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About Heidi

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

About

I am a voracious reader and have been since childhood. Sharing that passion with others is something I love through blogging, social media, and conversations with friends. Along with being an enthusiastic reader, I’m embarking on a journey to becoming an author. I look forward to sharing that journey with you.

Stop back regularly for updates on what I’m currently reading. I’ll also be sharing my journey to publishing my own work, which I’m incredibly excited to share.

About my reading lists

Sharing my passion for reading and the books I love is something I enjoy. All of the books discussed on this site are books I have purchased and enjoyed without incentive or affiliate. The opinions expressed are my own. I am not paid for any of this content. Links to the books are provided for your convenience and are not affiliate links.

Copyright

All written and photographic content on heidislowinski.com (with the exception of content otherwise sourced and cited) is property of Heidi Slowinski and may not be copied or reproduced in any fashion. Sharing the entire blog post via social media and/or quoting portions of the post when it is shared is the exception. I retain the rights to graphics and request credit when used.

Images

Other than images created by Heidi Slowinski, all other images on this blog are the property of their respective owners. All possible effort has been made to give source credit to images when applicable. Heidi Slowinski claims no credit for any image on this site other than those created by me as already indicated. If there is an image belonging to you that appears on this website and require it to be removed, please contact me via the contact me page and I will remove it promptly.

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August Short Story Contest

Your Assignment

It’s time for the August Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of September.

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Contest Rules

Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or less. No discriminatory themes, explicit violence, or explicit sexual content.

Selected entries will be featured here during the month of September.

You retain exclusive rights to your work and are free to republish. Republished stories are welcome.

This contest is not affiliated with any other organization other than this site.

To enter, complete the Entry Form below. Please include a brief bio which may include social media handles and the titles of any published works you would like to promote.

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Deadline for Entry:

Entries must be submitted by 11:59pm cdt, Monday August 31st, 2020.

2020-08-31T23:59:00

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Read a Past Features:

Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

Short Story Feature: Riptide

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the June Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is: Riptide By: Rylee Alexander Rylee is a thirty-something-year-old author from Central New York with big dreams to travel. She has a husband, two boys, and a dog, and spend what little free time she has reading, and […]

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New subscribers receive a free download of my Ultimate Reading List!

August Short Story Feature: The Cathedral Bell

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the July Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is:

The Cathedral Bell

By: Violetta Toth

About herself, Violetta says, “I consider myself a book enthusiast and budding author. i have written many short stories and other works throughout my life and career, but I have been waiting for the right opportunity to submit one of my stories for publishing.”

         

St Joseph’s Catholic school has always been the pride of our little town. Nicknamed the jewel in the crown by locals for its upstanding education and impeccable beauty. The school has survived decades of youthful shenanigans and today it’s home to many lively boys with boundless energy and curiosity. Eager to interact with each other, they participate in a myriad of team sports and occasionally play minor practical pranks on one another. They’re like feisty kittens ready to pounce with claws out, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

Luckily the school was built outside of the main shopping precinct. Its location tucked away in the leafy woodlands, the childish antics of the teenagers out of sight and earshot from the unsuspecting world. And just as well, as St Joseph’s has its reputation to withhold in the community.

The devout locals congregate in the school’s cathedral every Sunday. The cathedral greets all visitors venturing onto the school grounds. Though dark on the outside, the cathedral stands out amongst the surrounding lush green trees and perfectly manicured lawns. Its modest exterior is deceptive, as the interior is a work of art. The afternoon sun beams through the high stained glass windows daily, illuminating the pulpit, like a personal endorsement from God. Its beauty and charm is overwhelming; from the artistic murals on the ceiling to the meticulous craftsmanship of the pews and the marble flooring. It’s a marvellous distraction from the chaos that ensues in the classrooms and main hall.

Today is like any other ordinary afternoon. All those destructive, rambunctious brats have finally left. Even the teachers have returned to the safety of their homes, leaving the classrooms and school building under lock and key.

Peace at last, is all I can think. The room is filled with serenity. No more heavy students sitting on me and leaning backwards, making me balance on my two hind legs. No more loud noises; no yelling, piercing whistles or guffawing. No more pencils and erasers bouncing off of me in an attempt to lend stationery items to their less responsible fellow students who had forgotten it at home…..again. No more suffering through the pungent smell of body odour, especially after a vigorous game of football during lunch hour. The boys usually unaware or disinterested in the invention of deodorant. Nevertheless the aroma of stale sweat still lingers, though less pronounced. Finally I’m able to begin to make myself comfortable, choosing to ignore the chewing gum on my back, even though it’s still moist and sticky. For some reason however, I am unable to feel completely at ease, as a terrible sense of foreboding washes over me.

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By now you might have guessed who I am. Or rather what I am. I’m not human. I’m a wooden chair. I’m the type that the students take for granted. Scratching their initials into my skin, kicking my back when they seek someone’s attention and sometimes resting their dirty shoes on my lap.  

Like I was saying, the day went by like any other. Until an unfamiliar rattle at the door breaks the silence of an otherwise ordinary afternoon. Has a staff member returned for a forgotten object? Or is someone breaking in? What do they want? What will they take? I try to soothe myself by picturing Brother Tom’s friendly face entering the room. He would find his notebook in the top drawer of the large teacher’s desk and breathe a sigh of relief. Then he would depart, locking up the room once again and leaving me to enjoy the slumbering hours of solitude.

As the door creaks open, Brother Tom is nowhere to be seen. In his place stands one of the boys, still dressed in his school uniform. The youthful perpetrator enters the classroom, key in one hand, tool chest in another. I’m filled with apprehension as he enters the room cautiously and walks slowly to the first row of chairs and desks. He slides his hand into the tool chest and pulls out a screwdriver, noticeably shaking. He is obviously nervous, but then why is he doing this? Is he like all the other louts who vandalize desks and throw litter on the floor?

He starts working on the first desk quickly, undoing a screw from the base of the seat. He is exerting himself into the work, struggling to twist each screw out of the furniture. He refuses to remove any of the screws, but instead unscrews them to the point where they are barely holding the furniture together. When he finishes disassembling the first desk to the point of almost collapsing, he carefully moves onto its accompanying chair. This destruction of furniture continues from one set of desks and chairs to another laboriously.

It seems like years have flown by when the callous intruder finally finishes working on the first row of desks and chairs. If you look closely you can see them leaning over, on the verge of annihilation. They’re as fragile as a new born baby and as worn as a senior citizen.

Now he begins working on the second row. Continuing to strain and occasionally grunting in exertion. The day draws to an end as dusk approaches. I feel the tension in the room mounting as the boy gradually draws closer to me. Fear pulses through every wood fiber of my being as I imagine the screwdriver twisting at my screws, disassembling me in a violent assault.

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Soon enough he has finished the second row of desks and chairs. It’s now my turn. My doom has arrived. I’m not ready for him to start work on me. I can’t bare to watch his first violent blow, but I’m also unable to look away. I expect to see a smile of cruelty painted across his face, but the only thing visible are tears welling up in his eyes and a large teardrop rolling down his flushed cheek. His bottom lip quivers and he whispers words of disapproval to himself, clearly riddled with shame. He stops and leans against the wall next to me, unwilling to go on, flustered and angry. Has he come to his senses? Am I saved?

I hear the clock tower chime outside and glance at the clock on the wall. It reveals eleven o’clock. This tall young boy has to have been here for hours, about six hours to be precise.

I take another look at his conflicted features. I can see that he suffers from acute acne. Obviously he is just a young teenage boy, though tall, about six foot one. He is lanky and a little awkward. He runs both of his hands through his thick disheveled ginger hair, cradling his head in his palms like he’s defending himself from the onslaught of the cruel world.

Then I hear a noise coming from the front entrance. Someone else is entering the building. Perhaps this person will come to my rescue. The noise is still a fair distance away, but seems to be gradually and purposely nearing. The sound of footsteps on the marble hallway floor can be heard. There is more than one person approaching. Then the faint sound of distant whispers vibrate through the hall, like ghosts coming to haunt.

“Hey Harry”, the ghost whispers as he enters the room.

The young boy beside me is startled from his self-condemnation as he looks up in response.

“Who’s there?” the boy named Harry asks.

Suddenly there is another person entering the room. He crawls on his hands and knees, looking like an infant in his primitive state of mobility. He moves cautiously over to Harry. They talk briefly, planning their next course of action. The boy has come to help in the destruction and Harry acquiesces. The ghost signals to the doorway and a cluster of black figures enter the room, like looming shadows moving across the floor.

All the boys, except for Harry are decked out in black from head to toe. Even their faces are covered by black masks with eye holes. They look like thieves. In fact they are thieves, robbing the room of its perfection, as every screw had fit perfectly in its place once.

They get to work immediately. Have they no scruples? I think to myself in disdain. Harry advances towards me. I am completely aware of my vulnerability. He clasps my legs and begins twisting at my screws. The pain is agonizing. I’m paroxysmal as he unscrews hastily and then stops for short breaks to catch his breath. By the time he finishes, all of my screws seem to barely hold me in place, but I muster up all the strength I can find to stay upright as Harry makes his way to the neighboring desk.

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At the stroke of midnight the group finishes their work in the room. The exultant gang of shadows rejoice in the success of their destructive mission, silently fist bumping each other. The only one not celebrating is Harry, who appears to be overcome with remorse.

Soon the black figures exit into the main hallway, where the celebrations continue with laughter as the boys high five each other with thundering slaps. The noise trails towards the exit until their presence is a thing of the past. A nightmarish past. Harry on the other hand, takes some time to sit and inspect the damage. He is slumped over in a corner, a picture of misery and exhaustion. Finally he picks himself up and flounders out the door, his feet scraping the wooden floor of the classroom, walking like a man on death row who is forced to drag a steel chain.

For the rest of the night the main hallway is filled with silence and our room is not disturbed again. There is no longer any comfort in that silence, in fact it almost seems eerie after we had been disturbed with such brutality. The only sound that can be heard is the uncomfortable creaking of desks, chairs and the whiteboard. Maybe because their screws were no longer tight enough to keep them still. I knew better though, as I myself was shaking from the fear of the return of Harry and the shadows.

The rest of the night passes without any further incidents and finally the morning rays of sun filter in through the blinds. A signal that the school community is about to come alive again. The chattering of excited students slowly starts to echo through the hallway. Before too long, the room is surrounded by groups of pupils shouting and laughing. I jump in dread when I feel the vibration of a basketball bouncing just outside the door. The jerk of my screws almost leading to my demise. Then I see the doorknob turn and I brace myself for the violent return of the shadow gang.

As my wooden comrades and I stand there in our weakened state, we are greeted by Brother Tom. Normally we take pleasure in his arrival, but today we stand unified in terror. I can feel my fragility, my legs swaying when the first student passes me. As a sea of students file through the narrow doorway, I sense the tsunami on the horizon. All the furniture is now straining to stay upright, unsure if the noisy chatter and laughing will be enough to end it all.

I see a boy place his hand on one of the chairs behind me, excitedly recounting the events of his weekend to his friend. A loud snap rings out. Screws shoot out and ricochet off the back wall. The wooden pieces of the chair plummet to the floor in an explosion. Then the matching desk collapses in despair. The war has begun and the first fatalities silence all of the humans. The destruction of the furniture takes centre stage, as everyone watches in astonishment. Another chair falls victim. The desk at the end of my row slowly shifts to an unhealthy position. I watch and wait to bear witness to its fatal end, but this desk is proud, being the oldest desk in the room, a veteran. It refuses to give up hope.

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A small boy in the corner breaks out in an evil grin as his eyes flicker from one side of the room to the other, girding himself for the havoc he’s about to wreak. He dashes between two rows, slamming the palm of his hand against desktops and backrests. The other students catch on quickly and scurry around the room, joining in the escapade, knocking over desks and chairs. They even stop to give assistance to any furniture that refuses to fall. In all the commotion, Brother Tom takes a step backwards in shock, trying to distance himself from the war zone. As he leans on the large teacher’s desk, both the desk and his body crash to the ground, closely followed by the whiteboard. The Brother’s left hand breaks his fall while his right hand shoots up to cover his heart. I watch Brother Tom in distress. I can see his horror-stricken expression and his chin trembling. Then a boy races past me, knocking me over in glee with a purposeful shove. Lying on the floor I hear the continuation of the destruction as the furniture falls like bombs being dropped on a city. Soon everything is flat on the floor. The only thing to be heard now is Brother Tom’s sobbing and desperate gasps for air. Then everything turns black.

I am aroused by students and teachers assembling the furniture once again. It feels good to be reassembled although I still feel a bit woozy from the fall. It takes a whole day to put the room back together again and though we are roughly placed in our original spots, a couple of desks and a chair are unable to make a full recovery from the tragedy. They are replaced by younger unsuspecting furniture, eager to serve their purpose, but oblivious to the deadly risks they are about to undertake by being here. The reality is that the room can never be restored to its original glory. Nothing is the same anymore. Now when a student sits on me, I creak like an archaic piece of furniture. We have all become antiquated items.

Also, Brother Tom never returned again. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker that he had retired, but everyone knows better. A number of rumours have done the rounds. A boy sitting on me told his friend that the teacher had a nervous breakdown that day. Another boy in front of me piped in on their conversation to reveal that the Brother had a heart attack and passed away. Neither story would surprise me. To this day I can’t erase the image of him lying on the ruins of his desk; a destroyed person.

That fateful day changed St Joseph’s school forever. There is no more serenity to be found in student-free afternoons anymore. Instead I stand there, lopsided, staring at the door. We all do. We all anticipate the return of a ginger-haired boy with a tool chest. He’d destroy the room again, but this time it wold be irreparable. I’m sure many teachers and students would share this fear as well. Because of that cruel fateful act of destruction, our room will now live in fear forever. The school has been scarred. And the cathedral bell rings out every hour, like trumpets honoring fallen war victims, both wooden and human.


         

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Art of Tea Organics

Previous Story Features:

Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

Short Story Feature: Riptide

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the June Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is: Riptide By: Rylee Alexander Rylee is a thirty-something-year-old author from Central New York with big dreams to travel. She has a husband, two boys, and a dog, and spend what little free time she has reading, and […]

More to Enjoy

August Short Story Contest

Your Assignment It’s time for the August Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of September. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ […]

August Short Story Feature: The Cathedral Bell

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the July Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is: The Cathedral Bell By: Violetta Toth About herself, Violetta says, “I consider myself a book enthusiast and budding author. i have written many short stories and other works throughout my life and career, but I have been […]

July Book Review Wrap Up

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

July Book Review Wrap Up

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly features.

Authors, are you interested in having your book reviewed? Visit Book Reviews and complete the form at the bottom of the page. Interested in an interview about your work? Visit Interviews to complete the form. Requests receive a response within 48 hours.


This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchases made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.


A Tale of Two Shtetls

By: Elissa Allerhand

Meir is a child protege, growing up in a Ukrainian shtetl who will one day succeed his uncle as the Rebbe. A great scholar from a young age, he is also gifted with empathy and a natural leadership. As evidence when he convinces his ailing father to take in an elegantly dressed woman running from her past, seeking refuge from the Russian Royal Court. Meir faces challenges as he prepares for his future role, including jealousy from his cousin, Gershon, who is also a nephew to the great Rebbe.

This work of historical fiction paints an interesting picture of shtetl life and the culture of the Hasidic movement. Meir is faced with a future that has already been decided for him and involves a difficult path with great expectations. I found myself rooting for Meir’s cousin, Gershon, to see past his jealousy and find his own path. The love story between Meir and Rivka is really lovely.

A Tale of Two Shtetls gives a vivid and realistic picture of life of Jews living in Ukraine and Russia in the 18th Century. One gets an appreciation for the dangers of living in a highly antisemitic environment with frequent pogroms. The story is quickly paced and nicely written. The paperback edition has a few editing issues where paragraphs are repeated in a few places, which detracted from the story a little. But overall, this was an enjoyable read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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Shavlan

By: Eunice Blecker

Based on true stories past down to the author by her maternal grandmother, Shavlan tells the story of Sarah Taube against the backdrop of life in early 20th century Russia. The story follows Sarah Taube’s life of love, loss, faith, and hope.

Sarah Taube’s story is an important depiction of life for Eastern European Jews in this particular time period. This was not an easy time to be alive. The story portrays Sarah Taube’s evolution from innocent young girl to strong, resilient wife and mother. Her life has its share of tragedy and loss yet she does what is necessary for the survival of her family.

The love story between Sarah Taube and Charles is so sweetly written. Their enduring love, in spite of all the difficulties they face is truly beautiful. Sarah Taube’s independent spirit is passed down to the next generation, in her daughter Ruchel who insists on blazing her own trail in life.

This is a lovely story and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Judenrein

By: Harold Benjamin

A white supremacist movement has taken over America. Jews have been rounded up, striped of their property and placed in ghettos. Zack Gurevitz is a former Green Beret with a difficult past who has turned his back on the faith that turned its back on him. Until his help is needed to stop a terror attack set to place his people at risk. He hesitantly agrees to help but finds himself caught up in something much worse than anyone originally suspected.

This dystopian thriller captured my attention from the first chapter and didn’t let go to the last page. The story is fast-paced and will keep you guessing at who can be trusted. The plot is incredibly timely, to the point of almost prophetic, and a reminder that those who “fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it” (Churchill). The writing is incredibly powerful and vividly descriptive. Zack Gurevitz is an interestingly complex protagonist struggling with addiction and a difficult relationship with his faith. He’s not your typical, clean cut, hero which only made me root for him more.

This one goes on my ‘must read’ list.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Uri Full of Light

By: Holly Sortland

Uri Geller is a high school junior, trying to adapt to life in South Dakota when his father chose to take a job in the local hospital, transferring his family from their Modern Orthodox community in Pennsylvania. It’s a challenging transition for him but all of that changed when he met Hannah Hagen at a football game, in 1996.

Hannah has her own challenges, coping with life with her terminally ill father and trying to get past a toxic relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Hannah becomes curious about Uri’s faith and cultural traditions. Eventually presenting her with a choice. Convert or lose her high school sweetheart.

Hannah completes her conversion, relocating to Uri’s hometown in Pennsylvania in order to assimilate into the Modern Orthodox community while Uri serves in the Israeli Defense Force. The two decide to begin their married life in Israeli during the terrorist bombings in the early 2000s.

This is Holly Sortland’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read more from her. Uri Full of Light is a moving and emotional story of love and loss. I appreciated the depiction of Uri’s life in South Dakota, trying to fit in in a secular school while still trying to maintain his observance of his faith. The relationship is between Uri and Hannah is truly heartwarming in its innocence.

I found the description of Hannah’s conversion experience very relatable. It’s a deeply personal journey that can be incredibly lonely as a person straddles two worlds, not feeling like she was really quite Jewish yet but not who she used to be either. I got goosebumps reading of Hannah’s mikvah experience.

Sortland creates an accurate image of the Jewish cultural experience in America while also tying in a difficult period in Israeli history.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

More Titles for Your TBR Pile

March Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

April Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

May Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

June Book Review Wrap Up

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

10 Books for Your Summer Reading List

“Summertime and the living is easy” Trying to figure out your summer reading list for time spent by the pool? I’ve put together a list of 10 of my favorite reads to help get you started. These are in no particular order and all come from my Ultimate Reading List. Need more suggestions? New subscribers […]

The Ultimate 100 Book Reading Challenge

Are you ready for the challenge? I have been hard at work on editing Ruth Long, Age 88 and writing the 99 cent double feature. My new favorite editing tool is the read aloud feature in Word. I have to say there is something hilarious about hearing a Stephen Hawking -esc voice reading Ruth Long, […]


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An Interview with Rayna Sue Harris

Rayna Sue Harris has had stories published in Jewish Heritage, Coastlines, and Tales Below the Frost Line. Today, Ms Harris is sharing more details about her debut novel, Bronx Heart, Jeruslam Soul.

Q: Can you sum up Bronx Heart, Jerusalem Soul in 20 words or less?

Tyra Miller, burdened by the demands of her family, coupled with her burning idealism and strong Jewish identity, sails to Israel for a year of adventure and soul-searching.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

This question requires a multi-faceted response. In no particular order of importance, first, I dedicated the novel to my grandchildren. I am very grateful to my dear grandparents and their close-knit siblings for the kind Yiddishkeit they lived day to day. I wanted to preserve that sweet Yiddishe feeling and those values they instilled in me. What a gift for my grandchildren to be infused with a sense of pride and respect for their ancestors, for their goodness, for what they were able to achieve despite the hardships they faced. I want my grandchildren to be inspired by the lives that came before them and hopefully hold on to the Torah values that served our family so well.

Next, I love stories. I look at my life and I see all kinds of stories within. As a young student, I always took an interest in national and world events. My parents, sister and I engaged in lively discussions about the events of the day at our dinner table. At that time, New York City had six or seven newspapers and my father brought home all of them! I savored many events I lived through and even some I participated in: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the Civil Rights movement and especially, the Six Day War.  During the time period I write about- the Fifties and Sixties, I was privileged to meet, study, or protest with some well- known people in the Jewish world, and in a fictional way I wanted to describe the things that mattered. I wanted to preserve history in a very personal, intimate way.

Third, it is amazing to me, that an ordinary person like myself can bear witness to  spiritual, uplifting, even bizarre coincidences that made a strong an impact on me. I felt the need to memorialize them in some fashion in the novel. Many years ago, my uncle, who took up oil painting as a hobby, told us of an eerie experience involving one of his paintings that was destroyed in a fire. However, what survived the fire was so fantastic, that in tribute to him, I incorporated the essence of that experience into the novel.  I had to create new details to fit my characters, but the essence of the scene is authentic. There are more reasons why I wrote the novel, and I will leave those for the readers to discover.

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Q: What research did you do when writing this story?

Regarding research, I had many of my own resources to fall back on. I kept a collection of newspaper articles from my youth (remember all those papers Dad brought home), as well as artifacts from my travels to Israel. When I visited my daughter at college, I took advantage of the university library to research the more detailed military aspects of the Six Day War.

However, it was challenging to separate what material I could and could not use in the novel itself. For instance, much of the material gave perspectives after the fact, Monday morning quarterbacking, so to speak. I could only use details that the characters could be aware of in their real time. So especially with the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is one of my favorite chapters, and with the Six Day War, I had to be very precise on which details from my research I could use.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

The most challenging part of writing this novel revolved around its structure. That took the most time, the most revisions and was the most frustrating. I alternated the back story with the present four times, each giving a different perspective and time frame. Every  arrangement called for revisions to the narrative in terms of flow, accuracy and continuity. This was painstaking work and very tedious. Each version had its own nuance and merit and finally, in total despair, I told myself, “Choose one!” I did and I am happy with the result.

Another challenge, but to a much lesser degree, was the use of language of the times. Certain terms from the past outgrow their sensibility and usefulness. The challenge is to keep the characters authentic. For that to happen, they have to say things in their own words. I was able to put those terms in the voices of the characters, sometimes creating dialog where I wasn’t otherwise planning to. Characters can say what they want; it’s how they speak. The narrator’s voice is easier.

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Q: What made you choose to incorporate the exchange of letters in the telling of this story?

Oh, the letters! I love authentic correspondence, I don’t mean e-mails and especially not texts, but long, beautiful ‘letters where the writer brings to life her experiences and feelings, and the reader is vested in the value of the time and experience of the writer. A running correspondence shows the nature of a relationship, the motivations of the correspondents.

When I was in Israel in1966-67, my mother and I wrote prolifically to each other. We each saved the letters we received. Thirty years after the fact, I forced myself to read this massive stack of letters stored in a carton in the attic  It was painful to recall the heartaches, the loneliness, the illnesses, the fear and the war. I had to incorporate the letters in the novel because of all the history they contained. I almost consider them to be another character in their own right. I wanted the characters to exist within the history they were living through. I wanted to remind or show the reader what life was like in the Sixties- the details of American culture- the controversies over the books and television programs, the changes in religious life for Jews and Catholics alike. I wanted to show nuggets from the past that have influence in today’s society.

Tyra’s letters also portray a very different Israel then, and although the novel also depicts a love story between Tyra and Israel, she is blatantly honest about the way things were and the way she thinks they should be.

As a literary technique, the letters also open the door for the reader to discover some interesting character traits of Tyra and her mother Kaye. I spent much time separating the wheat from the chaff. By that I mean I had to excise all the personal nitty-gritty that absolutely does not belong in the novel. After massive condensing, I also had to create within the correspondence, new thoughts to push the storyline forward. One of my many goals in writing Bronx Heart Jerusalem Soul was to preserve the letters as a record for posterity. How could I discard such a treasure trove that represented the most seminal part of my life?

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers?

I have been so gratified by the things my readers have said about Bronx Heart Jerusalem Soul. Some love the Bronx story because it reminds them of their experiences. Some love the descriptions of Israel because it brings back wonderful memories for them. Some have told me they learned so much about Judaism from the novel. But really the most common thread is that they are endeared to Tyra and Jessie, their difficult relationship and their individual struggles to find peace. They love Tyra’s prayers. And the very best, so many told me they cried at the end!

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Q: What inspires you to write?

I think that any tiny thought, an image, a detail can be transformed into a story or poem. To me, the written word serves as a witness or a document of what was achieved by a creative or thoughtful expression. Even when I was a child, I filled notebooks with stories, and in junior and senior high school I was on the staff of the literary magazines and newspapers. It wasn’t until later on in life that I took writing seriously and I enjoyed learning the craft and experimenting with different genres. I have come to value my thoughts and what I have learned by living, and love to imagine scenarios that I can develop into something substantial. If you can think it, you can write it!

Q: Which character was the most challenging to write?

Definitely the most difficult character to develop was Jessie.  She is the antagonist, yet she is the one that suffers the most. I had to find ways to make her empathetic and admirable in her own right, Although Jessie is the bane of the family, she certainly has some wonderful and strong qualities. That is why I had her leave the family and go to Mississippi on a voting rights drive.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

 Right now I am reading King of the Jews by Leslie Epstein.  I have a long list to get to but now that my next novel is in the infant stage, I won’t be reading fiction for a while. I don’t want to pick up any cadences, rhythms, imagery or habits from any other writers. I have to have a clear mind and concentrate solely on my own style and content. This leads right on to your next question.

Q: What is your next writing project?

I have been thinking about a particular idea for my next novel for a while, and just recently something happened that made everything click- almost as if it is beshert (destined) to commit to it. The generation that I spoke of in the beginning of this interview was a large one with many siblings on all sides. As a consequence, there are many first and second cousins. Happily after having been out of touch for a long time, we recently reconnected on Facebook. It turns out we are all interested in our background and plan to research and update our family tree. I am composing a questionnaire about our grandparents’ generation for my cousins to answer. The details they provide plus some extensive research ahead will help me write the prequel to Bronx Heart Jerusalem Soul, the story of the grandparents’ generation in1900 Europe and their adjustment and struggles in America. I am so excited.

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Q: Can you provide your web address and links to your social media profiles for the audience?

I enjoy getting feedback from my readers. I give presentations to various groups and facilitate book club discussions. Feel free to contact me on Facebook.

Q: Any closing remarks?

In closing, I want to thank you, Heidi, for the opportunity to talk about Bronx Heart Jerusalem Soul. Be well and safe in these crazy times.

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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More Authors to Meet:

Interested in working with me on an interview? Complete the form at the bottom of Interviews. I’ll be in touch within 48 hours. I look forward to working with you!

An Interview with Lev Raphael

In honor of the 30th anniversary of his book, Dancing on Tisha B’av, I had the opportunity to interview Lev Raphael. Originally published in 1978, his book still resonates with today’s audience. Q: Can you sum up Dancing on Tisha B’Av in 20 words or less? The stories deal with the legacy of the Holocaust, […]

An Interview with Holly Sortland

Holly Sortland’s debut novel, Uri Full of Light, is now available on Kindle and in paperback, on Amazon. It’s on my current reading list. Check back next week for my review. Q: Can you sum up Uri Full of Light in 20 words or less? Uri Full of Light is a story about a conversion, […]

An Interview with Sharon Hart-Green

Sharon Hart-Green’s debut novel, Come Back for Me, was released in 2017. She is also the author of Not a Simple Story and Bridging the Divide. Q: Can you sum up Come Back For Me in 20 words or less? A gripping story of trauma, loss, and the redemptive power of love set in the […]

An Interview with Sherry V. Ostroff

Sherry V. Ostroff is the author of two books, The Lucky One, is a memoir originally published in 2016, and Caledonia, a work of historical fiction was published last year. She is a winner of the Indie Diamond Book Award. Q: Can you sum up Caledonia in 20 words or less? Caledonia is the tale […]

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An Interview with Rayna Sue Harris

Rayna Sue Harris has had stories published in Jewish Heritage, Coastlines, and Tales Below the Frost Line. Today, Ms Harris is sharing more details about her debut novel, Bronx Heart, Jeruslam Soul. Q: Can you sum up Bronx Heart, Jerusalem Soul in 20 words or less? Tyra Miller, burdened by the demands of her family, […]

An Interview with Michelle Cameron

Michelle Cameron’s novel Beyond the Ghetto Gates received silver in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, in the category of historical fiction. Q: Can you sum up Beyond the Ghetto Gates in 20 words or less? The clash of Jewish-Catholic cultures when Napoleon emancipated the Jews from their repressive Italian ghettos, embodied in two embattled women. […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment Hurry, the contest deadline closes tonight! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or […]

Book Review: Uri Full of Light

By: Holly Sortland Uri Geller is a high school junior, trying to adapt to life in South Dakota when his father chose to take a job in the local hospital, transferring his family from their Modern Orthodox community in Pennsylvania. It’s a challenging transition for him but all of that changed when he met Hannah […]

An Interview with Michelle Cameron

Michelle Cameron’s novel Beyond the Ghetto Gates received silver in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, in the category of historical fiction.

Q: Can you sum up Beyond the Ghetto Gates in 20 words or less?

The clash of Jewish-Catholic cultures when Napoleon emancipated the Jews from their repressive Italian ghettos, embodied in two embattled women.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

My first novel, The Fruit of Her Hands, dealt with the rise of antisemitism in medieval times and includes some extremely harrowing scenes. I was looking for a happier story to tell – not always easy to find when you write Jewish-themed historicals! When reading Michael Goldfarb’s nonfiction book, Emancipation, I came across the story of Napoleon encountering the Jewish ghetto for the first time during his 1796-7 invasion of Italy. His reaction – to send Jewish troops to demolish the gate in Ancona, struck me as a fitting subject for a novel. The fact that no one else had tackled this episode of Jewish history made it perfect for me.

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Q: What research did you do when writing this story?

As stated above, Emancipation was my starting point. But from there, I dove into dozens of books and other resources – about Napoleon himself, about Napoleon and the Jews, about ghetto life, and about Ancona, Italy – a city I’d never heard of and have not yet visited – as that was the first place Napoleon ordered the ghetto gates to be dismantled.

The fact that the novel takes place in Ancona gave me two substantial gifts. One was learning that Ancona was the word center of ketubah (Jewish marriage certificate) making at the time. I was stunned by the beauty of these illuminated documents and knew I had to use them as an essential part of the plot. The other was stumbling across the story of the miracle Madonna in Ancona’s cathedral – a portrait of the Virgin Mary that turned its head, wept, and smiled upon the congregation. There was a fascinating anecdote about Napoleon’s reaction when he saw the portrait which was irresistible. So the portrait plays a significant role in the storyline as well.

I generally devote about three months to intensive research – which includes not only books but Internet sources, visits to museums, viewing artwork from the period, and reading contemporary novels (a breeze this time, as I’m such a Jane Austen fan). I limit that time to three months to avoid jumping down the rabbit hole of research and just wanting to stay there – like the vast majority of my historical novel friends, I adore research! But of course, even when I’ve embarked on writing, I’m researching small details every single day.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

The end! I was incredibly fortunate in having fantastic beta readers for this novel, but it meant that I revised this book more than any other I’ve worked on. The beginning needed to be reworked several times, but the end of the novel proved particularly tricky. There were three possible options and – since I want to follow this novel with a second with the same characters – it needed to be open-ended and yet still satisfying for my readers. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that the first option was voted down vehemently by anyone who read an early version of the novel, the second option needed far more pages than I could devote to it (it was already a long book) and the third – which I arrived at only right before submitting to the publisher – was the last minute inspiration of my most dedicated beta reader, the son whom I dedicated the book to.  

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Q: Do you have any special connection to Ancona, Italy, where the story is set?

I actually had never even heard of Ancona before embarking on this novel. I only set the story there because it was the first place that Napoleon encountered the incarcerated Jews and decided to demolish the gates. And I still haven’t been!

 In fact, my publicist landed me an assignment with a publication called TripFiction, in which I wrote about this city I’d never seen.  As I conclude in that piece: “While I haven’t been fortunate enough – yet – to walk the steep, cobbled roads of Ancona, to visit the turquoise harbor, the magnificent cathedral, the Jewish graveyard, and the remnants of the ghetto, my own imaginings of the city have taken full possession of me. And while I’m certain the 21st-century harbor city will have changed from when Napoleon occupied it, I’m looking forward to the day when I can see these places with my own eyes.”

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers?

I’ve been incredibly moved and flattered by all the positive feedback! A few of my aspiring novel students have told me that reading the book has provided them with a master class in writing, which is a huge compliment. The reviews have been excellent so far – though I know from experience with my first two books they may not stay so universally upbeat. I was thrilled when the Independent Book Publisher Awards (IPPYs) honored Beyond the Ghetto Gates with a Silver Medal. And perhaps most significant of all, I’ve been online via Zoom with several book clubs, Sisterhood groups, and others, and enjoyed some fantastic discussions about the novel – particularly about some of the themes: antisemitism, assimilation, and the place of women in society, both then and now.

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Q: What inspires you to write?

Honestly, the answer to this question is: I can’t not. Double negative though that may be, I find I’m happiest when I’m imagining, plotting, writing, and revising – and frankly irritable when life prevents me from doing so. Back in the days when I was writing poetry (when my sons were young and I didn’t have time for anything longer), it was language that moved me, and it still does. But as I discovered when I wrote my verse novel, In the Shadow of the Globe, I’m really a storyteller at heart – the collection of poems tell a story and the book should be read from page 1 through to the end, which is not typical of poetry books.

In fact, I tried to write The Fruit of Her Hands as a verse novel at first – and the material simply refused to be shaped in that format. When I finally decided to honor the book’s intention and make it a full-blown historical novel, I realized this was what it was meant to be – and that I was meant to be a novelist. And I’ve never looked back!

Q: Which character was the most challenging to write?

My main character, Mirelle. I’ve labelled the issue I had with her as my “feisty heroine” problem – how to create a believable 18th century character whom 21st century readers will resonate with and root for. Mirelle was too passive at first. My beta readers almost universally commented that early-version Mirelle lacked agency. Hopefully, her struggle between her duty to her family and faith, contrasted by her personal desires and particularly her infatuation for a dashing young Christian soldier, found the appropriate balance both for her time and ours.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

I’ve several books on my TBR pile and am excited to read all of them. I’m a fairly eclectic reader, though of course I lean toward historical fiction. Here’s my current list: C. W. Gortner’s The First Actress: a novel of Sarah Bernhardt, Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road, Dara Horn’s Eternal Life, Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer, and Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society.

And I’m embarking on research for the next writing project as well, so I’m reading several research books, including Nina Burleigh’s Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt and J. Christophere Herold’s Bonaparte in Egypt.

Q: What is your next writing project?

The above may have given you a clue! Following his highly successful military campaign through Italy, Napoleon was charged with somehow harassing the British. He decided the best way to do this was by conquering Egypt and Israel and set forth in a bizarre expedition which included some 150 academics from a wide range of disciplines. I’m going to include my two young soldiers, Christophe and Daniel, on this journey, where they’ll face unforgiving desert sands, botched battles, plague, and cross-cultural love affairs. And, for my readers who have fallen in love with Mirelle, she and Daniel will keep their promise to one another and exchange letters.

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Q: Can you provide your web address and links to your social media profiles for the audience?

Delighted to!

Website: https://michelle-cameron.com/
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/michellecameronauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michellecameronwriter/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcameron_writer

Q: Any closing remarks?

Thanks so much for this opportunity, Heidi! I love connecting with readers and would be delighted to Zoom into any book clubs who want to discuss the novel. There is a certain irony in the fact that I wrote a novel about a form of social isolation – being locked behind ghetto gates – that was released at a time when we are all socially isolated from one another, albeit in a very different way. But at least technology allows me to visit readers from all over the country and even the globe!

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Art of Tea Organics

More Authors to Meet:

Interested in working with me on an interview? Complete the form at the bottom of Interviews. I’ll be in touch within 48 hours. I look forward to working with you!

An Interview with Eunice Blecker

Eunice Blecker is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and is a long-time member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. Her novel, Shavlan, was published in 1998. Q: Can you sum up Shavlan in 20 words or less? Shavlan is a historical novel about the author’s maternal grandmother during the fall of Tsarist Russia and […]

An Interview with Julie Zuckerman

Julie Zuckerman is the author of The Book of Jeremiah, released in 2019. Her short stories and non-fiction work have also appeared in several publications. Q: Can you sum up The Book of Jeremiah in 20 words or less?  Jumping backwards and forwards in time, the book explores the pivotal experiences in the life of […]

An Interview with Lev Raphael

In honor of the 30th anniversary of his book, Dancing on Tisha B’av, I had the opportunity to interview Lev Raphael. Originally published in 1978, his book still resonates with today’s audience. Q: Can you sum up Dancing on Tisha B’Av in 20 words or less? The stories deal with the legacy of the Holocaust, […]

An Interview with Holly Sortland

Holly Sortland’s debut novel, Uri Full of Light, is now available on Kindle and in paperback, on Amazon. It’s on my current reading list. Check back next week for my review. Q: Can you sum up Uri Full of Light in 20 words or less? Uri Full of Light is a story about a conversion, […]

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Short Story Contest

Your Assignment It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ […]

Book Review: A Tale of Two Shtetls

By: Elissa Allerhand Meir is a child protege, growing up in a Ukrainian shtetl who will one day succeed his uncle as the Rebbe. A great scholar from a young age, he is also gifted with empathy and a natural leadership. As evidence when he convinces his ailing father to take in an elegantly dressed […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment

Hurry, the contest deadline closes tonight! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August.

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Contest Rules

Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or less. No discriminatory themes, explicit violence, or explicit sexual content.

Selected entries will be featured here during the month of August.

You retain exclusive rights to your work and are free to republish. Republished stories are welcome.

This contest is not affiliated with any other organization other than this site.

To enter, complete the Entry Form below. Please include a brief bio which may include social media handles and the titles of any published works you would like to promote.

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Deadline for Entry:

Entries must be submitted by 11:59pm cdt, Tuesday July 28th, 2020.

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Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

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Book Review: Uri Full of Light

By: Holly Sortland

Uri Geller is a high school junior, trying to adapt to life in South Dakota when his father chose to take a job in the local hospital, transferring his family from their Modern Orthodox community in Pennsylvania. It’s a challenging transition for him but all of that changed when he met Hannah Hagen at a football game, in 1996.

Hannah has her own challenges, coping with life with her terminally ill father and trying to get past a toxic relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Hannah becomes curious about Uri’s faith and cultural traditions. Eventually presenting her with a choice. Convert or lose her high school sweetheart.

Hannah completes her conversion, relocating to Uri’s hometown in Pennsylvania in order to assimilate into the Modern Orthodox community while Uri serves in the Israeli Defense Force. The two decide to begin their married life in Israeli during the terrorist bombings in the early 2000s.

This is Holly Sortland’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read more from her. Uri Full of Light is a moving and emotional story of love and loss. I appreciated the depiction of Uri’s life in South Dakota, trying to fit in in a secular school while still trying to maintain his observance of his faith. The relationship is between Uri and Hannah is truly heartwarming in its innocence.

I found the description of Hannah’s conversion experience very relatable. It’s a deeply personal journey that can be incredibly lonely as a person straddles two worlds, not feeling like she was really quite Jewish yet but not who she used to be either. I got goosebumps reading of Hannah’s mikvah experience.

Sortland creates an accurate image of the Jewish cultural experience in America while also tying in a difficult period in Israeli history.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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An Interview with the Author:

An Interview with Holly Sortland

Holly Sortland’s debut novel, Uri Full of Light, is now available on Kindle and in paperback, on Amazon. It’s on my current reading list. Check back next week for my review. Q: Can you sum up Uri Full of Light in 20 words or less? Uri Full of Light is a story about a conversion, […]

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March Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

April Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

May Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

June Book Review Wrap Up

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

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An Interview with Sharon Hart-Green

Sharon Hart-Green’s debut novel, Come Back for Me, was released in 2017. She is also the author of Not a Simple Story and Bridging the Divide.

Q: Can you sum up Come Back For Me in 20 words or less?

A gripping story of trauma, loss, and the redemptive power of love set in the aftermath of WWII.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

It seems that I have always been drawn to stories about human resilience in the face of loss. Having grown up among Holocaust survivors in my neighbourhood (including the parents of my closest childhood friend), I wanted to find a way to understand their capacity for survival after such devastating loss. I was perplexed by the fact that while some survivors were able to go on and live relatively happy lives, others were completely shattered by their experience.  What makes for human resilience? This question is at the core of my novel.

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Q: What research did you do when writing this story?

Since I have a doctorate in Judaic Studies (and have taught it for over 20 years), I have been immersed in the study of Jewish history and literature for most of my adult life. That probably explains why I did not need to do a great deal of research to write this novel. Of course, I was vigilant about getting small details right, which required some fact checking, but on the whole, I wrote the book from the heart.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

The biggest challenge was crafting two interconnected stories set in two different time periods and then weaving them together in a way that appears seamless. Artur Mandelkorn’s story begins in the mid-1940s, representing the experience of a first-generation survivor of the war, tormented by loss yet striving to find the strength to begin life again.  Suzy Kohn is a young woman in the late 1960s whose relatively serene life is ruptured by a different sort of loss, characteristic of the second generation of survivors who have their own burdens to bear. Their two stories are connected in ways that are slowly revealed to the reader as their tales unfold.

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Q: Who was your favorite character to develop?

I most enjoyed developing the story of Artur Mandelkorn, whose narrative begins when he is only 14 years of age. Arthur’s tale is very much a coming of age story forged in fire.  It spans 25 years of his life—from surviving the war and embarking on a search for his missing sister, all the while dealing with his own feelings of guilt and abandonment. Despite his personal suffering, he also finds a way to love again and takes his first steps toward discovering how to rebuild his life without forgetting all those who perished.

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers?

Most readers tell me that they find the book extremely hopeful, despite the fact that it centers on one of the darkest times in human history. This may be because the novel is not focused on the Holocaust itself, but on the period following the war. It is about the lingering effects of the war on two generations of survivors and their eventual path toward healing.

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Q: What inspires you to write?

 Writing for me is generally not about waiting for inspirational moments. If I can discipline myself to sit down and write each day and allow the words to flow, then the inspiration will sometimes emerge (often when I am least expecting it). It will show up in a word, a phrase, or an idea that seem to come out of nowhere. Those moments may be rare, but when they happen, they feel magical!

Q: What message do you want readers to take away from Come Back to Me?

 I would like readers to view this as a human story about “coming back”. It is about starting again after devastating loss, about life regenerating after all hope seems lost.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

 I am currently reading the novel Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott and a biography of Leonard Cohen called I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons.

Q: What is your next writing project?

 I am presently working on a new novel about a young man with mystical inclinations in search of love.

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Q: Can you provide your web address for the audience?

https://www.sharonhartgreen.com

Q: Any closing remarks?

I love to receive feedback from readers. I encourage readers to contact me through my social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Art of Tea Organics

More Authors to Meet:

Interested in working with me on an interview? Complete the form at the bottom of Interviews. I’ll be in touch within 48 hours. I look forward to working with you!

An Interview with Eunice Blecker

Eunice Blecker is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and is a long-time member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. Her novel, Shavlan, was published in 1998. Q: Can you sum up Shavlan in 20 words or less? Shavlan is a historical novel about the author’s maternal grandmother during the fall of Tsarist Russia and […]

An Interview with Julie Zuckerman

Julie Zuckerman is the author of The Book of Jeremiah, released in 2019. Her short stories and non-fiction work have also appeared in several publications. Q: Can you sum up The Book of Jeremiah in 20 words or less?  Jumping backwards and forwards in time, the book explores the pivotal experiences in the life of […]

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Recent Posts:

Book Review: Shavlan

By: Eunice Blecker Based on true stories past down to the author by her maternal grandmother, Shavlan tells the story of Sarah Taube against the backdrop of life in early 20th century Russia. The story follows Sarah Taube’s life of love, loss, faith, and hope. Sarah Taube’s story is an important depiction of life for […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ […]

Book Review: Judenrein

By: Harold Benjamin A white supremacist movement has taken over America. Jews have been rounded up, striped of their property and placed in ghettos. Zack Gurevitz is a former Green Beret with a difficult past who has turned his back on the faith that turned its back on him. Until his help is needed to […]

An Interview with Lev Raphael

In honor of the 30th anniversary of his book, Dancing on Tisha B’av, I had the opportunity to interview Lev Raphael. Originally published in 1978, his book still resonates with today’s audience.

Q: Can you sum up Dancing on Tisha B’Av in 20 words or less?

The stories deal with the legacy of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and homophobia in an uplifting and open-hearted way.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

It was my first solo book and collected stories I published from 1978 well into the 1980s.  The follow-up, Secret Anniversaries of the Heart takes my work into the 2000s.  Both books are fueled by a desire to build bridges between Jews and non-Jews, gays and straights.  My overall concern is tikkun olam, a concept in Jewish mysticism that means repairing the world.

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Q: What research did you do when writing this collection of stories?

Because it’s fiction, the research I did was what I always do as a writer: I read lots of different authors for inspiration, some of them short story writers, some of them novelists.  I’ve been heavily influenced over the years by Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Anita Brookner, Andrew Holleran, Phillip Roth, D.H. Lawrence and dozens more.  My college writing mentor’s best advice was “Read everything!”  I’m always eager to find someone new, or read a book by an author I know but somehow never got around to, and the collision of different voices gets me writing or thinking about writing.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

I had an amazing editor, Michael Denneny at St. Martin’s Press, and he and I went back and forth over seven months sharpening, revising, laying out the best order.  It was a great, intense experience, and sometimes exhausting.  The stories had already appeared in magazines, and some had even been anthologized, so the stories were getting whole new lives.  Some needed numerous new drafts.  Putting them side-by-side, they read differently and revisions took time to work out.

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Q: This is the 30th anniversary of the release of this book and the themes are still very relevant in today’s society. In what ways do you see readers’ understanding of these topics evolving since its original release?

Life has changed incredibly since then.  There’s marriage equality, for example, as the law of the land in the U.S. and many major countries around the world. 

I’m considered a pioneer in writing about the Second Generation, a reason why Michigan State University bought my literary papers and has a Lev Raphael Collection.  One main thread of the book is the experience of those children of Holocaust survivors, and those children now have children of their own, so questions of Jewish identity in terms of the Holocaust have taken on a new meaning for the Third Generation. 

Q: What feedback do you get from readers?

With Dancing, I got tons of fan mail from readers of all kinds who felt the book spoke to them directly or educated them.  The collection also helped launch my public career as a reader and performer of my own work, garnering me invitations to speak at colleges and universities, synagogues and churches, and Jewish Community Centers.  One fan in Vienna started a gay Jewish group because the book touched him so deeply.  Others told me they read their copies so often they needed new ones.  Those kinds of responses blew my mind. 

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Q: What inspires you to write?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since elementary school and that’s when I wrote my first stories.  I was in love with story-telling and it didn’t matter to me what the genre was.  I read science fiction at a very early age, but also historical fiction and biographies.  Current events can spur a particular book, like my suspense novel Assault With a Deadly Lie which is about police abusing their power over ordinary people. Ideas are everywhere.

Q: Tell me more about the title. What meaning does it have for you?

There’s a Jewish legend that when the Messiah comes, Tisha B’Av, the day in the Jewish calendar that memorializes the destruction of the Temple, will be a day of rejoicing, not mourning.  The title also refers to an act of defiance one of the characters makes.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

Twilight of Empire about the Hapsburg crown prince who committed suicide; White Lioness because I love Wallander mysteries; 1984 which I’m reading for the third time; Dog is Love about how and why dogs relate to people emotionally; Dark Invasion which explores Germans spying on the U.S. in 1915; and Red Sphinx, a sequel to The Three Musketeers which was my favorite book as a kid.

Q: What is your next writing project?

A mainstream novel about how a professor at a small Midwestern liberal arts college is ineluctably drawn  into campus political and cultural conflicts.  The chaos opens her up to her own difficult childhood and forces her to make serious choices about her future. It’s 200 pages along and will be my 28th book when it’s done.

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Q: Can you provide your web address for the audience?

My author home is http://www.levraphael.com.  I’ve also moved from teaching creative writing, editing, and mentoring writers at Michigan State University to doing it online for writers at all levels: http://www.writewithoutborders.com.

Q: Any closing remarks?

I’m living my dream, have had success I never imagined, like being sent on foreign book tours, and seeing one book sell close to 300,000 copies.

For people who want to write, my advice is read, read, read.  When you find a writer you admire, read everything she’s written–not to copy her, but to understand how she achieves the effects that fascinate you. 

Writers also need to be very patient, because overnight success is pretty rare, so you have to be committed to working on your craft and focus on long-term goals. 

Lastly, build a life that isn’t entirely centered on writing, or the ebb and flow of your career can make you a little crazy.  Have friends who aren’t in the business, have a hobby or hobbies, try for balance in as many ways as you can–and definitely do something physical to get out of your head: swim, do yoga, go running with your dog.

I’ve taken voice lessons just for fun and study Swedish every day for the same reason: they have nothing to do with publishing.

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More Interviews:

An Interview with Sherry V. Ostroff

Sherry V. Ostroff is the author of two books, The Lucky One, is a memoir originally published in 2016, and Caledonia, a work of historical fiction was published last year. She is a winner of the Indie Diamond Book Award. Q: Can you sum up Caledonia in 20 words or less? Caledonia is the tale […]

An Interview with Holly Sortland

Holly Sortland’s debut novel, Uri Full of Light, is now available on Kindle and in paperback, on Amazon. It’s on my current reading list. Check back next week for my review. Q: Can you sum up Uri Full of Light in 20 words or less? Uri Full of Light is a story about a conversion, […]

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Short Story Contest

Your Assignment Hurry, the contest deadline closes tonight! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of July. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or […]

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By: Sherry V. Ostroff In order to do this story justice, I’m going to use the summary from the back cover to avoid any errors in the details: Ita was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was the former Pale of Settlement which was a large swath of land in […]

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Your Assignment Only one more week to enter! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of July. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment

It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August.

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Contest Rules

Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or less. No discriminatory themes, explicit violence, or explicit sexual content.

Selected entries will be featured here during the month of August.

You retain exclusive rights to your work and are free to republish. Republished stories are welcome.

This contest is not affiliated with any other organization other than this site.

To enter, complete the Entry Form below. Please include a brief bio which may include social media handles and the titles of any published works you would like to promote.

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Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

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