1. What has been the most
challenging part of publishing for you?
A. Although the design and production of
the book was the most challenging part of publishing, this does not mean that
it was not an enjoyable and satisfying experience. Even the taxing and tedious
processes of editing and proofing the manuscript offered a richer understanding
of what it means to prepare creative work for an audience.
Each aspect of the publishing process helped me bring my vision of what the
book should look like, and the kind of reader experience it should engender, to
fruition. As a painter, I encounter these kinds of challenges as I create and
re-create visual passages; challenges are an inherent part of my creative
2. Why did you decide to
publish your work?
A. The work arose
as an illuminating intersection of my genealogical research and my artistic
enterprises. When I encountered significant obstacles in my search for my
husband’s ancestors, I began to shift my attention from archived documents to
archived memories and the images and possibilities they offered in telling a
story that I was just beginning to understand. With an emerging desire to share
my ruminations, I gave my early readers chapters to read, hoping they would
enjoy what I was learning and experiencing. I began to hear that my readers
found the story compelling, and that each reader found something particularly
meaningful, understanding the story and the characters in relationship to their
own lives, and the lives of their own families. What began as an attempt to
discover and preserve the hidden and lost legacies of my husband’s family – a
family we had believed would be forever lost to us — evolved into a story about
love, laughter, friendship, and sacrifice for all of us.
1. What has worked best for
A. Social media
offers me opportunities to interact with my audiences and I enjoy the dialogue
it encourages. I am learning more about the impact the book has on its readers,
and how to continue to engage my readers, even as I work on new stories.
1. What inspired you to write
A. For many of us,
there comes a moment in our busy, yet comfortable lives, when something changes
– when the world before us suddenly offers a new perspective, a compelling
choice. For me, one of those moments came on a quiet afternoon as I watched my
granddaughter Ella digging.
A budding genealogist, I had just put aside my own parents’ family tree and
turned to my husband’s family, hoping to go back a few generations. This, I was
finding, was an exercise in futility. My husband knew very little about his
ancestors, or about the family members who had died at the hands of the Nazis.
My mother-in-law Elzbieta and her brother Marian, both survivors of the Warsaw
Ghetto, never spoke about their lives in Poland and my husband grew up knowing
that this was not a topic for conversation or inquiry. I grasped this rule,
having witnessed the consequences of breaking it when a relative asked Marian
about her own family’s history, unleashing his explosive anger and pain, with
few answers to speak of. With my mother-in-law’s passing, Marian alone could
share his story and, along with it, his family’s history. Nevertheless, I could
not bring myself to question Marian, even as I sat with my own sadness and
inspired me to engage Marian and learn about his family, about Ella’s namesake
Ella was sitting in my yard digging alongside our puppy LJ and a little
earthworm. LJ was attempting to unearth a buried object, casting dirt and
debris in all directions, while Ella was carefully removing vegetation,
transplanting it, and feeding it to the busy earthworm. The activities
unfolding before me gave me the insight I desperately needed: if I am careful
and considerate, my own can be undamaging, fruitful, if not beneficial. I would
learn that beyond these goals, it was necessary.
2. Tell us about your writing
process, do you write plot first and then add characters or do you develop your
characters first? Do you have any quirks when writing like you have to have one
cup of coffee first or you can’t write until the first paragraph is written …
A. I typically begin with a scene that has
a visual richness that includes layers of content and understandings that I can
flesh out and explore. Interactions with people have always stimulated my
writing; some precious happenings engender images, elicit memories, and
generate ideas. The ruminations that occur in the aftermath of an experience
incite my writing.
My day begins with an early morning walk with my black lab LJ. While LJ sniffs
his way around our neighborhood, I allow myself to ponder images and their
emotional content that have made their way into my morning musings. I explore
the meanings that emerge from these contemplations for consequences and
back-stories, and usually arrive home with a narrative to create and the energy
required for the work.
This process is not
very different from my experiences as a painter, standing before my canvas. Using
paint as a medium for self-expression, I typically find myself putting colors
down on canvas – interacting colors applied with large brushes and thick,
excitable paint – as I imagine conversations that I may have had or witnessed,
or that I imagine occurring. With written language as my medium, I begin by
noting salient ideas and using words to describe people and emotionally packed
situations. This may happen even as I am relishing the experience, or grasping
the meaning of the encounter, as it happens. My mind and writing process brims
with conversations held in different languages: paint, color, mathematics,
words, and emotions. My writing is a dynamic, multidimensional canvas craving
interactions with the world.
3. What do you want readers to
get out of your story?
A. Each of us has a
personal story that resonates with others because of the humanity it exposes,
encouraging us to appreciate, critically analyze, or simply empathize. My story
includes testimonies to the lost lives of victims of the Holocaust, the hidden
lives of the survivors, and the heroism of the people who risked their lives to
save another. It is a journey into a perspective of life much broader, deeper,
and more precarious than many of us experience. Along with the emotional and intellective
experiences, I hope my readers will close the book understanding that more
often than not, it is not too late to do the right thing and that sometimes
doing the right thing is a simple gesture with unforeseen beneficial
4. What has been the most
rewarding part of your writing adventure?
A. Beyond finding
the right words to express myself, it has been immensely rewarding to find the
story having a significant emotional and intellective impact upon others. This
applies to the people involved in the story, those people who were unknowingly,
tangentially involved in the story, as well as my readers. In the process of
identifying and locating the living relatives of the brave, self-sacrificing
people who had rescued my husband’s family, I became acutely aware of how my
research had changed their lives. It brought a story of heroism to the name of
an ancestor, and rekindled a connection between generations of families brought
together by circumstances and war.
Playing a part in identifying, nominating, and formally recognizing people as
Righteous Among the Nations, the title Yad Vashem bestows upon non-Jewish
rescuers of Jews during WWII, was an awesome and gratifying outcome of my