Books Israel

Ayelet Tsabari and Place

Ayelet Tsabari “was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv, served in the Israeli army, and travelled extensively throughout South East Asia, Europe and North America. She now lives in Toronto.”

What better person to run a one-day writing course entitled: Wish you were here; writing about place? That’s what Ayelet did on Thursday and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend it.

These are the main points she made:

  • Research well.
  • Use details to introduce a place.
  • Don’t overwrite. Pick the most appropriate and vivid details and the most precise words to describe them.
  • Use all five senses.
  • Introduce a place gradually.
  • Let the description unfold as the character moves through the scene.
  • Place is deeply connected to the emotions of the characters. Their experience of the place is influenced by their feelings, state of mind, mood and judgment. In describing a place, choose words that reflect the character’s emotions.

All the points were illustrated with examples and there were also exercises. It was a most enjoyable and profitable day.

The Amazon page for Ayelet’s book – The Best Place on Earth: Stories  – contains a link to an excerpt from one of her stories and I can tell you it’s good! You can read it at or

On the way to the course, I had my own struggle with place. The course took place in the small town of Beit Zayit, at the home of Judy Labensohn, another writer, who is running the next course in the series, which I’ll be blogging about soon. I decided to drive there via Ein Karem – not such a good idea as it turned out, although I had the best of reasons. I wanted to avoid the morning traffic jams, and the route I chose did look the shortest.

Two unrelated problems held me up. Firstly, the road to Ein Karem, one on which we have travelled many times, was not there. What a weird feeling! It wasn’t that the road was blocked off. It was as if there had never been a road there.

I had to come to my senses quickly enough to decide to turn left and get to the other road to Ein Karem – through morning traffic jams, of course.

Then I missed the road I wanted to take to Beit Zayit. In fact, I think I saw the road but there was no sign on it and it probably isn’t possible to reach Beit Zayit that way. So I ended up in Mevasseret and had to turn towards Jerusalem and turn off at the main road to Beit Zayit. Fortunately, I’d left plenty of time for this journey (or so I thought) and arrived only one minute after the starting time. Next time, I’ll make sure I find the best way of going, and one that exists!

I’ll be blogging about place again, soon – as a guest blog for my friend, Sue Barnard, whose first novel, The Ghostly Father, is about to be released.

Books Social anxiety

Hiding your Identity

I read an interesting blog post today. It was written by Gila Green, a published writer of English living in Israel. She poses the question of whether it’s wise for Israeli writers to reveal their address, because doing so would give them even less of a chance of being accepted for publication.

I live in... erm...
I live in… erm…

The question reminds me of an argument that arose in the group therapy course I took a few years ago. Some people insisted that social anxiety should be hidden while others preferred to reveal it. I noticed that those who advocated hiding it were better able to; they were the ones who appeared more “normal.”

So there’s no single answer to the question of whether to hide social anxiety. It depends on the individual and what suits them best.

Just as I’m not able to successfully hide my social anxiety, I don’t think I could hide my address. It’s part of who I am. I might not bring it up straight away in a correspondence, but I wouldn’t pretend to live elsewhere.

And, as Gila says, place is an important aspect of a story. Sometimes it’s described as another character. I wouldn’t want to lose that part of my writing, because it would be like losing a part of me.

However, other writers will disagree with this and that’s their prerogative. They must do what suits them best.