May-June 2019
Seizing the Day
Have you ever done something that was both so spontaneous and also so "big" that you almost couldn't believe you did it? Well, about six weeks ago I realized that the annual Jerusalem Women's Writers Seminar was coming up fast. I had never been to it, and I wanted to go. Israel is close to my heart but not to my house. It's 11,000 miles away and a 14-hour flight, if you go direct.

( Photo credit: Reuven Ansh Photography)

I emailed the conference organizer (we knew of one another professionally) and basically invited myself to come and teach, and she agreed! About 250 women attended, as well as editors from the world of religious Jewish book and magazine publishing. I gave a presentation on the "FUNdamentals" of humor writing, which fortunately got a lot of laughs and also had the audience scribbling down tips I was offering. In the afternoon, I taught a workshop to 30 participants on the art of persuasive writing.

It was immensely gratifying to be able to share so much of what I have learned over many years as a writer with a larger community of writers. And, as it always is, it was immensely gratifying to be in Israel. In addition to teaching at the seminar, I had the opportunity to speak about my memoir, The Skeptic and the Rabbi, for members of AACI, the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.

Altogether, I had a fantastic week, and wrote a column about one very special aspect of my experience for the Jewish Journal: Gifts from Jerusalem.

I also treated myself to something completely unprecedented, which was upgrading to "Premium Coach" for the long return flight. It wasn't Business Class, but it felt like First Class to me, with wider seats and more than two inches of space between me and the person in front of me. The food was also outstanding, and served on real plates. I even got a goody bag with socks, a little toothbrush and toothpaste, a silky eye shade, and a few more things. I could get used to flying like this, if only I could afford it!
No, You Cannot Make Fun of Plastic Cutlery

Aren't we all ( or at least most of us) fed up with the dictates of politically correct gendarmes narrowing the scope of "acceptable" language? These are a mirthless bunch, and the are having a "chilling effect" on humor, too. When I made a mild joke on social media about the spork, a hybrid piece of plastic cutlery, I got reamed, big time.

Here's the column I wrote about it on the website American Thinker .
On My Bookshelf

Alert readers may recall that in the last newsletter, which admittedly was bck in April, I raved about Kitchen Table Wisdom, but I was only halfway through with it. Now that I finished it, I can reaffirm that it deserved all the accolades it has received. It is filled with short, elegantly written stories from the author's life, from her perspectives as a patient with a serious, life-threatening illness, a physician who became a counselor to cancer patients, a daughter and a friend.

I just bought the newly published Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, written by Benjamin Dryer, the executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House. I've only just started it, but it's already a delight. Dryer teaches amusingly. Among his rules: "The passive voice is to be avoided," and "Sentence fragments. They're bad." If you're looking to tidy up your prose and refresh your knowledge of writing rules, this may be your go-to book.

Finally, I am on the edge of my seat as I close in on the ending of Perfect, a novel written by Rachel Joyce, the incredibly talented author of another of my favorite books, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. From the inside book jacket: "A spellbinding story of a young boy who is thrown, with far-reaching consequences, into the murky, difficult realities of the adult world." I won't say any more than this except to go and get this book!

New reader raves for The Skeptic and the Rabbi
From Amazon reader reviews:

" I found the book very insightful and could not put it down. Read it in 6 hours."

"[A] charming and well-written book that explains a difficult subject with elegance and restraint of style that is admirable. . . This is the kind of thing I would have liked to have passed to relatives and friends who wondered what strange lifestyle I was getting myself into many years ago."

"This is a book that will stay with you for a very long time. It is food for the soul."

More book clubs are selecting The Skeptic and the Rabbi for their groups. Why not yours?

Click here to purchase your copy of The Skeptic and The Rabbi: Falling in Love With Faith
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