossed, all will continue.

Couldn't sleep last night. We got home from the cinema at 12.30 and then I went and looked at the news. Bad idea. I got so upset seeing the names of the soldiers who were killed, and reading an article about the death of David Grossman's son, Uri, that I couldn't get to sleep until around 4am. Must not read news before bed... must not read news before bed.

Here's my first picture posting:
You can try and guess who they are and what they're up to. Correct answer wins... A Major Prize.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Good friends and ceasefires

Thank goodness for great friends, alcohol and Shabbat! Thursday night's dancing-on-tables-to-cheesy-Israeli-songs hen night was wonderful, a roomful of people of all ages, some with flashing penises on their heads (not our bride-to-be, I assure you), all enjoying the opportunity to let all those tensions go by singing along with a middle-aged bloke in a cowboy hat crooning Shlomo Arzi into his microphone. We over-thirties were yawning a little at midnight and not sad to be heading for our bus back to Jerusalem, but the party in the Rishon winery looked like it was carrying on and on...

So, after the bad-taste-in-your-mouth incident J and I had with supposed good friends on Thursday, it seemed that someone up there was conspiring to send my messages of love and goodwill from all, just to balance it all out. I was hit on by a guy on my way to shul (!), and the last thing he said after I asked if he'd like us to go out for a coffee "with or without my husband", was "you're a great woman". I thought, Yes, yes I am! Then saw lots of lovely people in shul who told me they'd missed me, because due to an increased claustrophobia I had stopped going 9 months ago, not being able to cope with the 400-strong crowd that turns up on a Friday night. Now I can do it - if I get there early, sit at the front, and don't turn round during the whole service. A little wierd, but it works. And yesterday I felt I really wanted to be back with my community, whatever that means, so the warm welcome was very much appreciated.

Tonight, switching on the computer after Shabbat, I see that there might be a cease-fire. Perhaps by Monday, siren warnings every few minutes will be something we'll just reminisce about. Perhaps by then, all the soldiers will be safely back home and D will be reunited with G and they can drink the bottle of Tishbi red wine I took round to her place last week and told her was strictly to be saved for celebrating upon his return. I really hope so.

Right now, I am chatting with Harry, an online technician from HP, who is trying to help me figure out why my brand-new and very sexy Scanjet 4670 refuses to respond to my entreaties. Ah, the world of technology. Makes every other little frustration pale into insignificance.

Must get back to writing fiction. Much more calming.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Bad and the Good

What a day. What a day. I can't even begin to start describing it now. Donating food for people in the North, people being so kind and generous, opening their hearts... then good friends behaving in a shockingly disgusting way towards J and I... then a friend who moved from Jerusalem to New York 3 years ago sending me the letter he wrote to his army unit telling them he can be here in 2 days if they need him, that he is prepared to jump on a plane. I have been moved to tears, for the good and the bad, today.

S's hen night tonight - much alcohol will flow! Much needed!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Surreal in IsraelLand

Life gets more and more surreal. I don't even know where to start in describing my day. The bizarreness of it all hit me this afternoon. I decided to go for a swim at around 6pm, and was driving up to the pool. I can't seem to listen to music in the car right now, it has to be the radio, has to be people talking. Of course, what they are generally talking about right now is the war, which is not the cheeriest of subjects. I am trying to cut down on news etc.. because I haven't been sleeping well since we got back last week. Anyway, the discussion on 95.5 FM, Reshet Bet, was actually about Israeli Arabs and how they are treated, following on from something that happened in the Knesset.. from what I could gather, apparently an Arab MK made some anti-Israel comments and people called for him to be removed, something like that. Well, it was a fascinating discussion, but what was totally wierd was that every few minutes the female host of the show would say

"Yes, Jerusalem?"

and a mellifluous male announcer would gravely say

"The warning siren has just sounded in Kiryat Shmona. All residents are advised to go to their shelters and they may come out fifteen minutes after the siren has sounded, unless they are told otherwise,"

and then the discussion started right up again as if nothing had happened.

A few minutes later, she said "Yes, Jerusalem?" and the whole thing happened again, with the male voice saying exactly the same thing, except the place was different. As I was driving, I was hearing, in real time, when sirens were going off in the north. Here I am, safe in my car, driving to my fancy expensive health club for a swim, and they are running into shelters and waiting for the awful thud outside their walls.

I swam, and showered, this sentiment in the back of my mind, and as I walked out of the health club, thinking about how I would turn the radio on when I got back in the car, they were playing loud music by the pool. Not only that, it was "Caribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean, to which a class of middle-aged women was doing water aerobics.
Surreal? I think so.

Sadly, other parts of my day were all too real. My great friend D married G in October, a gorgeous outdoor wedding at a Kibbutz by a river just near Netanya. She is American, a journalist, always active, a great communicator; he Canadian, an architect, softly spoken and with a fondness for whisky. They live in Tel Aviv. I found out yesterday that he had received an emergency call-up to the army on Saturday. I immediately called D, and was amazed to hear that when he made aliyah, this gentle, artistic man had insisted on doing two years' army service instead of the one year he was required to do, and had served in Lebanon (pre-pullout in 2000). He was a combat soldier, and now he was being called up to his combat unit.

"I was sending my husband off to war," said D, wryly. "I thought, what year is this?"

They were in touch yesterday, he was in training somewhere in the country. Then today, he called her and said he was "going North" and he wouldn't be able to be in telephone contact.
That means only one thing. He is going in to Lebanon.

On the phone, from the back of the taxi she was taking back home from an interview, D broke down. She's terrified. And I'm feeling the tears coming as I write this. What hell is it that has broken out here? It happened so suddenly. We'd almost got used to the nightmare of suicide bombers, we felt reassured by guards at every restaurant entrance, offering our bags up freely for examination. But this? What is this? D told me she had spoken to an Israeli friend who had grown up here through the last thirty or so years of Israel's battles.

"She says she has never felt such an existential threat," said D.

I have to end on a more positive note. This evening, spoiled Jerusalemite that I am, I went to my meditation class. An hour and a half of "focus on the breath" and wandering around the garden just paying attention to lifting my foot and putting it back down again, which was heavenly. And I bumped into friends I haven't seen for a long time. They have 6-year-old twins, and I know that for several few years. she, A, had wanted to have another child. And she's pregnant. I got tears in my eyes when she told me. It's been one of those soggy days. B'shaa tova, to all of us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shavua tov?

What a way to come out of a quiet, beautiful Shabbat catching up with friends after being away for a month. To the headline in Haaretz "Mother, two daughters killed in Katyusha strike on Bedouin village as 130 rockets land in an hour." And then, underneath, the Reuters report on "Thousands marching in London, demand Middle East cease-fire" in which I read that "Thousands of demonstrators marched through central London holding placards reading "End Israeli crimes in Lebanon" and "Freedom for Palestine"." Makes me furious. Not a word about the hundreds of Katyhusha rockets that Hizbullah is sending over northern Israel daily with the specific aim of killing as many civilians as possible. What are we? Less then human.

Not the way to start the week.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

short stories and katyushas

I read a wonderful short story last night. Coming back from holiday at 3am yesterday, there was a pile of post waiting for me, including Mslexia, the fabulous quarterly mag for women who write, and several literary magazines, some of which I read regularly (Tin House, The Paris Review ) and a magazine that's new to me: The Bellevue Literary Review. It's published out of Bellevue Hospital, "the oldest public hospital in the United States", around for 270 years. Their remit is "fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that touch upon relationships to the human body, illness, health and healing." I wasn't so sure about this, but decided to send one of my short stories into their Fiction contest, and the fee includes a year's subscription. I cracked it open last night, and read the winning story from last year, Joan Malerba-Foran, "The Little Things". I was gripped from the first page, the story of an alcoholic teacher in an American public school just trying to make it through the day. This is the first published piece of prose by Malerba-Foran, a poet, and her poet's eye is evident in every sentence. Her powers of original description are astonishing. I am very picky, I demand a lot from a short story, and she gave me everything I need. Go out and buy this issue.
As to the second half of my post's title, coming home to the worst day of Katyusha rocket fire from Hizbullah on the north was not what many people may have thrilled to. But I was just so happy to be back in my flat, back in my bed, and, finally, back in a place where I could get detailed news about the situation. The BBC just doesn't do it for me. J and I sat in front of the Channel 2 news last night, watching the footage of the Israeli operation in Lebanon on Tuesday night and then seeing pictures of the devastation of Israeli homes by rockets yesterday. One man was killed in Nahariya, and his dog, a beautiful golden retriever, was wandering in between medics, reporters and the kibbutz residents, looking for his master. That said it all.
Happier news next blog, perhaps.

writing on a clean page

well, I have finally entered the blogsphere. How strange. I resisted for a long time, given the fact that I write articles for work and I write fiction for pleasure, so how much more writing could I do? But here I am, gripped by an urgent desire to express myself, inspired by other blogs of those around me, geographically and virtually. This is just to get something up there. Perhaps it will get more entertaining from now on. I hope so, but there are no guarantees. Comments welcome, as always.