Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for heal the world, make the world a better place. This is what I aspire to in the new year.

My children took direct action last week with many other families at our shul, to pack up Hanukah baskets, and distribute them to needy families here in Montreal, on behalf of Ometz.

During this world-wide depression, so many are hurting, so many are in need.

Concrete action like theirs will make the world a better place, will help to heal the world a little bit, by healing hearts. Not only by providing food, but also by offering hope that there are people out there who care about others and who are willing to take the time, to make time, to create a difference.

One of my ways of putting my best self out there is through writing. I am a believer that art can change--and heal--the world. Sometimes, it is tempting to retreat into my own interior world, the world of my imagination--and of course I have to immerse in that interior space to write my stories and novels. But I also use my art to reach out, to build a bridge between inside and outside. That's why it is so fufilling to hear from readers.

This morning I was interviewed by Carmel Kilkenny on Radio Canada International, a reporter who devotes her show to Tikkun Olam. Listen to our chat which will air, with other compelling stories, on New Year's Day. I hope, an inspiring start, to a New Year.

Wishing you warmth, joy, and hope.


Friday, December 5, 2008


I know we've been hearing about the death of the book for years, but I still lust after volumes, cloth, paper, big, boggy and old, with tattered yellow pages, svelte and new with a shiny cover, I love to hold them in my hands, open and smell their fragrance, turn their pages with a clip or a lingering hand. I love, I lust, I collect, I beg, borrow, and (forgetfully) steal (fail to return a much-loved volume to a generous lender).

My home is rich and weighted down with books: they beckon from every room, shelves heaped high, tottering, stacked on rumpled duvets, side tables, spilling onto rugs and floors, getting lost, pages splayed under beds.

Listen to Shelagh Rogers, host of "The Next Chapter" airing Saturdays on CBC at 3 p.m.

"It's like opening a bottle of wine and pulling the cork out. I crack the book, I crack the back, I crack the spine, and I love the smell that comes out... I can go and read it under a tree, or on the beach, or on a ferry, or in my room. It's a link to the past, holding this object in your hands."

Here's why you will never see me (or Shelagh Rogers I trust) reading a classic or the next best latest IT book on on my iphone (don't have one) or blackberry (don't possess one) or some device made for same, recommended by Oprah in her "That's Great" feature.

For Chanukah, give me books, books, and more books. My jewels. The new Bolano perhaps in a paperback set, a beautiful old illustrated Dickens, someone new you think I would love. Surprise me...with a book.

So let's celebrate the book in all its sensuality.

Read, read, read.



Monday, December 1, 2008

Untold Stories

I am back from a wonderful trip to Vancouver's Jewish Book Festival, having made new ties with West Coast readers and writers. Flying over the Rockies coming and going was a thrill--those crystalline craggy cliffs, sparkling jaggedly in the late afternoon sun--made my heart beat faster. Only equalled perhaps by the Pacific, its fresh briny smell, sightings of shells, ships, and sand, as I walked the perimeter of the seawall in Stanley Park. Weather-wise I lucked out. No need for my trench or umbrella. Most of my days were dry, sunny, and spring-like, so I spent as much time as I could exploring the city and its landscape, knowing that back here on home turf, winter would be drawing in fast and harsh.

Had a fun event with Portland-based author Rob Freedman, who read from "Fancy Pants," a poignant, sad-funny story, centring on his alter-ego Buddy's crazy and fraught bond with his crazy Jewish mother.

Jewish mothers, that was our link. With Chanukah, the festival of light imminent, I read an excerpt from my new novel, The White Space Between, following the provenance of a hand-sculpted menorah, a family treasure of the Ivan's, the clan my story focuses on. Burying and excavating, hiding and emerging, these were some of my themes that I am now, only now, unearthing, now that the writing is done.

Up at dawn on Tuesday, I met with several grades and a half-dozen teachers from King David High School and we all had a lively discussion. The kids wanted to brainstorm about what they could do to actively foster Holocaust Remembrance. They have their own literary magazine and plan to send me copies. I trust we will stay in touch.

My final event was an in-depth panel with Edeet Ravel. Rhea, our moderator, focused on our two novels, choices we made as authors, how our books converged and how they differed. It was great to meet Edeet and we had fun schmoozing and signing our books following our reading and panel.

It was really fulfilling to make a direct connection with my readers and potential new readers. That's what it's all about for back to the writing.