Monthly Archives: March 2017

Friend debuts first collection

Some years ago, I met Theresa Milstein at the annual conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She fascinated me. She was teaching grade school, working towards an additional master’s degree, taking care of two children—and writing. I was in awe of her dedication and energy. A couple of years later I convinced her to join my critique group and we began to read each other’s work. Theresa was sharing fantasy for young adult and middle grade readers with us, but privately she was indulging her passion for poetry. Her first collection, Time & Circumstance, a mixture of poetry and prose, will be published by Vine Leaves Press on March 21.

time_circumstance-cover

I asked Theresa how she got started writing her small pieces. She explained, “Ever since I began writing seriously, I’ve been signing up for workshops, conferences, and retreats to improve my craft. At some point, a poetry workshop was offered at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. I thought learning how to write more sparely and lyrically would improve my longer pieces. I signed up. Nothing I wrote during that workshop was salvageable, but I learned a lot. In between novel-length manuscripts, I kept writing poetry. Here and there, I started submitting to literary journals.”

The prose pieces in her collection are quite short. Theresa calls them “vignettes.” I asked what sparked her interest in that particular literary form. She said, “Vine Leaves Literary Journal began as a platform for vignettes. Unlike a story, which has a beginning, middle, and end, a vignette is a moment captured, something that could fit on a vine leaf. The journal thought both prose and poetry could be vignettes, so I began submitting both. Vine Leaves accepted one of each in 2012.”

And her book, Time & Circumstance, how did that come to be?

“At some point, I sent the editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Jessica Bell, a few poems for a project she was considering. That project fell through but she asked if I had enough pieces to make a collection for Vine Leaves Press. I knew I didn’t have enough poems, so I asked if I could include prose too. She agreed. Terrified, I sat on the idea for months. One day, I pulled all my vignettes into a single document. If I could find cohesion—and muster enough bravery—I would send the manuscript. It took a long time, but I finally hit the “send” button. It was accepted and now an actual book is coming out next week.”

Time & Circumstance is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and electronically for both the Kindle and Nook.

 

I miss the Nigerian prince

It’s been years since a Nigerian prince offered me untold riches if I would supply him with my banking information. It’s also been some time since someone was robbed in Europe and couldn’t get back home unless I sent money. Today, cries for help are coming from ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews by way of Monsey, New York.

The latest is from Reuven Boltin, a resident of Modi’in Ilit, Israel. He says that he is fighting for his life and needs “…NIS 40,000 ($10,500) a month” for medicine.

He makes quite the case. Included in the mailing is a letter from his local Rabbi attesting to his need, and an official-looking clinical summation from the Oncology Institute Clinic. Both documents also appear in their original Hebrew (I assume) to give the appeal the appropriate verisimilitude. The mailing came with an envelope that has a Monsey, NY, address in case you want to send a check.

While I am normally an empathetic person, this missive just made me mad. Why, you ask? I suspect the answer is guilt—with a smattering of fear.

Guilt, because the letter elicits no sympathy from me, and maybe it should. It begins, “My Dear Fellow Jew.” They’ve got that part right: I am, indeed, a Jew. But I am an American Reform Jew, which is a far cry from an Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jew. Modi’in Ilit is a Haredi community, a group “…characterized by a distancing from post-modern secular culture,” according to Wikipedia. I know very little about Israeli Haredim except that they are typically insular groups who practice their religion guided by the ultra-Orthodox equivalent of my way or the highway. I find it antithetical that they would not shake my hand because that is too intimate, but they can ask me for money.

The fear comes from being identified as a Jew by an unknown third party. It’s not that I mind being Jewish, as a matter of fact, I’m quite proud to be a member of the tribe. Look, here I am, outing myself to all you readers as a Jew! But there’s something ominous about getting a letter from someone I don’t know, preying on my Judaism.

I suppose the 64,000-dollar question is, is Reuven Boltin, of Modi’in Ilit, Israel, really ill? The url for donations (www.tovvchesed.org/boltin-fund) makes one think that there must be a www.tovvchesed.org, but one would be wrong. The url takes you directly to a PayPal page and there is no tovvchesed.org. There is, however, a .com by that name, which purports to support needy children. At that site, there is also a link for “special situations” that reads, “At Tov V’Chesed, we stand at the sides of our families through the unexpected financial struggle that results from a medical crisis by ensuring that the daily needs of the suffering family is [sic] provided for until they are zoche to welcome their family member back home in good health.”

So maybe it’s not a scam. Maybe Reuven Boltin, of Modi’in Ilit, Israel by way of Monsey, NY, really needs help. If he does, I hope he gets it. I’m waiting for my prince.