I maintain two blogs: Practicing Writing and My Machberet. Posts for both blogs show up on this page, but you can visit each blog by clicking on the appropriate link. It's also possible to subscribe to each feed.
Practicing Writing: Here you'll find updates on writing and publishing opportunities (especially handy between issues of our popular monthly newsletter). You'll discover ONLY opportunities that charge no fees, and ONLY publications/contests that will pay for your writing. The blog also shares writing-related news, resources, and quotations; book reviews; and occasional updates regarding this practicing writer's own work.
My Machberet: "Machberet" is the Hebrew word for notebook. Since it's also (appropriately) one of the very first words I learned in my first Hebrew school in Brooklyn (and, I confess, one of the few conversational Hebrew words I still remember), I've chosen it to title this blog, where I offer write-ups on Jewish news (especially of the literary sort) and occasional commentary.
Last weekend, I had the happy opportunity to spend a few hours at the fourth annual “Compleat Biographer Conference” organized by the smart and intrepid folks behind Biographers International Organization (BIO), “the only organization of its kind, completely devoted to all aspects of the art and craft of biography.” The conference migrates. This year, it took place here in New York City; when I was offered the chance to visit, I snapped up the opportunity.
As a child, I was blessed with an early love for reading that was sustained, in part, by feeding a hearty appetite for biographies. I gobbled up the standard early-elementary introductions to Abraham Lincoln and other stalwarts, but I also read (and reread) a collection of profiles of other (albeit less) famous Americans published by Highlights. I was also an avid consumer of the Scholastic Book Club titles, and I remember in particular one book, They Led the Way: 14 American Women, which I encountered just a few years after its 1973 publication.
So maybe it’s not all that surprising that some of my earliest freelancing assignments were biographical profiles for encyclopedias. Or that my first idea for a history dissertation topic was a biography, of a French author and activist named Suzanne Prou (here’s the New York Times obituary that inspired my interest). My dissertation ended up taking a different direction, but I’m still drawn to biographies as a reader. (Most recently, I’ve read Jonathan Kirsch’s new biography of “boy avenger” Herschel Grynszpan, and I’ve just published a Q&A with the author on my other blog.) I continue to look for and file away possible subject ideas for my own writing purposes.
All of which is to explain why I’ve followed the development of BIO (I wrote a brief profile of the organization for The Writer magazine some years ago), and why I was so pleased to visit the conference. If I ever do plunge more bravely into the waters of biography-writing, I’ll definitely depend on BIO for guidance.
As eagerly as I anticipated the publication of Jonathan Kirsch’s The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris this spring, I knew right away that I wouldn’t be able to review the book. That’s because I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know Jonathan over the past few years, primarily through my work writing reviews for The Jewish Journal, where Jonathan is Book Editor. My abilities to be “objective,” notwithstanding, the apparent conflict is obvious.
But I knew, too, that I could count on the book being a superb read, one that I’d want to share with others. As soon as I finished it (I was right–it’s excellent), I sent some questions to Jonathan. Those questions, and his answers, can be found below. Continue reading ›
Monday brings the weekly batch of no-fee competitions/contests, paying submission calls, and jobs for those of us who write (especially those of us who write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction). Continue reading ›