Model of Jerusalem at the time of the 2nd Temple now situated at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I was at my granddaughter’s end of term kindergarten party last week when they started playing a song.
I turned to my daughter and asked “ What does this song remind you of?”
She immediately replied “Safed – but why?”
I knew why;  because this song had been played on the radio and on our tape-deck ( no CDs in those days)  non-stop as we drove up the long 3 hour road to Safed, in northern Israel, over 22 years ago.

As I listened to it I could see all the details of the journey , the apartment we rented,  all our little children ( who are mostly parents now) the long walks we took,  the visit to the ancient shuls, the artists’ quarter and  the cemetery with graves of  some of our most famous kabbalists.
I could have written an article about that trip as though I’d been there yesterday . the memories were so vivid just listening to that music.

So if you’re trying to recall an event that happened a long time ago try checking out  which of your favorite songs were popular that year. And if you can’t find a recording of it , try humming it to yourself.
The music memory  trigger is very powerful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I'm often asked to recommend books which have helped me in my freelance writing  learning curve.
Below is a list of my favorites.
I have many more books,  but these I think have given me the most information / inspiration / encouragement.
As you can see from the selection I'm not (yet?) a fiction writer.

ON WRITING WELL  - William Zinsser A  classic that is as relevant today as it was when it was first published over 30 years ago. A pleasure to read, flows easily and is full of  hands-on writing advice for all creative writing and reporting.  'The best book on the Journalism 101 course' is how a journalism student described it to me.
Here is an excerpt

WRITING ABOUT  YOUR LIFEWillaim Zinsser  He brings the same easy readability coupled with writing insights  to writing  memoirs.
Although I don’t write what are officially called ‘memoirs’, I write a lot of essays and what are essays if not short memoirs?

COURAGE AND CRAFT - Barbara Abercrombie   Essay writing

READY AIM SPECIALIZE  - Kelly James Enger  subtitled ‘create your own writing specialty and make more money’  she shows you how to choose your niche and develop it  and also  describes the ten most popular specialties and how to break into them.

ON WRITING -  Stephen King  An autobiography telling how King started writing and all his slip ups and failures on the way, interweaving tips and strategies for writers.

THE RENEGADE WRITERLinda Formichelli and Diana Burrell  An unconventional guide to breaking the standard freelancing rules. You have to know what the rules are in order to break them but this book will guide you all the way. From never sending query letters /  calling your editor on the telephone etc

GETTING THE WORDS RIGHT Theodore A. Rees Cheney  an excellent book on editing and rewriting

Monday, June 13, 2011

AMI magazine

I know that many writers in Israel have never seen a copy of Ami magazine.
Some of you, like me, may even have written for them, without ever having seen what the new weekly even looks like.

So when my sister, from Teaneck came, I asked her to see if she could get me a copy. Being the extremely kind sister that she is, although Ami isn’t available where she lives, she shlepped out  three times and brought me three different issues.

Now three issues do not make me an expert, but I guess if you’ve never seen a single copy then the information I’ve gleaned may help you.

Please understand that the information below is my subjective opinion based on what I read only in those three issues and it is far better to get detailed guidelines from the editors themselves.

In the issues I saw there was no fiction  except in aim, the tween  section ( more of that in detail below) and even the stories in aim all seemed to be serialized, (each episode written by the same author).
The main  magazine contains  news  and current events  articles as well as articles on general topics .

The columns below seem to be open to freelancers and I’ve tried to give a brief synopsis of the stories in the 3 editions I saw.


These were all as-told-to ….. stories based on  the goodness of human nature (my description)  -
  around 800 words
a)A story about a landlord who reduced the rent for a couple who were struggling to pay.
b)A woman who pretended to buy some old clothes from a poor person in order to re-sell them, but was really just helping her get an income.
c) A business whose owners continued to pay workers who were  not  needed as technology had replaced their jobs.

Human Experience

As-told-to …… people going through very difficult life situations ( 2000-3000 words)

a)      A second marriage where the household fell apart when the wife became ill.
b)      A Muslim who discovered he was really a Jew and his return to Yiddishkeit.
c)      A  bochur who moved in with a blind man to care for him 24/7.

Jewish Living in …….    ( 700 – 800 with photos)
Short  pieces about Jewish life in
 a) Cleveland   b) The Lower East Side      c)  Meron, Israel

AMI LIVING   The women’s magazine.

The editors said they are very happy to receive  queries for  all types of general  features of interest to women.

Weekly columns which seem to be open to freelancers:

The Clean Bill – Real People on a quest for health      as-told- to  (2000- 4000 words)

a)A wrong diagnosis by a doctor
b)A boy with Asperger’s syndrome
c) A wrong diagnosis by a doctor

Truth or Consequence
Should a person always be told the truth  ( 2000 – 3000 words)

a)      Should you take the car keys from an elderly parent who could be a danger on the road.
b)      Discovering your nephew on a diet eats at a soup kitchen to get extra food.
c)      Should people always be told the truth about their medical condition.

They also publish  up to  four essays each week of very varied lengths ( the shortest I saw was only 400 words – the longest about 1500 words)

aim -  Magazine for tweens

The sections which appear to take freelancers are:

Real Tweens – Real Life   (approx 1500 words)

a)      An unpleasant camp experience
b)      Awkward incident with a teacher at school
c)      A torn tendon in a thumb and the lessons learned from it.

At the end of  each edition I had  there  was another section that looks like it would take freelance contributions as each one was by a different writer – no  special subject / title    (1500 – 2000 words)

a)      The trials of having very curly hair
b)      A bad experience babysitting
c)      Leaving one girl out of the friendship clique

If anyone else has any information that might help potential contributors to Ami, please leave a comment.
Hope this helps those of you who’ve never seen the magazine.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Don’t wait until  you learn the hard way. It’s just too annoying.
Back up your work on your computer now.

How you back it up will depend on what you are trying to protect yourself against:

  1. a computer crash
  2. fire
  3. theft

 If you want to have your files backed up in case of a computer crash, which is the most common problem, then an external hard disk, connected to a USB port, is probably the easiest and cheapest back up method. There are many on the market and although I’m not going to recommend any particular one, as I’m not  too pleased with my current one, please, any of you reading this feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments section.

If you use this method, and your hard disk dies, you will have the information saved (until the last time it was backed up), but it may be easy or more complicated to retrieve this information . When you buy your back up disk check up how the information is retrieved.

   If you are worried about theft or fire then you may want to consider an off-site back up, online where nothing is physically  attached to your computer. Your work is backed up by a company  in cyber-space, usually for a monthly or annual fee. There are many such sites available, all offering various options. Google 'online back-up' and see the possibilities or ask someone for a recommendation.

However, unless your work is backed up every day  ( the more likely scenario is once or twice a week – this is something you have to decide) you will have days when your work / research / half written story or article is sitting  in your  computer when you turn it off and it isn’t backed up.
What I do,  is send the work to myself by email. Set up an email address which can be accessed by any computer ( e.g. gmail / yahoo etc -  not one attached to your place of work) and attach your work to an email and send it off. Should  you not be able to turn on your computer in the morning, your work awaits you as soon as you can get to another computer and access your email.

 Whenever I take  photos whether they are of the family or to accompany articles, I immediately download them onto the computer  as soon as I get home , just in case something happens to my camera..  (I’ve lost two in the last  three years so it’s  unfortunately a possible scenario for me )
However I only delete them from the camera once  the computer has backed them up.

Do any of you have back-up tips or recommendations?