Tag: writing

An Apple A Day…



Actually that’s the Apple Store, and Apple Care and my Apple Macbook Pro. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I love my computer. As writers (unless you still do everything in longhand and good for you if you do), we need our trusty computers to actually do our jobs. My 13 inch mid 2014 retina display Macbook Pro is my super sleek, silver friend. At home it’s attached to a large monitor, but I love that I can pick it up and go anywhere with it when I need to.

Yes, I live in L.A. but no, I don’t generally like to write in coffee shops. I prefer to stay  home, free from distractions and endless cups of caffeine (and I only drink tea anyway, not coffee). But the other day, I was forced to shlep my laptop to a nearby coffee shop after the electric company turned off our power at 7:30 a.m. without warning (a telephone call to the company revealed it was “an emergency” and therefore there was no time to inform residents). I was also told it would be about 7 or 8 hours before it was turned back on, so it was off to the cafe with me.

However, when I arrived and plugged in my computer, I discovered the screen was cracked. How was that possible? Could a power outage cause this? I didn’t drop my computer, I didn’t spill anything on it – and I’d only bought it six months ago! (Tip: you can save a lot of money on a new computer if you buy the model that came out a little earlier. They work just as well).

Taking my computer to Apple, they informed me that my three year warranty didn’t cover the screen or “accidents,” and it was going to be close to $500 to fix it! Panic set in. But my Genius Bar attendant told me to call Apple Care and plead my case, which I did.

I don’t know if it was my non-American accent, being extremely polite, or that my Apple Care representative could hear the desperation in my voice, but he waived the fee. Relief! After hauling out my old Macbook (circa 2009) and backing up everything, I took my trusty Macbook Pro back to the store for its free repair, which I was informed would take 3 to 5 business days.

Within two hours of arriving home and trying to work on the creaky old Mac, the Apple Store called to say my computer was ready! Wow.

So now, as I sit here back working on my lovely Macbook Pro with it’s brand new retina screen, I just want to give a shoutout to Apple for being so wonderful when it came to fixing my computer – gratis. And so quickly. I am not a spokesperson for Apple, but until my poor computer had to have a date with the Emergency Room, I never really appreciated how much my life depends on my trusty companion.

So thank you, Apple – which I will now call the Obamacare of computers.

How much do YOU depend on your computer?

Retreating in order to advance



Sixty Five women (and one man) at the Women's Fiction Writers Association retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sixty Five women (and one man) at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico


Sometimes you just have to.

Retreat, that is.

In order to advance.

So that’s what I did last week. Went on my first ever writing retreat. Four days. The Women’s Fiction Writers Association writing retreat to be specific. WFWA has been two years in the making and this was our first ever retreat to Albuquerque, New Mexico. (I swear, one day I’ll learn to spell this correctly on the first go round – Albuquerque, not New Mexico).

It was a magical, enervating experience, not just to finally meet some of the people we’ve all been friends with for the past two years online, but to simply soak up the joy, camaraderie, support, sharing and gabbing that comes when you meet with others whose goals align with yours.

This was my first retreat: hopefully it won’t be the last. It is SOOO different to a conference, and for me, at least, just what the doctor ordered. And so, without further ado, here is my list of eight reasons why retreating is a way to advance your writing goals.

  1. It’s a chance to unwind, relax, and make no apologies for focusing on your writing. That’s why so many of the 65 of us on the retreat could be found at all hours of the day and night (and really ungodly morning hours), with gallons of caffeine busily tapping away on our laptops or scribbling in our notebooks on our latest works. A silent reverie where mind melding wasn’t even necessary. The communal writing spirit was powering us forward.
  2. The six a.m. writing club! Me, Jess Bylander, Laura Drake, Christine Orchanian Adler
    The six a.m. writing club! Me, Jess Bylander, Laura Drake, Christine Orchanian Adler
    Darynda Jones with the 6 a.m. writing club!
    Darynda Jones with the 6 a.m. writing club!
    Hard at work. Nameless faces writing future bestsellers.
    Hard at work. Nameless faces writing future bestsellers.


    2. It’s an opportunity to not sit in “talks” or “lectures” but in actual circles – yep – and talk as a group about that hour’s particular discussion group. Hearing how others dealt with rejection, their writing process, their editing techniques and more, makes you feel less alone. You can share tips, reveal low and high points, glean incredible insight and bond with other writers who have plumbed the same depths as you and danced for joy at similar highs throughout the creative process.

  3. Not your average workshop. The brilliant Barbara Claypole White shares her writing process. (Yes, we're all a bit crazy).
    Not your average workshop. The brilliant Barbara Claypole White shares her writing process. (Yes, we’re all a bit crazy).


    3. It’s an opportunity to meet with unpublished writers, debut authors, published authors and New York bestselling authors on an equal footing and NOT be intimidated. You get to schmooze over margaritas (there are lots of them in Albuquerque), chow down over jalapeno-spiced meals (this is New Mexico after all), and talk about everything from writing to whether our pets miss us.  (I think my dog missed me).

    Squee number 1: Me with author Barbara Claypole White!
    Squee number 1: Me with author Barbara Claypole White!
    Squee number 2: Me with author Darynda Jones!
    Squee number 2: Me with author Darynda Jones!
    Squee number 3: Me with author Kathryn Craft!
    Squee number 3: Me with author Kathryn Craft!


  4. It’s a reminder that your work MATTERS. That it’s not only permissible but ESSENTIAL to take time out to retreat and focus on your passion: where you can wander the halls or sit on the patio or lounge by the pool and listen to people chat about conflict, protagonists, black moments, publishing deals, agents, editors and all those wonderful buzz words that make you want to jump up and down and proclaim “THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!”
    More margaritas!
    More margaritas!


  5. It’s a way to tap back into your creativity, to discover that your inner four-year-old needs a time out to remind you what matters; where your passions lie and how to harness them and imbue your writing with them. Oodles of thanks to the charming, adorable and brilliant Kimberly Brock for her Tinderbox workshop and making us dance, sing, tell ghost stories and pull out crayons, glitter, stickers, glue and chop up magazine pictures to remind us where our stories came from in the first place and how to keep finding more.
    Discovering our inner four year olds in Kimberly Brock's workshop
    Discovering our inner four year olds in Kimberly Brock’s workshop


  6. It’s a way to learn a harsh lesson that it is NOT selfish to spend your time writing. Thank you a billion times over Darynda Jones for your impromptu, impassioned speech about how writing is preparing you for your future career. “You wouldn’t say going to college is selfish, would you?” Darynda demanded of us. And when a New York Times bestselling author tells you you’re not being selfish, you damn well better listen!
  7. It’s a way to make new writing friends and cement bonds with those you have met online. They are the gift that keep on giving. You now know what their real voices sound like when you go back to your life with them online and they critique your pages, cheer you from the sidelines, bolster you when you hit a wall, and repost your silly Facebook memes.
  8. It’s a testament to a few determined souls who believe that there’s a niche in the writing market that has yet to be filled and if you build it people will indeed come. Two years ago a group of determined women including  Orly Konig Lopez, Laura Drake, and Kerry Hall Lonsdale said, “We need a place for women’s fiction writers.” They thought they’d be lucky if WFWA got 100 members. We’re now at 700 plus thanks to the vision of a few hardy souls. Hats off to all the founders for their foresight, insight, passion and dedication. Without you there would be no WFWA, no retreat and no way for me to advance.Onwards!


Finally meeting a fellow author… in person!

Fellow WFWA writer Scott Wilbanks signs my copy of his book - The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster - at Book Soup here in Los Angeles.
Fellow WFWA writer Scott Wilbanks signs my copy of his book – The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster – at Book Soup here in Los Angeles.

As you know, I’ve waxed lyrical, poetical and every other “al” you can think of about the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and I can’t wait for our retreat in New Mexico at the end of September. But one of the greatest things about our little (well now over 600 strong member) group – and we’re barely two years old – is that we’re an online entity and the retreat is going to be a wonderful opportunity to meet everyone IN PERSON.

If you’re a writer, you understand how important this is. Some of my greatest supporters, cheerleaders and now friends have been made over the Internet via WFWA and our workshops and chatty Facebook page discussions.  If it weren’t for WFWA I’d never have met (online) the wonderful Barbara Claypole White, chatted to her over the telephone and received my first acknowledgement in her latest book The Perfect Son.  I wouldn’t have met the best critique partner ever – Brenda Linskey – were it not for WFWA’s find a critique partner programme. And I wouldn’t have met my roommate for the upcoming retreat – Beth Havey. And of course, I wouldn’t have found the perfect planner to keep track of my writing progress if it weren’t for WFWA’s Jamie Raintree. 

However, last week I actually got to meet – in person – three fellow authors, thanks to Scott Wilbanks. Scott – one of the few men in WFWA lives in New Zealand, but thanks to a great Donald Maass online workshop through WFWA, I fell in love with Scott’s writing.

Scott speaking about his debut novel The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster.
Scott speaking about his debut novel The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster.

Last week, Scott flew back to the US for his debut book tour thanks to his publisher, Sourcebooks. His debut novel? The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster. It’s as delicious and quirky and funny and wonderful as it sounds. It’s women’s fiction! It’s magical realism, it’s time travel, it’s adorable. I read it in a weekend. And then I got to meet its magical, quirky, plane travelling creator (and his Kiwi husband) at a reading at the wonderful indie bookstore Book Soup here in Los Angeles.

Along with Scott, two other WFWA members showed up – Michele Montgomery and Kelly Byrne (another writer by the name of Kelly who ALSO owns a Golden Retriever. Clearly we are kindred spirits).

Yes, my eyes are closed. Phooey. With Scott Wilbanks, Michele Montgomery, and Kelly Byrne (with the book) at Book Soup). Meeting WFWA members is amazing!
Yes, my eyes are closed. Phooey. With Scott Wilbanks, Michele Montgomery, and Kelly Byrne (with the book) at Book Soup). Meeting WFWA members is amazing!


What a wonderful evening and how fantastic to meet my fellow writers. To show you just how fantastic it was here’s some photos (no idea why my bloody eyes are shut) and two wonderful videos. One is of Scott reading from his book and the other is of Scott sharing an email exchange with WFWA’s President Orly Konig-Lopez, which shows you why WFWA is such a cool organization.

On my “For Writers” page on my website, I talk a lot about writing being solitary and how it can be lonely and the importance of finding writing buddies either in person or online. This post shows how wonderful that can be!

Scott reading from "The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster"
Scott reading from “The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster”

Why you should buy Scott’s book. Listen to him reading from it….

25 Memorable Moments from RWA National Conference. #RWA14.

In what has now become an annual tradition – if I did it last year and I’m now doing it this year – that makes it a tradition? No? Well, then I’m compiling once again my top 25 memorable moments from RWA14, in San Antonio, Texas.


  1. Two hotels means 2000 exhausted writers trying to remember if their sessions are in the Rivercenter or the Riverwalk hotel.
  2. Two hotels divided by a crosswalk with the disembodied voice of a particularly stern man declaring, “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, ad infinitum until the walk sign turns green. I wasn’t about to try and cross without his say so. Visions of a SWAT team accosting me and throwing me to the ground if I even dipped a toe in the road kept my feet firmly planted on the pavement.
  3. Nora Roberts’ three pieces of advice for writers: Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write.BtjtMIeCUAAFRAr.png-large
  4. Two agent and two editor requests for my manuscript.
  5. An additional agent request at the San Antonio airport in the departure lounge!
  6. Great agent story: Agent in #5 requested my manuscript after we spent four days bumping into each other in the elevator. We were on the same floor and seemed to be constantly running into each other to the point that we both declared we weren’t sure we could get on the elevator if the other wasn’t around. During those four days we chatted – especially about one of her clients whom I know. We both gushed about what an amazing writer she is. And so, at the airport she asked me who I had pitched to and who had requested my work. Then she said, “Why haven’t you pitched me?” I told her I was shy and wasn’t prepared to bombard agents in an elevator even though I had my “elevator pitch” prepared. Not my style. So she said well given that I knew not one but two of her clients and that we’d spent four days sharing an elevator, I should pitch her right there, in the departure lounge. So I did!
  7. Laura Drake winning the RITA for best new book. She’s the poster child for perseverance. It took her 15 years and 400 rejections to get published. How fast can you say her award was SO well deserved!

    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!
    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!
  8. Laura Drake working in a session on my tagline line for pitching that helped me land the above five manuscript requests. Where can I get my I LOVE LAURA DRAKE T-shirt. Please?
  9. LARA members Robin Bielman, Samanthe Beck and Jennifer Haymore nominated for RITAS!

    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck - RITA nominees!
    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck – RITA nominees!
  10. Their awesome RITA outfits and their fantabulous shoes that went with said outfits.
  11. Meeting the incredible Claire McEwen on the plane to San Antonio. Her publication success story – having a manuscript requested after entering a contest that she neither won nor placed in – is the stuff dreams are made of. She’s an inspiration. And an absolute sweetheart, too.
  12. Making friends with LARA members I didn’t know that well at all: Tonya Plank, Chandra Years and Cami Brite. Funny you have to go all the way to Texas to meet your neighbours.
  13. Gwendolynn Thomas. WHAT an inspiration! If you didn’t meet her, well, seek her out on Twitter. Now! @GwendolynTweets

  14. Having a major celebrity meeting freak out running into Scrivener For Dummies author and fantabulous author Gwen Hernandez.
  15. LARA’s cool headed Maggie Marr talking me off a ledge after going into a panic over a weird request from an editor.
  16. Chilling with LARA-ite Robena Grant. Definition of extreme grace and generosity. Classy too. And a fellow antipodean.
  17. LARA-ite Sarah Vance-Tompkins WINNING the Imajinn writing contest and now getting work with the incomparable Brenda Chin. Sarah, remember I knew you when… And LARA-ite Christine Ashworth placing fourth in the same contest.
  18. The new RWA breakfast policy. LOVE IT. Please keep it for next year. Thank you.
  19. Catching up with the Austin gals from last year.
  20. Hanging with Liana LeFey – the hardest working author I know. 11 books and proposals ALL of which were requested at pitches this year. When do you sleep, Liana?
  21. The entire crew who all met on the roommate seeking board earlier this year and went out for dinner and took a Riverwalk cruise together. That was oodles of fun.
  22. Author Laura Florand crammed in the elevator on a luggage cart.

    Laura Forland trapped on a luggage cart.
    Laura Florand trapped on a luggage cart.
  23. Crying at all the speakers’ speeches that reminded us why we write: to touch lives. And telling us to quell our inner voices that say we’re crap and to never give up.
  24. Coping with the 99 degree heat and 99 percent humidity outdoors while rugging up in a shawl in the air conditioned hotels indoors.
  25. Counting the days and the pennies in the hopes of attending RWA National Conference in 2015 in New York City!

Of holidays, hot springs and cold shoulders

They say a change is as good as a rest… or something like that. Well, I decided that a rest would be a good change. It was definitely time for a road trip  – even if it was just an overnight one, so we headed off to the hot springs in Palm Desert/Palm Springs. The reason for this was threefold:

1. We needed a holiday!

2. Excellent for cobweb clearing the mind and rebooting my editing stint (it worked, I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle scenes that I’ve been avoiding – and I even wrote an entire new chapter because I realised the book needed it).

3. We went to  the hot springs because I have a FROZEN SHOULDER. It’s been going on two months now and despite physical therapy and drugs (not necessarily in that order), does not appear to be getting any better. Last week I headed off to an orthopedist who recommended a cortisone shot right in the shoulder. Hands up if you’ve had one of those? NOT fun. Almost passed out. The shot worked for about 3 hours and then – nada. I’m back to the ortho in a week so who knows what he will recommend next? I’m thinking amputation at the neck.

Anyway, the hot springs, we thought, might help the shoulder. I can safely vouch that it didn’t hurt it. Not sure if it helped. But it was lovely to get away and see some sunshine (er and then a whole lot of rain), lots of wind, and soak in hot springs. Our room overlooked one of the eight “miracle healing” pools and we could just pop  out of our little patio straight into the pool. Here’s our room with a view.




It was also great to wander around town in the sunshine and have brunch in this sweet little garden area where the tea is served in an elephant teapot! (okay, so I brought my own tea bag (PG Tips) and they provided the hot water) but it was still lovely.


And if it were not for Palm Springs how could I have ever known that Sancho Panza retired here?




And then the sun disappeared, the heavens opened up and it poured with rain… But then there was a rainbow. Look closely and you’ll see it. (sorry about the car blocking the pic).


Back in the real world again, writing again and shoulder is actually feeling a bit better this morning. No shooting pain up and down my arm, but still not able to wash my hair by myself yet. One day at a time. Back to the keyboard.


I’m A Morning Person


She says… writing this at night.

Not that this is any great revelation to me. I’m quite certain I’ve always been a morning person. Even my mum says as an 18-month-old, I”d get up at 6 a.m. and go and bang on the neighbour’s door and want them to come out and play; even in school, I’d rather study till 9 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. and start studying again rather than stay up all night; even in drama school and the theatre where morning people are looked at askance. Yep, even when I was performing and directing and not finishing shows till 2 a.m. I’d still be up bright and early the next day.

So, it’s not as though I’m coming up with any earth shattering news here tonight, it’s just that I’m finally admitting it. Because, let’s face it. Most people HATE morning people. There’s nothing designed to put you off your day than some Pollyanna-ish goon leaping out of bed and greeting the day with vim and vigour. Ugh. I know people hate it. But there you have it, I’m one of them.

I write this because now that I’m “gainfully unemployed” – albeit temporarily methinks – as promised I’m working on doing edits on my book. So I was up bright and early (even though I’m still not sleeping well), ran errands, took the dog to the park, ran more errands, sorted out washing, sorted out emails and bills, went to the doctor and then crashed. That’s right by 3 p.m. when I resolved to start my edits I collapsed in a heap – and I’ve pretty much been doing the heap collapsing every day for the last several weeks (months) by 2 or 3 p.m.

So THAT is why I have resolved that “working on my book” time will now be mornings, starting tomorrow morning, when my brain isn’t woolly and I’m not trying to pry my eyes open with toothpicks.

There is something to be said to finally confessing to being a morning person. Hands up if you’re also a morning person. And if you’re not, please don’t hate me.

The ‘S’ Word, The ‘F’ Word and the ‘W’ Word

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions per se. Jan.1  is just an arbitrary date and most resolutions are set up to fail. But this year I kind of, sort of, had a resolution socked away in the far recesses of my mind. That resolution was (and still is) to find a way to live my life surrounded by the ‘S’ word.

The ‘S’ word in question is suicide. My blog (and my life until now) have remained largely frozen in a time warp that began on October 9, 2013, when my best friend and next door neighbour, whom I saw every day for the past seven years, who was my darling dog’s surrogate “dad” chose without warning or pomp or ceremony to pick up a gun and blow his brains out.

I thought about writing the act more eloquently, more delicately, but he didn’t simply “take his own life,” he did so violently, brutally, and not only knowing that I would find him, but just to make sure I got the message, left me a hand written note. Only me. Not his mother or his brother or his two sisters or his boss or his bank manager. Me. A note addressed to me. A note seared into my brain for the rest of my life. A note that was alarmingly devoid of emotion. Short, sharp, direct with a one sentence explanation that later proved to be unfounded. Even in his final farewell he lied about the true reason behind this senseless, horrific act. Meaning, despite bits and pieces filtering through about possible motives, I’ll never REALLY know what drove him to this. Maybe he didn’t either? But I can speculate till the cows come home. Mostly, these past three months I’ve had to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other; how to get through an hour – let alone an entire day; how to live a life that was turned upside down in an instant.

I couldn’t even post on this blog that my novel had placed second in another writing contest – The Catherine. I received the news just days after my neighbour’s death. But it really was impossible to rejoice in the news at the time.

Thank goodness for all who surrounded me with love and support;  my family, friends, and synagogue community who came to visit, talk, hold my hand, bring food (naturally) and listen to me keen and wail and rant and grieve and sometimes remain catatonic.

I’m looking forward to finally starting back at work next week. But the legacy and the pain and the loss remain. They will linger. I know that. I’m not someone who has been coddled from loss. I’ve had a lot of it in my life – including losing my dad as a teenager. But suicide – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. It’s hard to come to terms with a person who chose to take their own life – especially when you know others who have fought tooth and nail to stay alive while battling cancer. Grief, anger, and a million questions that can never be answered have gone to the grave with my neighbour and best friend. For everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I know you know what I’m saying and what I’m feeling and justice cannot be done to those feelings in a brief blog post. But we go on. Like baby foals, we stand on wobbly legs; we fall down, we think we can’t take on the world on our spindly legs, but somehow we find a way. Because we lean on others – we do the one thing the person who decided he or she could no longer live in this world didn’t do – we reach out: to friends, to family, to loved ones, to therapists and our communities. They hold us up until we can walk again and we know they will be there to catch us when we fall – as we inevitably will. Which leads me to the “F” word.

The “F” word reminds me why I don’t believe in Jan 1. resolutions. I had wished with a fervour so strong that it shook my being, that 2013 was behind me. That we could close the door on that chapter. As if a New Year means a new start. I knew it didn’t really. I knew it was just an arbitrary date, but I wished it nonetheless. And Jan. 1 came, as promised. But on Jan. 5 we learned that a dear friend of our synagogue community was killed in a car accident on Jan. 4 and my world came crashing down again. How much grief can one person bear?

And so, today, in just a few hours I will go to a funeral. The “F” word. The funeral of a man with so much love and goodness in the world, cut down in an instant. A place where there will be so much grief and pain, but there will be support and an outpouring of love for him and his family. Unlike my neighbour – whose family chose not to have a funeral for him – I will at least be able to stand with my community and show everyone how much this dear man, killed at the beginning of this “New Year” was loved and how deeply he will be missed.

And so we come to the “W” word, which is, of course, writing. Something I was unable to do for months. But yet, here I am now writing about death and loss and grief.

Before Sunday’s tragic news of my friend’s death, I had been galvanised once more by the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association to get back to editing my novel, thanks to the Write-a-Thin (see the badge?)


that was launched Jan. 1. For the first time I could concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time and was working hard. Sunday’s news threw me off my game (naturally) and I was back in a well of grief. Everything seemed compounded.

But I do know that I am returning to my version of “normal.” I’m looking forward to returning to work, returning to writing. I’m learning to accept the obvious: that the world is not an easy or a safe place to live in; that there will always be tragedy and grief and challenges around the corner. Learning to keep going is what it is all about. And we do that by making sure we surround ourselves with people who can hold us up when we fall down. And knowing that we will do the same for them. So thank you to everyone who loves me, supports me, and is there for me no matter what. I am here for you, too.

Moriah College, my op-ed and Mrs Siderowitz

Picture 1I just received my high school’s alumni newsletter and apparently, an op-ed I wrote in the Washington Post’s On Faith column on June 13 (which just happens to be my birthday) found it’s way back to my school in Australia. It was an article in response to the Holocaust Museum killing in Washington DC. It was reprinted from the Washington Post by my journalist friend Lisa Alcalay Klug on her site Tolerant Nation and you can read it here:

Since I wrote the piece, two things have changed. The first is, as a result of that op-ed I found out that the woman I was writing about – a teacher at my school (which was also our pre-school, kindergarten, primary (American translation – elementary) and high school –  is no longer alive. I was saddened to hear it.

Secondly, the company I was working for at the time  and whom I mention in the article was an online comparative religion Web site and I was excited to be working for such an organization. Unfortunately that job lasted only two months as they failed to pay us. I still haven’t received a dime from them – hence my dire financial circumstances at this time.

However, more importantly, I’m so thrilled that my school – Moriah College (full name Mount Moriah War Memorial College) – managed to somehow come across my article and put it in our alumni newsletter.

Here’s what the Moriah Newsletter had to say:

A very beautiful article has been forwarded to us written by ex collegian Kelly Hartog (Class of 1982) where she writes her memories at Moriah and of Mrs Siderowitz (Z’L) after hearing of a shooting incident at a Holocaust museum in the USA. It is a really beautiful read for those wanting to reminisce.

And this was followed by a note about a tribute to Mrs Siderowitz from the alumni association. I’m not going to make it back to Sydney, Australia for the tribute, but I will be there in spirit.

We all remember Mrs Siderowitz who taught us Yiddish and Hebrew at Moriah as well as being the Yiddish voice on radio 2EA for so many years. We have been invited to attend a tribute to celebrate Aliza’s amazing life, her love of Yiddish and Hebrew literature and poetry, her spirit and her many contributions to Jewish culture and continuity. This weill be held on Sunday 25th October 2-5pm at B’nai Brith 22 Yurong St East Sydney. For more details on how you can contribute to this special afternoon – please see the news section of our website.

My article is an op-ed about tolerance, compassion and understanding and our school’s motto was “To Learn, To Heed, To Act.” I’d like to think that all these decades later, this op-ed in honour of the great Aliza Siderowitz came about because of the lessons learned at Moriah College when I was just a little girl.

Literary submission guidelines: to follow or not?

hiker-cartoon webWhen you go off to a foreign country to trek the wilds or hike a mountain in some remote, forsaken spot, people often hire a guide. That’s a guide (I believe) as in someone who makes it very clear the path you should take. She doesn’t suggest what might be best. She doesn’t cajole and coax and say “Well, I think it would be advisable if…” No. She knows what she’s talking about, she makes it clear what you should do and you follow. So I think the same should apply with guidelines. And specifically, submission guidelines for oh, let’s say, literary magazines.

So, I say all this apropos of my Web site launching very soon – watch this space. I’m absolutely delighted that submissions are coming in from all over the world and from a variety of people. Out went the emails, yahoo group posts, the blog, the Twitter, the Facebook postings and people have heard and are submitting. Hooray!

I spent a lot of time laying out the clear submission guidelines. Basic guidelines. Only send in a Word Doc. Don’t send in body of email. Double-spaced, 12 point font. Two line bio on a separate page. Thank you to everyone who followed them. But to those who have sent me poems that yell (ie all caps in bold font) in the body of the email, or those who uploaded 25,000 word zip files, or those who decided that despite the fact that the site is for poetry and FICTION only sent me their life stories, their personal musings on everything from thumbs to divorce, I say:

  • Did you not read the guidelines?
  • Did you think I didn’t mean what I said?
  • Could you just not be bothered?
  • Did you think you were allowed to be the exception to the rule?
  • Do you think guidelines are just a “jumping off” point and that even though your submissions don’t meet some, one, or any of the criteria it doesn’t matter?
  • Do you think I wrote these for my own amusement?
  • Are you testing me to see if I’m upholding my own standards?

As a writer, you need to do two things: write, and what’s the second one? Oh yes, read. And if you can’t read or follow guidelines, what does that say about you as a writer? If your reading and comprehension skills are sloppy then in all likelihood your writing will be too.

And you’ll probably be the type of tourist who heads out to the Kalahari desert and leaves your guide behind.

Right. I’m done venting. Good night to all.

I look forward to more submissions as per the guidelines!

Does anyone else have this problem? Why oh why don’t people follow the guidelines?