It’s NaNoWriMo Time.

What’s NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month

Yes it’s almost November the month when many writers, intent on writing a book, latch onto the enthusiasm and support of the community of NaNoWriMoers.

Since 1999 NaNoWriMo has been there for thousands of writers providing a community of support as well as tips and hints on how to achieve the goal of 50,000 (unedited) words – a first draft of your book- in one month.

It doesn’t matter if you edit half of the words out later on. You’re not looking for perfection.
Quite seriously, it’s quantity not necessarily quality you’re aiming for.

Why am I giving it a plug?

Without NaNoWriMo, my book PATIENT would never have seen the light of day.

It’s not a novel… and I didn’t manage to write anywhere near 50,000 words . But I did set aside that month just for starting on my memoir. I wrote as much as I could, even when it meant refusing other writing projects and letting the family live on cornflakes for most of the month.

I wrote far more than I have written in any other month in my life

And the result was enough for a publisher to say “Yes please – keep going as fast as you can.”

And that was more than enough to sustain me through to the end of the first draft in February.

It’s not easy to just sit down and write a book.
It takes preparation and practice and that’s where the NaNoWriMo community steps in and helps.

Do you have an idea for a book?
Check out their site. Get a writing buddy to join you so you can have fun together and be accountable to each other.
And when it seems you can’t write another single word your buddy and the writing community will egg you on.

Go for it and good Luck.

Have you written a book? Did NaNoWriMo help you?

Please let me know.


It’s every writer’s dream to be approached by an editor to write an assignment. But this doesn’t happen by chance.

First of all you need to show that you are a professional writer by sending in relevant pitches.

If your pitch is accepted you should then follow up with a well written article, submitted in time having been well edited and proof-read.

Do this a few times and you may well find that the editor starts to approach you with ideas

Here are a few tips to get you to that situation:

*Read many copies of the publication you want to write for from cover to cover. See what they publish and what has been covered recently.

*Check word length/ style/ type of articles etc.

*Send in a well thought out and well written query letter to the right editor.

*Where relevant include names of people you will interview / images you can provide / sidebars you will add .

Explain what the readers will gain from your article, why NOW is the best time write it and why you are the best person to write it.

*Read your acceptance letter carefully to see what the editor wants you to write. She might have added other aspects she wants covered/ other people she wants interviewed.

*Keep to your deadline – inform the editor in plenty of time if you know you’ll be late.

*Edit/ proofread your piece several times.

*Make sure you’ve included everything you offered in your query  and written it according to all the requests of the editor.

*If asked to make changes  don’t kvetch!

*As soon as this one is finished and accepted – send another query.

Memories, Memoirs and Essays.

Every essay that is a story from our past, whether it happened last week or fifty years ago is a memoir.

My paternal grandparents while my grandfather was s soldier
A plaque in memory of the kindertransport children who came to England – my mother was one of them.

But in  order for it to be a publishable essay it has to resonate with the reader. You have to have learned something from it . You have to have changed because of the incident. You need to be able to show that what you thought  before this happened,  is not the same as what you thought after the incident

Some people have no problem recalling  relevant stories from their past and have no difficulty turning the funny incident that happened last week into a  story that will sell to one of the many publications and websites that  publish essays.

But what if you do find it difficult to remember those priceless memories?

What if  the only memories you can dredge up are those of   nothing-ever-happens-to-me schooldays  or the same-as-everybody-else college years.

Memory Triggers

Here are a few tricks to get that old memory back into working order.


Unearth some  old photo albums. Look at photos of your childhood, your birthday parties, school photos ( search out your old friends on them) school outings.


Check out college / seminar  photos, pics taken on vacation, photos of your previous homes both childhood and  apartments you rented as a single or previous homes since you’ve been married.

Go even further back and ask your parents or grandparents if you can go through their family albums. Yo may find photos of relatives you never knew existed . Ask about them while you have a chance.

If all your photos are digital, set  your computer to ‘view all’ or whatever it is on your program and sit back with a pen and notebook and watch them all slowly, making notes of memories they dredge up.


If you are able to, go back to the place where you were born, where you grew up, walk around  your old schools and  colleges. You’d be surprised how the memories come flooding back.


Although it’s good fun to go over old times with friends your memories are your very own and may not match up with others at all. Everyone experiences things differently, sees events through different lenses and consequently remembers them differently and different aspects of events stick in their memories.

If you need to check up on certain verifiable facts such as dates and places then do so, but let your  memory of the event shine through your memoir or essay.


To make your memory into a publishable essay it needs to leave the reader with some message, you need to make your memory universal in its message.

Perhaps an unhappy memory about school taught you to be more sensitive to your children.

But your memory doesn’t have to be unhappy or even traumatic to be essay worthy.

A happy memory baking with your grandmother made you understand the importance of keeping family traditions and ensuring your children remain in touch with all their relatives.

Once you have found a universal message, remember to use all five senses when writing – sight,smell,touch,hearing and taste with lots of details to bring the story alive.

Then check your intended publication/website’s guidelines and make sure your essay fits in with their requirements – and when you’re sure it’s the best you can make it ….

click SEND


Writing well is always important – but it’s no use writing a great article/essay and then submitting it at the wrong time, almost guaranteeing rejection.

Timing your submissions can be extremely important

Here’s how to ensure you don’t ruin your chances before your submission has even been read.

cleaning for Pesach

1. Let’s say it’s a week before Pesach and you’re knee deep in cleaning. Suddenly you have this great idea for streamlining the whole process and getting it done in record time. So you happily take a break from cleaning, sit down at your computer and run off a terrific article. You’re about to click send…


If you’re in middle of preparations for an event it’s almost always too late to submit an article about it for this year.
Write the article- or at least make extensive notes – and file it under ‘submit next year two months before Pesach’

2. You read an article which you totally disagree with and race to your computer to run off your rebuttal article.

writing a quick rebuttal


Publications almost never print rebuttal articles. People who disagree with an article write a ‘letter to the editor’ and they are printed there . No fee is paid of course for these letters.

If it’s an article connected to a specific event/ time of year/ anniversary then write away …… and file it for sending next year , two months before the date.

yahrzeit candle

3. It’s two weeks before a famous person’s yahrzeit , anniversary of their death, and you’ve just had this great idea for an article to write. You know it’s very short notice but this new insight and information is so amazing that you’re sure they’ll want to print it.


Check – did you put VERY TIME SENSITIVE in the subject line. If you didn’t it’s quite possible that it wont even be looked at in time

4. You’re busy writing various articles about Purim. One on kids dressing up outfits, one on mishloach manot, a great one for the seudah menu.
Exhausted and happy at having got them all done in time, you click send on the final one just after Tu B’shvat …… and sit back and relax.


well I really mean’t don’t stop

No time to relax now – it’s time to start on your Pesach queries/ submissions. Pesach and Sukkot are peak times at Jewish publications. Extra large issues are published which need a lot of material – but they need it early as it requires a lot of planning to get these super large issues out.

5. Shavuot is over but you have a great idea for an article about Sefirat HaOmer ( The counting of the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot).
You’re scared that you’ll forget about it by next year, so, full of enthusiasm you write this great piece and decide you’ll leave it to the editor to accept and file away away for next year. You’re about to click send…


It’s possible the editor will laugh at your bad timing. That’s not the reaction you want.
Wait another eight months and then send it.

If you have ever done this and were fortunate enough to receive an acceptance, then be aware that it’s likely to get lost during the next eight months until it’ll be of immediate interest to the editor.
You need to be the one to remind her nearer the time (politely of course) that she has accepted your article.


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
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?