I promised a post from Val Penny today. Unfortunately, some bad news meant that Val was unable to write the post. Unfortunately, you’ll have to put up with a post from me, instead. Fortunately, some good and very exciting news has given me the impetus for this post. And here is that news:

Cultivating a Fuji is going to be published by Crooked Cat Books in May 2019.

This is a novel I’ve been working on, on and off, for a long time. It involves a character who is very dear to me and a topic that is so important. But most of all, although I have to say it myself for now, it’s a delightful story, told with emotion and a lot of humour.

The premise of the novel, the piece of information that kicks off the story, is that Martin is being sent to Japan to represent his company. And if that hasn’t shocked you, it’s because you don’t know Martin. Oh, but you will know him. First, you’ll know him from the outside. Then you’ll keep watching through the lens as the camera zooms in and drills to the inside of his head.

Announcement Banner for Cultivating a Fuji

What happens in Japan is interesting. But that’s only the beginning, the catalyst for the rest of Martin’s life. Don’t worry; this isn’t a biography, told as a series of isolated events. There are just two short periods, seasoned with flashbacks and enveloped by the future. Keep reading (when the novel is available, that is) because even when you think there can be no more surprises, you’ll discover another.

There’s a woman, too, called Fiona. She and Martin meet late in life and she brings her own baggage to the relationship.

And one more thing: Martin isn’t me. Although social anxiety has touched both of us with its sorcerous sceptre, we had different genes and different experiences, and Martin was affected in different ways to me.

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#SIMTalksWithMiriam

Welcome to the first ever SIM Talk with Miriam. And I couldn’t have found a better one to start off the series. Thank you so much, Jess B. Moore, for your frank and brave personal account, one that probably resonates with many people. And for your brilliant novel, The Guilt of a Sparrow, of which more below.

Social Anxiety

Jess B. MooreAs a child, no one ever said the words social anxiety to me.  People called me shy, quiet, mature beyond my years.  I knew I spent more time inside my own head than other people, but it didn’t occur me it might be something more.  I preferred to be alone, or with one close friend, never a crowd. 

Adulthood means I know and understand my social anxiety.  I grapple with it daily and try not to let it take over.  With my children watching, I’m hyper-aware of the behavior I demonstrate.  I have two sons, one who has shown social anxiety since babyhood, and the other an absolute extrovert. 

Every phone call triggers a response in me to turn away and not answer.  A knock at my front door leads to my hiding in silence, in hopes who ever is there will go away.  When I sat in my car, unable to exit, in the parking lot of an oil change place, I knew I needed help. 

Here’s what happened:  I pulled in, eyed the three buildings, myriad of cars and people, the small lot, and had no idea how to proceed.  Where did I enter?  Should I park first?  Or did I pull my car into the bay first?  I pulled into one of the few parking spaces, sat gripping my steering wheel, and couldn’t face it.  In the end, I pulled away without getting my oil changed. 

My diagnoses of depression came at seventeen.  I didn’t ask my doctor about anxiety – in general as well as social – until my mid thirties. 

I can remember my mother retelling how she told a doctor once she had both depression and anxiety, and her doctor saying you couldn’t have both.  At least we’ve come away from that illogical belief, and I am able to better manage both my depression and my anxiety. 

The Guilt of a SparrowIn my first book, The Guilt of a Sparrow, the main character Magnolia Porter suffers from social anxiety.  This is evident from page one, when she’s walking through a busy town park to attend an event, hoping to make it to her spot on the sidelines without notice.  When she’s approached and needs to make idle conversation, her heart is pounding, hands shaking, mind reeling.  She goes blank and wants to escape.  This part of Maggie is me – it was easy to pull upon my own experience to write her social anxiety. 

I recently shared a photo on my Instagram of a mug reading “Awkward is my specialty.”  I posted it as a joke, because I’ve always known I’m awkward.  But when it comes down to it, feeling awkward isn’t always funny.  Sometimes it’s the reason I don’t go to meet new people or join in on activities.  I shy away. 

What I always considered low self-esteem, is actually my social anxiety.  I’m talking about an intense fear of being judged, avoiding being the center of attention, and worrying about humiliation.  My worst nightmare is being the center of attention.  Even answering a casual question in front of small group. 

I started teaching yoga and found I could go up in front of a group and lead the class without falling apart.  It was different – knowing what to do and say, rather than coming up with my own words or sharing something personal.  Writing has been a good outlet for me as well.  I can tell my stories, all while hiding behind the ink and text, finding a safe way to express myself. 

Thank you, Miriam, for having me share my story of social anxiety.  I hope others can relate and feel better knowing they aren’t alone.

Thank you, Jess. I’m sure others will relate, and helping others to realise they aren’t alone is a big part of my passion to raise awareness of social anxiety. I was shocked by what that doctor told your mother – that you can’t have both depression and anxiety. Yes, we’ve come on since then. But a lot more needs to be done.

You can find Jess on Instagram, Facebook and her beautiful Website.

Jess’s booklinks are The Guilt of a Sparrow and Fierce Grace. There’s another book on the way.

And, Jess has a brand new book subscription box.

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Remember, you can take part in this series, if you want to write or talk about one or more of the three topics. Do get in touch after reading this post.

Next week, I’ll welcome Val Penny back to the blog. I wonder what she’s decided to talk about.

#SIMTalksWithMiriam

It’s 2019 and time for something new on this blog. New and old. I’ve veered away from the topics of this blog lately, but will be getting back on track with SIM Talks (hashtag: #SIMTalksWithMiriam).

Each week, on Friday, I or a guest blogger will talk about one (or more) of three topics:

  • Social anxiety
  • Israel
  • Misunderstandings

The talk can take the form of a written piece or a video. It can be about anything connected to one or more of the three topics except for politics and any sort of intolerance. (I’ve never encountered intolerance on this blog, but wanted to make that clear.)

If you want to take part, please let me know via Contact me above or Twitter or Facebook.

Next week’s post is by Jess B. Moore, author of The Guilt of a Sparrow and Fierce Grace.

Let’s make 2019 a year of more understanding, empathy and compassion.
Different ≠ Wrong.

I happened to read this in a recent article in the Jewish Chronicle:

In recent years, as antisemitism has become ever more of a news item… lazy journalists reach for some easy stereotypes of black- hatted and bearded Jews in Stamford Hill to illustrate any news piece about the Jewish community.

This notion might have grown, but it’s not new. It must be over twenty years since my son got separated from his father in a funfair in England. He found himself searching a CCTV screen along with a man who said, “Oh, you come from Israel. So we’re searching for a man with a black hat and a beard.”

Another time, I was sitting in a little tourist train in Bournemouth when I saw two women watching a family whose dress made them stand out. You know, hat, beard, black suit, dress covering knees and elbows, little boys with dreadlocks and tassles. One woman turned to the other and said, “They’re Jews,” and I wanted to say, “We’re not all like that.”

It’s been an awfully long time since I visited Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel-Aviv. The part I remember most about it is the never-ending pictures of Jews flashing past on a screen. And they’re all so different.

That’s all I wanted to say in this post. Jews come in all shapes, sizes, colours and dress.

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I looked up “Jews” in some free image sites, looking for a picture for this post. Guess what I found and why there’s no picture attached to this post.

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We’re remembering one Jew and Israeli who sadly passed away two days ago: the brilliant author, Amos Oz. While not everyone agreed with his views, we all acknowledge and appreciate his love for this country.

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AlmondasJourneyThe last post on this blog was two months ago. Time for a catchup.

November was NaNoWriMo, that month of the year when an ever growing number of people around the world try to write a novel in a month. Those who despise it haven’t got it, I think. The result is only a first draft. It’s not for anyone else to read and definitely not for publication. I didn’t manage to “win” this year, but I had a great time creating thirty-something thousand words that will form a basis for a new novel… when I can find time to work on it.

In Cambodia

Photo by David Drori

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Then we went away, to Vietnam and Cambodia, two countries I never expected to visit, given what I heard about them all through my childhood and beyond. The trip was wonderful.

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What’s happening now? Well, I’ve been featured on a few blogs:

Many thanks to Social Anx, Jess B. Moore, Val Penny and Lizzie Chantree for those.

I’m editing another novel. (Someone else’s novel.)

I’m still working on a novel of mine that I thought I’d finished.

And I’m making plans for 2019. One of those is for a new feature on this blog, called SIM Talks. Watch this space for more about that.

I hope you’re all enjoying life as much as I am and wish you all the best for

2019

Remember my New Year rhyme? Here it is again:

Three Years a Year

I pity the people with only one year,
Who end it all merry, never shedding a tear.
They have to say so many things in one go,
To one year goodbye, to another hello.

They try to reflect on the year that has passed,
While also looking forward to the one that is fast
Approaching… nearly… almost… it’s here!
Resolutions transferred from yesteryear.

In Israel, you see, we celebrate three
And each, in its character, is solitary.
Different, special and unique,
They make us happy, thankful and… meek?

Rosh Hashana is one of those.
With all its rules, it keeps us on our toes,
Requesting forgiveness for our sins.
That’s “our” for humanity; not just kins.

Then we join with the world and celebrate, too,
Although some disagree and think it’s taboo.
Sylvester, it’s called, I used to know why.
It matters not when I’m feeling high.

What, you may ask, is number three?
It’s the one that marks the year of the tree.
Goes under the name of Tu B’Shvat.
We plant more trees, sing songs. That’s that?

Well no, we give presents of nuts and fruit,
And we eat same with much relish to boot.
So whatever New Year is appropriate for you,
I hope it is happy and fulfilling, too!

 

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My little French visitor has written a letter. That surprised me until I discovered it’s an assignment from his teacher. He and his classmates were asked to write a letter of introduction, telling a little about themselves and then something of what each of them wants for the future.

Chère Madame Noyer,

Pierre MancelleMy name is Pierre Mancelle and I am eight years old.  I live with my parents in the village of Messandrierre.  My maman is a music teacher but not in a school.  She has students who come to the house and sometimes she goes to their houses.  Sometimes she teaches in school when another teacher is sick.  My papa sings at the opera house in Marseille, so he is often away. But I have my own phone now so that I can talk to him when he’s not in rehearsal or on stage.  We have an apartment in Marseille that is near the opera house and also close to the old port.  Papa lives there when he’s singing but comes home when he’s not.  He also goes to Lyon and Paris to sing too.  He’s not famous or anything like that.  He’s a tenor and he sings as part of the company, but he does understudy sometimes.

I like music, but not opera, it’s too complicated.  I like playing my recorder. I also like riding my bike around the village and going on patrol with Gendarme Jacques Forêt, except he’s not a gendarme in the village any more.  He works in Mende now.  So I have to do my detective work with Gendarme Clergue instead.  He’s OK… but it’s not the same.

Just like at home.  It’s not the same.  The family is changing.  It’s always been only me and maman and papa, but soon I won’t be on my own any more.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Maman says, that as the eldest, I will have to take on new responsibilities.  Papa says that I will still be ‘the man of the house’ when he isn’t there.  And grandpapa says that I will always be just as precious to maman and papa as I always have been.  But I’m not so sure…

I know I want to be a detective like Jacques.  Maman says I have to call him Monsieur Jacques.  But he lets me call him Jacques when its just us two and when he was a gendarme he let me call him Gendarme Jacques when we were working on cases together.  But now he’s working in Mende I only see him at weekends when he brings Madame Elizabeth to the village.  I wish I could see him more often because he would know what to do.  He knows what to do about everything.  He would know what to do about one of the boys who are always hanging around outside school.  A boy I don’t like….

Ah, I was wondering when he’d get to the point, if ever. If you want to know more, you can find out in Montbel by talented Crooked Cat author, Angela Wren… that is, you will be able to when it’s released on 13th November.

Montbel by Angela WrenAbout Montbel

A clear-cut case?

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques’ papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Montbel is the third Jacques Forêt mystery and can be found on Amazon.

Angela Wren.

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Angela can be found on Amazon US, Amazon UK, her website, her blog, Facebook, Goodreads and Contact an Author.

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This might be the end of Letters from Elsewhere. I feel it’s time for something new. But not just now. I’m too busy working on my own future at the moment. So, don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while, but don’t be surprised if you do. And I’ll still be around on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Miriam Drori

Miriam Drori, reading from her non-fiction book: Social Anxiety Revealed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Only one thing marred the trip,” I wrote in my last post. But even that had good consequences, as well as bad.

On the way to Carcassonne, I’d expected not to catch the direct train from Marseille. This would have meant waiting for hours and then changing trains twice on the way. In the event, my plane landed half and hour early and I caught the direct train easily. Plain sailing.

Not so on the return journey. My train was delayed by a full hour. And my suitcase was stolen, probably at the station after Carcassonne. It felt like déjà vu. Exactly twenty years earlier my rucksack was stolen on a train from the airport into Paris. This created no end of complications, involving replacing passports and credit cards.

There was nothing important or valuable in the suitcase. But still.

“You should tell the guard,” said a girl who spoke good English. I found the guard, who also spoke good English but was very unhelpful, unless you count telling me I should have been watching the case all the time.

At Marseille’s Saint-Charles Station, I searched for the police station and found it.

Police Notice

That wasn’t much help. I asked at the information place what I should do. The guy there wasn’t at all helpful. But at my Japanese hotel, I was given a map and walking directions to the nearest police station, which I found easily.

Two things interested me during the two hours I spent there. I wish I could have taken photos, but I decided that wouldn’t be a good move!

As I stood waiting in a queue, a man arrived all cut up and dripping blood. The police officers talked to him from behind the protected counter, and he answered. The people sitting on benches in a corner moved up to let him sit, which he did. A woman who talked to him and seemed to be trying to help got snapped at, but he did thank – profusely – a couple who came into the station with him, for their help.

After a short while, two police officers arrived to administer first aid before taking him away. When I was told to sit and wait, I noticed blood on the bench where he’d been sitting and kept away from it.

Just before that, while I stood at the counter waiting for them to deal with me, I saw two officers – one female and one male – kissing. It occurred to me that this was a strange place to carry on a romance. As I sat in the waiting area, it became obvious that this was a procedure that took place every time an officer entered or left the area behind the counter – men with men, men with women and presumably women with women if there’d been more than one woman. Yes, it was only the kiss-on-each-cheek type, but to one who doesn’t live in France, it seems strange in that setting.

At eleven o’clock, when they finally finished with me, I asked, “Is it safe to walk back to the hotel at this time?” showing an officer the hotel on my map. He pointed to the way I should walk, telling me not to walk round the other way because it’s not safe. That didn’t make me feel wonderful, but I got back in one piece.

The other good outcome was that I didn’t have to deal with a suitcase on the way home. This was particularly useful at Ben Gurion Airport, which was very crowded because of a holiday. I was pleased to be able to get out in record time.

Just clothes

And I got new clothes.