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How the Book Signing Went

yeshiva girl with dogs

I have discovered that three out of four writers can stand for two hours at a book signing event, and I am the fourth writer. I did stand for the short presentations, where each of us described our books, though I had to lean on random pieces of furniture while the others spoke, and then I almost tripped myself when it was my turn. For the rest of the time we were set up at four small tables, side by side, though, again, I was the only one actually sitting at my table, with everyone else sort of floating nearby. I chose the table with a Picasso-like picture of a girl with brown hair, because it looked like I felt, and sat behind a copy of Yeshiva Girl set up in a Lucite holder. It occurred to me that I should have made some kind of display – two crocheted dragons, maybe, like the YA Fantasy writer, or a blow up of the cover photo on the book, like the memoir writer – but, too late. All I had was me.

I was the newbiest of the newbies there, because the fantasy writer had been doing signings for her book since 2016, and the other two were classroom teachers, but I found that as long as I was able to sit down, and people could come over to me to ask their questions or tell me their stories, I did really well. I’ll have to practice my standing-and-speaking skills, though, for the future. People seemed to actually be interested in the premise of my book, which surprised me. I walk around assuming that no one will be interested in anything I have to say, though, of course, desperately hoping that they’ve been waiting all their lives just to meet and hear from me.

Each person I met had a story, or a thousand stories, to tell and I was awed by them and curious about them, and a little bit overwhelmed, as in, who’s going to notice my star in the midst of such a starry sky. I met a local humor columnist, who bought my book, and we talked about wanting to write mysteries, and the books we’ve read, and writing inspirations, and I had to be careful not to geek out too much and ignore the rest of the potential readers in the room. I met one woman who wanted to read my book, but was afraid it would be too painful, though she encouraged her friends to read it, and talked to me about the importance of people feeling safe to speak up and tell their stories. And there was a woman who’d gone to a tiny catholic school in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, way back when, and had plenty of stories to tell about the experience. And another woman who had worked for a Chassidic-run company and felt her otherness acutely.

I’d only started to get nervous two nights before the book signing event, and the anxiety only became acute that morning, with an internal voice telling me that it would all turn to shit, and I was completely unprepared, and I didn’t have the right clothes or makeup, and I would fall into a deep depression after the inevitable and complete failure.

But I did it! I signed books! I stood in front of strangers and presented my book! I didn’t hide under my bed – the way I wanted to – or pretend to be someone I’m not.

I sold four books and signed five (my aunt came with her own copy, and she stayed for the whole two hours for moral support! Yay Aunt Debbie!). And the woman who ran the event, Robin, one of the owners and the superstar event coordinator at Dolphin Books in Port Washington, NY, asked me to sign two extra copies for the store. Here’s hoping I get more chances to try it again, and next time bring one or both of the dogs for moral support, or to scream at people to buy Mommy’s book.

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“Let’s go, Mommy!”

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“Buy my Mommy’s book!”

I want to thank the other authors at the event:

A high school history teacher/coach (Billy Mitaritonna, Last of the Redmen: Memoir of a St. John’s Walk-on) who wrote about the power of perseverance, and said that the secret was in how his coaches and his father encouraged and supported him no matter how many times he failed. He said that his students were the ones who told him to write his memoir, to share his story with others because it had been so inspiring to them.

Then there was the Dragon Girl (Elana A. Mugdon, Dragon Speaker: The Shadow War Saga, Book One), who was brave beyond my capacity to imagine. She dressed as the protagonist in her young adult fantasy series, wearing a long white wig, in pig tails, a corset, and leather armor. Her protagonist is the only non-magical person in her world, and yet she is the heroine of the story.

The fourth author was a graphic designer (Beth Costello, The Art of the Process: establishing good habits for successful outcomes) with a workbook to help people through the process of design. She had the confidence of a practiced teacher, and the social media skills to have a roomful of supporters waiting to hear from her and buy her book (which meant that I had an audience too!).

I could have used a vat of chocolate frosting in the aftermath of the event, to soothe my frayed nerves, but as soon as we got home the girls needed to go out to pee and that helped with the depressurization process. They squealed their excitement at having their humans back home and raced around the yard with their famous author slash pooper scooper Mommy, and then we settled in on the couch to watch something silly and romantic on television. Overall a successful day.

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“Can we watch something else?”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel called to write a review of the book on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy (short for Isabel). Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes that it’s true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to an Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain, smart, funny, and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment.

 

 

 

The Bookstore Event

 

The bookstore signing event is coming up on Saturday March 9th from 2-4 pm at the Dolphin Bookshop and Café, in Port Washington, on Long Island, and the promotional materials have been sent out (see below). Mom also made up her own poster, just for my book, and put it up around town. Fingers crossed there will be a good crowd and I won’t be too terrified.

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“You’ll be okay, Mommy.”

Mom is doing an amazing job as my agent, calling around to get the bookstore signing in the first place, asking permission to put up posters, getting the local library to order a few copies, and talking the book up all over the place. I would like to think that this is the job she spent her whole life training for, but that might be a little bit narcissistic of me.

My expectation is that the bookstore event will be a lot of schmoozing and signing books, not a reading, but I marked out a few sections of the book to read, just in case. I have a lot of questions about how to sign the book, though. I assume it should be something more than just signing my name, and something less than a three page soliloquy, but I’m not sure where it should fall in that spectrum. A lot will probably depend on if the people who come to the event are strangers or people I already know.

I think I’ll be leaving Ellie at home this time, even though her presence would be a comfort to me, because Cricket needs her more than I do. I can’t even imagine the panic Cricket would be in if we all left without her. No amount of treats would make that bearable. When I imagined Ellie as an emotional support dog. I didn’t realize she would turn out to be Cricket’s Emotional support.

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Cricket needs a lot of emotional support

I’m a little bit uncomfortable that the book signing event is on a Saturday, given that the book is called Yeshiva Girl and religious Jews don’t go to bookstores on the Sabbath, but then again, maybe this will be one more way to reach out to a new audience that wouldn’t ordinarily read about religious Jewish life. I haven’t met the other three authors, so that will also be something to look forward to, and maybe our very different audiences will cross over and provide each of us with new readers. We’ll see. Wish me luck!

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“Good luck, Mommy!”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel called to write a review of the book on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy (short for Isabel). Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes that it’s true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to an Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain, smart, funny, and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment.

multi mar 9 media

 

 

 

Required Reading

 

In a recent New York Times article, Alice Walker was quoted as praising an author whose works are notoriously and outrageously anti-Semitic. First this brought up the question, Can you judge a person by what she reads? But, as a result of the publicity, many people went looking back at Alice Walker’s previous works, and found that she had her own history of anti-Semitic writings.

Prior to all of that, I had, of course, read The Color Purple as part of my American education, and the rabbi at my synagogue had used a number of Alice Walker’s poems in religious services over the years. Most likely we won’t be reading her work in our services from now on, but the question is, Should we continue to read her books, or any books by authors that disturb us? My own answer is yes, with the caveat that I always want the chance to speak out about those things that disturb me, or disturb others. I don’t want to shove everything that offends me into the back of a dark closet, where I can’t do anything about it.

But, I still find it very difficult to push myself to read, and watch, things that disturb me. Over the years, I’ve had to develop a way to manage that sort of difficult reading. I’ve put together a pile of books by my bedside that I read a little bit at a time, mixing together books that challenge me and books that I enjoy, as a brain cleanser, so that I don’t have to feel overwhelmed by other people’s points of view, at least when I don’t want to be. I’ve pushed myself to read all sorts of political tomes, including books about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and when the emotions (anger, frustration, confusion, and often fear), get to be too much, I just switch over to a chapter of something else, to balance the scales.

I’m in a bit of a quandary, though, now that my official schooling is over, to decide which books to put on my required reading pile. I know that I need to continue to challenge myself going forward, but in which particular areas? And exactly how challenging do these books need to be?

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“Can’t we just watch TV?”

 

As of now I have about twelve books on my reading pile, with another thirty on standby. I’m still plodding through Harry Potter in Hebrew, though I’m not sure why it’s so much harder for me to read than the Harry Potter books in French. It undermines my confidence in all of those years of Jewish education that I never learned the Hebrew word for magic wand. I’ve also been reading through the Hebrew bible, in Hebrew, for years now, a page at a time. Biblical Hebrew is even harder to understand than Harry Potter Hebrew.

 

When that gets too frustrating, I can move over to my Beginning Spanish Reader, though that has recently become too hard for me, and I had to go back fifty pages or so for remedial reading. And then there’s a Spanish vocabulary and phrase book for Social Workers, but most of that just flies over my head.

I’m also reading the review book for the social work licensing exam, slowly, because it’s so freaking tedious, and balancing that out by reading a book of essays by David Rakoff that is even funnier than I remembered. Then there are the psychology books, most recently on Addiction and Body Therapy and Non-Directive Play Therapy, which sometimes interest me and other times make me very angry, and then books on Jewish philosophy by Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel, and others, which I don’t really understand. I’ve been trying to cushion that particular torment with a book of dog essays that I got as a present for my birthday.

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Ellie prefers being a dog to reading about them. Weird.

Oh, and I am very proud of myself for finally finishing Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. It only took me three and a half years. And as a reward for that effort I let myself add a book of memoir essays to the pile, by fellow blogger Sheila Morris, called Deep In The heart. Unfortunately I finished that one too quickly for my own good, and I will need to go and buy her new book to fill the void.

Of course I’m also reading mysteries, but they don’t go on the study pile; they get pride of place next to my writing notebooks, because I can read whole chapters of them at a time without wanting to scream at anyone. I take as much time as possible to revel in books by writers like Rhys Bowen, and Louise Penny, and Jacqueline Winspear, and Donna Andrews, and Ellen Crosby, and Charles Todd, and Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). And more recommendations are welcome!!!!

I’m not quite sure why I need to have such a tall pile of books to read at any given time, except that there are too many parts of my brain that need to be satisfied. Having a brain that likes to run in twenty directions at once is kind of inconvenient, but I don’t really want to go back to having someone else tell me what to read either. I’m sure Cricket would agree with me on the subject of reading autonomy, if she could read. As it stands, she finds all of my reading annoying, and time consuming, and she thinks I would much prefer sniffing individual blades of grass with her for hours at a time. At the very least, she would enjoy that more. Ellie would too, come to think of it. Though she’s more of a squirrel chaser than a grass sniffer.

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“This is the only grass I could find!”

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“There was a squirrel! I had to go!”

 

While we’re on the topic of required reading, if you haven’t had the chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel called to write a review for the book, I’d be honored!

YG with Cricket

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy (short for Isabel). Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes that it’s true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to an Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain, smart, funny, and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment.

 

Harry Potter et Moi

 

I finished reading one of the Harry Potter books in French! I started with book three, the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it’s my favorite of the series. I thought I’d be struggling through each page, with a French/English dictionary at the ready, but I read it like, well, like a novel. It’s not that I understood every word, but a lot of the words that were unfamiliar could be figured out by the context, and having read the book a number of times in English didn’t hurt either. There were some oddities in the translation, though. Like, Neville Longbottom’s last name was translated as Londubat, and Severus Snape’s last name was translated to Rogue. Muggles are Moldus, and Hogwarts is Poudlard. Diagon Alley is Le Chemin De Traverse (The crossroad), and Dementors are Detraqueurs (possibly because the word dementir is in there, as a French word, meaning “to deny.”

Unforgivably, they changed the names of the OW.L.s and the N.E.W.T.s, the school-wide tests, and gave them non-funny names to make the initials work in French.

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“What’s that about?”

One big discovery. I thought ennui was always translated as boredom; that’s certainly how we use the word in the United States. But it was used over and over in the book to mean “trouble,” and that was the alternate definition given on Google Translate as well. For one word to mean both “boredom” and “trouble,” suggests what the French think of feeling bored: that it’s the gateway for getting into trouble.

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“Trouble? I don’t see trouble.”

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“Look Mommy, I found trouble!”

There were some words that were fun to say, like hululement for the hooting of owls, haletante for panting, and chuchotta for whisper.

I think I’ve become addicted. I’m just not sure to what.

Coincidentally, one of the family-friendly cable channels decided to run seven of the eight Harry Potter movies this past weekend, as an ad for the upcoming Beauty and the Beast movie, starring Hermione (or the actress who played Hermione, Emma Watson, whatever). Oddly, they left out movie number five, the Order of the Phoenix, and therefore I felt obligated to order it On Demand to see why, because I didn’t remember what could have been so objectionable as to make them leave it out.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but it bothers me, why was this the only movie left out, of the eight? Certainly other movies in the series were equally dark. The Order of the Phoenix is, basically, about the danger of pretending that everything is fine, when everything is clearly not fine and about to get much worse. There’s also an ultra-feminine aide to the minister of magic, with a penchant for alternative facts; and the minister himself, who’s afraid to see what’s right in front of him, looks suspiciously like Mitch McConnell (Majority leader in the U.S. senate). Ralph Fiennes, as Voldemort, though, is a whole other level of evil from what’s currently in the white house. We have more of a Wormtail as president (including the crazy hair), with a dark lord as advisor, whispering in his ear.

wormtail2             voldemort2

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Harry Potter is in the air right now in the United States. It’s been on my mind all year, and it’s been coming up more and more in comparisons in the news, and in tweets from J.K. Rowling, wondering if people actually got the message of her books.

I need the comfort of knowing that Harry Potter was able to prevail, though he had magic on his side, and, as far as I know, we don’t. I’m going to read through all of the HP books again, in French and maybe in Hebrew, both to practice my language skills and to give myself a chance to fill up on hope, because my tank has been getting dangerously low.

One of the most powerful lines in the Order of the Phoenix movie comes from Hermione, trying to make Harry understand that his isolating behaviors are playing into Voldemort’s hands: “If it’s just you alone, you’re not as much of a threat.”

I always have to fight against my own isolationist tendencies, to remember that I’m not alone, and that it’s the people who have hurt me who have made me feel so alone, and unsafe, not my friends. The Harry Potter message, over and over, is that you can’t do it alone. The flip side of that message being, you can do almost anything, if you have help.

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Reading Dog Books

 

When I first got Cricket, as an eight week old puppy, I wanted to do everything right. I found books on how to choose a puppy, train a puppy, and groom a puppy, but it was all too generic. None of it addressed who Cricket actually was: the way she seemed to love the taste of the bitter apple spray I was supposed to put on the furniture to discourage chewing; the way she couldn’t calm down after even the smallest excitement; the way she stuffed herself between book cases for comfort.

"You can't see me, Mommy!"

“You can’t see me, Mommy!”

"Of course I can fit!"

“Of course I can fit!”

"I will never take a bath again. Period."

“I will never take a bath again. Period.”

I needed to hear about actual dogs, and real people who were imperfect like me, but trying.

I found a book by Jon Katz called, “A Good Dog: the story of Orson who changed my life.” He’d adopted a Border Collie, from a breeder who’d had trouble finding the dog a home, and when he picked the dog up from the airport he found out why.

jon katz

What I loved about the book was that he was willing to admit how hard the lessons were to learn. He didn’t portray himself as a white washed ideal. He was a person who made mistakes, and tried hard, and came up against failure again and again. I’m a big fan of people who are willing to admit failure, and not always put on a happy face, because that’s what allows me, as a reader, to relax and not feel so judged for my own failures.

Pam Houston writes fiction that she says is about 82% autobiographical. She wrote a novel called “Sight hound” about an Irish Wolfhound with cancer. I actually can’t remember what else the book was about because her portrayal of the dog was so rich that I tuned out the rest. This was a dog who was loved. And I felt like she was giving me permission to love my dogs that much too.

pam houston and dog

Pam Houston and her Irish Wolfhound’s Butt

I specifically read James Herriot’s collection of dog stories as a way to warm up for writing this blog two years ago. He was a country vet, and his writing style was so friendly and filled with humor and compassion, that he made me feel comfortable. I felt like he was painlessly teaching me bits and pieces about how to take care of animals, and treat them with respect, and he tossed in a few bits of insight about people too. I’ve been reading more of his work recently, and now I know more about a cow’s insides than I ever wanted to know.

James Herriot and a dog with something more interesting to look at.

James Herriot and a dog with something more interesting to look at.

Mark Doty’s memoir “Dog Years,” is a new favorite of mine. I’d read a couple of his poems, under duress, during graduate school, and while I could admire his skill, I was not tempted to read more. But I came across a picture of him with his dogs online and I thought, he can’t be that bad, and I decided to take a look at the memoir.

Mark Doty's dogs

Mark Doty’s dogs

I was afraid he would be pretentious, or his language would be heavy and convoluted, but he is a memoirist who speaks with a clear, articulate, and deeply empathetic voice. He illuminates grief. He has compassion for himself, for his dogs, and for me, by extension.

Anne Lamott says that “having a good dog is the closest some of us are ever going to come to knowing the direct love of a mother, or God.”

Anne Lamott as puppy pillow

Anne Lamott as puppy pillow

I wouldn’t want to tell someone to just read one or another of Anne Lamott’s memoirs. Read all of them. Go on line and read all of her one-off essays. Read her shopping lists if you can get your hands on them, because they’re probably hysterical.

I’m always looking for more dog books, just like I obsessively read all of the dog blogs I can find. Any and all recommendations are welcome.