The Days of Awe are the ten days between the new year, Rosh ha Shanna, and the final day of awe, Yom Kippur. Jews, so goes the law, have these ten days to make right anything from the year just ending. Then, on Yom Kippur, so-called Day of Atonement, you can stand (as I think of it) At-One-ment with God.
It is a marvelous yearly cycle that keeps me up to date with my amends and my humanity.
Graphic by the artist Noam Weiner. The Hebrew letters read: Shana Tova, meaning, “a good and sweet year.” Say it to a Jew! (Graphic by Noam Weiner. The Hebrew letters spell, “Shana Tova” a good and sweet year.)
In Novmber of 2002, I interviewed Leonard Nimoy for his book, Shekina.
How I Got That Story
Book Review Rule #1: Keep your ears open. Always.
I was working in a Jewish bookstore when a massive controversy 86’d Leonard Nimoy’s big speaking event. Such a scandal!
Rule #2: Know who’d want to publish that story.
I was on the phone to The Stranger like a hobo on a ham sandwich. Looking back, I should have tried The New York TImes first. The story went international, ultimately to be parodied on Saturday Night Live. I knew a freelancer at The Times who covered Jewish-y/city-y stuff. However, I had never written for The Times, and I had, regularly, for The Stranger. Bird in the hand vs. bigger publication? A question we will address at the upcoming workshop.
Rule #3: Know your subject.
I had years of experience with the concept of the Shekina. I knew its importance to the various slices of Jewish culture, and I knew what it meant to me.
Rule #4: Be prepared to be inspired.
I call this the “Who knew?” principle. Jews usually define Shekina as the female essence of God. During my research, however, I learned that Shekina translates literally from Hebrew as “Divine Presence.” The Shekina of Jews was given its female essence by ancient Kabbalists (who pre-dated Madonna by centuries.)
None of the above factored into the published piece, or even into my pitch. So what? I loved learning it. It was fun talking to Leonard Nimoy, too, if you go for that sort of thing.
Rule #5: Hit your deadline and your word count.
You can ask Josie Davis over at PLOP! how I butchered Rule #5 in my recent piece on Madonna. Fortunately for me, she still wants me to review for her.
Rule #6: Write the review that the book deserves, even if it is a negative review; even if it’s about Leonard Nimoy.
Read my final piece, and see if you can tell which part Nimoy objected to. My criticisms were well-supported and the piece well-balanced. I didn’t intend to take pot-shots, but I wasn’t afraid to do my job: critique.
Rule #7: Publicize your publication.
My upcoming workshop at Richard Hugo House will cover this essential area in depth. I might slap up a post about it, if comments demonstrate the interest. HINT HINT.