From Silt and Ashes

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Interview: Meet Author, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Published March 18, 2017 by rochellewisoff

I had great fun this past week interviewing with fellow author Sarah Potter. The magic of the internet and Skype certainly shorten the distance between us. What interesting times we live in. Thank you, Sarah!

Sarah Potter Writes

I’m thrilled to welcome author, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields to my blog for a second time, on this happy occasion to interview her about her writing.  For those of you who missed her guest storyteller post back in November of last year, here’s a recap of her biography.

Kansas City native Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is a woman of Jewish descent and the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants. She has a close personal connection to Jewish history, which has been a recurring theme throughout much of her writing. Growing up, she was heavily influenced by the Sholom Aleichem stories, the basis for Fiddler on the Roof. Her novels Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes and As One Must, One Can were born of her desire to share the darker side of these beloved tales—the history that can be difficult to view, much less embrace.

She is also the author…

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HAPPY SATURDAY IN LEE’S SUMMIT

Published February 27, 2017 by rochellewisoff

What can be more gratifying for an author than seeing her books in print? Seeing that readers appreciate her efforts. 

Last Saturday marks my first book signing in 2017 at Reader’s World in Lee’s Summit Missouri. For those unfamiliar with this little book and gift nook, it’s a lovely, local alternative to its national competitor. Many thanks go to Christian Apodaca who is inviting and supportive to local authors. 

Book sales went fairly well, thanks to three readers who bought the entire trilogy.

In addition to the joy of selling, was the joy of seeing some friends I haven’t seen for a while. One of the high points for me was reconnecting with Dawn Downey, fellow author who was one of my earliest mentors in the Kansas City Writers Group. 

My husband, Jan was on hand to snap a few photos: 

27 January 2017

Published January 25, 2017 by rochellewisoff

Undersea St. Thomas 4 Meme

Note: You can call me crabby or controlling if you like, but…over the past few weeks some writers are going way over the word limit. No one will be kicked out for doing so, but the challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less. While I don’t take issue with a word or two over, last week one of them went over 200 words. 

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The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. 

PHOTO PROMPT © Al Forbes

PHOTO PROMPT © Al Forbes

Think you’ve seen this photo before? You have. It’s been pointed out that I posted this prompt in February. 😯  A repost was unintentional, but is what it is. If you have a story for it you were happy with, feel free to use it. 😉 Thank you Dawn and Suzanne for pointing it out. This is a first. What was I thinking? 

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

Not exactly a flash fiction and not exactly an excerpt. Here’s a scene from AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN. 

OLIVE BRANCH

            Nikolai Derevenko and his father had hardly spoken in twenty years so Sergei’s sudden appearance in Kansas City for his grandson’s graduation mystified him.

            Sergei rotated the crank on the front of the car, starting the motor, and climbed into the driver’s seat. “It’s a Ford. Almost new—Model N, made in 1906,” he shouted over the clatter. “My gift. Tomorrow you learn to drive it.”

            Nikolai scowled. “Thanks, but no thanks. God gave us legs and there are streetcars. With all of your frivolous spending you won’t have enough for your fare back to Russia.”

            “I’m not going back.”

*

*

nikolai

Dr. Nikolai Derevenk0 © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Sergei Derevenko © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Sergei Derevenko © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Vasily Derevenko © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Vasily Derevenko © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

***

If you’ve made it this far down the page I hope you’ll take the time to watch the short video. Perhaps this is the reason I’ve been impressed of late to write so many Holocaust themed stories. I plan to post my picture on Twitter and Facebook. When push comes to shove there is one race…THE HUMAN RACE #WeRemember

FACE TO FACE

Published January 23, 2017 by rochellewisoff
Theodore Roosevelt portrait

Theodore Roosevelt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Several times over the past few years, as I’ve painted “portraits” of my characters, someone has asked who I used for models. As a rule the answer is, “no one in particular.” In fact, I’ve often thought if I ever need a regular job, I could apply for one as a police sketch artist since I’ve become adept at composites: the eyes from one model coupled with a nose and mouth from another. “Oh, and that’s the perfect hairstyle.” I admit to using a few celebrity photos, although I try not to make them look like portraits. On the other hand, if it’s meant to be a portrait I’m a little more particular. 

        Google images and Pinterest are wonderful places to find vintage photos for the dress and hairstyles of the day. All great fun for the girl who used to get in trouble for daydreaming in class while drawing pictures. Of course those daydreaming episodes were practice for my future storytelling career. 😉 

        From my first chapters of PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME I’ve had a mental image of Havah Cohen. 

havah-at-16

Havah at 16 © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Havah in her 20's © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Havah in her 20’s © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

Last week I had lunch with some friends. One of them brought an American history book he thought would come in handy for my research. It’s a lovely hardbound coffee table book with lots of pictures. 

He opened it to a bookmarked page and pointed to a photo of a young Russian Jewish immigrant and said, “I thought you might know this lady.” 

I suddenly felt like Karen Eiffel, (Emma Thompson) the author in the movie “Stranger than Fiction” coming face to face with Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). There she was, the girl whose voice I heard in my dreams. Do you agree? 

i-know-this-lady

 

ARMED WITH PAINTBRUSH AND KEYBOARD

Published January 17, 2017 by rochellewisoff

burning-shul-complete

Chapter One

NATALYA, MOLDAVIA, THE PALE OF SETTLEMENT, EASTERN EUROPE, NOVEMBER 1899

 Gunshots and screaming woke sixteen-year-old Havah Cohen from a sound and dreamless sleep. She ran to her window and saw flames shooting through the roof of the synagogue. Dense clouds of black smoke poured through the windows as men with shovels and rocks smashed the stained glass. By moonlight she could see her older brother lying beside the road in a bloodstained night shirt. Her other brother, a few feet away, lay face down.

“Papa!” She screamed when she saw him run from the inferno clutching the sacred scrolls.

                                           ~~From PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields 

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency

***

burning-shul-step-2Above is the opening paragraph to my first novel PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME. To my knowledge, a shetl called Natalya, Moldavia never existed. On the other hand, the 1930 census lists my grandfather Sam Weiner’s birthplace as Rosinia, Poland which doesn’t seem to have existed either. I’ve searched the internet for every imaginable spelling. Then  last year a Holocaust survivor from Poland confirmed what I’ve suspected for some time. Rosinia was probably one of those villages destroyed by pogromists. 

I’ve often wondered how close to Havah’s story Grandpa’s came. All I know of his background came from my mother and a cousin. According to Mom, he came burning-shul-step-6over from a part of the country that went from being part of Poland to being part of Russia. It was part of the Pale of  Settlement in any case, the Jewish ghetto of Eastern Europe. Grandpa came to America at the age of 19 “with nothing but the shirt on his back.” He didn’t know his own birthday because those records that were kept in the synagogue had been destroyed. He taught himself to be a tailor. 

Sam Weiner circa 1940-Something

History tells many stories of rabbis who sacrificed their lives to save the Torah scrolls. Havah’s father, Rabbi Shimon Cohen does just that as PLEASE  SAY KADDISH FOR ME opens.

At that moment Havah’s idyllic childhood ends and her journey begins. PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME, FROM SILT AND ASHES and recently released, AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN follow Havah, her friends and family from that night in 1899 to 1908. 

havahs-triplets

Amazon  Amazon AU  Amazon UK  Amazon CA  Amazon DE  Amazon IT  Amazon FR  Amazon ES  Amazon IN  Amazon JP  B&N   Smashwords  KOBO  Scribd  Goodreads

Before the completion of AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN, my publisher asked if I would be interested in compiling a coffee table companion book that would include the character studies I’ve posted. It took a split second to answer that one! Presently I’m hard at work on this book which is due out this spring to be entitled: 

a-stone-for-the-journey-cover-idea

CHARACTER STUDY – The Gitterman’s Hanukkah Menorah

Published December 11, 2016 by rochellewisoff

In the beginning, I referred to Havah’s trilogy as “The Menorah Saga.” Although the series has gone through numerous revisions over the past twelve years, one thing has remained a constant–Rabbi Yussel’s menorah. Although, it’s an inanimate object this holiday candelabra holds a very special place in the Gitterman family in all three of the novels.

***

menorah-step1

Crafted to look like a tree in the wind, the main stem curved with nine branches arcing in opposite directions. The candle cups sat upon them like majestic crowns. Between seven of the branches and the trunk an opening hosted a pair of doves, positioned breast to breast, and perched on a flower covered vine, spreading their graceful wings. The vine twined around the trunk, ending at the wide base.

Proud of its history, on most occasions Arel was usually more than willing to recount the story. Tonight his tongue turned to dust. “My grandfather…of blessed memory…was a rabbi as was his father before him.” menorah-step-2

“Mine, too.” Havah leaned forward, elbows on the table, and propped her head on her hands.

Did Adam feel this way in the Garden of Eden when he brought the succulent fruit to his hungry lips?

Arel found his voice again, though not without a struggle. “Zaydeh…Papa’s father…an artist. After my grandmother died he made this menorah in her memory. She was very young”

“What did she die of?”

“Christian poison! Tell her Arel.” Yussel’s bony hands curled into fists. “A pogrom. In the street like an animal. Fifty-three years ago. Like yesterday I remember.”

“You must’ve been a boy.”

“Five years old. Her Yosi, her heart, she called me.”

Tears quivered in Havah’s eyes. “You can tell how much he loved her by the verse he chose to engrave on the menorah, ‘Behold, you are lovely. Your eyes are like doves.’ It’s from Song of Songs.”

~~From PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME

***

menorah-step-3

To evade his pleading gaze, she studied the menorah that sat like royalty on decorated oilcloth in the middle of her oak dining table.

Nine candle flames reflected in the silver stems of the candelabra that had survived three generations of Gittermans and a journey across the sea. It had been crafted to resemble a tree with nine branches swaying in the wind. A flowered vine twined around the trunk which was etched with the Hebrew words for “Behold your eyes are like doves.” Just above the trunk, snuggled together like lovers, were two doves.menorah-step-4

At their first meeting—Sabbath dinner with her adoptive family—Arel told her how his grandfather had crafted it in memory of his slain wife when Yussel was only five. While the story fascinated Havah, it was Yussel’s son who fascinated her more. As he recounted the history, his luminescent gray eyes gleamed with enthusiasm and intelligence. Her grief fresh and wounds painful, she found solace in the rise, fall and lilt of his resonant voice.

“Havah? Where are you?”

~~From FROM SILT AND ASHES

***

 

menorah-step-5      Havah stood on tiptoe to put the menorah away. The unique candelabra still fascinated her even as it had the first time she saw it, the night she met Arel.

            Feeling Arel’s hot breath on her neck, she shivered and set the menorah back on the table. He slipped his arms around her waist. She turned in his embrace. “Remember, Arel? It was love at first sight.”

            “I wasn’t such a hideous sight back then.”

            “Miss Tova says Bayla has the prettiest Papa in town.”

            “Havah, do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?”

            “You know what I mean.”

            As he opened his mouth to reply, Lev rushed into the dining room with an armload of books.

            Arel dropped his arms to his sides. “Where have you been?”

            “Didn’t Aunt Havah tell you I’d be late?”

            “She didn’t say you’d be this late.”

            “It’s only eight-thirty.”

“Well?”

            “I went to Vasily’s to study.” Lev set his books on the table. “He’s a year ahead of me so he gave me his old textbooks.”

            “Have you had supper?” asked Havah. “How was school?”

            “School was great and Oxana invited me to eat with them.”

            “Oh dear, you must be starved.”

            “Not to worry, Auntie mine.” Lev playfully pinched Havah’s cheek. “Vasily cooked.”

            “Vasily is younger than you.” Arel thumbed through a book. “Shouldn’t you be ahead of him?”

            Lev’s jaw tensed. “I’ve missed a lot of school.”

            “And you’re proud of this?”

            Lev crimped his lips together.

            Havah’s stomach kinked into a knot. “Arel, listen to him for once.”

            “Damn you, Uncle Arel!” Lev seized the book. “Nothing I do pleases you.”

            In one heart-stopping motion Arel slapped Lev, hitting the menorah. It toppled to the floor and broke in two at Havah’s feet. The ground listed beneath her. The color drained from Arel’s face. Lev held his book to his chest, Arel’s handprint bright on his cheek.

            Yussel dropped to his knees and searched for the menorah with trembling hands until he found it. His shoulders sagged as he pressed the two pieces against his heart. Sitting on the floor, he rocked to and fro. Tears soaked his beard as he chanted, “‘Gahm kee elekh b’gay tzalmavet…yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…’”

“It’s only one branch, Papa.” Havah knelt beside him. “Surely it can be fixed.”

            “Once a limb is severed can the tree be made whole again?”

~~From AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN

 

yussels-menorah-in-frame

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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fsaa-amazon-jpg

aomoc-titled-cover-art

 The Trilogy is Complete! All books available in print, Kindle and Nook. Look for them at Amazon.com,  Barnesandnoble.com or Argusbooks.com

Represented by Jeanie Loiacono 

Loiacono Literary Agency

9 December 2016

Published December 7, 2016 by rochellewisoff

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The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. 

PHOTO PTOMPT © Lucy Fridkin

PHOTO PROMPT © Lucy Fridkin (my friend since kindergarten…wow, that’s a loooong time!)

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The following is a tweaked scene from my first novel PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 99

MOMENT OF MOMENTS

            Like an impetuous child, Havah hopped from foot to foot.  New York City’s imposing skyline appeared to be painted against gray clouds.

            What kind of life would they have in this unfamiliar place? She wound and unwound the fringes of her shawl around her index finger. Would Americans understand her English?

            Yussel grasped her arm. “Is she there?”

            “Yes, Papa. Like a queen with flowing robes and a crown, she’s standing in the harbor holding her torch high in the air for the entire world to see.

            His sightless eyes brimmed and he smiled serenely. “Yes, I see her.”

*

*

*

Framed Havah at 16

HAVAH COHEN GITTERMAN – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The final edits are complete! The third book in the Havah Cohen Gitterman trilogy is out! 

CLICK HERE

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