AF: How long have you been a writer?
It is possible that there was a pencil clenched in my fist in utero. I have been told that it was quite an uncomfortable pregnancy for my mother, and my earliest scribblings likely lacked both grace and gentle form. Seriously, I have been writing poetry since, I am guessing, about the age of 8, at which time my writing reflected fun play with words and served to release frustrations I encountered in my world.
AF: What inspired you to write this book?
In 1984, I moved from Pittsburgh, PA, to Austin, TX. What a difference in Jewish population size and practice of traditions I encountered! At that time, it was often difficult to “make a minyan” here in Austin. (A minyan is a quorum of 10 Jewish adults, and that must be achieved before being able to say certain prayers and read from the Torah scroll.) I saw the relief on the faces of attendees when we did “make a minyan” and the disappointment on members’ faces when they could not recite the mourners’ prayer nor participate in the communal reading of the Torah without the required quorum.
AF: Tell us about your family.
I come from a family in which threads of traditional Jewish practice created the fabric of our lives. We enjoyed multi-generational, joyous Sabbath and holiday meals, as well as engaging in religious practices together. My two siblings and I took leadership roles in the children’s religious services each Saturday morning and later in Jewish youth group throughout high school. My brother even went on to become a Conservative Rabbi! My father, despite a very demanding career as an accountant and comptroller, served as the chairman of the synagogue’s religious services committee. My mother, who taught me a great deal about silly play and the art of writing, served as the Sisterhood President of our synagogue for several years, engaged in other Jewish organizations, put together Jewish holiday meals for our family each week, and helped with programs at our religious school. Being Jewish growing up in Pittsburgh was fun and easy, with family and school friends who shared our way of life. Of course, I also enjoyed secular activities like going to see the amazing Pittsburgh Pirate ballgames, playing kickball in the park with neighborhood friends, building snowmen in the winter and taking our annual vacation with friends to the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland.
AF: What do you like most about Austin?
Tough to narrow it down to one thing. Immediately upon arriving in Austin, I found both warm climate and warm people. (Pittsburgh boasts warm people but quite a chilly climate throughout the winter.) I have become part of a close-knit community here. Additionally, I personally find spirituality most when outside enjoying nature. That includes taking strolls around Lady Bird Lake and hiking Greenbelt trails. Last, I laugh easily, and enjoy the humor and silliness around town.