Last week, I went to see a reading with a fellow writer friend, at his invitation, at the Hammer Museum. It just happened to be Aimee Bender (I just finished reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake a couple weeks ago). The other reader was Etgar Keret. I hadn’t heard of him but he turned out to be quite entertaining. He is from Israel and apparently revolutionized literature there. The two of them played off each other well, particularly during the Q&A section.
Keret explained his impact on the literature in Israel somewhat like this:
The written word has not changed in Israel in thousands of years. Authors who write in English worry about seeing their book up on a shelf next to Shakespeare. Israel’s authors worry about seeing their book next to the Bible. (Also, as I learned while in Israel, anything with Hebrew writing on it does not get thrown away, rather archived or buried.) Yet, while the written word has carried through, the spoken language has changed. It is common in Israel, when saying something like “see you later,” to say, “Tov yalla bye.” This phrase is a combination of three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. (Tov meaning “good,” yalla meaning “come on” or “hurry up.”) Keret incorporated Hebrew slang into his writing, which was unheard of, and caused quite a reaction in the Israeli community.
This was an incredible story, especially since I recently went to Israel, but mostly because this is so different from writing in English. When studying creative writing I have always been told to get the dialogue as close to what people actually say as possible. A common writing exercise is to go to a public place and just listen to people, recording it all down, because this informs the veracity of the writing.
Not to mention their reading selections were fabulous.
Received notes on my manuscript from a friend in the mail. Great comments, as usual. Got stopped, as usual. In the interim I revised a short story and wrote a whole new one – this was refreshing, since I hadn’t written anything new in a long time. It was proof that I had not forgotten how.
I have to remind myself to be discerning when I accept notes from people. I had a creative writing professor who warned against prescriptive comments – both giving and receiving. These are the types of specific notes like “you should kill off x character,” or “you should have x character’s back-story be that he was beaten by his father,” etc. When giving notes, a person’s focus should be what the writer wants the story to be. When receiving notes, an author should be wary of prescriptive ideas not his/her own.
Spent a long weekend in Santa Barbara to celebrate myriad events: my sister’s birthday, my father’s upcoming birthday, Passover, Easter. Ate lots of good food, spent wonderful time with friends and family, relaxed in a min-vacation, did the things I love to do in SB. Hiking, walking on the beach.
Above, a gorgeous view from my house, and below, another gorgeous -sunset- view from my house.
Amidst everything, yes, I managed to write. The novel goes. Slow as ever. Yet steady.
It was inspiring to spend time with my sister, who is transitioning from a steady, pay-check culinary job to full-time painting. Talking with her is reminder of everything I’ve gone through to get to where I am, and a reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
The incredibly delicious birthday cake my sister made. She sent the leftovers with me to LA – I was supposed to give them to my writers’ group, but ended up eating it myself!
Above, my boyfriend and my dog taking a moment to rest during our hike. Below, the Easter goodie-bags my sister made for her birthday picnic.
Being there also made me think a lot about my life. I have always jokingly said that my plan is to sell this first book and move back to SB to revise. I have an incredible life in LA, one I’d be reluctant to give up, but being in Santa Barbara made me want to be in Santa Barbara. I was reminded of how much more productive, healthy, and relaxed I am there. The question is, as ever, how to reconcile my lives?