Iím back from not my hectic Midwest book tour, which at point included six consecutive days during which I took five airplane flights. So naturally I got sick. But I did get a lot of writing done on my new novel, although my blogging fell to the wayside. I remedy that now with news about a fascinating, and fun, website called Gendered Text Project. To quote its developer, ďIf you need a break from an aggravating news cycle and want to play with some fun feminism and retroactive gender equality, try out the Gendered Text Project.Ē
How does the Gendered Text Project work? The Project is an open source, volunteer run, website allowing users to radically alter the gender of characters in a story. Alice in Wonderland becomes Alan in Wonderland, Conan the Barbarian becomes Cuzha the Barbarian. Users can enjoy gender-swapping characters while examining unconscious biases in gender and writing. They can read selected texts already modified for this format. Or, if they follow the instructions and respect copyright, they can modify texts and share them. Modifying a text is time consuming and the Project does not accept unsolicited texts to modify on usersí behalf.
The Project library currently has dozens of stories from all different genres - Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Western, Children's, Science Fiction and Horror. You can gender-bend classics, like Frankenstein, or read modern award winners in a new light. There are short stories and full-length novels. Original publications dates range from 1884 to 2017. Have fun and experiment with gender swapping, or even make some characters non-binary.
The Project welcomes participation, especially from published novelists, who can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know people who might be interested in the Project, spread the word. Which is what this blog is doing. I personally would like to see some texts with Jewish content.
After a hectic several weeks as my synagogueís Ritual Chair, Iím about to embark on another hectic few weeks for a Midwest book tour. Between Oct 15 and Oct 25, I will be speaking throughout the Chicago area, including Milwaukee. Then I embark for four programs in Michigan, starting with Kalamazoo on Oct 26 and three in the Detroit area Oct 27-30, before heading home just in time for Halloween. If you or anyone you know will be in any of these places while Iím town, I hope to see you soon.
Oct 15 - noon. B'nai Yehuda Beth Sholom. 1424 183rd St, Homewood IL 60430.
Oct 16 - 6 pm. WRJ membership dinner. Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, 1201 Lake cook Rd, Deerfield IL 60015
Oct 17 - 7 pm. WRJ Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun 2020, W Brown Deer Rd, River Hills, WI 53217
Oct 18 - 7 pm. Aurora Hadassah. Geneva Public Library, 127 James St, Geneva IL
Oct 19 - 7:30 pm. Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 N Broadway, Chicago IL 60613
Oct 21 - 7:30 pm. Havdalah. Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago IL 60660
Oct 22 - 10:45 am. Temple Sholom, 3480 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago IL 60657
Oct 23 - 7:30 pm. TBI Sisterhood, Temple Beth Israel, 3601 W Dempster Street Skokie IL 60076
Oct 24 - 6 pm. WRJ dinner. Temple Chai, 1670 W Checker Road, Long Grove, IL 60047
Oct 25 - 7 pm. Women of Oak Park Temple, 1235 Harlem Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302
Oct 26 - 7 pm. Congregation of Moses 2501 Stadium Dr, Kalamazoo MI 49008
Oct 27-28. Shabbaton. Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard Rd, Ann Arbor MI 48104
Oct 29 11:30 am. Temple Emanu-El. 14450 W Ten Mile Road, Oak Park MI 48237
Oct 30 - noon. ASK: Adults Seeking Knowledge lunch. Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Rd, West Bloomfield, MI 48323
As the winner of two IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, eleven years apart, I wrote an article about the ever-changing world of publishing, particularly as it relates to my experience as a self-published author. I discuss the changing landscape of self-publishing over the past decade and provide concrete recommendations regarding getting self-published titles in front of the right audience. Perhaps surprisingly, I moved away from aggressive online campaigns towards face-to-face interactions, because I still consider word-of-mouth advertisement to be the most effective form of advertisement.
Click here for my entire article on the IBPA website
Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 9:
Q. What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?
A. I fear that Trump, and his cronies, may end up doing some irreparable damage, either by getting the US in a war with N. Korea, appointing a Supreme Court justice who undoes Roe vs. Wade or another similarly progressive ruling, or some as yet unimaginable disaster. I am trying not to let this fear limit me, but rather empower me to protest and work to derail his agenda. I am thankful that there are many others, particularly in my home state of California, who share my fears and want to ensure they donít happen. I cannot, dare not, let it go.
Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 6, and only questions for Days 7 and 8:
Q6. Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?
A. It may be a total fantasy on my part, but by next October, I would like to have my new historical novel in contract with Penguin Random House for release in 2019. In other words, pretty much everything I need to have done will be done: final draft written and edited for content.
This is important to me because I suspect it will be my final historical novel, and the one I've wanted to write even before "Rashi's Daughters." I know the subject matter will make publishing a challenge, but I am determined to get it out even if I have to self-publish again.
You may have noticed that there is no title for this novel. I definitely have one but for various reasons, the least of which is that Penguin lawyers say not to publicize it until we actually have a signed contract, I will not disclose it. That is partly why I am not posting online my 10Q answers for Day 7 [How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?] and Day 8 [Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in the coming year?]. They will remain private.
Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 5:
Q. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.
A. This is always a difficult question for me since I rarely have any experiences I would consider spiritual, even allowing for 10Q's broad definition.
But this year, I did something that qualifies under all their categories: my trip to England in late December to join almost 3000 Jews for a week at Limmud UK, where I was invited to give five presentations about the research behind my books. I also had time to attend sessions by some of the finest Jewish teachers and speakers in the world. However, some of my best experiences came in the cavernous dining hall, where I participated in discussions [or just overheard them] as I shared meals with some amazing scholars and students from Israel, Europe, and even Australia.
It was a week of complete Jewish immersion, including celebrating Shabbat and Hanukah, with Jews of every observance level from Orthodox to secular. I guess it doesn't get more "spiritual" than that. Check out this link to Limmud to learn more.
Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 4.
Q. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?
A. The recent hurricane in the Caribbean apparently destroyed much of the US Virgin Islands, where Dave and I spent a week last December when I was scholar-in-residence at the Historical Synagogue in St. Thomas. Everything was so lush, gorgeous flowers of every color growing wherever we went.
Now I worry about the Jewish community, especially from what little I see online. I fear for the St. Thomas historic synagogue and hope there wasn't too much damage. I have seen horrific photos of what's left of where we wen hiking and snorkeling on St. John and it fills me with sadness that we were among the last to see the Virgin Islands in its glory.
How quickly something that seemed so permanent is gone. I realize there's much I take for granted that is actually more temporary than I assume. I need to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, and appreciate all the good things that can be so fleeting.
For latest info on whatís happening in the US Virgin Islands go to their newspaper link
Here is my 10Q question and answer for Day 3.
Q. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?
A. In the spring my daughter-in-law Tamara's parents moved from Seattle to Huntington Beach, only about a half hour drive away. This means our son Ari's children have both grandparents and a set of great-grandparents in So Calif. So we will see much more of them, especially in the summer. It also means they won't have to stay the entire time at our house each visit but can bounce around between the three houses. I'm so happy that I'll be seeing our AZ grandkids a lot more, especially now that they're old enough to remember us.
I didn't post over Rosh Hashana and Shabbat, so here is my 10Q entry for Day 2.
Q. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?
A. I am especially proud of how I have greatly increased how much I exercise. For the last twelve months, since my daughter bought me a gym membership, I have been working out with weights twice a week [when not on book tour]. I can see how much stronger I am, and that my clothes fit better though I haven't lost any weight.
In addition, I started playing Pokemon Go a year ago with my grandchildren, with the result that while they have dropped out, I have walked over 1000 miles [1732 kilometers actually] in 8 states and 2 countries pursuing, and eventually capturing, these imaginary creatures.
L' Shana Tova. This time I have a better excuse for not blogging until today: I am the new Ritual Chair for my synagogue and as you can imagine, the last 6 weeks have been crunch time. Between making sure all High Holy Day ducks are lined up in a row, Iím particularly responsible for our lay-led second day Rosh Hashana services. At the same time Iím finalizing arrangements for a fall book tour to the Midwest that starts Oct 14 [see this link for details].
To make up for this long absence Iím going to try to share my 10Q questions and answers this year in ten posts, or at least those that arenít too sensitive. The questions are the same every year [the Jewish year 5777] and it can be amazing to see what I wrote in previous years. So here goes with the first question and my answer. Q: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
A: Unfortunately, my answer will probably be similar to many others doing 10Q this year, in that last year's significant experience was Donald Trump being elected president. My immediate reaction was shock, outrage, and deep dismay. I'd worked hard for Hilary Clinton and was led to believe she'd win.
Today I am angry and discouraged in addition to the feelings above. I have given up reading anything political on FaceBook or Twitter because I know I can't trust it, and am skeptical even of mainstream media. I am horrified at the increasing prominence of neo-Nazis and the alt-right. Still, I refuse to give up. I have marched for women and Planned Parenthood, and against denying climate change. I try to keep up with whatís really happening in Washington, especially with healthcare and the environment.
I am now back from 9 days in Colorado and have caught up with most of the chores that piled up when I was gone, even more in this case because Dave and I were both away. Several people have asked how it was in Vail, and would I recommend a vacation there, so here is a summary of our trip.
Vail is a tourist town, a ski resort 100 miles west of Denver created in the mid 1960ís. Its cobblestone streets and faux Bavarian architecture reminded me of Disneyland near the bobsled ride. The Jewish community in Vail is larger than I would have thought for a city with an official population of merely 5500. But that doesnít count the thousands of visitors, and perhaps not the part-time inhabitants. Most of the wealthiest Jews of Vail also have homes elsewhere, especially the summer residents from Texas and Florida. Summer is as popular, or more, than ski season, and the streets were crowded with families, many speaking foreign languages.
Nestled along the Gore Creek and surrounded by mountains, Vailís alpine scenery is beautiful. My husband and I planned to fill each day with outdoor pursuits: hiking, biking, white-water rafting. But the 8000 ft elevation was a problem for me, who lives literally at sea level. It took me 4 days of limiting myself to activities around town to get over the worst of my altitude sickness before we tackled the higher elevations. But I persevered and it was worth it.
There were several pleasant local trails along the creeks, but for me our trip had several highlights. 1] A 3/4-day raft trip down the Colorado River through the magnificent Glenwood Canyon, which included several class 2 and 3 rapids. 2] A 4-mile hike up Shrine Pass that took us through meadows of gorgeous varieties of wildflowers before reaching a ridge that provided fabulous views of the surrounding peaks. A truly breath-taking, in both meanings, hike [see my web blog for photos]. 3] A 25-mile bicycle ride around Dillon Lake [water reservoir for Denver], interrupted by two short hail storms. Summer weather in the Colorado Rockies is notorious for sunny or party cloudy mornings followed by intermittent thunderstorms that clear by evening. 4] Shabbat morning services with music provided by Jewish bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain at Eagle Nest. A standing-room only crowd of several hundred prayed and sang together in a service that was awesome in the original sense of the word, especially doing Esa Einai atop Vail Mountain [11,500 ft elevation]. Watch the video, and more, on the bandís website
I recently got a Google alert about a blog that mentioned one of my books. The blogger is purple-haired Tamara Craiu, a "bespectacled, queer Jewish millennial lady with a moon tan and dang proud of it, who is waiting for her moment to destroy an elitist, sexist male nerd with her vast Star Trek and comic knowledge." The post that alerted me [see link to website below] is titled "Books with Jewish Protagonists that are NOT set in WW2." I confess that I too try to avoid reading books about the Holocaust, unless they come at it from a brand new angle, which is highly unlikely after 75 years.
Reading through Tamara's list, I found plenty that interested me, and I think my readers will find some to like as well. Including "Apprentice", the first volume of my "Rav Hisda's Daughter" series, Iíve read eight of her Historical Fiction recommendations and I second her endorsements. As one might expect from a queer book blog, there are lots of LGBT novels in the Contemporary section and plenty more on the subject in Non-Fiction as well.
There are lots of intriguing novels with SciFi, Fantasy and Dystopian themes in the YA section, followed by a minyan of books in the following group devoted to the topic ["The Dyke and the Dybbuk" or "Jews vs. Aliens" anyone?]. I was thrilled to find my very favorite novel ["He, She and It" by Marge Piercy] among the latter. Last are half a dozen graphic novels, one of which, "The Rabbiís Cat", Iíve both read and seen the animated movie.
To see the complete list click on this link