Two Workshops in Israel

I’m excited to be doing two writing workshops in Israel this month! As a Hebrew-speaking Israeli writer who writes in English I’m in a unique position. I still feel strongly and deeply connected to my Israeli identity, but I don’t really belong in the Israeli literary community. I’ve learned to accept it, and realized that I can be Israeli first and still be a Canadian writer, but a part of me—reminiscent of the young girl who grew up in Israel, wrote in Hebrew and dreamt of publishing a book— longs to be accepted in my country of birth.

Since The Best Place in Earth was published, I’ve been connecting with Israel’s English writing community and I’m amazed by how vibrant and dynamic and diverse it is. There’s an even an MA in Creative Writing in English in Bar-llan university, and bookstores like Tmol Shilshom in Jerusalem and Sipur Pashut in Tel Aviv regularly hold readings and other literary events in English. So I was thrilled to be invited to run these workshops (one of them put up by Bar Ilan), even if it means I don’t get to have a real vacation while I’m in Israel. (Who am I kidding? This was never going to be a real vacation. There’s always more research to be done, and this time, I’m helping my mother move too, which is a story for another post. Also, baby.) I should also mention the beautiful, inspiring locations. The first workshop (Finding the Creative in Creative Nonfiction) is at Stern House, a villa opposite the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and the second one (Writing about Place) is in The Writing Pad in the beautiful Moshav Beit Zayit near Jerusalem.

If you have writer friends in Israel who write in English, please tell them about these opportunities!

The Lyric Essay, The Beautiful Wild Child of Creative Nonfiction: Possibilities of Form in Creative Nonfiction
Jerusalem Winter Seminar: Monday, January 20, 2014, 9:00-4:00pm

“Essays can do everything a poem can do, and everything a short story can do—everything but fake it.”
—Annie Dillard

“Pay attention not to the matter, but to the shape I give to it.” 

Shaping your story is one of the greatest challenges for the creative nonfiction writer. While applying fictional techniques may enhance your prose, imposing a traditional narrative structure on true stories may feel artificial and forced. Our lives do not follow a straightforward narrative arc and memory doesn’t provide a structured plot: it goes on tangents and takes shape in fragments. This seminar will introduce the aspiring writer to the different forms, subgenres, and possibilities in creative nonfiction, and broaden their understanding of the genre. We will explore different framing devices that depart from the traditional, linear structure such as lyric essays, braided essays, and collage essays, and read CNF pieces that experiment with voice, point of view, and tense. Through guided exercises and class discussion we will discover new ways to tell our stories and think about structure, voice and form, while retaining a sense of joy and freedom in our craft.

Readings Include:
Alphabet Autobiographica – Eufemia Fantetti
Nine Days – Suzanne LaFetra
A Braided Heart: Shaping the Lyric Essay- Brenda Miller

Excerpts from essays by authors such as Mary Karr, David Shields, Mimi Schwartz, Sarah Turner and others may also be used in class discussion.

The seminar will take place in The Stern House, 34 Tura Street, Yemin Moshe, Jerusalem (not to be confused with the Stern House in Mamilla) from 9:00-16:00 (with a 1.5 hour break for lunch). Minimum registration is 10 participants with an absolute maximum of 18 (on a first come, first served basis). Registration is final only when your check has arrived at Bar-Ilan University.

The cost of the Winter Seminar is NIS 475, There is a 5% discount if you mail your check by Thursday January 9th, and a 10% discount only for students and graduates of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University (only one discount can apply). The cost includes pdf files of novel excerpts, hand-outs during the seminar, coffee/tea and snacks all day, as well as use of the fridge at the Stern House in Yemin Moshe, where the seminar will take place. The fee does not include lunch – you can bring a packed lunch or patronize one of the restaurants within a five-minute walk.

All checks must be made out to Bar-Ilan University. Make sure your Israeli ID appears on the check. If you do not have an Israeli ID, write the passport number and country of whoever is signing the check. If you want to pay in US dollars or English pounds, convert the shekel amount at

Together with the checks please attach a clearly printed note with the following information:
full name, address, phone numbers, email address and which seminar/s you wish to attend.

Mail to:
Nadia Jacobson, Coordinator (Winter Seminar 2014)
Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing
Department of English, Bldg. 404
Bar-Ilan University
5290002 Ramat Gan

Email Nadia Jacobson at on the day you mail the check so she knows it’s on its way. Shortly after registration, you will receive pdf files of novel excerpts.

Cancellation policy
If you cancel before January 15, 2014, and we can fill your place, you forfeit a NIS 200 processing fee. If you cancel after January 15, 2014 and we cannot fill your slot, your entire registration is non-refundable.

Wish You Were Here: Writing about Place January 23, 2014, 9:00am-3:00pm,  The Writing Pad, Moshav Beit Zayit, Israel

You couldn’t write a story that happened nowhere. ―Eudora Welty

Evoking a profound sense of “being there” in writing is one of the most important elements of prose. It is one way of immersing the reader in what John Gardner called “the fictional dream.” Mastery of place involves more than just using descriptive words. Vivid setting emerges as much from the character’s point of view, actions and voice as it does from imagery, sensory details, and figurative language.

Participants in this workshop will learn new techniques to approach writing about place. We will begin thinking about place as a potential character in stories and creative nonfiction. Drawing from examples by successful practitioners of the craft and through guided writing exercises, we will learn how to use setting as the basis for creating dramatic and engaging prose.

This workshop is designed for both fiction and creative nonfiction writers at all levels.

Each participant is asked to bring a writing sample of 1-3 pages, preferably one that engages with place in some way. Handouts will be distributed at the workshop.

For more information about The Writing Pad, and about the workshop go here.

When: Thursday, January 23, 9:00am-3:00pm

Where: This class will be held in a private home in Beit Zayit, between Jerusalem and Mevasseret. Directions upon registration.

Registration Fee: 390 NIS

To Register: Send an email to that you want to attend and that your check is in the mail. The check should be made out to Judy Labensohn and sent to her at POB 15306, Moshav Beit Zayit, 9081500. You can also pay by bank transfer.