All posts by AnnG

Should you go to a writers’ conference?


There’s a writer’s conference advertised . Should you go?

Is it worth it?

It costs quite a lot – will you make your  money back?

Maybe those are  the wrong questions to ask.

Try these questions.

Will you enjoy it?

Will you meet other writers facing the same challenges and fears, rejections and deadlines?

Will it make you feel that writing is a bit less of a solitary occupation?

Will you enjoy and learn something from the lecturers and workshops?

Will you  meet editors face to face so that you’re no longer just a name on a query  email?

Will you get a chance to have a one on one meeting with an editor to discuss a book idea that’s been burning inside you?

Will you go home fired and inspired and ready to sit down at your computer with a bunch of ideas?


If the answer is yes – then go for it- and ENJOY




‘Very Time Sensitive’ – Write now publish tomorrow



 If you live in Israel, as I do, every few years events occur which beg to be written about- NOW.

Often it’s to show the outside world the truth of what is really happening here.
Most of the world’s media give a totally distorted picture of events in Israel

Sometimes it’s to show  friends and family what life here is really like  under pressure.

But events on the ground change fast and yesterday’s terror attacks are old news today and almost irrelevant tomorrow.

If you want to write about the ‘situation’ and get it published your story will be VERY TIME SENSITIVE, and its up to you to make the editor realize this.

This  applies to anyone writing about a timely current situation anywhere in the world.

8 Ways to get your very time sensitive story published

1. Find a new/ different angle to the events.

Without minimizing the fear every mother has when she sends her children off to school every morning, and I’ve been through it many times, it has been written about frequently. If you  want to help show what it’s like to live under the constant threat of terror and have it published you’re going to  have to find a different angle, one that hasn’t been written about before.
Maybe interview a teacher who has to explain to little children why the school is under lock down when a terror attack has occurred nearby and security forces aren’t sure f there is another terrorist at large.
Perhaps speak to business owners in downtown Jerusalem  who see a 60% decrease in customers.
Find out from shops which sell guns how much their business has increased.

Stick to one particular point / angle. Don’t try and cover the whole situation in one article.

If you are writing an essay about your own experience or fears or how your daily routine has changed,   pick an aspect that hasn’t been written about. Remember you aren’t writing a news article.  Make it personal, the more specific details you include the better your essay will be.

2. Write your piece

Don’t spend too long on the writing – not that the writing should be second rate but you want to get this sent off as soon as possible. Sit down and write it from beginning to end. Read it through out loud. Does it flow? Does it sound like you’re talking to a friend? When you read it out loud you’ll notice awkward sentences, sentences that are too long and words you are repeating too often. If you stumble over a sentence when you’re reading it so will your readers – rewrite it.

If you are writing for a regular newspaper your style is likely to be different to when you write for a Jewish/ religious publication

3.Leave it for an hour.

Go back and edit it again. Proof read for grammar and spelling and read it out loud once more.

4. Send it to a writer friend

You don’t have time to wait a day or two and get some objective distance . But if someone else reads it they are likely to notice errors you missed. They can also check that it flows well and is logical.

5. Submit it

It’s probably no use sending to a monthly magazine. Some weeklies may take it but if they are in the shops on Friday then they probably go to press on about Tuesday so make sure to send your piece by Monday.

Daily publications are usually the best for these kind of articles.

6.Write VERY TIME SENSITIVE in the subject line.

Your  essay   may be considered an op-ed ( opinion piece) in which case it’s possible that you wont’ be paid. If receiving pay is important to you then  make it clear in your covering letter by asking what their rate of pay is. Many professional writers who usually write for pay are willing to forgo the pay when they have something they really want ‘ the world’ to understand.

7.Cover email

In your cover email, write that if you haven’t heard from the editor within 48 hours you will assume he is not interested and feel free to submit elsewhere.
If you decide to submit to several publications at the same time then put SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSION quite clearly in your letter.
Some publications may not look at it as they aren’t prepared to participate in a race, but most understand the need for a fast decision with these articles.

8 Where to send it

This site contains the contact information and guidelines for many newspapers which take op-eds. However be aware that the information is over 7 years old so contact details cannot be assumed to be correct today, you will need to check it out.
However there are a lot of helpful and instructive tips regarding writing about current situations that is worth reading.

How to Improve Your Writing

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (8 of 10)

 How can you improve your Writing?

By writing…regularly.

At best you could write articles, stories and pitches – but if you’re staring blankly at a blank page, then describe yesterday’s breakfast /  the contents of your closet / an email to a friend – anything to get the writing going.
Aim not to stop until you’ve written at least 250 words and preferably 500-1000

How do you improve it even more?

By reading….regularly.

Articles, stories, books, newspapers, Especially things in your genre, but also anything else that’s good writing as well.
Read as a writer. Analyze why the writing resonates with you, why it sounds so good. Remember all the things you learned about and see how it measures up. Does the author show and not tell / use dialogue appropriately / keep the suspense up but not confuse or disappoint you.
Look at the opening and ending. What technique is the writer using.

How  do you  improve it even more?

By taking appropriate writing courses… regularly.

With the aid of a good teacher and critique your writing will continue to grow and improve even after you’re already being published.
Try a new genre or if you’re happy with the type of writing you’re doing then take a course with another teacher.
Even though I write and teach writing, I still take courses regularly and learn and gain from each one.
Check out these sites and courses
Make A Living Writing
The Renegade Writer
Writers Digest
Women on Writing
and of course this one

How do you continue to  improve your writing?

Find a writing buddy. Someone whose writing you admire and who will give honest, constructive criticism – just as you will for him /her.

Good Luck





Gush Katif – 10 years on

Rachel Saperstein 2009

It was July 2009 – four years after the  Gush Katif expulsion. I was on the hills of Givat Chazan in  Lachish and  running to keep up with 68 year old  Rachel Saperstein, a former resident of Neve Dekalim, for an article I was writing.

The Hills of LAchish before building began on Bnei Dekalim

We were striding across the hills of Lachish while she was excitedly  pointing out where her future house would be , the clinic, the shops, the shul, the yeshiva.
Neve Dekalim had been the cultural center of Gush Katif and Saperstein had been their English language spokesperson during the harrowing months leading up to the expulsion.

For three years, after a year in a Jerusalem hotel,  she had been living in a ‘caravilla’   (cardboard boxes as the residents describe them) while waiting for financial compensation and building permission from the government.Now it had been finally granted and the tractors were due to move in to prepare the infrastructure for their new home and settlement.

Thank G’d her dream and vision is now coming to fruition …slowly. A few people have moved into the new Bnei Dekalim but there is still much work and building to be done.

Bnei Dekalim being rebuilt

Other settlements managed to get moving a little quicker and their moshavim  are already looking more settled and lived in.

July 2015 The new settlement of Ganei Tal in Lachish – 10 years after the expulsionGanei Tal in LAchish

This week I went on a tour of new settlements with  International Young Israel Movement.

It’s a pleasure to see the new homes, shuls, schoools and ganim but nothing can make up for the unbearably long time it has taken for this to happen.

The story of the  bureaucratic  bungling, whether just a typical Israeli mess-up or deliberate, has been chewed over endlessly in the last few weeks. But the fact is that only  now 10 years later most of the former residents of Gush Katif are getting their lives back on track – and some of them can’t even afford to do it now.

How much money   they received from the government depended on a zillion different factors but they finally received it many  years after they were thrown out of their previous homes.

If untouched the money would be  enough  to build something. It was not enough to build anything like their lovely homes in Gush Katif but something smaller. In the meantime many of them  have been unemployed for 10 years ( try leaving a thriving farm at the age of 50 – 60 and  getting another job somewhere) and they have had to use their money for food and daily expenses , including  rent, children’s education / college etc as they had and still have, no income whatsoever. What they have left now is not enough to build a home of any size.

But the community spirit of Gush Katif lives on and those who are building are not going to leave those who can’t afford to build behind. They are urging to government to give extra allowances to people who have had to use their compensation to live on.


Nitzan 2015


Some people chose to remain in Nitzan, where they lived in  caravillas ,and build their permanent homes there. Nitzan was also chosen for the temporary site of the Gush Katif Commemoration Center.

The Gush Katif Monument – a Magen David split by a palm tree – designed by the Shevu brothers.


The story of the last months of the Gush is told to begin with through the eyes of the last  child born in Gush Katif. He tries to understand why his mother can’t bear to talk about his old home or see pictures of their old settlement. Films, newspapers, artwork and personal videos tell us the story from the beginnings of  Gush Katif  in the 1970s when it was  built with the blessing and encouragement of the Israeli government and army.  And finally we see  the months of  unsurety , the belief that ‘ it couldn’t happen’, to the final heartbreaking days when soldiers and police came to pull the residents from their homes, before sending in bulldozers to destroy the beautiful houses.

Each guide at this center lived in one of the settlements and so each one has his or her own personal story to tell, none of which are easy to hear.  Teenagers were amongst those the most affected, with the ideals and dreams they had been brought up with thrown back in their faces. Suicide, drugs and crime as well as loss of faith plagued this age group for some time and divorce  amongst parents going through the trauma was also not unknown.
Our guide left the room after switching on some of the videos depicting the last days. It was too painful for her to relive the trauma day after day.

There is some beautiful artwork in the center including this one which includes something from every shul in the Gush.DSC00335

The ex Gush Katifers do not by any means wallow in the past. But ten years is a long time and many children growing up now have no recollection of the area at all so they are determined to keep the memory alive.

They are all looking to a bright future in their new homes…with one proviso. If the government were to say they could go back to their old settlements, every one said  they’d be on their way home today.

Is your essay ready to go?

Laptop, Human Hands, Keyboard, Typing

8 checks before you hit send.


Before you hit  ‘send’ on your latest essay do 8 final checks.

1. Read it out aloud.

Read it out aloud slowly and check if you’ve overused a word. See if you have to hold your breath  because the sentence is too long, or if  anything just plain sounds odd.

2. Delete every ‘really’ or ‘very’.

Delete most adverbs, but ‘really’ and ‘very’ are the worst. Choose better adjectives and verbs rather than use ‘really or ‘very’.
He walked really slowly = he dawdled    She ate very fast = she gobbled her food.

3. Does  your piece open with a  hook?

Does your opening hook  make it impossible for the editor/ reader to stop reading because they have to know what’s going to happen.

4. Is your essay written  in a friendly conversational voice?

Have you written it as though you’re telling a friend about the incident. Personal essays aren’t the place for fancy stilted language that you wouldn’t use every day.

5. Is there a universal theme to your essay?

Is there a take-away message for every reader? Something  fascinating  that happened to you is only of interest to others if they can identify with you.

6. Have you included plenty of details?

Did you ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ what happened? Did you use your five senses to show clearly / how you felt, saw and heard  / what it looked,tasted and smelled like ?
Don’t write
As I entered the house there was a delicious smell of  baking…….
but rather
I could smell the sticky cinnamon buns from the next street, together with the aroma of fresh brewing coffee.  I knew I’d be staying awhile.

7. Does your ending round things off?

Bring the incident full circle. Maybe repeat something you said at the beginning. If there’s a message then don’t tell it blatantly to the readers. They aren’t stupid. If they haven’t got the message then you haven’t written the essay well enough.

8.Sum up your message.

Sum up the message of your essay in one sentence. If you can’t it’s not focused enough.
Once you have found the sentence that sums it all up, make sure that every sentence you have written supports this message.

Put a check against all these points?

OK go ahead and hit Send.



Markets for Stories and Essays


We all need  some new or different markets to keep our creative juices flowing , otherwise  the blank page, the most threatening aspect of a writer’s life, stares at us daring us to write something that is unmarketable.



One site that always inspires great stories is the Chicken Soup book site. Here they give a list of all the current titles they are working on and for which they are collecting stories. The variety of options is bound to spark some great ideas.

Check their deadlines carefully although none of them appear to have a immediate deadline looming.


Do you live and write  somewhere other than your  native country. If so you should take a look at the site  Writers Abroad which, from May 1st will be collecting  submissions for their next anthology entitled Kaleidoscope. The are looking for short stories, flash fiction or poetry connected to their broad theme of ‘light’.

The theme is open to interpretation: your light might dispel evil, or reveal something unexpected in the darkness; perhaps your character ‘sees the light’ in a revelation; or light may have an important role in your setting. Firelight can destroy or warm and illuminate; or you may be inspired by the difference in light in other countries. The anthology will be print published and later available as an e-book.

All the details and entry rules are on their website.

SASEE –   It’s All About Women   Sasee Cover: May 2015

Essays of interest to women on any subject: essays, humor, satire, personal experience.

Every month has its own theme and the deadline is six weeks before i.e. the 15th of the previous month.

August’s theme is The Joy of Friendship with a deadline of June 15th
Ideas they give you to start your creative juices flowing are
August- The Joy of Friendship
Deadline 6/15/15
How did you meet your best friend?
Does your best friend have four legs and fur?
Why are our pets so important?
Why did you adopt a shelter animal?
Girls’ night out – one or two friends or a large group?
Reconciliations with old friends
Stories of childhood friends
Social Media – have you heard from your high school boyfriend?
Which friend makes you laugh the most?

SKIRT  Skirt® is all about women...their work, play, families, creativity, style, health and wealth, bodies and souls.

Their monthly theme for August is

August – The Local Issue – deadline July 1st
Essay Theme:
What “home” means to
you, widely interpreted…
a take on “no place like
home” or “home is
where the _____ is…”


BRAIN,CHILD    The magazine for thinking mothers

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

To get a good idea of what they are looking for,read through their guidelines and submission procedures.
They are not your usual happily-ever-after- market.
They cover some difficult, painful  parenting experiences.

Especially on the look out for humorous essays and essays about teens.

Now also welcomes flash fiction.

Do you know of other markets we can add to this list?


What makes a good Writers’ Conference


Freelance writing can be a very lonely business, just you ( or me) and our computers, so whenever I get the chance to meet up with other writers, I grab it.

Any kind of occasional  get-together and swapping of ideas and experiences is good but if it’s possible  I think all writers should treat themselves, once a year, to a writers’ conference.

What are the main elements you should look for that will make a conference  a success for you?

a) Does it cover subjects/ genres that you  write about already  or want to learn about.
b) Are the magazines and publishers whose representatives are speaking at the conference the ones you are interested in writing for.
c) Will you get a chance to network with other writers, editors. and publishers.
d) Are the speakers successful, published experienced writers/ authors who have something specific to offer you in ideas, information and tips.
e) Will you get an opportunity to meet editors and publishers in your genre and have a one on one session with them. If so make sure you come prepared with ideas / pitches and a clear statement about what you write.
f)Are the workshop sessions practical and with a variety of choices.
g) Is the venue accessible, the price reasonable and  is food provided or a reasonably priced restaurant nearby. If the conference is for more than one day are there reasonably priced hotels in the vicinity.


JWWS 2015

For women writers who live in Israel, the one-day Jerusalem Women Writers Seminar, which takes place soon after Pesach/ Passover every year is  everything a writer’s conference should and could be.

This year there was an array of excellent  keynote speakers, well-known in the world of Jewish writing, the chance to participate in two workshops from a choice of about fourteen, including self-publishing, editing, translating, interviewing and writing for teens – there was little missing from the list of criteria.
Everyone who applied in advance was given a private session with a publisher or editor and  representatives from two magazines  gave a run-down on what it takes to get published in their publications.
The writer’s cup pictured above was included in the collection of ‘goodies’ all participants were given.

What do you think makes a successful writer’s conference anywhere in the world?
Tell me in the comments section below.


Jerusalem Reunification Day

Today we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem. Today, 48 years ago , the barriers of Jerusalem came down and once again all religions of the world could come to  pray at the sites that are sacred to them.

The Kotel HaMaaravi - the Western Wall only remaining wall of the Temple
The Kotel HaMa’aravi – the Western Wall, the   remaining wall of the Temple

We  were allowed access at along last to the Kotel HaMa’aravi, the Western Wall, beneath the Temple Mount where the Temple, our most sacred site, actually stood. The Kotel HaMa’aravi is a retaining wall of the Temple Mount and the most sacred place accessible to Jews . The Temple Mount, Har Habayit,  is the place we face when praying wherever in the world we are and our prayers for thousands of years have expressed our longing to return here. In 1967, thank G’d,  we did at least return to this wall.


People  write their prayers and wishes and insert the pieces of paper into the Wall’s crevices. Once a month the notes are removed and buried to  make room for more.

The newly renovated Hurva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem
The newly renovated Hurva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem

When Jerusalem was first accessed all that remained of this ancient synagogue was the famous arch – but during the ensuing years many plans were put forward to rebuild it. Eventually in the beginning of this century the building started and in 2010 it was rededicated.


Yad Vashem -a  cattle truck which took Jews to concentration camps

Remembering our history is an important part of our life and memorials to the many attempts to annihilate us can be found all over the country. The largest memorial to the Holocaust in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York
Memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York

But we never forget the horrors that others have also lived through and Israel was the first country ( and perhaps still the only one) to memorialize the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11.

But today Jerusalem is also a thriving modern city which attracts tourists and pilgrims from all over the world and of every religion. They enjoy the modern conveniences of 21st century life coupled with the ancient, sacred memories of the past. The parks, hotels, gardens, museums, shops and markets are but minutes away from King David’s City and the reamins of the  Temple and to those of us who are privileged to call this city our home each part is just as alive and relevant to us today.

King Hezekiah's Tunnel
King Hezekiah’s Tunnel


fountain in Paris Square by the Prima Kings Hotel
Fountain in Paris Square by the Prima Kings Hotel
Jerusalem Botanical Gardens
Jerusalem Botanical Gardens
Machane Yehuda market
Machane Yehuda market
busking in Jaffa Road
busking in Jaffa Road
Mamilla-Mall dining with a view
The light rail
The light rail
The Montefiore Windmill in Mishkenot Shaananim
The Montefiore Windmill in Mishkenot Sha’ananim
Israel Museum-Shrine of the Book
Kever Shmuel HaNavi the tomb of Samuel the prophet outside Ramot, Jerusalem
Kever Shmuel HaNavi the tomb of Samuel the prophet outside Ramot, Jerusalem

The Prophet Samuel’s yahrzeit ( anniversary of his death) is also on Jerusalem Reunification Day. Thousands visit his tomb today on a hillside a few minutes from my home in Ramot .

The Hidden Synagogue of Theresienstadt

National Holocaust Day, Yom Hashoah, is commemorated in Israel on  27th of Nissan, which this year is on the April 16th.

The post below was one of the most frequently read post on my previous blog and so I am reproducing it here for those who never had a chance to read this incredible  Holocaust story.

Monday, April 12, 2010
A HOLOCAUST STORY – The Hidden Synagogue of Theresienstadt

secret synagogueThe painted roof of the hidden synagogue

Many stories about the Holocaust are still coming to light and one I heard today, from Mrs Helen Gross, one of the participants in the story, was too amazing for me not to repeat. Only in recent years have most of the facts of the story become known – although there are inevitably still unanswered questions, which may remain forever unanswered.

Helen Gross’ uncle, Asher Berlinger, a very religious man was also a talented artist, craftsman and musician. He was a Chazan in Schweinfurt, Germany, before the Holocaust.
After Kristallnacht Asher and his wife , fearing for their children’s lives, sent their two daughters on the kinder transport to England . He and his wife were deported to Theresienstadt Ghetto in 1942. Asher continued to teach Torah whilst in the ghetto and he wrote a series of ‘luchot’, calendars, to make sure that everyone knew when the Chagim( Jewish festivals) were, when Shabbat started each week, the week’s parsha and the dates and times of Rosh Chodesh.

Eventually he and his wife suffered the same fate as 88,000 of their brethren and were transported to Auschwitz and murdered. Several of his luchot were discovered and donated to Yad Vashem . On the back of some was a self-portrait that he had drawn, showing him praying in a shul (synagogue) which was assumed to be his old shul from before the war.

After the war, the homes in Theresienstadt were returned to their former Czech owners. A Catholic undertaker went back to his home with his family and many years later in 1997, whilst starting renovations in the kitchen he began to break down a wall . He suddenly realized that what he was revealing was a highly decorated area behind the wall. Being religious he also recognized the Hebrew writing. His priest advised him to leave the room alone to avoid the curse of the Jewish people.
He kept the discovery a secret from the authorities. Occasionally he showed to room to Jewish visitors who came to see the site of the ghetto.

The two Berlinger daughters, meanwhile, grew up as orphans and married, one in England and one in America. A few years ago, Senta, who lived in England, passed away and her sister Rosie came from the USA to bury her sister and sit shiva for her in her house. One of the visitors to the shiva brought with her photos from her recent visit to the Holocaust sites of Europe and Rosie politely glanced at them ……… and there amongst them were photos of the hidden shul in Theresienstadt , which Rosie immediately recognized as the background to her father’s self-portrait on his ‘luchot”.

Straight after the shiva she flew to Europe to see for herself and knew that she was standing in a shul that her father had designed and decorated. But how could she prove it. The portrait at Yad Vashem connected him to the shul but not necessarily as its designer.
But Asher Berlinger wrote in a unique form of calligraphy which he taught to his brother-in-law who in turn taught it to his daughter, Helen Gross. She was able to reproduce the entire alphabet in the style the pesukim in the shul are written..

secret shul 2

Asher Berlinger’s handiwork and undying faith, as portrayed in the beauty of the shul and the pesukim he chose, were officially acknowledged by the authorities and in 2006 the family were invited to a rededication of the shul in the presence of top officials and dignitaries from the Czech Republic, the USA, and Israel.

As Helen Gross explained when telling the story, it is still not known who used this shul and when, as so far no survivors have been found who actually knew of its existence , but who knows….
With so much ‘hashgacha pratis’ Divine providence, involved in the discovery of the shul and its origins, it’s not too much to expect that someone be found , who actually used the shul, as place of payer and comfort, during those terrible years.

Yehuda Avner z”l


When Yehuda Avner died yesterday at the age of 86, Israel lost one of its most outstanding spokesmen.

To say Avner had devoted his life to Eretz Yisrael, is too clichéd for what he did. Apart from perhaps during his very early childhood in Manchester UK, I think  the State and people of Israel were always the most important things in his life.

From pre-State days as a founder of Kibbutz Lavi, a religious kibbutz in Galilee, through being advisor and speechwriter to four of the country’s Prime Ministers: Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin and Menachem Begin, he worked behind the scenes in building the country and making its position known and understood by the rest of the world.
He came out from behind the scenes to act as Ambassador in London and later in Australia and also held diplomatic positions in New York and Washington.

But the most fascinating aspect of Avner’s life was not that he was eye-witness to over 60 years of history – but that he was ear-witness (OK  I made that up) to some of the most important  political  decisions that were ever made. He sat in on meetings where those present felt they were determining   the life and death of the Jewish people in Israel. He admits himself that although he was meant to take notes and often worked as secretary as well as speechwriter, those notes were meant to be destroyed …….. but weren’t.
And the result was his brilliant book The Prime Ministers where readers get to  hear what was behind all those heart stopping decisions regarding the Six Day War, Entebbe , the Yom Kippur War etc.

We are taught  in Tehillim  that “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” and so as spokesman and speechwriter Avner, a religious , observant Jew was told on several occasions that he should ‘break’ Shabbos in order to write something before the rest of the world reacted in a way that could threaten the existence of  Israel.
In one of his accounts he even tells about meeting Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l on Friday night in shul and telling him how he had walked out on a meeting just before Shabbos,  as he felt that no ‘pikuach nefesh’ (life threatening situation) was involved in what he was being asked to do – and from Rav Shlomo Zalman’s reply he understood that maybe he had made his own decision a bit too hastily.

Avner was a brilliant writer. He wrote with wit, enthusiasm, insight and had a wonderful ability to find just the right word.
To get a taste of his writing read this account of when he went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe with Yitzchak Rabin and this essay of how Prime Minister Menachem Begin ‘convinced’ the Knesset that El Al, Israel’s national airline should not fly on Shabbos.

Here is Avner’s beautiful account on how, during the British Mandate, the shofar was smuggled to the Kotel  under the noses of the British to be blown at  the end of Yom Kippur, strictly against their orders.

Eretz Yisrael and the People of Israel have lost one of our most outstanding advocates.

Ye’hi Zichro Baruch.