Holiday Flashback: A Jewish Mom’s Christmas Poem

You might remember this, you might not. I wrote it quite a few years ago and post it every year, when I remember to do so. And I’m remembering! Hanukkah doesn’t rival Christmas on the holiday scale. Jewish “big” days are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and I’d add Passover. But it’s hard to ignore a holiday that’s everywhere, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s not your own. It’s also hard to ignore a holiday that shuts down publishing for weeks.

I’ve always loved the secular Christmas hoopla that surrounds me. And yes, sometimes I covet it. (I don’t have any way or reason to be involved in the religious aspects.) I delight in Christmas in the malls, on the radio, on houses, on plates. I love to drive around and look at Christmas lights, and if someone says, “Merry Christmas,” I say, “Same to you.”

In my opinion, there is nothing bad about this time of year, except that all my network TV shows are on hiatus.

Amy xo

 

The Gingerbread Mensch

The Gingerbread Mensch

A Jewish Mom’s Christmas Poem

I’ve never had Christmas, it’s to my dismay
As I love all the lights, and the trees and the sleigh

I long for the red and the green M&Ms
There’s a hole in my heart, where a caroler stems

I have a bay window, where a tree would look grand
And not one but two fireplaces, where St. Nick could stand

I would cook up a dinner, put Thanksgiving to shame,
I would revel in guests, endlessly entertain

Yet my heritage dictates, and beliefs coincide
That memories of Maccabees, bring December pride

It’s not a big feast, it’s a festival just
But celebration and eating, are a Hanukkah must

It’s not Jewish Christmas, it celebrates light
And a small and strong army, that fought with much might

Though I love all the fuss, that is Christmas each year
I hold my own holidays steadfast and dear

I do not miss, what I never have had
So when others are puzzled, thinking I’m sad

I assure them I’m happy, it does not take a toll
To watch Christmas pass by, while eating egg roll

I’ll unpack the menorahs, make a final gift run,
Hanukkah here, will be nothing but fun

But I’ll stand at the window, on your Christmas Eve
And watch out for Santa, because it’s good to believe.

Author Interview: Multi-published author, Mingmei Yip, Says Sometimes, It Is A Single Word That Brightens A Whole Paragraph

mingmeiOnce again, we welcome author Mingmei Yip to Women’s Fiction Writers. Her novels come from history, culture, and her passion for her subject and for storytelling. That’s a lesson right there! But her advice to aspiring authors really hits home. Tell me if you agree. You’ll also find the trailer for her new novel at the end of the interview, I hope you’ll take a look!

Please welcome Mingmei Yip back to WFW!

Amy xo

“Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph”

mingmeiAmy: Many authors have stories in their heads for years before writing them. Can you share with us when the idea sparked for Secret of a Thousand Beauties? And when did you know that “marriage” to a dead man and Chinese embroidery were integral to your story?

Mingmei: In traditional China, women were and sometimes still are considered men’s possessions and didn’t have much independence or freedom. A Chinese saying goes “The worst thing that can happen to a woman is to marry the wrong man. The worst thing that can happen to a man is to enter the wrong profession.” Unfortunately, because marriages were usually arranged, many women ended up marrying the wrong man at the cost of any chance for happiness. Wary of a bad marriage, some decided to remain single for the rest of their life. These women would join small communities established for non-marrying women. They displayed this choice by tying up the hair in a long pigtail.

Intrigued by these women and their sisterhoods, I decided to write a novel about them. Most worked as maids, but some were more fortunate and could learn a traditional woman’s craft. One of these was embroidery, an art that has always appealed to me, so I decided to write about this small group of embroiderers. They are supposedly celibate, but of course many succumbed to desire.

Ghost marriage was another way women were oppressed in traditional China. Couples were often betrothed in childhood, or even before birth. Since only half of children survived to adulthood, many lost their fiancés. Because they had already pledged marriage, the cruel custom was to marry the woman to the dead man. As a practical matter, this meant she was a slave to her supposed in-laws.

Amy: You feature Chinese history, heritage, and culture in your novels. Has any of this been handed down to you in stories or is it all imagination combined with research?

Mingmei: I have been influenced by both. Growing up before Hong Kong became the modern city it is today, I heard many stories of China in the days of the emperors, especially from my father, who also loved stories. As soon as I was able to read I started to enjoy learning about the ancient times. However, for each of my novels, I spend a lot of time doing research to get the details right.

Amy: Are you a plotter and planner or do you just write and see where the story takes you?

Mingmei: All my stories have twists and turns but I never plot these in advance but let the story develop spontaneously. Therefore, instead of an outline, I let my characters tell me their stories. Once I start to write, the story grows its own feet and walks where it wants to go.

I begin with an engaging situation. For my debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, I decided to write about the last Chinese elegant prostitute. For my second novel Petals from the Sky, I had an idea about a would-be nun who falls in love. My third novel, Song of the Silk Road, is the journey to self-discovery of a young woman who travels the ancient Silk Road in search of adventure – and a three million dollar reward. The next two, Skeleton Women and The Nine Fold Heaven, are about femmes fatales and women spies working for gangsters.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring novelists?

It’s never easy to be a writer, especially when you start out. I think to be a writer, it is still essential to master the basics. Not only voice, characterization, dialogue, plot, but also sentence structure, its rhythm and music. I always try to vary the length of my sentences and start each one with a different subject. It’s essential to spent whatever time it takes to find the right word. Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph.

“There is a Chinese saying ‘Slap on the thigh and exclaim!’ That’s how the readers will react to a good choice of word. Readers may not be aware of the meticulous hard work behind a smooth sentence, but if you don’t pay attention, they will soon become bored.

“I also think it’s good for authors to attend other cultural activities such as movies, concerts, art exhibitions. Have as diverse a background as you can cultivate, that really helps.”

Mingmei Yip believes that one should, besides being entertained, also get something out of reading a novel. Her new novel is Secret of a Thousand Beauties, coming out December, 2014 by Kensington Books. Her other novels include: Skeleton Women Femmes Fatales); The Nine Fold Heaven, story of an ex spy and night-club singer undertaking a dangerous journey to look for her long lost lover and son; Peach Blossom Pavilion, story of the last Chinese Geisha; Petals from the Sky — a poignant Buddhist love story about wisdom, compassion, when to persist and when to let go; Song of the Silk Road , an adventure, love story between an older woman and a younger man with a three million award on China’s famous, dangerous route.

Besides writing, Mingmei is accomplished in many other fields. A professional player of the Guqin, Chinese zither, she was recently invited by Carnegie Hall to perform in “A Festival celebrating Chinese Culture” program. She had her solo Goddess exhibition at the New York Open Center Gallery to great acclaim and held calligraphy workshops at the City University of New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has lectured extensively on Chinese art and culture at Oxford University, Columbia University, Beijing University, University of Paris, Vassar College, Williams College.

www.mingmeiyip.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SilkRoadRomance.MingmeiYip

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Mingmeiyip

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Mingmei-Yip/e/B0037A8RBO

Goodread: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/235532.Mingmei_Yip

How to Write When You Don’t Have Time (or have had too much egg nog—or Hanukkah gelt)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? It’s cold, wet, gets dark at 4:30, and most of us have no time or energy to write.

Let me explain. We’re entranced during this season. I don’t even celebrate Christmas, and Hanukkah/Chanukah/Hanukah is technically classified as a festival, and while important, it does not, in any way, have the heft of, let’s say, Passover or Yom Kippur, yet it gets all the good press. I digress. There are lights, food, and happy faces. People want to chat. They want to know your plans, about your kids, about your life (which has given way to those Xmas letters). What’s not to feel good about? Don’t forget Christmas decorations. Because lights. Need I say more?

What’s not to feel good about is falling behind on a deadline or a work-in-progress. It’s not bad to take a break. At one point while writing The Glass Wives (which seems like a lifetime ago) I stopped for six months for some life-tending. But if you don’t want to take a break, but feel like it’s time to spend your time on other things, remember that you can’t really write without living your life.

So go live it!

When people would ask me if the characters in The Glass Wives were based on real people, I answered honestly. Yes and no. Did I know people exactly like the characters? No. But were they snippets or truth stirred with pure imagination? Yes. But one of my favorite stories to tell is how one day I was waiting for my daughter to come out of junior high (she’s a college sophomore now) and I saw another pick-up lane mom get out of her car. She was dressed just the way I’d imagined my character, Laney, to dress. So I watched her. I watched the way she walked in her books and the way her coat swayed. I watched her push her long curly hair off her shoulders then scoop it back again. And, creepy as it may sound, every time I wrote about Laney I thought of this woman, this scene. But at that moment, I wasn’t writing a thing. Nor did I take a note, or record a voice memo. I simply had the experience and used it later.

You know, in my writing.

Nowadays I’m working part-time at a friend’s restaurant. Every day I talk to a hundred people if not more. Most are friendly, some are not. A few are rude. Some are in clothes that tell me what their jobs are, like a policeman or road worker (it’s the fluorescent vest that gives it away). Some are in clothes that tell me nothing except that the person cares about style, or doesn’t. I also know that I don’t know much about any of them but that it doesn’t matter because I write fiction. And when it’s time for me to write about something icky — I’ll likely remember the guy who handed me his credit card after holding it in his mouth.

When I want to write about confusion I’ll write about people who don’t leave a tip (I don’t waitress, but please, if someone is cooking your food, delivering it to you, and cleaning it up, leave a dollar on the table).

When I want to write about entitlement I’ll likely try to channel the woman who is never satisfied, never has enough crackers, or pickles, or mustard, and always wants something free to make up for it.

Maybe if I want a little angst, I’ll write about the bathroom lock that gets stuck every time I’m in there.

Perhaps one of my characters will wear a lovely hat with a purple flower, like a woman I met yesterday. Or maybe I’ll describe the reaction to someone having matzah ball soup for the first time. Or kreplach.

So, in the season of parties and shopping and family gatherings lies your opportunity to gather up all of the goodness and save it for a time when you do have time to write. When you have a character who requires a joyous demeanor, or an overstuffed belly, or even a Grinchy mood. Or a fancy hat. Or food on his face.

The best part is, no one knows what you’re doing. And you won’t be writing about these people, just your experience of them.

Don’t forget about the feeling you get when you wait in line for an hour, or get caught in a two-for-one sweater frenzy. Don’t forget the excitement of seeing someone you haven’t seen all year—or maybe that’s worry.

Whoever you see and whatever you do, if you need to, just pack away the pen and the smart phone and enjoy the season. Take it all in, but don’t take notes.  It will all be there when you need it, ready to be retrieved, and when your belly is filled with food, your calendar is filled with plans, your closets are filled with hidden gifts—hopefully your head will be filling with ideas!

 

 

 

Guest Post: Author Sonia Taitz’s Long, Winding, And Inspiring Road To Publication

DOWN UNDERIt’s December! Are you slowing down or gearing up? Are you taking inventory of what you’ve accomplished this year or what you’ve neglected? I’d say that amidst the cookies and presents, it’s time to (at the very least) remember that there are many ways to meet (or exceed) writing goals. Sometimes one good, solid paragraph is a major accomplishment. Sometimes it’s a word count. Sometimes it’s simply untangling a plot knot in your head. No matter what, it’s always good to get a little inspiration—and that’s what I offer you today with the introduction of author Sonia Taitz, and her interesting road to the publication of her three novels. 

Sonia is honest and funny—key components of author sanity in my opinion.

Please welcome Sonia to Women’s Fiction Writers! 

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Greer Macallister Ponders The Mystery Of Historical Fiction

TML coverToday, author Greer Macallister tackles the age-old question of genre! Historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance. Does it matter? How do we fit? What does it mean? I’m not sure there are any definite answers, but Greer has it right. It’s the reader who matters, and our job is to deliver a good story. THAT’S what’s most important, no matter when, where, or how, your story exists.

Please welcome Greer Macallister to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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Giveaway & Guest Post: Author Tina Ann Forkner

 

 

Jeanne Takenaka is the winner!DSC_0084

I don’t do many giveaways on Women’s Fiction Writers so you know this is a big deal! Today author Tina Ann Forkner is giving away two of her three novels, WAKING UP JOY (published in October by Tule Publishing) and ROSE HOUSE, published in 2009. And just for kicks — I’m giving away a copy of THE GLASS WIVES to the winner as well. You’ve read all these books, you say? Well someone told me that some gift giving holidays are right around the corner! 

I loved all Tina’s books but I have a special place in my heart for WAKING UP JOY, and today you’ll find out why. I also have a special place in my heart for Tina. We met when I was an anonymous mommy blogger in 2006 and have truly come a long way. All the way to meeting in person for the first time earlier this year!

tina

Today you’ll read about Tina’s publishing journey, and you’ll likely be inspired for your own. Just leave a comment about your publishing journey—or about anything else reading, writing, book, or cute kitten related (I just love those cute kitty videos!)—and one lucky reader will win all three books! The winner will be chosen on Friday! US addresses only. 

Amy xo

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Interview: Author Leslie Lehr Says Keep A Movie In Mind When Writing Your Novel To Keep Your Story Moving

WAMKcoverFinalI’m so excited that Leslie Lehr is here with us today at Women’s Fiction Writers! Not only is Leslie sharing how she approached adapting her latest novel into a screenplay (as if that’s not enough), but she gives practical advice on how to keep our stories moving along to make them page turners!

Please welcome Leslie Lehr to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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