Argus Publishing

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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

Taking Flight-This Week!

Published November 14, 2016 by rochellewisoff

Reservations are made. Packing soon to begin. California here I come…this week! the-writers-block-mug

I’m looking forward to meeting Bobbi Bell and Jim Christina in person. http://latalkradio.com/content/writers-block Thursday night, 7:00PM Pacific time. It will be archived for those who aren’t able to catch it live. 

What does one wear for a radio interview? Whatever goes with:

the-shoes

While I wasn’t able to schedule any book signings, one Barnes & Noble manager said she’d order in two copies of PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME and FROM SILT AND ASHES. She invited me to come in and sign them. Being Judaica they’re just in time for Hanukkah. If you’re in the area the store is at 12136 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

bn-bookstar2

 Th-that’s all for now, Folks. 

Conferring with OWLs

Published August 22, 2016 by rochellewisoff

Four times a year a group of writers from all over the Midwest and beyond gather to share writing and marketing tips. Often agents and editors are invited to share their expertise and take pitches from aspiring authors. The conferences are free to members, save the motel fee and food costs.

OWL 2016 CG

With fellow authors Caroline Giammanco and Diane Yates

 

Madison Woods, OWL friend and creator of Friday Fictioneers.

Madison Woods, OWL friend and creator of Friday Fictioneers.

My first time at a conference was in the summer of 2007. I’d “completed” PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME and was interested in finding an agent. I really didn’t expect to find anyone in an organization with the word Ozarks to be interested in my Jewish historical novel.

How wrong can a person be? I found not only interest but a group of generous mentors. Each time I went to a workshop, I learned something new which precipitated a rewrite. One of the most significant classes was on how to pitch a book to an agent in five sentences.

Jeanie and Me Aug 2016

Jeanie Loiacono and Me

The panel: Publisher Duke Pennell, Publisher Lou Turner, Editor Alex Hess, Agent Jeanie Loiacono

The panel: Publisher Duke Pennell, Publisher Lou Turner, Editor Alex Hess, Agent Jeanie Loiacono

Over the years I’ve made some good friends and met people who have been instrumental in changing my life. The first is Lou Turner, founder of High Hill Press. In 2010, after I’d submitted short stories to ECHOES OF THE OZARKS and VOICES, two OWL publications, she invited me to compile my own anthology for HHP. In the process I learned a lot from her short story editor, Delois McGrew.

I’ve had the opportunity to pitch to and be turned down by a few agents until I met Jeanie Loiacono at the May 2012 conference. She now represents my two novels and is reading my third.

 

My book table OWL August 2016

When I joined OWL in 2007 I was in awe of the authors with their tables. Now in 2016 I’m blessed to have three books of my own and one on the way.

Visiting old friends and meeting new ones made for a pleasant weekend. I was thrilled to see Lou and Delois. Jeanie was also one of the speakers. Hugs all around.

OWL art and photo contest winners.

OWL art and photo contest winners.

My paintings took first and second place in the annual art contest.

My paintings took first and second place in the annual art contest.

Alex Hess, an editor from Skyhorse Publishing in NY spoke to us about the ever changing face of the publishing industry. I hope to implement some of her suggestions on using social media in the not too distant future.

President of OWL, Diane Yates, asked the two biggest hams in the group to open Friday night with entertainment. Ronda Del Boccio captured us on video.

Character Study – Svechka, Moldavia

Published August 18, 2016 by rochellewisoff

“More pogroms. And so close.” Rabbi Yussel Gitterman’s sightless eyes filled with tears.

Eighteen-year-old Arel Gitterman pulled his coat around his ears and shivered, partly from cold and partly with rage. What had they done to make the Christians hate them so much? “We should retaliate. We should gather all of the young men—”

“Shah! Such nonsense!”

“Ouch! Papa, is it unreasonable for men to protect their homes?”

“Remember, my son. A soft answer turns away wrath.”

“How can you say that, Papa? Last night innocent people were murdered in their beds all over the countryside. Did they have time to make an answer—of any kind?”

Hershel Levine’s green eyes flashed. “The lad makes sense, Yussel. There is much cruelty in the world. Sometimes one has to wonder what the Almighty is thinking.”

“So, Hershel, my old friend, do you think the three of us, an old cantor, a blind rabbi and a boy who’s barely able to squeeze out a whisker are going to seek revenge on those animals with their guns and Czar Nicolas, may his name be blotted out?”

Arel gritted his teeth. “Reb Pinkas said he heard the Christians burned down a synagogue. A rabbi died trying to protect the sacred scrolls. Papa, it could just as easily have been you.”     

“Reb Pinkas is up early bearing his tales. Yes, it could have been any Jew in this land, my Son.” Yussel patted his shoulder. “It’s dangerous to be a Jew in this Pale of Settlement. But now let’s tend to matters at hand. It’s Shabbes, the Sabbath, and we have a synagogue to prepare for morning services.”

“Yes, Papa.” Arel knew from experience arguing with his father would not accomplish anything. Still his anger boiled because they were Jews who lived in poverty under the tyranny of the Russians. Prisoners in their own country, unable own land and denied education beyond their Hebrew schools.

For the next few moments Yussel’s cane tapping along the frozen ground was the only sound. Each man lost in his own thoughts, they approached the synagogue, the largest building in the Jewish quarter of Svechka.

To call a backward village “The Candle” was a contradiction. Arel supposed at some point in time the Russians considered it a place of enlightenment.

~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency

***

To the best of my knowledge, the shtetl or village known in Please Say Kaddish for Me as Svechka only exists in the author’s imagination. Like Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof it represents the many villages scattered throughout Eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

HERSHEL LEVINE - Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

HERSHEL LEVINE – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Shtetl is Yiddish for “little town.” These villages ranged in size from several hundred residents to several thousand. The Jews usually lived within the town while the Gentiles tended to live on the outskirts. Central to the Jewish community was the Synagogue and Kahal, the community council. Most of the shtetl Jews were artisans and shop owners while the scholars were the revered minority. Both Arel and Havah, the children of rabbis, have grown up in their respective shtetls, Natalya and Svechka, as members of the elite part of their societies.

Framed Arel in Svechka

AREL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

 

Framed Havah at 16

HAVAH COHEN – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Enjoy a little taste of what their world was like. 

 Note: If you’ve read and enjoyed either or both of my books, please leave a review on Amazon.com and any of the other sites. I ask for Amazon primarily because of the scope of influence. Thank you.

Shalom,

Rochelle

PSK Cover

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COMING SOON!

COMING SOON!

Check out my author page on the Loiacono Website.  For all of the character studies thus far, click on the link Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Art and Blogs or my website RochelleWordArt

25 March 2016

Published March 23, 2016 by rochellewisoff

The disc and the dragonfly

FIC

The following photo is the PROMPT. Keep in mind that all photos are the property of the contributor, therefore copyrighted and require express permission to use for purposes other than Friday Fictioneers. Giving credit to whom credit is due is proper etiquette. 

Please be considerate and make an effort to stay within the suggested word count. 

PHOTO PROMPT - © Ted Strutz

PHOTO PROMPT – © Ted Strutz

get the InLinkz code

Due to circumstances beyond my control this past week, including an all day car repair, dental issues and a computer crash, I am posting an excerpt from my working manuscript, As One Must, One Can. While it’s just under a hundred words, it’s not a complete story. In this stage of the book, Havah, who teaches an unheard of girl’s Hebrew class, accompanied by her nephew Lev, is going to check on two of her students who live in McClure Flats which was a Kansas City Slum populated mostly by Russian Jewish immigrants. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

(the year is 1908)

Word Count: 97

AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN – EXCERPT

            Lev and Havah passed a row of brick hovels with lean-tos serving as porches.

            Everywhere she turned she saw unkempt children whose noses leaked slimy trails to their lips. 

            A woman with pockmarked cheeks and sunken eyes sat beside a shanty, her blouse hanging open so her toddler could suckle from her shriveled breast.

            A little girl chased a small animal crying, “Kit-kat! Kit-kat!” in Yiddish.

           The creature scurried under Havah’s skirts before disappearing between the cracks of a dilapidated wall. The ground swerved beneath her when she realized it was neither cat nor dog, but a large rat. 

.

.

.

Lev Resnick, Havah's nephew-Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Lev Resnick, Havah’s nephew-Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Havah Cohen Gitterman -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Havah Cohen Gitterman -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

McClure Flats, Kansas City, Missouri

McClure Flats, Kansas City, Missouri-Photo taken around 1910

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BN Event Poster

Character Study – Mendel and David Cohen

Published February 8, 2016 by rochellewisoff
Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Although Havah’s older brothers, Mendel and David Cohen, perished at the beginning of Please Say Kaddish for Me, they are ever alive in her heart. Two very different personalities, Havah adored them both. Her memories of them are a constant thread throughout Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes, and the imminent third novel in the trilogy, As One Must One Can.

            Her eldest brother, Mendel, eight years her senior, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a rabbi.

***

            By the tender age of twelve, Havah had developed the attributes of a young woman. Despite her disappointed protests, her father agreed with her teacher that her Heder education should come to an end. The boys would never learn Holy writ with such a comely distraction.

            Her brother Mendel became her lamed, her teacher. While she missed her classmates’ challenges, she enjoyed mornings with Mendel and flourished under his tutelage. A strict teacher, he never allowed her any leeway because of her gender or kinship.

~~Taken from From Silt and Ashes

***

            David, who was two years younger than Mendel, was a gifted artist. In Please Say Kaddish for Me, Havah tells Shayndel that he could paint a flower so real that you would swear you could smell its fragrance.

            David was the mischievous brother who mercilessly teased his little sister. She regrets that shortly before his murder, they had quarreled. 

***

            With a suppressed sigh she covered the braided loaves with clean towels and set them on the back of the stove to rise. “The last time I baked Hollah, I couldn’t put raisins in it because my brother David ate all of them. I wish I hadn’t gotten so mad. I said horrid things.”

“Were they the last words you spoke to him?” Fruma Ya’el unfolded a linen tablecloth, snapping it so it billowed and dropped to cover the table.

“No.” Gathering the bowls and utensils, Havah hobbled to the sink. “I can still see him with Mama’s clean dish towel over his head, walking bent over. He sang all raspy like an old lady, too. ‘Little Bubbe Fuss Bucket. All astir over a raisin. A raisin. A shriveled little raisin. Oy, yoy, yoy.’” 

She took a kettle of hot water from the stove and poured it over the dishes. “I could never stay mad at him. If only I’d known—”

Gittel grabbed a dish towel. “Would you have done anything differently?”

A soap bubble floated up from the water. Havah popped it with her finger. “No.”

~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me

***

            Each night of Hanukkah, Havah and her brothers took turns lighting the candles. Papa led the recitation of the blessings. To this day, when she heard distant thunder Havah swore it was Papa’s resonant voice chanting prayers in heaven.

            One year, her brother David, then twelve, ate so many macaroons he spent half the night in the outhouse.  The next morning, fourteen-year-old Mendel, always the teacher, seized the opportunity to expound on the evils of gluttony. David’s green-tinged cheeks flushed while six-year-old Havah giggled into her napkin. 

~~Taken from As One Must One Can (2016)

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency

***

 

FSAA Cover

Amazon Amazon Spain  Amazon Italy  Amazon Germany  Amazon UK  Amazon France

Amazon AU  Shelfari

The Sequel to

PSK Cover

 

Amazon  Angus & Robertson  B&N  BAM  BookWorld  FishPond  Shelfari  The Book Depository  Waterstones  GoodReads  iDreamBooks  HPB Hudson Book Sellers   IndieBound  Powell’s Books

Amazon AU  Amazon UK  Amazon Germany  Amazon Italy  Amazon France  Amazon Spain

Check out my author page on the Loiacono Website.  For all of the character studies thus far, click on the link Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Art and Blogs or my website RochelleWordArt.

 

Character Study – Rabbi Shimon and Miriam Cohen

Published January 24, 2016 by rochellewisoff

Out of the corner of her eye she [Havah] saw her mother creep through the doorway and inch toward the bed with a wooden rolling pin high over her head. She slammed it down on the back of the man’s head. With a sudden jerk and a grunt he released Havah. He rolled off her and fell to the floor unconscious.

She sat up, clutching a pillow and stared down at him. Blood pooled under his head and seeped into the cracks between the floor boards. This had to be a dream. In the morning Papa would wink at her over breakfast and assure her it had all been a horrendous nightmare.

 Her mother yanked her hand, dragged her from the bed and held her for a moment, her tears hot on Havah’s neck.

“Hurry, Havah. May the God of Israel go with you.” Taking Havah’s face between her hands her mother kissed her forehead.

“But Mama—”

Tugging Havah’s arm, her mother dragged her to the back door of the house and shoved her out. “No arguing. Go!”

Heart thumping, she ran. Thick smoke stung her eyes and burned her throat. She stopped and turned to look one last time. The blazing synagogue crumbled to the ground.

“No, Havah, don’t look back!”

                      ~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Miriam Cohen 2

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The Heder teacher’s face turned crimson. He narrowed his eyes and glared at five-year-old Havah as if she were a piglet about to be dumped on his doorstep. Then he clenched his tobacco-stained teeth and spat a brown glob on the doorstep.

Up until this moment she had been excited to learn to read the Torah, the words that came from Adoshem’s own mouth. Huddled against Papa’s shoulder she hid her eyes in his coat folds.

“You can’t be serious, Rabbi Shimon. She’s a girl.”

“So she is.” Papa’s arm tightened around her. “My daughter’s mind is every whit as keen as her brother Mendel’s.”

“To be certain she’s a bright one, and one day she’ll be a most excellent wife and mother. Perhaps she’ll even marry a rabbi herself but, Rebbe, to come to Heder with boys? It’s not right.”

“Where does the Torah say it’s wrong for a girl to learn?”

“Rabbi Ben Hyrcanus clearly stated in the Talmud that to teach a daughter Torah is tiflut, obscenity. And did he not also say that the words of the Torah should be burned rather than be entrusted to a woman? Rabbi, you of all people should know this.”

“As far as I’m concerned it’s opinion and rubbish! Didn’t the prophet Yo’el write ‘your sons and daughters shall prophecy’? Miriam and Deborah—were they not judges in Israel?”

“You win, Rebbe.”

“I always do.”

                 ~~Taken from From Silt and Ashes by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Until the pogrom that took them from her, Havah’s parents, Rabbi Shimon and Miriam Cohen were the two most important people her life.

            Not one to be bound by law and traditions, Rabbi Cohen relied more on Torah than Midrash, the rabbinic commentaries.  When questioned, he was quick to argue that the former was the irrefutable word of God while the latter was merely opinion and conjecture.  He encouraged his daughter and his wife, if they so desired, to study the Holy Word.

            Miriam was a gentle and loving wife who kept a clean, Kosher home. She considered her greatest treasures to be her husband, her two sons and her daughter.

            Havah adored her parents and her memories of them are a constant thread throughout the series. Even though she was only sixteen when they died, their words of wisdom are always there to guide her.

FSAA Cover

Amazon Amazon Spain  Amazon Italy  Amazon Germany  Amazon UK  Amazon France

Amazon AU  Shelfari

The Sequel to

PSK Cover

 

Amazon  Angus & Robertson  B&N  BAM  BookWorld  FishPond  Shelfari  The Book Depository  Waterstones  GoodReads  iDreamBooks  HPB Hudson Book Sellers   IndieBound  Powell’s Books

Amazon AU  Amazon UK  Amazon Germany  Amazon Italy  Amazon France  Amazon Spain

Check out my author page on the Loiacono Website.  For all of the character studies thus far, click on the link Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Art and Blogs or my website RochelleWordArt.

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