Writing as self-expression … and release.

The baby is born!

A day to celebrate! Today I finished the rewrites for Living with Ghosts. I have been gestating this baby for over two decades. It has been examined by several Beta readers, family members, and independent scholars and all of the suggested changes have been made. I am ready to give it to editor Ann Stolinsky.

If my plan comes together, I really will be able to pitch the book before the end of this year. This is my “story that has to be told,” a narrative non-fiction account of three generations in one family who suffer the anxieties, guilt, and fears caused as a result of the Holocaust. It really will be a weight off my shoulders once it’s “out there.”

Next up: FICTION! I’ve been putting off writing anything fiction to get this done. I JUST CAN’T WAIT! 😀

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Unforeseen Good Luck

 AN UNFORESEEN STROKE OF GOOD LUCK!

Do you still believe in miracles? Do you still believe in coincidence? How about just plain old good luck? Do you get some sort of messages from the universe, guiding you? How important is luck in your life?

Here’s a quick story about my mother, Mira, my father, Joe, my cousin Yair, and my unforeseen good luck. I plan to listen to the universe.

***

Mira Heinsdorf bolted straight up when she awoke in a makeshift Red Cross hospital tent outside of Linz, Austria. She last remembered stumbling out of a cattle car, barefoot, wearing dirty, tattered clothes that hung on her emaciated frame, and standing on a line with 1,000 other gaunt women, mostly naked, totally shaved, and beaten down with exhaustion and disease. Nazi guns were trained on her. She had been grasping a pair of insoles that hid her only possessions – two family photographs. But now the insoles were nowhere to be found. She panicked and screamed, but no sound came out. When she was driven out of her family home at gunpoint just a few months ago, she had to leave everything behind, but she grabbed the photos and a small piece of jewelry, a family heirloom, and hid them inside the fine leather insoles in her shoes before the butt of the rifle cracked the back of her head.

Mira was the teenaged daughter of one of five siblings, who collectively had more than two-dozen children and half a dozen grandchildren in the early 1930s. The ultra-wealthy family had descended from high nobility in Germany just a few generations ago, and they were part of the ultra-Orthodox Chassidim, the Gerers, now living in Lodz, Poland. Wealthy as they were, they were not immune to the anti-Semitism prevalent in Europe, which increased when Hitler came to power in Germany around 1932.

Around this time, two of Mira’s first cousins left Poland. She was very close to them. Dov Heinsdorf, who had rejected the tenets of Chassidism, fell in love with a secular Zionist Jew and left for Palestine. This was, to his parents and the rest of the Chassidim, as awful as the death of Dov. His parents mourned for him in the Orthodox Jewish way, by sitting shiva and rending their garments, and they were forever cut off. An older but close first cousin, Mendel Mozes, was the chief of the Warsaw Bureau of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He escaped Poland and continued on the staff of the JTA in New York. Everyone else remained in Poland.

And then, in September 1939, the Nazis marched into their town of Lodz. Systematically and savagely, the Nazis slaughtered every member of Mira’s family over the next three years, along with millions of other innocent victims. From her very large family in Poland, only she survived.

Mira spent the next 61 years suffering from survivor guilt.

“I was born under a lucky star,” sighed Mira. “In fact, if you ask a hundred survivors how they survived, ninety of them will tell you it was luck. They will all tell you they were lucky, and it is better to be lucky than smart; it is better to be lucky than anything else.”

***

By the late 1940s, cousin Mendel Mozes had built a family and a strong literary reputation for himself in New York. Cousin Dov Heinsdorf, along with wife Irina, helped build the nation of Israel. Mira, in the meantime, was on the mend, and when she was stable enough to travel in 1947, the Red Cross sent her to Italy to a health restoration hospital to recuperate. She had no possessions, poor health, no country, and no sense of self. She had lost everything. Then she became lucky again.

Joe Littner had survived the war along with two of his three siblings; but in the course of his “escape” from Poland to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, his mother, aunt, and other family members died of starvation or extreme weather conditions. When the Red Cross found the emaciated survivors, sick with pneumonia, weighing less than half of their normal weight, they sent them to the same hospital in Italy where Mira was recuperating. Joe’s brother Erwin and sister Rosa recovered and moved to Israel. Joe was going to join them when he met, and fell in love with, Mira. In the breathtaking beauty of the Italian Alps, they married.

***

By 1953, Mendel’s son, Sam Mozes, was a successful city planner in New York, and sponsored the young couple to the United States, graciously assuming financial responsibility for them until they could support themselves – which took exactly one week. Mira and Joe got jobs and settled right outside of New York City. I was born in 1954 – on 5th Avenue.

***

Mom, Dad and I traveled to Israel in 1968 and we were able to locate Dov and Irina Heinsdorf. There had been no communication between my mother and Dov since Dov left Poland in the early 1930s. The Heinsdorfs were very gracious to us. On one of the tables in the living room was a photograph of a small boy with glasses, but no one said anything about him, and the two couples were too distant now to ask any personal questions, such as about the photo. I took a picture of the two couples with my new Polaroid instant camera, placed it on the table near the photo of the boy with glasses, and left.

***

In December of 2006, Mom tripped over a chair leg and fell to the ground. Two days later she was dead. The woman who had survived six brutal years through a bloody, senseless war, the loss of everything she owned, as well as almost her entire family, was taken out by a chair leg. I mourned her death and it ripped me apart. By the beginning of 2007, I gathered myself together and decided to find Dov, my closest living relative, to relay the awful news. I typed “Heinsdorf” in the search box on Facebook, hoping to find Dov. I got over 50 hits, mostly with names such as Timothy, Christopher, and Mary – commonly Christian names. But then a “Nurit,” a Hebrew name, popped up. I wrote a message about finding Dov, with a long-winded explanation of why. Could Nurit help me find a Dov Heinsdorf? The trail went cold; I never heard from Nurit.

But two weeks later, a Yair Heinsdorf responded. Haltingly and distantly, he corresponded. “My daughter Nurit passed this message on to me.” And then – in a nice manner – “Who the heck are you?”

I explained the entire story once again, explaining who I was, and the unfortunate purpose of my contact. Two months of skepticism followed. He asked question after question, purportedly to authenticate my veracity. I was getting frustrated. Finally, Yair sent me a photo and said, “If you can tell me who two of these people are, I will talk to you freely.”

I had not seen Dov since my last trip to Israel in 1975, 33 years prior. I had no way of recognizing what he’d look like now, nor would I have remembered what he looked like then. Hesitantly, I clicked on the attachment – but then instantly smiled.

“I’m not certain who two of these four people are,” I started, “but two of them are my parents!” It was the Polaroid photo I had taken 45 years ago. I had passed his test.

“These are Irina and Dov.” And then slowly – “Dov was my father.”

“You must be the boy with the glasses in the photo!” “Yes. By 1968, I was married and out of the house already.

“My parents never told me about any family,” he said. “I only knew that everyone who remained in Poland, where my parents grew up, had been murdered in the Holocaust. My father did not want anything to do with the Chassidic family and did not tell me about your parents or you. I am sorry that your mother has passed away. Dov passed away earlier this year, but I did not know I had anyone to contact. I found this old photo when I looked through their possessions, but by then it was too late to ask them. You knew my parents existed but I did not know your parents existed. That is why I gave you such a hard time when you were just trying to find my father to talk to him. Tell me more.”

***

Before the end of 2013, I am planning to travel to Israel to meet Yair, my “unexpected” second cousin. The meeting will be documented along with photos and videos. Those memories will bring closure to my non-fiction narrative, Living with Ghosts: Three generations haunted by a legacy of anxiety, guilt, and fear, which chronicles the complete story of the post-traumatic stress disorder that was unintentionally passed down from generation to generation, despite the massive effort to hide the pain from the next generation.

This is, indeed, an unexpected stroke of good luck, and you know what my mother would have said: “It is better to be lucky than anything else.”

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Hello friends!

Gemini Wordsmiths business partner, Ann Stolinsky, and I take great pride in presenting Unclaimed Baggage, a compilation of creative and bizarre stories written by a group of highly talented writers from the Main Line Writers’ Group. Ann and I, as acquisitions editors of this anthology, will be attending the book launch party at Nestology in the King of Prussia Mall on Sunday, October 27, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Books will be discounted for purchase. Most of the authors will be present to sign and discuss their works. 

Author Tony Conaway presents the following on his blog. This says it all:

“Nineteen authors contributed stories and/or poems to UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE, the anthology from the Main Line Writers Group that debuts this Sunday. I interviewed a number of them (the “Virtual Panel Discussion” format that Jonathan Maberry taught us). You can read Part One at my blog here:

Hope some of you will come out to our book release party at Nestology in the King of Prussia Mall this Sunday from 1 to 3 pm!
 
Wayne A. ‘Tony’ Conaway
Co-author of the best-selling KISS, BOW OR SHAKE HANDS series
Twitter: @tonyconaway”

 

 

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Best Wishes, Jonathan!

Remember that “someone” who told you about the greatest vacation spot, the best eye cream, or the book you must read this summer? Can’t remember who that someone is? Yup, like me, you have CRS. We all get it at our age. 

Well, someone told me about the “Doylestown Coffeehouse” a few years back and I took a chance and attended a no-obligation session because it was being held in Willow Grove. I learned more about the craft of writing in those three hours from Jonathan Maberry than I learned in years before that. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend most of the monthly sessions since then. 

I want to give a fond farewell and deserving tribute to Jonathan Maberry. Despite being a New York Times best-selling author and multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, there is no one who is more down-to-earth and eager to share his excitement and knowledge with the writing community. Every person who attends the Coffeehouses, and those who read his Facebook page and his comments on writerscoffeehouseonline@yahoogroups.com, benefit. He is generous to a fault, encouraging all of us not only to write, but to share our victories, our disappointments and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We’ve grown individually and collectively as a result.

Yes, I’m saddened that we won’t have your presence in our midst, at the Coffeehouses or at Wegman’s. But yes, I’m truly delighted that you and our Sara Jo will be closer to everything that will move you forward in your skyrocketing career.

Looking forward to more Coffeehouses led by other Liars such as Janice Gable Bashman, Jon McGoran, Marie Lamba, Dennis Tafoya, Don Lafferty, Merry Jones, Solomon Jones, Kathryn Craft, Keith DeCandido, Kelly Simmons, Greg Frost, Keith Strunk, Ed Pettit, and the other Liars who give so much of themselves.

Thanks, Jonathan, and best wishes. See you at the “Later, Dude!” party. (I’m NOT saying “good bye.”)

And thank you so much, someone.  🙂

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KEITH!

Keith R.A. DeCandido

My absolute favorite buncha writers are the members of the Liars’ Club of Philadelphia. Simply nice, incredibly talented, and super funny, these men and women do what’s most important in my life — they make me laugh. Out loud. No easy task.

So when one of the Liars, Keith R.A. DeCandido made a request, it’s my, well, obligation to support him. It also happens to be my pleasure to do so.  He’s on a Kickstarter kind of campaign, and with good reason. He is producing a graphic novel, which is quite costly. If you’re related in any way to anything literary, please join me in supporting his campaign. Yup, $5 will do. Yup, tweeting or promoting his stuff will also do!

Why do I want to support him, other than the writing group connection? Well, Keith and I have some stuff in common. For starters, he’s from the Bronx. I’m from Riverdale. He’s got an R.A. in his name. My name is Ruth Ann, technically R.A. And finally, he needs money. Need I finish? 😀

Anyway, since he’s just about as funny as I am, I’m going to let HIM to do the talking … er, writing … as below. If you can, please chuck in any amount, or, as he puts it, mention the project “on your blog or other social media or what-have-you.” Thank you, fellow writers.

Greetings, fellow writery types. I come to you this evening with a plea.

Late last year, an old friend of mine approached me with the notion of doing
DRAGON PRECINCT as a comic book. (For those of you who don’t know, DRAGON
PRECINCT is my fantasy/police procedural series of novels and short stories —
think LAW & ORDER meets LORD OF THE RINGS, or, as one reviewer put it, “Dungeons
& Dragnet.”) That friend’s nascent comic company never actually came together,
but I’d already come up with a plot, and had an artist lined up in my buddy JK
Woodward (with whom I did two STAR TREK comics for IDW, and who also did the art
for the recent IDW TREK/WHO crossover comic).

So I’ve decided to go the crowdfunding route. JK and I want to do a new DRAGON
PRECINCT story as a 100-page graphic novel, which will be produced and published
with the assistance of the good folks at ComicMix. But producing a graphic novel
is expensive stuff, so the goal is a horse-choking $40,000 in order to make this
happen (this includes things like paying me and JK for our work, plus setting up
distribution through Ingram and Diamond and Comixology, and so on).

I’m therefore asking for your help, whether monetary or promotional (or both).
Any support you guys can provide, whether it’s pledging or mentioning the
project on your blog or other social media or what-have-you would be
tremendously appreciated.

The project URL is:

http://kck.st/14Uzedc

Thanks all!

—Keith

Rosemont Book Festival

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May 4 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Connelly Green at Rosemont College

I’ll be appearing at the first annual book festival at Rosemont College. This new festival is designed to support authors, small indie publishers, literary journals and the community of book buyers. In addition to the many wonderful books, there will be panel discussions, small workshops and readings throughout the day.  I’ll be reading my short story The Price Is Right at 1:00 p.m. ish on Connelly Green. I will also be previewing Living with Ghosts. 

Rosemont College1400 Montgomery Avenue Rosemont, PA 19010 1.888.2.ROSEMONT / 610.527.0200

A Prayer in the Wake of the Boston Marathon
by Mark Greenspan

We reach out to the people of America.
We pray for healing of body and soul
For all those who were injured
And for a city traumatized by terror.
We call out to them: You are not alone!

May you find strength
In the loving concern of those
Who condemn violence and terror;
In the selfless devotion of the first responders
Who came to your aid;
In the prayers and good wishes
Of people everywhere
Who are thinking of you in this dark hour.

We know, we believe with complete faith,
That violence is never the answer;
That those who learn to speak to one another
Can create a world of harmony and peace.

This poem was written right after the Boston Marathon bombing. I found it heartfelt and tender without being maudlin; I found it to be like a prayer without mentioning a diety. Let’s continue to work towards peace, love and understanding to create a world where violence is unnecessary. 

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