Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Consolidation Time

The Practicing Writer Web site is now approaching its sixth birthday. So much in my writing life has changed since it was launched in the summer of 2004. I’ve moved to a new city; shifted from freelancing and teaching to a full-time (albeit writing-and-editing-intensive) office job; added poetry-writing to my personal practice; established the Practicing Writing and My Machberet blogs; started a Twitter feed; expanded the subscriber list for The Practicing Writer newsletter from 400 to more than 3,200 readers; and, oh yes, finally found a home for my short story collection, Quiet Americans.

I don’t believe that the original site has kept up with the times. I’ve often thought that if I were re-starting my online presence, I’d do it through a blog-based platform (WordPress seems to be a common choice). And I’ve often wished for a single, easily-edited and super-flexible space in which I could base myself, my writing (of all kinds), and my services for writers. Consolidation seems most appealing!

I’ve also thought that it’s probably time for me to add some kind of direct merchandising/sales capacity to my site; those of you who haven’t been completely satisfied by Lulu‘s handling of the e-book sales will probably agree.

Now that Quiet Americans is on its way, it seems to be the perfect time to take a good, solid look at what my primary Web presence should be–and work to create it. So I’ve been reaching out to designers for ideas about their processes, products, and prices. I’m learning a lot, but I’d love to glean the benefits of YOUR experiences and insights.

Which author sites do you particularly admire? Why? Based on your own experiences as an author (or as a reader), what advice can you offer me as I pursue this? What do you wish someone had told you before you (or your designer) built (or rebuilt) YOUR main site? And are there any designers out there whom you’d recommend?

I am really looking forward to your comments. I say it often, but it can’t be overemphasized: I am tech-challenged! I will appreciate all the help that you can offer!

On Yom HaShoah

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. And, as is customary this time of year, the Jewish press has been offering us a great deal of Holocaust-related material to read and consider. For me, one of this year’s most important contributions is The Jewish Week‘s article (by staff writer Steve Lipman) on financially needy Holocaust survivors.

“On the streets of Jerusalem, their plight is well chronicled, and even debated in the corridors of power in the Knesset. It is a well-told story across Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union, too, where a frayed social safety net affords little protection.

But here in New York, probably the world’s wealthiest Jewish community, the story of needy Holocaust survivors exists beyond the media’s glare. The overall level of Jewish poverty here — exacerbated by the economic downturn — has come into much sharper relief of late in the wider Jewish community. Soup kitchens have opened, UJA-Federation has launched a major recession-fighting initiative and reports have trumpeted unprecedented numbers of Jews living a paycheck or two from financial ruin.

Yet the plight of Shoah survivors — most of them in Brooklyn — struggling to eke out an existence remains stubbornly out of view. ‘It is a totally unknown problem,” says Louise Greilsheimer, senior vice president for agency and external relations at UJA-Federation.'”

Well, for my family, it isn’t an entirely unknown problem. We have supported The Blue Card, one of the resource organizations cited alongside the article, for years. My sister has served on The Blue Card’s board. As I’ve mentioned, I plan to donate portions of proceeds from the sale of my story collection, Quiet Americans, to The Blue Card, too.

But there is so much need. This article just reminded me. Whether you’re also being reminded, or you’re learning about the plight of these elderly people for the first time, won’t you please consider, today, contributing to one of the organizations mentioned by The Jewish Week?

“The Conference on Material Jewish Claims against Germany ([646] 536-9100; funds more than 100 Jewish organizations, primarily Jewish family and children’s service agencies, in more than 20 states.

In the last decade, the Claims Conference came under attack from survivors, who complained about its lack of transparency and accountability, and its funding of educational programs at the expense of survivors’ immediate needs. In response to the criticisms, the Claims Conference has changed many of its operating procedures, decreasing the amount of its annual grants to educational projects from 20 percent to about 13 percent.

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty ([212] 453-9500; coordinates services for survivors provided by a local network of Jewish community councils and other agencies. These services include kosher food programs, minor home repairs, transportation and home care.

The Blue Card ([212] 239-2251; was founded to assist indigent refugees from Nazi Europe and now provides modest stipends to nearly 1,900 indigent survivors each month, 80 percent in the New York area.

Selfhelp Community Services ([866] 735-1234; is the largest provider of services to survivors in North America, offering ‘enhanced case management services’ for home health care, guardianship and financial management, and assistance accessing benefits and government entitlements.

iVolunteer, ([646] 461-7748; coordinates a visitation-companionship program for survivors.

The New York Legal Assistance Group ([212]613-5000; has a Holocaust Compensation Assistance Program that helps survivors obtain legal information about various benefits.

The Project for Holocaust Survivors of the Bikur Cholim of Boro Park ([718] 438-2020; has a special outreach to childless survivors.

Project Dorot ([212]769-2850; on the Upper West Side and Project Ezra ([212]982-4124; on the Lower East Side number several Holocaust survivors among their elderly clients.”

Thank you.

Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Permissions, Continued

So, last week I told you about my initial foray into the world of permissions. I’m glad to tell you that there’s already an update to share.

Briefly: I have, indeed, heard back from the Big Publishing House I mentioned last Thursday. They e-mailed me with a request for further information. And here’s what they asked for:

–the page number in the book where the excerpt appears
–anticipated number of book copies to be published
–whether the book is a trade volume, a textbook, or a scholarly work
–estimated price of the book
–the book’s market (U.S., Canada, worldwide)
–whether the book will be published in hardcover or paperback (or both)
–scheduled date of publication
–daytime phone number
–desired term of license

After some consultation with my publisher, I sent off an e-mail with the replies. Now it’s back to waiting. I really hope the Big Publishing House comes back with something generous (or at least, reasonable). Think good thoughts for me, please!

Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Permissions

My story collection, Quiet Americans, begins with two quotations (epigraphs) leading into the larger work. I’ve always wondered if I’d need permission to use them, but until recently, I didn’t have a particularly urgent reason to find out.

Well, now that my book is slated for publication, a reason has arrived! The press that will be publishing my book is too small to have a full-fledged legal department of its own, so my first impulse was to send an e-mail message to a group of lawyer friends. But I soon decided that I should just keep digging on my own. Directly.

Both of the quotations are quite short. One is taken from a translated novel; the other, from a translated Nobel lecture.

A few days ago, I contacted the U.S. publisher of the translated novel (a publishing company which is big enough not only to have its permissions/rights department referenced on its site, but which also requires several weeks to process these requests). So, I wait.

For the Nobel lecture, I simply e-mailed the specified contact in Sweden and explained that I was writing to find out what I needed to do in order to include the line from the lecture as an epigraph for my collection. The response was swift and sweet: “You do not need our formal permission to make quotations.”

Wonderful! Let’s hope that the other response arrives soon and proves to be equally uncomplicated.

I’d love to hear from other practicing writers with permissions tales to tell. Or perhaps some tips or resources to share?

Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post

So, now that I’m in an official “pre-publication phase,” I thought I’d keep you all posted (and keep myself on track with everything on my to-do list) by providing a weekly post about Quiet Americans. Some weeks I’ll be seeking help, but I’ll try not to deluge you with infinite requests.

This week, I’ll start things off simply by saying a bit more about the book’s general theme. All of the stories in this collection are in some way influenced by the experiences of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s, and/or by my own identity and preoccupations as a member of the “Third Generation.” (In fact, some years ago I presented a conference paper titled “Ever After? History, Healing, and ‘Holocaust Fiction’ in the Third Generation,” which is quite relevant in this context; the paper was subsequently published as part of the conference proceedings, and you can download it here.)

Given this background, I decided a long time ago that if this book ever saw publication, I would give over some of the profits to The Blue Card, an organization my family has supported for years. The Blue Card’s purpose is to assist survivors of Nazi persecution in the United States. Our family has been blessed in this country in so many ways, and one of the greatest blessings is that my grandparents were able to live their final years with comfort and dignity. Sadly, not everyone who survived Nazi persecution is so fortunate. That is why The Blue Card is so important.

On Monday afternoon, I met with The Blue Card’s executive director to discuss the book. He was extremely supportive and helpful, providing some excellent suggestions for me to pursue to help get the book to a wider audience. It was a wonderful beginning to this pre-publication period.

Breaking (Big) News About My Story Collection

The news appeared in this week’s Grub Street Rag, so I guess that makes it official!

My story collection, Quiet Americans, will be published by Last Light Studio Books in January 2011.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the coming months. And I know that I’ll be counting on all of you for advice along the way as I prepare for this manuscript to meet the world. Meantime, I just wanted to share the news!