My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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cool eyes on a warm day

Just now, as I was logging in, I saw my face reflected in the computer screen – and it was my father’s face. Oh, these miracles of genetics, when sometimes you catch, in a glimpse of yourself or a loved one, an image of someone else, some relative. I feel for my adopted friends who never have the sudden awareness of being tethered to and anchored by the past, on and on back down the line.

A mild Sunday in Toronto – record-breaking highs, they say, at a few points above zero Celsius. I ran into a British neighbour yesterday, gingerly picking her way over over the filthy snowbanks, and we spoke of the warm day. “I guess this is it for snow?” she said hopefully, and I laughed. “It’s only February!” Poor innocent.
Less than eight weeks till I fly to Paris, unbelievable as that sounds. It’s surreal – here in Toronto in February wondering what to pack, trying to imagine Paris in April, London in May, Provence in July. A very important question is preoccupying me: What will they be wearing in Paris this spring? If you have a crystal ball and can answer this question, please put me out of my misery and let me know. Not that I have much choice – I can only pack what’s there in my closet, bedragged – no, the word is … funky! – as it may be.
New excitement: I have been invited to speak about my book at the famous Yiddish cultural centre, the Medem Library, in Paris. In French – now that’ll be a challenge. “Mon arriere-grand-pere…” If you’re going to be in Paris on April 4th, come to the Medem Library and hear me stumble through.
I cannot help but signal – hoping not to sound bitter because I’m not, no, I was once but now I really am not – that the Toronto Jewish Book Fair, which brings in speakers from all over the world to talk about their books, had absolutely no interest in mine. Nor, despite two years of effort, can I interest a single venue in Montreal, home to many of Canada’s Jews and Canada’s only Yiddish theatre company. I have been invited to speak, among other places, in New York, Washington, Paris and the University of Oxford, but not where I live or in the other obvious city nearby. It’s classic. 
But moving right along … another Wayson story.  I was so honoured – last week he sent me an essay he’d written for an anthology, asking for my editorial comments.  So I gave them to him, right in the kisser. Too preoccupied with beautiful language, was the thrust of my critique, and not with meaning – we can’t see the story for the words. I did a line by line edit and sent it back. 
Generous man that he is, he emailed both the original and the rewritten version, saying that I should read both to my classes to show the difference editing can make. So I read them to one class, full of trepidation – what if they liked the first version better and all I’d done was bludgeon Wayson’s lyrical language? But they agreed wholeheartedly that it’s better to understand the story than savour the words – though in Wayson’s masterful rewrite, of course, we can do both.
I then gave a piece of mine to him, and, picking out a line right at the end, he said, “Here’s your essay, right here.” The rest was just the runway, or, as my students know to call those preliminary, tentative pages, the logs. I was getting rolling, but it wasn’t until the last few lines that the true topic of my story came in. So now I’m starting again, throwing out all the rest – “No tension!” cried my editor. “No motive! I don’t have time for all this!” – and starting there at the end, where the tension and motive begin. 
My point once again – the Joy of Editing. It doesn’t matter if your writing has been anthologised thirty-six times and won major prizes, as Wayson’s has – you still need that pair of cool outside eyes to take a look.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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