On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Congressionally-approved declaration of war against Germany. Thus the United States formally entered World War I. Now on this 100th anniversary, I’m posting an especially interesting excerpt from Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s Chronicle of America’s Wars: World War I. This is the story of the Four-Minute Men.

Poster advertising the Four-Minute Men

In March, 1917 . . . more Americans seemed ready to enter the Great War. Donald Ryerson, a Chicago businessman, thought war was inevitable. Ryerson enlisted in the Navy. While waiting for his orders, he organized a group of speakers called the Four-Minute Men.

America in 1917 was filled with immigrants. Many of them, as well as many native English speakers, could not read English. Ryerson’s men found a clever way to inform and persuade these people. Each day, about 10 to 13 million people went to the movies. The movies were on film wound around two or more reels. […]

Continue reading

If the Hanukkah story reminds us of the power of resistance, then Russell Freedman’s We Will Not Be Silent fits with the #Readukkah! spirit of the Association of Jewish Libraries and with perhaps our own thoughts this season. This nonfiction book nominally for older children (but with a topic suited for teens and adults) follows the White Rose student resistance movement in Nazi Germany from its rise through the execution of its leaders shortly before the fall of the Third Reich.

The “we” in We Will Not Be Silent began with a handful of high school and college students, led in part by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, both former members of the Hitler youth movement. They and others wrote, mimeographed, and distributed leaflets denouncing their nation’s treatment of Jewish citizens and other “undesirables.”

The leaflets soon flooded all parts of Germany and called for the overthrow of the Nazi regime. […]

Continue reading

Cinco de Mayo. The fifth of May. The historian in me notes that the holiday commemorates the victory of Mexican troops over French invading forces in the 1862 battle of Puebla. The Mexican victory was short-lived, and it would be years before the governance of Mexico was back in the hands of Mexicans. With the French engaged against the Mexicans, however, France was unable to give strategic support to the Confederacy during the Civil War in the United States. Had the French done so, who knows what might have happened.

The leader of the Mexican forces at the battle of Puebla was Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, but the writer in me is thinking about Ignatius Rivera. While the construction workers are busy finishing up the Janey II, I’m working with Ignatius on Book Three. Who is this guy? Here are the basics.

On this Cinco de Mayo, Ignatius is a 23-year-old U.S. […]

Continue reading

Brick by brick, etc., etc. Does anyone out there remember the old expression, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Here’s an aside for the curious: According to the Web, the expression is a translation of a 12th century remark (in Medieval French) by a cleric in the court of Phillippe of Alsace, Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour.

So, Rome took a long time. The Janey II is still getting built likely years after an architect first conceived of its existence, and Book Three is…chugging along. We’re not stagnating here, folks, although sometimes the process seems way too slow. I have the luxury of not being bound to deadlines (unlike some in my Viva Scriva coven). This means I can take my time trying to polish every chapter and every scene.

I’m in the feedback stage on Book Three. The Book Editing class at PSU has reviewed the first draft. […]

Continue reading

Welcome to another stop on the blog tour for the Sydney Taylor Book Awards, presented annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Pull up a chair and let’s hear from author Loïc Dauvallier, illustrator Marc Lizano, and colorist Greg Salsedo about Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, the gold medal winner in the Older Readers category. Originally published in 2012 by Le Lombard in French as L’Enfant Cachée, the book was translated by Alexis Siegel and published in the U.S. in 2014 by First Second. Hidden is a graphic novel about a grandmother who shares her memories of 1942 Paris in a story she’s hidden for decades. It’s a recent collaboration between Loïc and Marc, whose previous projects include La Petite Famille, a story about grief and the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, and Hugo et Cagoule, a humorous comic without words. This is their first collaboration with Greg. […]

Continue reading

Today I put aside my competition with the construction crew of The Janey II. No way can I write the next scene in Book Three, as I remember Margot Adler, who took time from her life last year to write a review of my most recent book, The Ninth Day. She called the story “riveting.” Who could ask for more?

Still, I did.

I was hoping to meet Margot in person this fall during the reunion of participants in the 1964 Free Speech Movement. I wanted to thank her again, this time in person. I wanted her to autograph one of her books, Heretic’s Heart. I wanted, and I wanted, and I wanted.

Margot and I are not destined to meet in this lifetime, as she died yesterday. From what I understand of Margot’s Wiccan beliefs, she has made the crossing into another aspect of the continuum which, now that I think of it, is not so different from the universe-eternity olam I write about in Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. […]

Continue reading

Look! A new floor! The Janey II construction crew has covered up the foundation and basement areas and taken the building to a whole new level. Of course not everything is perfect below decks. There’s still lots to fill in. But it was time to move on.

My sentiments exactly! I’ve spent months laying the foundation for Book Three and drafted and revised the first main chunk of the story. There’s about 15,000 words on Portland in 2059. For two weeks our main character, who is eM Zarfati in this draft, languished in action limbo between leaving her house in Portland and landing 500 years earlier in Istanbul. Finally, she’s where she’s supposed to be in the story.

What was it like in Istanbul in 1559? I mean really. The history writer in me needs to get this part as accurate as possible, to balance off time travel and fictional characters. […]

Continue reading

A heavy chain-link fence nearly surrounds the concrete and metal structures that will eventually be the Janey II apartments. It’s the “nearly” part that intrigues me. One small section of the site is sealed off by a wooden wall and a padlocked wood-filled door.

Wood. My favorite. It’s the timeless material that fits in a prehistorical tale about velociraptors and can still make a fashion statement the Portland 2059 world of Book Three.

The first draft of Book Three mentions an “eco-fiber Fem-Form” that covers the body of my main character.  She’s basically dressed in wood. Or, to be more exact, cellulose. My imaginings? No way.

Leave it to the Finns, who have as close a relationship with forests and lumber as Oregonians do, to be working on a cost-effective way to turn wood into threads for the garment industry. According to Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre, fiber from wood-based biomass is an eco-alternative to water-intensive cotton and petroleum-based polyester fabrics. […]

Continue reading

Welcome to Day 4 of the blog tour for the Sydney Taylor Book Awards, presented annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Kudos to everyone on the list. As you can see from my last post, I took a “snow day” from my own writing to read Leon Leyson’s memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box, which is one of two honor books for older readers. Leon, at age 10, was one of the youngest on Oskar Schindler’s list of “essential” Jewish prisoners for the factory he ran for the Nazi war machine. Thanks to Schindler, Leon lived a full life and passed away about a year ago.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing two key people who assisted Leon with his memoir: Elisabeth B. Leyson, Leon’s wife; and Dr. Marilyn J. Harran, founding director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University.

RUTH: Leon’s memoir ends with remembrances from his son and daughter at Leon’s memorial service in 2013. […]

Continue reading

This year, Thanksgiving Day coincides with the start of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Suddenly, bingo! We have the menurkey (a combination of a turkey and a nine-branched menorah). We have recipes that feature both cuisines and we have greeting cards galore.

The two holidays came close in 1964, as I found out when I wrote The Ninth Day. Hanukkah started on the Sunday after Thanksgiving then. I hear-tell that the next time the two holidays mesh as well as they do in 2013 will be about 70,000 years from now. Really? That may be, but there are lots of instances when holidays to coincide. This happens when one holiday has a fixed date on the solar calendar and the other moves with a lunar or other calendar, or when both holidays move based on two different calendars. Not long ago, the holy month of Ramadan started at the same time as Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. […]

Continue reading