Yes, traveling (a Midwest swing bookended by a Little Rock meeting and book talk and a St. Louis wedding and book talk, with stops in Louisville and beautiful Lexington, KY; Indianapolis; alma mater town Ann Arbor; Milwaukee homeland; Lincoln’s Springfield). Hardly the dizzying foreign destinations of the Today Show host’s annual odyssey this week.

But, more significantly, I’ve been AWOL from writing.

Sure, I got very busy this summer with the new novel, finishing a prologue and two chapters. Then there was Chapter 3–started on the plane home from meetings in New York City  in September and…not touched again for nearly a month. I finally buckled down and finished it two weeks ago. And, you may have noticed, no blog posts, either.

So, is this what they call writer’s block? A month of down time?

It took me 20+ years of research and four years of writing process to get AFTER THE AUCTION into the hands of readers. I’d like to think I have that kind of time left to publish #2, but let’s be candid: at 63, that’s magical thinking (sorry, Joan Didion). Every day should be viewed as a gift and an opportunity.

I’d call this unproductive period writer’s malaise–or funk. Mostly, it’s been a time of questioning. As in: What the hell am I doing? Why? Is writing the next Lily Kovner-based novel worthwhile? Has the experience of publishing the first book been fulfilling enough to keep on? Should I take my cue from naysaying agents and decide that I’m no good? Should I close down when contacts at potential speaking venues (like Jewish organizational professionals in various cities) don’t even bother to acknowledge an email? When a newspaper book critic says point blank to forget a review, if the book is self-published?

After all the years I did marketing and sales in business, is the rejection factor too much at this stage of life? I have always prided myself on being willing and able to cold call (or cold email) anyone. Are recipients too swamped for even a tacit response, or is business just that much ruder these days?

Today it’s all about social media marketing–the constant push to post on Facebook, to tweet on Twitter, to blog post, to get the book and me out there. Am I doing enough? Doing it right (whatever that means)? I do note that Twitter followers tend to increase when I’ve tweeted more. (How followers find me or anyone else not famous I have no clue. And the time it takes to follow those you follow–who gets anything else done?) Re: Facebook, I’m always amazed at the postings throughout the day from “friends” whom I know still work full-time. However useful these resources are, they’re also distracting.

Bottom line I’ve been asking myself, like Lily going after the Seder plate, do I need this in my life? Do I want it?

I’m trying hard to remind myself that this is a tough business, and I have had some nice surprises along the way.

The reviews in the Forward and Hadassah’s online summer edition were rare gifts. Some people like the book. The talks I give are very well-received.  I am fortunate enough to not have to write for a living. Maybe this whole new direction of writing books will keep my young (OK, a stretch…)

I HAVE met some very nice new people along the way (in person, online, by phone) and have been warmed by their support and that of long-cherished friends and family.

Writing is like exercising: hard to get started, something to bear while you’re doing it, but a great feeling when you’ve finished. Until it’s time to start all over again.

I am goal-oriented and today, after exercising (weight machines and a swim), I set the goal of writing a blog post. Goal for the coming week: Finish chapter 4  of The Lost Torah of Shanghai.

Let’s see if posting a to-do list will keep this writer writing!









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