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.


You can be a Travel Writer

You don’t have to travel far to be a ‘travel writer’. No need to pack your suitcase, buy an expensive airline ticket,  update your passport or even spend money in duty free ……….

Ben Gurion aiport, Israel Ann Goldberg  - Copy


Travel writing’s for everyone

Wherever you live in the world, your hometown and its environs are going to  interest  readers somewhere. Either it will be of interest because they live nearby and want to find somewhere to visit locally, or because they live far away and your neighborhood is exotic to them.

Find a site – then go and visit.

Start by finding some local sites of historical, archaeological or natural interest.
You can start searching on the internet and ‘google’ but don’t stop there.  Contact your local tourist board and then get out and visit these places. They can’t be far away. Take a notebook and camera and find out as much as you can, note down your impressions and take lots of photographs.


Don’t stop at one place of interest. Find another one. Often parks will be built around ancient city walls or with a monument of historical importance in the middle.  And even if it’s not, the park itself might be of interest to visitors. Does it have somewhere for children to play? Is there a restaurant or cafe for hungry visitors? Is there a river running through it? Are there attractive flower beds with benches nearby for sitting and relaxing? Is it near a bus stop for those who might come from the other side of town.

Local Museums and all places of entertainment

Visit local museums, markets,  shopping malls, restaurants and places of entertainment.  A place doesn’t have to be old to be of interest. If a family is looking or somewhere to go they’ll need to please everyone of all ages.

Who will publish it?

Offer  the article to your local newspaper as a round-up of places to visit in your locality, around vacation time. This is when readers are  interested in ways of getting out and about without spending too much money, especially if they have school-aged children who need to be entertained for weeks on end.
Some newspapers have special travel inserts at various times of the year – check out if yours has.

If your editor grabs your article enthusiastically then venture a little further afield to the neighboring town and  start again visiting local places of interest.

What about national travel magazines?

Many travel magazines have ‘front-of-the-book’ sections with short travel pieces about off-the-beaten-track areas. Maybe your town qualifies for one of these ‘shorts’, if it has some interesting  sites that you don’t find everywhere.

Pitch a query for a short piece to the editor and who knows- maybe when he sees how much  there is to see and do in your back yard he’ll request a longer article.

What other aspects of your hometown do you think it’s worth including in your article?

Have you ever written a local travel article? Did you get it published?
Let me know in the comments below.


Pre-Pesach – No Time to Write?


Seder_Plate 2

C’mon let’s be honest. Who has time to write between Purim and Pesach? There’s so  many far more urgent things that just have to be done around the house.

Well – yes and no.

No specific goals

I don’t set myself goals for writing and completing essays and articles between Purim and Pesach – but I certainly  make time for pre- writing because I get so many ideas at this time.

Most of  the articles  and essays that I hope will be published next year at this time,  have their beginnings now.
Tips on cleaning / time-saving / shopping / cooking/.
Essays about Pesachs past from my childhood , early marriage, with little children etc. Stories of my parents’  Pesachs in pre Holocaust Europe
Priceless comments little kids say when they see their mum crawling under the bed – all of these come to mind while I’m busy scrubbing / clearing/ sorting and cooking and if I don’t ‘do something’ with these ideas they’ll all be gone by the time the  chag starts.

Keeping track of ideas

So how can you keep track of these ideas as they come without having to take a break from the cleaning/cooking?


Easy –  keep an MP3 nearby or, even better, in your pocket or attached to your clothes and as you think of something just record it. Or, have a notebook and pen in your pocket so you can make notes of anything and everything as they occur to you.
Try and find ten minutes each night to transfer your  notes and recording onto the computer, otherwise, if you’re like me, you might never be able to trace those gems of wisdom in a few weeks time.

Once you start cooking make a note of all the little things you want to remember for next year. Did you grossly over buy eggs and have 6 trays out of the twelve you bought still sitting there? Did you have to run out and buy more sugar /  chocolate  in the middle of a recipe because you’d underestimated the amount you need?  Did you find a great substitute for matzo meal when you  had no-gebrochts visitors for the first time?

Making a note of all these glitches will help your pre-Pesach prearations next year and could make a good basis for an article.

Don’t forget your camera

You might enjoy taking before and after photos of the rooms you’re cleaning ( the ‘before’ ones are embarrassing but the  ‘after’ ones make me feel so good). With digital photography today not costing a cent I take photos all the time everywhere just to keep a stock of my own photos to save  me searching the web for ‘free’ pics to accompany  articles.

Do you have any ideas  for keeping the writing juices flowing while preparing for Pesach. Please let me know in the comments below.

The Waldorf Astoria and me

Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria
The Walforf Astoria, Jerusalem

I have to admit it- I never imagined I’d ever have breakfast a the Waldorf Astoria.
But that was before they opened up the Jeruslaem branch.

Well, as an Israel travel writer I had to visit it didn’t I? I mean it would have been remiss of me not to?

In many ways it is just like every  Waldorf Astoria. The same ( well, at least similar) iconic clock. (In case you’re wondering how I know about all the others – it’ s only through internet searches.)

the clock at the Waldorf Astoria, Jerusalem
The Waldorf Astoria clock.

The same  luxurious classic furniture. Armchairs and couches to sink into, gentle lighting, elegant, striking flower arrangements.

Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem lobby flower arrangements.
Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem lobby flower arrangements.

Even the traditional top-hatted doorman is there . Although it was odd to hear him speaking Hebrew.

Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem doorman
Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem doorman

One difference between the Jerusalem hotel and the others is that it has a Mehadrin hechsher (kashrus certificate) and the  restaurant on one side of the lobby serves only dairy food, while the one on the other side serves only meat meals.  And the section in the middle, I was told, is not  served food.

Which makes it a great place to go on a shidduch – when you want to be left alone to get to know your prospective spouse without being interrupted all the time and asked what you want to order.


So now we know why the Waldorf Astoria came to Jerusalem – to play its role in match-making. Mothers will no doubt be thrilled when their daughter comes home and says she was taken to the Waldorf Astoria by her date .

Simultaneous Submissions


Are Simultaneous Submissions a good idea?

Can you submit to several publications at the same time?
This is a question I’m often asked and my answer is always “No.”


Once you have submitted an essay, if it is not rejected immediately as being totally unsuitable, the writing passes between several editors or readers to decide if it is suitable for the publication.
If  an editor accepts your essay, but you then  tell her “Sorry someone else bought it yesterday”, that editor is going to think very hard before she wastes her, and other members of her editorial  team’s, time reading anything else you submit to her.

Following up

Send your essay to one publication at a time and wait for their response.  Sometimes their guidelines will tell you how long you can expect to wait for a reply, if so then wait that length of time before following up.
If there is no indication of how long they usually take to  reply, then wait 7 – 10 days and then follow-up with a short email asking if they have made a decision about your essay.
Attach the essay once again to this email because you will jog their memory about its content.
It’s also quite possible that your original email got lost in cyberspace or in the editor’s  inbox and so you will save her having to ask  you to send it again.

Second follow-up

If you receive no reply whatsoever to your first follow-up, not even a confirmation of receipt, then send a further email about  4  days later.

Still no reply?

If  your second follow-up is also ignored then  I  would then send one more email telling them that due to lack of any response,  you are withdrawing the essay submission.

Now you can send it to the next publication.

But what if it’s time sensitive?

If  your essay is time sensitive, i.e. it’s relevant to a particular current event/ something that just happened / anniversary / yahrzeit / Yom Tov  then put the words time-sensitive in the subject line.
Write a message in the body of the email saying that as the material is time-sensitive,  if you haven’t heard from them within 48 hours / 5 days  ( whichever is appropriate) you will assume they are not interested and will feel free to submit the piece to another publication.

Not just time-sensitive but urgent

If it’s  something that would only be relevant in the next 24 hours, perhaps an op-ed, then if you do decide to send it  to several publications put the word ” simultaneous submission” at the top of the op-ed / essay / article so the editor is aware that she is in competition with other editors.


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Write for your local newspaper


Are you ignoring  a great potential market that is right on your doorstep? I’m talking about your local newspaper.
It may not be glamorous or glossy and it may not pay big bucks, but it needs to fill its pages day after day, or at least week after week, with material that you are in a wonderful position to provide.
It’s also an ideal place to start,if you haven’t yet been published and are nervous about querying the big glossy magazines.
Although it will probably provide a small amount of national or even international news, its importance lies in its local angle. The editor wants to know about people,places and events in the area the newspaper covers.
But it still needs some research before you rush off a query about your nephew’s kindergarten teacher who moonlights as an opera singer.

  • Read the publication thoroughly from front to back making notes about the types of topics that are covered.
  • Note how how much space is given to community events/ education issues / profiles of local people  etc.
  • Read several editions to check if some topics/columns are regulars and are always written by the same person. If so your chances of writing on this topic are less than on a topic which is always written by different people.
  • Look through the list and see which section you could contribute to.
  • Brainstorm some ideas making sure they have a local angle  Perhaps an interesting off-the-beaten-track  local site/ someone with an unusual hobby/ a special activity at  your children’s school
  • .Develop one or two into full-blown queries indicating why you think it would be a good story for your newspaper.
  • Check the paper’s masthead to see which editor covers your topic and send off your query.
  • If you haven’t heard anything within a week, drop another email checking on your idea.
  • If they aren’t interested in these ideas, don’t give up. Think of some others and query those.


Photos help you write your articles.

provide photos for your articles


Apart from pens, paper and a small recording device, there’s one  other tool that you would be wise to carry with you wherever you go.  I’m talking about a camera- a simple, digital point-and-shoot (aka PhD press-here-dummy) model that you can get today for around $100.

Even if you don’t intend to include photos with your article, they can serve as an illustrated notebook for preparing your article.

Yvel jewelry factory


This photo for example helped me to remember and describe the Yvel jewelry workshop I visited. I only  got an article assignment several  months after my visit. But looking at the photo reminded me of  the varied  backgrounds the students came from and  the different mother tongues. Now they all  talk in faltering Hebrew together as their one common language. I remembered the warmth, both physical on the cold day and socially as indicated by  their smiles. You can see theirhappiness at being taught a useful trade and a way of making a living and supporting their families.

But that isn’t the only way you’ll find that photographs come in useful.If you chance upon an  interesting spot whilst on holiday and decide to write about it , you will amost certainly need photographs to accompany the article. You may or may not be paid extra for the photos, but without them there is no article.
If you write a profile of someone always take a few photos of them and their surroundings. Many publications don’t have the budget to send a photographer with you and will need a photo to illustrate the article. The photos will also remind you of the room/office  in which you carried out the interview. You may not have noticed the paintings on the wall / the photo montage of his children / the types of book on the bookshelf ( you can zoom in and read the titles) all of which will help you ‘paint’  a broader picture of your subject.