Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book review: The ugly daughter, by Julia Legian

Written sometimes with the candid fervour of the child who went through all the episodes of poverty, violence and neglect, Julia Legian first volume of her memoir is very challenging for the reader. Born and raised in Vietnam for the first years of her life, Julia recounts in small details her first years of life, till the escape by boat to Malaysia and further on, to Australia, where she lives today. 
Reading the short presentation of her current and recent past professional activities might be difficult to imagine the raw poverty she lived in as a child. Often beaten by her parents, part of a highly dysfunctional family, frequently going to sleep hungry and without the hope of a compensatory breakfast in the morning, she was able to built in her country of adoption a career in real estate, a family and now, a future as a writer. Normal achievements from our Western perspective, but almost impossible successes in the Vietnam of her childhood, a country carrying the scars of wars and poverty. 
This first sequence has so many episodes of cruelty - of the parents, children, destiny itself. It has frequent references to toilets or rather the lack thereof and descriptions of human remains, especially in the classrooms. Only those fragments and it may be enough in understanding the difficult situation of the Vietnamese society at the end of the 1970s. Despite all those shortages and daily difficulties, going to school was by far one of the favourite activities, as it offered a break from the regular confrontations of the parents. As expected, she had some spiritual/religious awakenings that although unusual, helped her to maintain a certain level of sanity
The memoir is built through detailed descriptions of various encounters and events, with vague references to political events under way or that finished a couple of years before. Although the details provided are interesting for the understanding the society and history, I found it a bit too long and with plenty of details not necessarily bringing something new to the narrative. The information was so rich that I completely got lost in the specific chronology: how many years past actually since the beginning of the story? The writing is simple, not necessarily catching up, but keeping an informative level. 
Despite those ups and downs, the story is interesting and I am curious to find out what happened next, after the request for emigrating to Australia was finally accepted. How this problematic heritage was turned into added value and how the little girl ignored and belittled by all rose on her feet and won her existential autonomy? 

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary copy by the author, but the opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book review: How to create Nonfiction Book Ideas that Sell

Many might say that writing non fiction books is much more easier than in the case of literature, but in many respects, the process is almost the same and even more delicate and complicated. Compared to the books usually included in the category of 'literature', nonfiction book that sell should be very focused and aiming to a very clear niche. Because based on facts and figures, it involves serious research because what usually the readership is expecting from you are new and useful information. 
The tips suggested by James Thomson are aimed to help anyone working on a nonfiction project, either beginner or experienced writer. It is never too late to learn something new. The book focuses a lot on the pre-writing project, with extensive information and details aimed to help the setting up of the ideas and the main writing material. The author suggest to carry on with and near you a notebook, where to record your ideas that you might encounter during the day. As for me, the notebooks used to be very useful a couple of years ago, especially during the university years when I was extensively spending time at libraries, collecting quotes and inspiration, but right now, the best incentive to have my ideas turned into books is to use some online software or simple Microsoft Word pages. 
Useful for this stage but also for the later marketing plans is the enlisting of the categories of nonfiction books. 
Beyond all these organizational and practical hints, the writing is obviously the most important part of the writing process, giving the real measure of success. I completely agree with the author's suggestion that one should consider the book that he or she would like to read. Very often, you don't need to reinvent the wheel, but to offer a new perspective and a fresh angle based on your personal observation and research. Such an approach usually suits very well the academic literature, with many books recreating completely new worlds starting from relatively unexpected details. 
'When someone is buying a book, they really don't care about you. they are buying the book with the hope and expectation that it will improve their life either in the short or long term'. I partially agree with this observation, although, especially in the case of someone who is new to the domain of publishing, getting to reach your audience is significantly harder than in the case of a writer with a certain base and fame. 
Out of inspiration? You could find it in the most unexpected places, as for instance at various conferences, during travel - I completely agree, as I started my latest book on the train back from Antwerp, struck by the idea of having a bigger perspective about the basics of blogging. Visiting bookstores and spending time browsing the pages of the magazines is another great suggestion for finding out inspiration.
As in the case of any important project that you want to make public, setting up a set of possible Q and A would help you not only in the relation with the media but also during the expected dialogue with your readers. 
I enjoyed reading the book - sometimes taking extensive notes - and I strongly recommend it to anyone on the road to become a published nonfiction writer. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On the advantages of being a beta reader

Recently, I did a lot of beta reading for bookish friends, and I am extremely grateful for this experience. At a certain extent, this is not exactly my first experience of this kind, as I was doing this type of reading for a long time already. The difference was that I was calling it differently: something like 'helping my friends to improve their writing'. And this is in fact the essence of beta reading. 
The person who is doing it is usually part of the 'inner circle' of the writer, online or in real life, sharing common interests and with enough free time and expertise to make suggestions for improving the story and characters. You should not have to be a graduate of philology, but to have the lust for reading. 
For those used with the usual academic chores, it can be a similar task with the proof reading or cross reading, except that in this case, the beta reading process is taking place at various stage of the writing process. It can start with the first draft of the manuscript and can continue later on during the various elaboration stages of the manuscript. 
Even though many can consider working as full time beta readers, with a proper paid remuneration for their efforts, I believe that doing it for free is part of my gratitude of being included as a reliable reading source and a person able to give suggestions. Also, as a reader-in-process myself, I am enormously learning from such experiences, ideas and thoughts helpful for my further writing. 
There are some sensitive aspects that are also important when dealing with the beta reading process. As generally in life, it is very important to be careful how to express your opinions and suggestions. I grew up with a high respect for everything that has connection with the written word and I also know how difficult is the writing process. During the sometimes difficult choice of words, the writer frequently put into motion a lot of energy and inner sensibilities. When the beta reader is rude and try to diminish the work he or she was given for consideration, without a specific explanation of the reasons, the writer can feel it more as a personal drama: it is the feeling of the failure of months, maybe years, of hard work, maybe without a proper financial support and stealing time from family. I suppose that except for the geniuses, none of the big writers were happy themselves with their first draft. By taking the risk to submit this original variant to comments and suggestions, he or she shows interest for reaching a better writing stage. Thus, it is very important that the beta reader has a certain human sensitivity as well, and is able to use his reading and eventually writing experience for helping the writer to improve, instead of simply destroying by aggressive words the entire work. 
As for me, the experience of the last weeks of being a beta reader were extremely rewarding and when the time allows, I will try to repeat the experience as often as possible.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning about Scrivener for e-writers

I cope with a lot of delays in my long-term writing projects, but given my hectic daily schedule and other unpredictable non-writing events I am sure that not the software or any technical shortcomings are responsible for that. However, trying to find inspiration, I registered the last week for a Webinar explaining Scrivener for writers, introduced by Joanna Penn and presented by the expert Joseph Michael.
Although I was relatively familiar with the software, I was a bit sceptical at the beginning  that I will be able to learn too many new things in the one hour of the webinar. However, the lesson was very well structured that I went far beyond the basic understanding of the system, to detailed directions for saving the book in the proper format for Kindle or ePub or other type of devices. 

Better time management

For the moment, all my writing projects are organized - it's a way of saying - in Word Docs. After I finish the first draft, I add almost twice the quantity of words and content while working the second draft. I am not very well organized and my ideas are often jumping from a topic to another. Or my documentation is done for various topics that should be added separately after. Scrivener makes possible an immediate conversion of the Word text, that, in addition, can be elegantly separated into separate sections and chapters. Such a wise management will help later on, when the document will be prepared for e-publication. Pictures can be also added easily to the text, not only for the cover. 
Once you have the text split, you can add, change and create new content within minutes. The documents can be saved as 'first'/'second' etc. draft allowing the user to see the progress and operate proper changes if necessary. More than that, you can set a board to check the progress of your writing, up to the objectives you established, the daily progress and the final number of words you achieved. The available formats will automatically help to create the proper matrix for different types of writing requirements: non-fiction, fiction, scriptwriting, poetry.

Saving money too

Let's say that now you are done and can't wait to add a new title to your writing portfolio. If you want to selfpublish online, there is a very important step to make: formatting. The scary word for many beginners writers, when the funds are scarce. Scrivener saves and allows the formatting of your book in different formats, within minutes, without additional costs or difficult hair splitting. Watching online the explanations offered by Joseph Michael, I realized that everything is a matter of practice: the more you write the faster you will be able to create the right format for your book. 
Are you using Evernote for doing the basic research? Another good news is that you can automatically integrate it into the bigger document and use the information. 
Scrivener, praised in 2010 as one of the top best writing applications, can be freely tested for 30 days, enough time to consider if a further investment is necessary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In the paradise of books: Leipzig Book Fair

Relatively disappointed after visiting the Frankfurt Book Fair two years ago, I was recommended to try Leipzig Book Fair/Buchmesse. My big problem at Frankfurt was that I was ready to buy as many books as possible but found out that such trade is not the main aim of the gathering, but the facilitation of contacts between publishers and editions houses from all over the world. Leipziger Messe instead, my advisers said, is the place where you can see the latest titles, buy them at a good price and enjoy interesting discussions and meetings with authors. As the market is very much focused on Germany I needed some time to be sure that my German is well enough to understand the discussions. Last but not least, I also needed time to go, an achievement that was not possible till this year.
I arrived in Leipzig, a city I visited often in the last months part of my travel writing projects, on a very sunny day. Compared to other occasions, the book spirit was everywhere in town, not only in the bookstores and main bars and libraries or at the university, announcing literary events but also on the street. Switzerland, the guest of honour at the fair, brought to the fair a wise mix of tourism, literary and cultural branding aimed to take the best opportunities of visibilities for the country in Germany. 
After a little bit of wandering in the city, part of my travel writing projects, I took a tram to the North of the city, direction: Fair Trade/Messe. The tram, arriving every 10 minutes, instead of the usual 20 minutes, was packed with book lovers, and the European Babel tower of languages was the indication that I am on the right way. 
Close to the fair location, a mass of people going to the Messe, from all ages, backgrounds and interests. If got lost, there was always a chance to find someone speaking your language helping you for directions. It was the first of the four days of fair, and many schools and even kindergarten from the city and neighbouring areas, including Berlin, organized special day-trips. Seeing so many young people curious about books gave me a good feeling.
For me, the entrance was delayed for another 15 minutes, not only because I wanted to spend some time taking pictures of the revolutionary metal-and-glass building, but also because I needed to register as a journalist to an office situated quite far away from the main entrance. Compared to other registration processes, this one was the easiest and in less than 5 minutes I was holding my accreditation pass.
Let's say that my first direct encounter with Leipziger Messe was rather exotic.It reminded me of the surprise I had at Frankfurt, where I was not having enough of looking at the colourful costumes of the Manga lovers. My year in Japan was still fresh in the memory and didn't know what is going on with me. Since then, I learned that manga comics are extremely popular in Germany, with dedicated fans all over the country. Due to the fact that at the previous Book Fair, almost 27% of the events had a connection with this culture, the organizers of the fair decided to set up a special Manga Convention whose first edition I was honoured to cover as a blogger. 
Besides the colourful costumes and creative outfits, featuring favourite manga heroes, the 20,000 sqm. of the area dedicated to Manga was set for four full days of events, presentations, workshops and discussions. 
Book presentations about fashion and manga life style were under way, attended by a curious and informed audience. For the Cosplay - costume play - two photo booths were installed for keeping the memory of the event.
For the more classical guests, as me, there were also classical kimonos, with beautiful and classical patterns. 
Plus, a culinary corner. Many participants were ready for the next professional challenges, and when they were not answering questions about their works, they were making sketches for their next books.
Apparently, it seemed that every part of the Asian culture was brought to Leipzig, including the traditional game of Go, that is getting popularity in Germany. Some time ago, I attended some demonstrative presentations at the Chinese Institute in Berlin, being told that there is an increased interest for this old strategy game in the country.
As my time in Leipzig and at the Fair was quite limited, I left the Manga Convention, ready to see the real world of books in the German language. After Frankfurt, Leipzig is the second largest book fair in Germany and the most important spring event for the publishing industry. 
This year agenda  of the Leipzig Reads/Leipzig Liest festival included over 2,800 events in more than 365 locations all over the city. The main themes featured were literature, children and adolescent literature, book art, education and knowledge, speaking arenas for authors. Another interesting and relatively of interest politically speaking was tranzyt, focused on Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, with meetings, discussions, photo exhibition and meetings between authors and publishing houses.
Goethe Institut Network plays an important role in promoting the German culture abroad, especially through translations. In the last year, more than 250 German authors were translated in more than 38 languages. The translation processes goes also in the other way, with the latest editions of famous authors in France, US but also Russia, Central and Eastern Europe or Chine being published in translation the day their works are launched in the original language. 
This goes equally with the children literature. Was extremely pleasant to watch the little children listening to book lectures in the playground spaces especially created for the little book lovers. 
Germans are usually reluctant when it comes to embracing new technologies, but this doesn't include the audio-books, where there is an interesting high demand for audio versions. My local library has a very rich updated section where I can find the best titles not always available on print. At the Leipzig fair, there was a huge booth with the latest productions. 
During the fair, many edition houses launched special prices for their books or handbooks or audio language guides. For instance, I was able to purchase as a present a French language audio course for 5 Euro, instead of 20. Many edition houses, including some audio books, offered free issues too. 
The Antiquarian Book Fair was integrated into the Leipzig fair in 1995. At the time, it was considered the first such event, shortly introduced on the program of other book fairs from around the world.
Illustrations are an important part of the book publishing industry, and some of the authors were having their own booths and events in Leipzig.
In Germany, some design schools are preparing book designers and illustrators, thus, schools from the East part of the country were introducing their concepts.
Old printing industries were also presented, with demonstrative tests offering information to the new generation about how the books used to be produced in the old times. Due to its trade history, Leipzig always had its own special place in the European geography of early book production. 
In parallel with the Manga Convention, the curious German public of the comics was offered a delightful introduction to the world of comics. The specialized edition houses presented their latest works, many of them made by local graphic novels authors. One of the most important editorial event was the launch of Comic Atlas Finnland, by the small Berlin edition house Reprodukt, on the occasion of the events promoting Finland as the guest of honour at Frankfurt Book Fair this year. An independent fair was held at the end of the week in Leipzig, gathering most important authors and self-published personalities of the comics world.
The Nordic countries participated with a common booth, but also with separate representative offices of the cultural institutes. A lecture in Icelandic, with German translation was under way during my visit. One of the most active participants was Finland, whose institute in Berlin covering besides Germany also Switzerland and Austria are promoting the branding program Finnland.Cool. For the fair, there were over 30 events hold in more than 10 locations either at the fair or in the city. Due to the diversity of the public, the branding program is covering a variety of activities in different locations: dance, design, book readings for diverse age categories, including YA and children books, fashion, media. At least in the case of Berlin, many of the guests are expat Fins living in Germany or in the capital city. "The program is trying to answer the needs of the region", outlined Marion Holtkamp, the press and PR relations representative of the Finish Institute in Berlin, during an earlier discussion. 
The Asian countries and institutes tried to bring more than books and authors, creating home cultural environment, as in the case of Korea, which has a strong support base among the German public.
Switzerland brought his best publishers and booksellers for increasing the visibility of the German speaking literature in Germany. As usual, the country always introduce itself with an unitary message, also covering tourism and natural diversity. 
Another important moment of the fair was the designation of the winners of the fair, for three categories: literature - the Bosnia-born Sasa Stanisic, whose book How the Soldier repaired the gramophone I strongly recommend; Helmut Lethem, for essay; and Robin Detje for translation. 
Time goes fast when you have books around. And I needed to say good-bye. The monumental rose in the front of the exhibition hall, created by Iza Genzhen in 1997, is a reminder of the fragility and ephemerality of life. Back in the city, everything looked different. People with luggage and maps, looking for bookstore locations were everywhere on Nikolaistrasse. Sign that books can change not only people, but also the inner life of cities. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Children books reviews, a round up

I love reading children and YA books, no only because I am planning to write my own soon - maybe in the next 12 months, maybe not - but also because it helps me to improve my language skills - German can be treated in different ways - and it brings back a great time of discovery and reading.
Almost every two weeks I add on my Goodreads shelf more such books, and some of them I am reviewing on my blog right now.

Eeek!, the runaway alien

I never was a big fan of aliens stories, and except the movie ET, I watched several times, there were not too many UFOs into my world. I was convinced to read Eeek! after reading an interview with the author. the main idea is that an alien can be friendly if you find some similarities. It is a book with images, a communications tool that might easily help to connect in real life too when you don't speak properly other people's language. Mostly answering the reading audience of the little men from the house, it keeps you entertained from a page to another. The runaway Eeek running from home has also some improbable treats, such as the capacity to use a credit card, but otherwise is interesting and recommended, also for the language.

Explaining the brain

I always wondered how different scientific topics can be explained to the children in a simple and friendly way. Take, for instance, the almost mysterious ways of the brain. This German illustrated book Gehirnforschung fuer Kinder demonstrates that it can be done in a very gracious way that can bring serious benefits to the adults reading to the children too. A good example of quality science book.

What about the Djinnis?

With the exception of some almost racist stereotypes, my first encounter with the Children of the Lamp was very useful for understanding the techniques of the children books. 
It has adventures, suspense, historical references, well built characters, fun and many dialogues. Last but not least, it covers a very daily topic, as the twins are aimed to prevent a devastating ecological catastrophe announced by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Adventures with art mafiosi

Ally Carter's YA novel is a different kind of adventure: a talented teenager is brought from a continent to another, trying to got back stolen pieces of art that might help the life of his father, an experienced art thief. 
There are some moral thoughts and some interesting historical episodes when it comes to pieces of art stolen during WWII. One may also find danger and suspense and a mixture of fashion, luxury and travel. Exactly what you will be interested in your early teens years.

Yoko's world

With Yoko und die Gruselnacht im Klassenzimmer I went some age categories down. 
Yoko is a furry character with human sensibilities that can bring you easily into troubles because of his curiosities. For my current level of German was perfect.

The Warrior Sheep

The sheep are so cute and funny, especially the hilarious one with the mobile phone on a plastic bag, but there is no sense to call them 'warriors'. The story is mild, with a lot of insights about London's main travel destinations - as the sheep are able to go with the tube and even ride the train, but put aside their cuteness, the title is a bit overrated and it is not what I expected from the sheep. 
That's all for now! New children and YA adventures are ready for reviews on my hungry Kindle!
Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book review: Public speaking for authors, creatives and other introverts

I am not an introvert - at least in more than 95% of the cases - and from time to time, I may enjoy the idea of public speaking, but in the majority of cases, I don't like it at all. I mostly enjoy the pleasure of writing, the spontaneity of putting my words on paper or MWord, eventually editing it from time to time, but without the pressure of being good and flawless, as the video or public speaking requires.
I remember more than one academic conferences when I was not interested at all to speak and almost failed to present in a clear way all my ideas and conclusions. Obviously, I have a problem and decided long ago to solve the problem before another serious public speaking presence.
Joanna Penn's book, Public speaking for authors, creatives and other introverts arrived on my Kindle at an interesting time when I not only will be back on the track of the academic conferences but also I consider some public speaking assignments on social media and PR. 
The book is an excellent handbook covering everything one should know about public speaking. Advanced or beginner, with experience of failures or with a successful record, we all need to learn more how to find a better positioning for being successful and being requested for more assignments. At the first sight, some may dare to say that everyone can speak for hours, but try to do it yourself and you will know what does it mean to feel helpful and scared to death. By the way, speaking in public is considered the second biggest humanity fears, after death.
As a professional challenge, public speaking, as in the case of the writing jobs, needs to be focused on sending a message and have a mission. It means usually going out of the comfort zone, but a successful journey implies that one knows his/her domain and is ready to use this knowledge to help others to succeed. "You have an opportunity to change lives", is the main mission of the speaker.
The main advantage of the book is the focus on the checking list that the public speaker should have in mind: from the preparation of the speech, the soft to be used, pre-speaking rituals, the necessary information about the structure of the audience and its expectations, all the technicalities that easily can ruin hours and even months of preparation. Joanna Penn not only shares her tips and experiences, but also interviewed people knowledgeable about this complicated yet fascinating type of business. 
I completely agree with the author that: "Speaking is about leading the audience through a journey". A good presentation is outlining the experience of the speaker, while keeping authentic and being ready to answer the needs and curiosities of the audience. I often went to public speaking events spending more than one hour listening over an over again the same things that were dear to the speaker but completely indifferent to the audience. 
This book is both for beginners or advanced speakers, people looking for a change in their career and not sure how they can start. Joanna Penn will help them not only to set up a good slideshare, but also how to pitch themselves, how to negotiate a contract - "To be considered a professional speaker, you need to be making money from actually speaking, so changing a fee for services is important" - and how to further do the online branding and marketing for getting more speaking opportunities. 
A very useful handbook that helped me to clarify some of my objectives and to organize my public speaking agenda.

The review was first published on my PR and marketing blog.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The charm of short stories

Once upon a time, I used to read a lot of short stories. At the beginning, it helped me to improve my language skills in English, Spanish and French. The more I was reading the more charmed I was by the strength of small stories. The power of words to recreate worlds in only a number of words was immense and I was always dreaming about me writing such stories. But I wasn't successful and I always preferred to get involved in long term, big wording projects. 
For almost 10 years, I focused mostly on novels, and non-fiction books and abandoned the reading of small stories about perfect worlds. I realized that I do not have too much time and I rather prefer to keep myself busy with big lengthy stories. As I have a vivid imagination and I prefer to create long narratives and stories, I did not paid too much attention to improving my skills for a better management of words and a deep knowledge of the special short stories techniques.
A couple of days ago, I discovered how wrong I was. True is that compared to a big novel project - that I haven't started yet to write either - the short stories are more demanding but equally rewarding. You may need more time and a lot of focus, but it is such a beautiful success to recreate so many words. 
Right now, I think it might be possible that one day, I will be able to have my own collection of short stories ready, but till then, I might need to return to the world of reading more short stories. I feel that many of my travel stories can fit very well this format and it can be an easy start as I live for the stories of my journeys and their memories. Before starting it, I need to learn more and be more focused. A mantra that I keep repeating for so many blog posts already.
For someone very active, with many interests and a genetic distributive attention, it is not always easy. I write fast, I read fast and I need a lot of interests in order to keep focused. Otherwise, once the vital energy is lost, I get lost myself too. 
The conclusion of the day is that the short stories are back into my world and this time, I promise to be more faithful. Another big lesson is that all our treasures we gathered during the life journey should be kept somehow and used at the proper moment. This time, I don't want to forget once again the beautiful crafts and art of polishing words. Maybe soon, I will start a new writing project: one story a week, but till then, there are so many priorities waiting for me. This blog post is a testimony that I am interested in bringing more to my writing adventure. 

Book Review: Cut me Loose, by Leah Vincent

Oh, I had so many second thoughts telling me NOT to read this book, from a previous mediocre experience with a memoir written by someone in a similar situation to the precaution of not hurrying up to read a book everyone is excessively talking about in the media. But one single second was enough to start reading it and to continue doing so till the last page.
And what a good decision to spend some late hours in the night it was. The book is beautifully written, with open heart and honesty. An emotional and sensitive person, Leah is looking for her own sense of self. Being one of the 11 children of a Yeshivish family she looks for affection, attention and sense in a world of rules and 'fabricated mask superimposed'. On a side note, I saw recently some mentions regarding the 'Yeshivish sect', which is a misunderstanding. Maybe people are too much used with the exotic Satmer stories and cannot go out of this mind frame.

Honest reporting

She doesn't want revenge or to expose people, and is delicate enough to alter details about her family. She is writing about herself, a young Jewish girl that wants to find her own way. It is not easy to continue living within the limits of your small world nowadays without having even a limited contact with the big world and through those interactions arise the tension and the need of sense and stronger identity. Sometimes, you return to your world as long as you can understand or you are explained. If not, the temptation is to keep going and break the chains of family and obedience.
The first reason of conflict is her natural desire to go to college. But she needs to get married and take care of the family and with a good yichus - her father a rabbi and her mother a descendant of the Vilna Gaon, she had a fair amount of chances to get a good match. 
I'd heard myself more than once that a girl should not be so 'klug' if is looking to marry well. And that Torah learning is only for men. But times changed and her family belongs to the mind set of the second WWII generation trying to cope with more observance and limitation from the overall world. The main line against is: College boys and girls mixed and spent their time studying wasteful and immoral ideas'.
Women, including from good yeshivish and hasidic background are learning as much as men and sometimes even earning more than them. There are some limits of professional achievements and the success doesn't go smoothly. 

Too late

'If they would have negotiated with me, I would have been satisfied. Perhaps I never would have left my faith', she says. This long relationship with loneliness that Leah's choices will bring is the result of the lack of compromise. She wanted to be saved from her rebellion, but with love and affection and a little bit of direction. She did not receive it because the parents were either too busy or simply unable to understand what she was looking for. And why. Her father accused her often she is looking for attention, but it is nothing wrong with it. Wrong was her perfect loneliness: without friends, relatives to take care of her and financial support, she is left with her own choices and she is struggling looking for affection, herself and a new sense in life. 
Despite the nightmare of being raped and neglected and abused, and being hunted by suicidal tendencies she made it to Harvard. The tone of her writing is sincere, far from being pathetic and sweetly ironic: 'A Yeshivish girl who could fall for a Rastafarian drug dealer should be bold enough to go to college'. Once accepted to Harvard, she was finally able to tell to herself: 'nobody can tell me I am worthless'. Of course one can live well without Harvard but for her, it was the final societal confirmation that she is good, and smart and can have her own life. Her bet was successful, but she is among the lucky gifted few who did it. 


And again, there is the loneliness one can hardly cope with, religious or not. Most part of the time she was left alone, with her choices and desperation and lack of alternatives because beyond her capacity of imagination. She doesn't know the language and is unable to find friends. She take a small sign of attention a manifestation of love. And when the 'love' is over, she is again left alone.
'The relief I found in cutting my skin helped me cope as I lived my split life of religion and college, modesty and loneliness, hope and memory'. She never keeps learning though and think back about her experiences, she is making new friends and succeed to marry and have a child. Plus, she finished Harvard and creates good writing. There are not bad children, only inexperienced parents and being able to recognize the mistakes and look for permanent improvement is part of the Yiddishkeit. Those who decided to went frei are not worse than the rest, but individuals looking as much as the rest of us for sense and sensibility. Loneliness is horrible and no one has the right to condemn someone to went through it, as Leah did. Helping when needed is a huge responsibility and burden and no one should be left alone.
I strongly recommend the book to anyone, regardless of the degree of observance; there is a lesson to be learned from everything and this honest story has a lot to teach us all. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

My writing plans

As usual, the events of my life went far ahead of me and I was hardly able to find some time and more inspiration to update this blog. After a couple of unexpected and not always pleasantly surprises into my life that rapidly challenged the last two months of 2013, I started the 2014 - a symbolic event that seems to be more than one month ago - with a lot of expectations and promises to myself. 
Nothing new, as I try to be as organized as possible, and improving my time management achievements is one of my favourite pastimes. However, my latest issue was that I haven't done too many of the things I always wanted to do because not always fast enough to do all those things NOW. For more than one month, I imposed myself a very strict time diet: if I want to do something, I don't wait more than one second before effectively doing it. I am aware that frustrations are not exactly the feelings I want to get used with and I am very careful to avoid unpleasant situations for my brain.
One of the main serious activities I carefully done in the last weeks was not only to intensively read books but to start leaving reviews and taking notes for more posts on the blog. Generally, at the beginning of the year, mostly when the weather is quite bad in my corner of Berlin, I do this but once the spring arrives, I better have my reading outdoors and switch to a new book without bothering to write about. This time will be different, and things are already changing. Today, for instance, I finished reading two small children books - more about that in a post scheduled for the next week - reviewed both on Amazon.com and Goodreads. 
The last year was very important as I did a lot of style improvement, but things should be further developed and I really need to write as much as possible. Being a reviewer will not only helps me in this direction, but can be a good guidance for my own writing as well.
As for the writing, I might say that I did modestly well the last year, with two e-books published on Kindle, and a lot of blog posts and articles. On the other hand, there is not the pace I am expecting from me, and although I write quite fast, I don't do it constantly hence the delay with at least 3 non-fiction book projects that I would love to finish the first half of the year. 
My fiction projects are still waiting to get a certain shape, but the proper writing will be possible only when I will be able to set up for myself a certain portion of words that should be ready daily, regardless of my travel plans or other occurrences. 
For the moment, I am trying to be as optimist as possible, thinking courageously about finishing a very important non-fiction book till the end of the month, while updating my blogs. Hope to keep the same happy smile on my face in more than 12 months from now.
Happy writing everyone!