Writer's Life

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My Jewish Journal Life…


Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.02.17 AMSince February 2015, in addition to my various other consulting work, I’ve been a contributing writer at the Jewish Journal here in Los Angeles, and have had the opportunity to tell some amazing stories – some about myself, and some about other people.

You can read all of my past stories – including a few “classics” from years before I even moved to Los Angeles! – at my author page on the Jewish Journal website. And here is a curated list of some of my 2016 favorites so far.

Jew-by-choice Mandie Davis also chooses homeless children: Southern Baptist-raised, and now Jewish, Mandie found love on Skid Row, and co-founded an amazing organization with her husband that brings joy to homeless children for their birthdays. (June 2016)

Today’s Jewish TV characters come into their own: An exploration of how Jewish identity is totally a thing on television these days, as characters own their cultural identity, traditions and even Hebrew in an unprecedented manner. (April 2016)

Finding meaning in Passover prep pain: A personal piece recalling how much pain my late mother endured in creating Passover in our home, and how I created Passover in my home this year. (April 2016)

Reconsidering Kaddish: Profiling four new approaches to the mourner’s prayer, which expand access to Kaddish as a ritual and imbue it with new meaning. (February 2016)

More available at my author page, and in the future, as I cover additional topics…

Art print by www.bubthezombie.com at  http://society6.com/product/mos-eisley-cantina_print#1=45

What’s New? Star Wars & Grief; Bar/Bat Mitzvahs; Calling Out the Patriarchy, and more!

Art print by www.bubthezombie.com at  http://society6.com/product/mos-eisley-cantina_print#1=45

Art print by www.bubthezombie.com at http://society6.com/product/mos-eisley-cantina_print#1=45

I’ve been writing a lot, mostly for the Jewish Journal, where I’m now a Contributing Writer. But I’m not exclusive to them, so I’ve been a writer who’s still playing the field a little – this gives me the chance to explore lots of different topics, for instance:

There are currently six episodes of the Star Wars saga. Which order do you watch them in? And what did considering Episode Order or Release Order teach me about coping with loss? Read about all that stuff, including some super nerdy mentions of Mos Eisley spaceport and the Kessel Run, in “Star Wars: Episode Infinity: The Force of Grief,” this new piece at ModernLoss, just in time for the second Star Wars Day (May 25, the date that was declared “Los Angeles Star Wars Day” back in 2007 – and which has marked several noteworthy Star Wars connections…).

“Think back to the last panel or conference you attended, Jewish or otherwise. Do you remember any of the speakers? Were they men or women? If you don’t remember a lot of women speaking at your last conference or panel experience, there’s probably a reason: They may not have been there.” In “Calling out the Jewish Patriarchy, One Blog at a Time” (Ha’aretz), I did a rundown of the blogs that are calling out the patriarchy – inside and outside of the Jewish world – for all-male panels and boards.

I lost my phone on Mother’s Day. Then an app and the internet and a local friend and a stranger helped me find it. And then I wrote about it all at my blog, in “iLost & iFound.” (Also at my blog, a rundown of a local event featuring Gideon Raff, the creator of Hatufim, Homeland, Tyrant and Dig.)

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are known as a time when Jewish boys and girls come to adulthood – but they have also become an excuse for excess, for elaborate celebrations that barely connect to Jewish practice and responsibility. In “Thou Shalt Party,” this tongue-in-cheek piece for the Jewish Journal, I took ten Torah portions and identified ways in which they could be tied to contemporary events, pop culture and wacky celebrations.

Read, enjoy, and if you’d like, feel free to pass these stories along to someone who’d enjoy them…

About California Sunday Magazine (screenshot via CaliforniaSunday.com)

New Publication: California Sunday Magazine

About California Sunday Magazine (screenshot via CaliforniaSunday.com)

About California Sunday Magazine (screenshot via CaliforniaSunday.com)

As a producer and consumer of print and online media – and one who subscribes to far too many print magazines, as the pile in my home testifies – I’m always interested when a new magazine perceives a market and emerges. In a world increasingly reigned by “online” and “free,” what goes into the decision to create something new with a paywall that also has a print component (which raises costs considerably)?

I learned about The California Sunday Magazine months ago through some writers’ networks I’m involved with – their goal was to make a beautiful magazine that focused squarely on California (a big state with lots of different areas of industry, so no lack of stories there). And what was interesting to the members of the writers’ network was, unlike most startup magazines, there was no call to submit for free, which usually looks like “you guys, we’re starting a great new magazine – no pay right now, but great exposure when we launch with potential to be assigned paying pieces when we get funded in the next three years…” Writers were promised competitive rates for their work (and the masthead of professional writers and editors speaks to that). What a concept. 🙂

The California Sunday Magazine premiered today, written in a congenial tone, with (not so many – 3 features, five shorts and one “miniseries,” punctuated by “commissioned content” from brands and companies) articles running the gamut from farming to this piece about Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire and so many more novels (who now lives in Palm Desert). It’s currently monthly, although they aim to go twice-monthly, and then eventually weekly. You get 3 articles for free, then they ask for your support. The lowest level of support is $39.99 a year, but print copies will be in “select Sunday copies of the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee.” The management promises, “one-hundred percent of your Fan contribution goes directly to writers and artists.” (That’s something.)



“Nothing Helps (But This Might Help)” Intro (from LimmudLA)


A few weeks ago, I presented at LimmudLA a session titled “Nothing Helps (But This Might Help)” – the subject of the discussion was grief, mourning and coping with loss, and grew from my ongoing experiences in coping with the loss of my mother last May. This session – which I also presented at Limmud in the UK in December – is part of my process in creating a collection of writings about this year of mourning, the Jewish traditions that define it, and my personal reactions to this great loss in my life.

This is the intro for that session – what followed was a round robin of the people in the room, which I’m cutting out to preserve their privacy.

I hope to post more audio clips as I become more familiar with the audio editing software.

Nothing Helps intro

2011 – Quite a Year


2011 was quite a year, for some great reasons and one really sad one.

We’ll start with the sad first in this post, and hopefully build towards joy from there. As the Psalm says, “they who sow in tears harvest with joy.”

In May, my mother, Shulamit E. Kustanowitz, lost her battle with two serious illnesses. Losing her has been the most earth-shattering experience of my life, and I’m dealing with it every day in some way. My writing has changed, both in frequency and in tone, and I haven’t been diligent about updating my blogs and websites, because it just didn’t seem important and because I felt, for a while, as if I’d lost command of the words. So it’s taking me a while to return to posting about my publications and achievements, and to the daily business of musing on things social media- and technology-related.

But there have been moments, even within a year of mourning, which are worth celebrating. I was thrilled to be named to the Big Jewcy , a list of 100 Jews to watch, which this year also featured my brother (we were the first siblings to make the list the same year, and the piece about me was published on my birthday, by coincidence). I presented at the 2011 General Assembly in Denver, JHub (social entrepreneurship hub in London), and the UK’s Limmud Conference, moderated at the Jewish Federation’s Day of Jewish Learning and Culture, and made 2012 plans to present or moderate sessions at LimmudLA (next weekend), Jewlicious (the weekend after), and the ROI Summit in Jerusalem (June). A friend also made me laugh with his Gefilte Fish Invaders game/Rosh Hashanah greeting card, which got me quoted in the Jewish Week’s Jewish Techs blog. So life does go on.

I’m working on getting my writing going again, and some of that is happening in a longer chunk of text that I’m referring to as a “book” and which might just be one some day, tentatively titled “Nothing Helps (But This Might Help): Loss, Grief and Unintentional Comedy in a Year of Mourning.” Some of it is likely to pop up on the web in various places – on my blogs or on websites – and hopefully to be finished before the end of 2012. (At least that’s my current estimate.) But I’m also balancing that with some lighter pieces, some focusing on culture or comedy, or other such smile-provoking subjects, and will likely produce several other pieces about Jewish life and contemporary culture, because – let’s face it – I do what I do.

Like I said, 2011 was quite a year. Here’s to a 2012 of gratitude, productivity, health, healing, laughter and eventually, joy. Thanks for your continued support.

More posts available at http://myurbankvetch.com

Fall Schedule and New Links


More posts available at http://myurbankvetch.com

Greetings, readers. Apologies to you all for the delay in posting – my mother fell ill in April, and passed away in May. Since then, I’ve been making my way back, slowly, into a new reality, trying to get back to normal. So here I am, accepting offers for speaking engagements and setting my travel schedule for fall 2011. I’ll be in San Francisco and Berkeley (September); New York City, New Jersey and Oakland, CA (October); Denver, CO (November); and London, UK (December). Contact me for details, or stay tuned to this space or to MyUrbanKvetch.com for updates and details.

Also, I’ve published a number of pieces that might be of interest – most of the posts are from my own blog focus on my processing the loss of my mother, but one continues to explore the Jewish innovation scene.

Innovation at Any Age” (eJewishPhilanthropy)

Eulogy for My Mother” (My Urban Kvetch)

E-Ma’ariv: Contemplating the Evening Prayers” (My Urban Kvetch)

Marzipan and Meaning: Jerusalem Reflections” (My Urban Kvetch)

Recent Publications: Opinionated Jewish Women, Innovation and more…


“ROI Lights”: Introducing a series of Hanukkah posts about innovation and creativity (ROI Community)

“Where Are All the Opinionated Jewish Women?”: An op-ed submissions imbalance at the Forward leads to a larger discussion about Jewish women and our opinions  (MyUrbanKvetch, reprinted in eJewishPhilanthropy)

“Young Professionals/Singles/Young Leaders” – What’s in a Name? (MyUrbanKvetch)

“The Future of Jewish Journalism, Or Anything Else” (MyUrbanKvetch, reprinted in eJewishPhilanthropy)

"Writing My Novel" - photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/accidentallyjewish/

“Write It Down”


"Writing My Novel" - photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/accidentallyjewish/

This Sunday, I had two separate, long conversations with friends who I don’t often have long conversations with. Each of them was processing something major – one of them a business betrayal and a major life transition, and the other a longtime breakup and a loss of faith in community. While mourning the changes (mostly by not thinking about them or diverting into other pursuits – I mean, these are men we’re talking about), they both seemed a bit stuck as to how to move on. “Write it down,” I said, to each of them, separately and with the suggestion of a different context.

I have no idea whether they’ll actually take my advice, but I really believe in the power of written (or typed) articulation of feelings, analysis of desire to move forward, steps for progress, and getting through something emotional by naming it – and owning it – verbally. It’s kind of like a contract for change:  you write this down, making it real and tangible where it was previously amorphous, and create the legal structure for your own progress.

For the one who experienced a business betrayal and disappointment, i suggested what is referred to as a “post-mortem” – an after-the-fact analysis of what you’d intended or expected to achieve, what actually happened, how, and what lessons you learned for next time. And for the one who was experiencing some discontent with the community and a breakup, I suggested he write down some thoughts, maybe as an op-ed piece for the local Jewish paper, or perhaps just for himself – to outline what his thoughts about his situation really were, what kind of challenges he was experiencing and how they could be fixed or improved by community engagement.

Writing it down almost always helps me process. What about you? What are your tricks for processing life’s disappointments?

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