My professional bio looks like a success story. (Note the word “looks like.”) Sure, over the years, I have published a lot. And in the beginning, I had heaps of beginner’s luck. It’s what came after that made the difference. The frustrations and let downs that’s what shaped and formed me the most. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 1984 I sold my first book Flight to Seven Swan Bay after calling Feldheim Publishers in Jerusalem and asking to speak with the editor-in-chief who quickly came on the line. Once I described my just-finished novel for young adults that took place in a forest in North America, she requested that I come in to sign a contract. Six months later, I saw Flight to Seven Swan Bay displayed in bookstores and cited in book reviews.
But this literary success quickly gave way to a struggle to keep my muse alive amid much personal distress. As an American who had immigrated to Israel because my husband desperately wanted to, I wound up as a homesick ex-pat, alienated from Israeli and worldly culture because I lived in a West Bank settlement. I turned to diary writing to keep sane. The blank pad that I titled “My Muse Book” hoping it would help me fire up ideas for my next novel, Falling Star, turned into personal accounts about the chaos of my daily life. As I wrote each day, I only wanted to catch glimpse of who I truly was and hoped that this would bring wholeness to my fragmented and frightened self.
It was my diaries about living as an American immigrant and alienated settler that captured the interest of my brother -in-law an editor at the NY Times. Acting as my agent, Neil was able to interest US News and World Report in publishing a seven page excerpt. This featured hunk of my diary in turn attracted the interest of a large publishing house in Paris. They gave me a generous advance for one volume of the diary intending to sell the foreign rights to an American publisher.
The makings of a great success story?
Sure. Except their marketing plans changed mid-project. They gave up the American marketing idea, publishing the diary in French translation and selling foreign rights only to a German publisher. A few months later, when they dropped the project altogether, I was heart-broken.