Categories
Blogging

Taking Back My Blog

Disclaimer: this post is in no way political. (Well, that’s almost true.)

It’s time for a CHANGE. I’ve been feeling that for a while. It’s time to make that happen. Let me explain.

History of An’ de walls came tumblin’ down

The Point of the Blog

I began this blog over seven years ago when I was in a very different place. I wanted to write about writing and about social anxiety – especially social anxiety. It had been my ambition for some time to tell the world about this common but little-known disorder. I began anonymously, because I was afraid  of negative reactions. (In all seven years, I haven’t had any at all.)
ClosetGradually, as I became more confident, I added my first name, then my whole name. And with that came the other secret: I live in Israel – the place I felt everyone loves to hate. I don’t know whether that turned anyone off, but I still had readers after that revelation. And some readers even said they wanted to know more about what living in Israel is really like. So I added a category: Everyday Life in Israel, because I was scared to mention anything controversial.

Only occasionally – very occasionally – I felt I needed to write about something more serious. And I put it under Everyday Life in Israel, because that was all there was, even though the serious topic was far from ‘everyday.’

So, for me, as far as this blog goes, the walls did come tumbling down. In real life, well, that’s much harder, especially after nearly fifty years of SA.

Swerving Off the Path

Then, at the beginning of 2014, I received some wonderful news: my novel, Neither Here Nor There, was going to be published by Crooked Cat. I was thrilled… ecstatic. I’m still very grateful and happy that Crooked Cat accepted me and my novel.

Letters from Elsewhere
Farewell, for now

From that time, I became a member of a large and ever-growing community of writers. Many of those lovely writers hosted me on their blogs and I hosted them on mine. I started the series Letters from Elsewhere, in which characters sprang out of books to share their letters or to write directly to blog readers. It turned out to be popular among the writers.

During those two-and-a-half years, I hardly wrote about Israel or about social anxiety. I lost sight of the point of this blog and it became just another writer’s blog. Don’t get me wrong – there are many blogs that are solely about writing and are interesting, because their owners do it much better than I can. But I had a different purpose for starting this blog and it’s time to return to it – not as that frightened, anonymous individual who began it, but openly, as me: Miriam Drori, an author who lives in Jerusalem and who still lives with social anxiety, as do many others all over the world.

What’s New?

As well as social anxiety and Israel, I will talk about writing – my writing, starting with some very exciting news that hasn’t even made it onto this blog yet. I will also mention my fellow authors, at the end of each post, with links to their blogs and books.

With that decision in mind, I have changed some of the categories. That will be a problem for old posts, but it needed to be done.

There may still be guest posts; I’m hoping there will be. But guests will have to relate to Israel (or Jews) or social anxiety in their posts.

This decision isn’t set in stone. If you have any further ideas, do let me know and I’ll consider them.

 

Categories
Books Interviews

Author Interview: Miriam Drori

2016Sale
Poster by Ailsa Abraham

Yes, I’m interviewing myself. Why not?

Q: Hello, Miriam. I’m delighted you could join me today.

A: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Miriam.

Q: Tell me about your novel, Neither Here Nor There.

A: It’s a light romance, set mostly in my home town of Jerusalem and partly in my former home town of London.

Q: Oh come on, it can’t be that light with such a background. It must involve terrorist attacks and killing and all those scary things that go on all over the Middle East.

A: No, there’s none of that in my novel.

Q: So it’s a utopian sort of novel – the way you’d like your country to be.

A: No, it depicts everyday life in present times, just as it is. The fact is, there’s so much more to life in Israel than those troubles you hear about on the news. We follow the news, of course, and we’re so very sad about the lives that are lost. But most people go about their lives without encountering any danger at all. And so the story of Esty and Mark and all the characters in my novel is perfectly realistic.

Q: So you’re saying this is just another romance.

A: No. While it can be read as a simple romance, it also brings up some complicated issues – issues most readers will recognise in some form or other.

Q: What sort of issues?

A: Arranged marriage, living in a closed community, escaping from a closed community, emigration, life-changing decisions.

Q: Yes, some serious issues there. Tell me about the closed community in your novel.

A: The haredi community. I call it that for simplicity, although within that group are several sects, some very much opposed to others. They live in various parts of the world. Many of your readers will have noticed their distinctive dress. The men wear black hats, black suits and white shirts, with tassels hanging over their trousers, and they have beards and sidelocks. There are some who wear stranger garb. The women always wear long sleeves and long skirts, and married women cover their hair with scarves or wigs. Some people even think that all Jews or all Israelis dress like that.

In Jerusalem, they used to live only in specific districts like Mea She’arim, but they’ve expanded to other areas due to lack of space. The men often don’t work, spending their time studying the holy books. That leaves the women to support their large families, as well as caring for children and doing the housework.

Q: The women must feel very bitter about that.

A: I don’t think so. Most of them believe that’s how they’re supposed to live and never question it. They’re proud to have husbands who are able to study for long hours.

Q: What about arranged marriage? How does that work?

A: I want to stress that their marriages are arranged and not forced. They’re allowed to choose their marriage partners, but their choice is limited. They’re expected to choose one out of the few they’re introduced to.

Q: Do you think that works?

A: It seems to work as much as our system of random meetings does. The divorce statistics show that. I think a couple can grow to love each other after marriage, although I don’t have first-hand experience of such a relationship.

Q: How do other Israelis regard the haredi community?

A: There’s a lot of resentment. They generally don’t have to serve in the army, and they get grants for studying, which many view as a complete waste of time. On the other hand, they do jobs that no one else wants to do. There are at least four major associations run by people from the haredi community and serving the population at large. There’s one that deals with everything surrounding burials. One that provides all sorts of medical equipment. One that provides food for hospital visitors. And one that picks up and identifies all body parts following an explosion.

I saw an accident once at a junction in Jerusalem. I looked down from the top of a hill and saw a man lying on the road, having been thrown off his motorcycle. Immediately, someone got out of a car and started redirecting the traffic. Someone probably phoned for an ambulance. Two minutes after the accident, a haredi man who happened to be passing stopped his car, took a first-aid kit out of the boot and rushed over to the victim.

Q: Well I think we’ll leave it there. Thank you for coming, Miriam.

A: Thank you, Miriam.

Neither Here Nor There, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog.

Stop press: Neither Here Nor There is on sale for a few days on Amazon. In honour of that, several bloggers will be featuring the novel. I’ll update this post as those posts appear.

Categories
Books Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Rivka

Letters from ElsewhereMy visitor today is Rivka, mother of Esty, the heroine of my novel, Neither Here Nor There. Rivka was called Rose in her previous life. I’ll let her tell you more.

BS”D

Dear Readers,

At first, I was pleased to receive this opportunity to explain myself and my actions to you. I thought I’d write it all down and then it would make sense. But when I sat down with a pen and a blank sheet of paper, doubts filled my mind. I’m not sure I can explain it logically to myself. How can it make any sense to anyone who hasn’t experienced what I experienced? How can such people comprehend the decisions I made?

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty to thank G-d for. I love my husband and my children – all of them. I have much joy from watching and helping them to grow up and take their places in the world. I take pride in trying to steer them in the right direction – in the path of good and righteousness, but I know that eventually I will have no influence over them.

Mea Shearim 2014 Street
A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, where Rivka lives.

Esty, my first-born, has chosen a different life for herself, away from the fold. I miss her so much, even though I see her occasionally. She was such a good girl, always ready to help me with the housework and the little ones. That’s not why I miss her. It’s because she’s one of mine, but she’s no longer one of us. Also, it’s possible I’m a bit jealous, because a part of me wants to be out there with her, although I do my best to suppress those feelings.

It’s easier for people who’ve always lived this life. My husband, for instance. It’s all he’s ever known. He’s never considered any other lifestyle. But I grew up with no religion at all. I could have stayed in London, studied at university, worked and settled down there. And kept in touch with my parents. I do regret making that break. And it wasn’t necessary. I suppose I worried they’d try and influence me to return to their way of life. I suppose I doubted my ability to stand up for what I’d chosen.

How can I explain why I gave it all up? How, at eighteen, I thought I was grown up enough to make my own decisions without any help from anyone. How I thought I’d found everything that was missing in my life – the spiritual stuff – and was happy to give up all the rest, even seeing my parents. I didn’t miss them then. It was only when the babies started arriving that I realised how much I missed my parents and how much they must miss me. Only then, when it was too late, did I realise what an awful thing I’d done to them. Their only child. How could I have left them like that?

No, I don’t expect you to understand. I don’t expect you to empathise with my situation now. I will endeavour to concentrate on being a good and pious woman and thank G-d for everything He has bestowed on me.

Yes, that’s a message I can leave you with – one that can be understood whatever culture you live in. Be thankful for what you have.

Rivka

Thank you, Rivka, for sharing your worries with us. I’m sure you didn’t envision all these difficulties when you decided to join the haredi community. Readers may remember the letter from Leah, Esty’s ex-friend, who has none of these doubts, having been born into the community.

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor There CoverSo much more than a romance, this is a tale of transformation in an exotic setting. Esty’s life was laid out for her from birth. She would marry one of a handful of young men suggested to her and settle down to raise a large family in a tiny space within the closed community of her parents, near to and yet far from the modern world. But Esty has decided to risk all by escaping while she still can. Will she make it to the other side? Mark, who is struggling with his own life changes, hopes that Esty will find a way through her troubles. He is fast falling in love with her. Separately and together, in Jerusalem and London, Esty and Mark need to overcome many obstacles in their endeavour to achieve their dream.

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori

Me with Neither Here Nor ThereMiriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and two of her grown up children in Jerusalem.

With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for eleven years. Two of her short stories have been published in anthologies and others have been published online. Neither Here Nor There is her first novel.

Miriam began writing in order to help raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.

Categories
Books

Resolutions… Resosmutions

Happy New YearSo, it seems to be 2016. 2015 was fine. I have no complaints. But 2014 was more exciting and I hope 2016 will be, too. One exciting thing is planned for the end of February. (More about that in March.)

I’ve been working on a novel I’m writing in collaboration with another author. I hope that comes to fruition in 2016.

I’ve also been working on the sequel to Neither Here Nor There. I have plenty more to do on that, but hope I can finish that, too, in 2016. And there’s another novel that’s completed but needs changing a bit.

I also edited three novels in 2015 and look forward to more of that. I think I learn from such close reading as much as I contribute.

In 2016, as well as having a more exciting time, I plan to write more and read more.

“That’s not a resolution,” I hear you say. “Resolutions have to be specific. You have to say how many books, how many hours, how many words.”

No, I’m not going to say that. I’m simply going to keep at it. Every day. Maybe…

Although…. At the last minute, in a moment of madness, I signed up again for 100k in 100 days. I’ve never actually succeeded in this challenge, but it seems I will try again to write a thousand words a day for a hundred days starting today.

This blog post is the start. Two hundred and thirty two words. No… two hundred and thirty eight. No…

Categories
Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Leah

Letters from ElsewhereFictional characters sometimes do uncharacteristic things when their authors pull the right strings. That’s how I can bring you Leah today. Take it away, Leah. Ah, that means… let’s hear from you.

BS″D

Dear Readers,

It feels very strange for me to be writing this letter. Usually, we keep ourselves apart from all the infidels who haven’t yet learned how to live as G-d wants us to. I feel blessed to have been born into a righteous, G-d-fearing family, who brought me up to fulfil all six hundred and thirteen of G-d’s commandments – or rather, those that apply to women.

Now I have a family of my own. I was lucky enough to marry at sixteen. My husband is a good, studious and pious man. He gets up very early every morning to lay tefillin and pray before going to study in the yeshiva, where he spends long hours. I get up early, too, of course. When I’ve said my prayers, I have to tend to the children and the flat and help my mother in her grocery store.

Bli ayin hara, I have three wonderful children and with G-d’s help I will have many more. I feel so proud to be able to fulfil the commandment: Be fruitful and multiply. My eldest is a boy. He has beautiful long flowing hair, which I comb every morning and tie in a ponytail. I will be sorry when he reaches the age of three and has to have it cut short, but I’ll also be proud to see him become a real boy with peyot, and wearing a kipah and tzitzit, a boy who is old enough to do good deeds. The other two are girls; I love them all.

My life has changed so much and so quickly. Not so long ago I was a young girl, playing, studying and helping my mother with the chores. Truth be told, I never did study much. It was hard for me to concentrate. I was never like my friend, Esty, who thought deeply about the things we learned. I remember her trying to discuss them with me, but I wasn’t really interested.

May G-d forgive me for mentioning Esty’s name. I can’t help thinking about her sometimes and wondering why. She was so pretty and clever. How could she have done such a stupid thing?

I saw her the other day in the Interior Ministry office. I’d gone to register the birth of my little one. I was just wheeling out the babies, my son holding onto the pram, when she called my name and I instinctively turned round. I was shocked at what I saw. She stood there, in the hallway, wearing a man’s clothing – trousers and short sleeves. She knows what a sin it is to do that, but she did it anyway.

I just stood there, transfixed. I couldn’t talk to her, of course, but I should never have turned when she called my name. Fortunately, my son called to me and I turned back to him and we continued to the lift. I don’t know what I’d have done otherwise. She could have become a light to the women of our community, I know she could. She was clever and wise, but she threw it all away. I’ll never understand why.

Well, I must go. The baby needs a feed and I have plenty of chores to do before the Sabbath. Life is good, thanks to G-d.

A peaceful Sabbath,
Leah

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor There CoverSo much more than a romance, this is a tale of transformation in an exotic setting. Esty’s life was laid out for her from birth. She would marry one of a handful of young men suggested to her and settle down to raise a large family in a tiny space within the closed community of her parents, near to and yet far from the modern world. But Esty has decided to risk all by escaping while she still can. Will she make it to the other side? Mark, who is struggling with his own life changes, hopes that Esty will find a way through her troubles. He is fast falling in love with her. Separately and together, in Jerusalem and London, Esty and Mark need to overcome many obstacles in their endeavour to achieve their dream.

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori

Me with Neither Here Nor ThereMiriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and two of her grown up children in Jerusalem.

With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for eleven years. Two of her short stories have been published in anthologies and others have been published online. Neither Here Nor There is her first novel.

Miriam began writing in order to help raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.

Categories
Israel

Apologies, dear readers

I know, I haven’t written much stuff on this blog lately. It’s not that I don’t have stuff to write, but I’m only one person. There’s only so much I can do.

I hope you’re enjoying my series: Letters from Elsewhere. I’m amazed how varied the posts have been so far: serious, humorous, heart-breaking. On Friday, you will hear from Leah, who would never normally write a letter to any of you, but has stepped out of my novel, Neither Here Nor There, to do just that.

I’m also on Cathie Dunn’s blog today, discussing the setting of Neither Here Nor There.

And there’s an excerpt from the novel on Claire Stibbe’s blog.

And don’t forget my posts about living in Israel in the English Informer.

I’m off to enjoy another festival: Succoth, which I wrote about four years ago.

Hag sameach – happy holidays!

Categories
Books

Anniversary

Today I celebrate a special anniversary. On this day, a year ago, my first novel, Neither Here Nor There, was published. I will always be indebted to the people at Crooked Cat Publishing for making that happen.

NeitherHereNorThereCoverLast month, I posted a poem based on the acknowledgements. Today I want to reflect on some of the things that have happened to me because of that event:

  • I met a wonderful group of authors, some of whom I have highlighted in various posts.
  • I joined Toastmasters and continue to learn how to give speeches.
  • I gave several online interviews.
  • I wrote several guest posts that were published around the blogosphere.
  • I read from my novel, first to the attendees of my offline launch party and later to a larger audience.
  • I took part in Indie Authors Appreciation Week, organised by Carmilla Voiez.
  • I gave my first author talk.
  • And shortly there will be a very special event that I will tell you about in August.
Indie Authors Appreciation Week Poster
My flyer for Indie Authors Appreciation Week
Categories
Books

About that Competition

The competition I ran for Indie Authors Appreciation Week was won by Cathy Bryant, who will shortly receive a signed copy of Neither Here Nor There. Congratulations, Cathy.

Front50%In chapter 1 of Neither Here Nor There, Esty, as a first step in the process of leaving the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community in which she was raised, has to phone Avi, who volunteers for an organisation that helps people like Esty.

There were two competition questions:

1. How does the person Esty calls on the phone react when Esty tells him that she wants to leave the haredi community?

Cathy answered: “The man on the phone reacts by carefully explaining the risks, and making sure that Esty understands that she can go back – that she still has a choice. He outlines what might go wrong.”

2. Why do you think he reacts in this way?

Cathy answered: “I got the impression that he was trying to make sure that she knew what she was doing and wasn’t acting on impulse – as a representative of his organisation he has to be responsible. After all, she’s taking a very serious step.

Both answers are correct. But I wanted to point out something else. The members of the organisation must be aware that they could be accused of tempting young people away from their families and their way of life. They need to make absolutely clear to everyone that they become involved only after the person has made that crucial decision.

***

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords and The Book Depository.

Categories
Books

Indie Authors Appreciation Week

TomorrowPosterThe wonderful Carmilla Voiez has done an amazing thing. She’s set up a whole week for you to get to know 60 authors and their books. Each author has an hour’s spot, during which they will tell you about themselves and their books, post excerpts, run competitions, answer questions and much more.

On top of that, Carmilla has arranged sponsors for the event, enabling her to offer bigger prizes.

I would never have been able to organise such an event, but I’m delighted to be able to take part. The event starts tomorrow (Friday). My spot is on Sunday at 5:00pm GMT and I’d love you to be there. You can sign up for the whole event at https://www.facebook.com/events/393175627502030/permalink/409764545843138/.

Indie Authors Appreciation Week Poster

Categories
Blogging Books

Wrapping up before the break

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November, for my third year running, means: NaNoWriMo, that month when crazy people around the world, together or alone, type out a lot of words, hopefully 50,000 of them. So if you don’t see me around so much, you’ll know what I’m doing. As usual, I haven’t planned enough of the novel in advance, but I have a provisional title and a cover that I rather like.

Cover2

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Last night, at my Toastmasters Club, I gave a speech called: A Novel Approach. I’m sure you can guess what that was about. It was my second speech there. I didn’t think my first one was good enough to publicise. This one wasn’t perfect either, but it’s an improvement:

~

Today, I discovered a new, comprehensive map of the Machane Yehuda market, which features in my novel: Neither Here Nor There. It’s designed by Joel Haber and includes a complete list of all the stalls, shops, bank and whatnot in the area. I used the map to rewrite part of the novel:

So, Esty is at number 7 when she spies Mrs G and her accomplice marching towards her. She has to get away from them. Along 16 and back along 3 and 4? No, she’d be too visible there. So she goes along 6 and 5, then turns along 12 and hops on a train at 29. But the two women are just behind. Will they catch her?

but I think  prefer the original!

~

The other day, I read a blog post that made me angry. I was so angry that I decided to write a blog post about it, even though it wasn’t about anything this blog is about. When I’d finished writing it, I felt less angry and decided it really wasn’t suitable here. So it remains in my draft posts. Perhaps I’ll put the sentiments into a novel one day. Perhaps I’ll put them into the novel I’m about to write. We’ll see.

~

Whether you’re doing NaNo or not, I wish you lots of success and will be back on the other side, if not before.

BackInApril

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No, that’s from a different break.

This time it’s December.