Wednesday 18 March 2009

On Writing by Rosemary Kahn

I am never at a loss for ideas for stories. I write these down in notebooks; in my diary; on scraps of paper; in the margins of newspapers and I have recently taken to keeping a small note pad in the kitchen. Ideas are one thing but my best sentences always seem to pop into my head when I am in the shower or driving in heavy traffic! Later, try as I might, I can never seem to get them as perfect as they were the first time round. I wonder if this happens to all writers?

It is important for any writer to be self-disciplined and well organized. Although the computer is an invaluable tool, I find I still like to store my ideas and even my first and second drafts of a story, in a cardboard folder. These I file and they are easily accessible. I also put any correspondence into that same file, even the rejection slips!

Reading is more than a hobby for me. It is an essential part of my writing. As Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) said,

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write…”

I read widely, on many subjects, for myself and for my writing. I also make a point of keeping up with what is on the bookshop shelves in the Children’s section and spend time in the library listening to the children’s comments on certain books.

As I write mostly for young children, I read my own work out aloud. In this way, I can correct the flow of words and also make sure that my meaning is clear. I always write with a sense of purpose and I keep asking myself if this is what a small child would want to hear. I try to include humour in every story for very young children. There is time enough for the more serious stuff later on. I also always try to put myself in the minds of the main characters. I ask myself whether their behaviour is

appropriate – sometimes the real humour stands out when it is not!

To any aspiring writer I would say, love what you have chosen to do. Enjoy the process. It is hard work but so too is everything else in any profession, including sport.

My mother used to say “If it’s worthwhile doing, it is worthwhile doing well” and I thoroughly agree with that, although writing is so subjective. Never despair when rejection slips roll in – keep on going. It is worth it in the end when that first break through comes. There are very few events in life as thrilling as seeing your own first book in print!

Best of luck to you all.


On Being a Long Distance Grandmother

Recently I was reminded once again, just how hard it is to be living thousands of miles from our children and grandchildren. So far, I have been blessed with a beautiful 3 year old, who lives in Australia, and whom of course, I love dearly. That there must be many thousands of Grandparents in my position, does not help to ease the sadness in my heart, or the knowledge that this precious grandchild of mine will grow up without me really knowing her. We do see each other on Skype once a week and that is blessing for which I am not ungrateful, but I need more. I need personal contact. I have so much to learn from her, as she would have from me.

She is a bright little girl, and talks very well and sensibly for her age. It has been explained to her many times that her only granny lives far, far away. It’s a hard concept for her to grasp when she has never been to South Africa. She has not seen my home and probably never will. So I was doubly saddened a few days ago, when she turned to her mother, whilst we were on Skype, and said “ Mommy, can my Granny come for a sleepover this weekend?”

Blessings to you all.


Tuesday 17 March 2009

Baking Hamantaschen Purim 2009

This year, although I have no children at home, I felt like making Hamantaschen just for myself. As I am allergic to eggs, and as I did not want to use my usual recipe, adapted for the classroom when I was teaching at a Jewish Day School, I decided to search the web. This exercise brought up so many interesting sites, that before I knew it, I had forgotten about the Hamantaschen and had spent two very happy hours reading all sorts of other interesting items, such as how to make money from home and where to order beautiful wigs, a subject of my longing, but that’s another story altogether.

To return to the recipies. Here I was also distracted, as I scrolled through hundreds of kosher recipies for everything from bagels to Latkes. It seemed unbelievable that so few were egg free. At last I remembered my quest for hamantashen and eventually found an egg free one, using filo dough. It turned out to be very easy and quite delicious. I experimented with various fillings. My favourite being ground walnuts mixed with apricot jam. The recipe, however, makes 6 – 8 dozen! After the first tray, I began to make them bigger and in the end, had about 4 dozen, but even that was a bit much for one dieting granny. After 5 or 6 of the small ones, I had satisfied my craving and had thought through all my memories of “Purims” past and present. So I packed them up and delivered the lot to an old aged home nearby. They were delightfully sticky and I drove home humming, with the image of the oldies happily licking their fingers and smacking their lips!


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