New Beginnings and Better Endings



You don’t have to be Jewish to love the tradition of dipping apple slices into honey.  This Sunday night we celebrated the start of the Jewish New Year – a/k/a Rosh Hashanah (rosh = head; ha = the, shanah = year. thus endeth my Hebrew lesson.)

The custom of dipping apples into honey is to express our hopes for a healthy, sweet and fruitful new year. Since I’m way too old to be the fruitful in the biblical sense, I will settle for a sweet and healthy new year instead.

Unfortunately, the new year in my family has gotten off to a rocky start. My friend Liz reassures me that if your year starts off poorly, it can only get better. I am relying on her prognostication abilities.

Let me also take retract what I just said about not expecting this to be a fruitful year. Not in the sense of producing human offspring (now that would be a miracle) – but in the sense of producing another kind of product. You see, this fall I returned to school. Not just “taking a class” but I made the leap to  formally enroll – with the photo student I.D. to prove it – in a university graduate school program to “pursue” (such a lofty word) a M.A. in Writing.

I am thrilled to be back in school.

If only there had been a high-paying career called “student” where I could have earned a salary to go to class, do homework diligently and study hard for exams, I would have done that instead of becoming a lawyer. Studying is something I find fun. Learning is even better. And wow, am I learning.

The class I am taking is called “Techniques of Fiction”. What, I can hear you say, there are techniques involved in the writing of fiction? Yes there are. Moving right along in the syllabus from character, setting/place, plot and structure to scene v.s summary, point of view, voice, dialogue and description – and I am loving every classroom minute of it.

The great irony is that while I am taking a course in the writing of fiction, my real life seems to be blurring a bit into the territory of fiction. Or what I wish was fiction (e.g. events that really did not happen to me.)

My fabulous (she really is) professor told us that it is acceptable to steal from your real life to write fiction.

That seems like cheating to me. Although right now it seems appealing to base a short story or novel on deeply upsetting real life events where you get to change the way the characters behave, modify the plot and write a totally different ending. That would be a form of therapy, I guess.

But I don’t view writing fiction as therapy. I am taking this Fiction course in order to learn a craft, to become very good at it and to produce work that other people will want to read because it is well-written, not because it is an endless, Nancy-filled, woe-is-me-story.

We all have our problems, don’t we?

If you had looked at me last Saturday night when my husband and I attended the wedding of the daughter of a close friend, when we were dancing to every song the d.j. played, raising our hands in the air to the music and pretending we knew the words, you would likely have never guessed we were going through such rocky stuff in our non-dancing lives. The photos taken will no doubt prove I had a big smile on my face.

And I bet others on the wedding dance floor who were also smiling were doing so despite whatever personal difficulties they are enduring.

So here’s to a sweet, fruitful and healthy new year for all – whatever you celebrate – and also to the reading and writing of fiction.

Now back to my homework.







Filed under Family, Female Friends, friendship, Holidays, Jewish, Mental Health, Midlife, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Women, Writing

15 responses to “New Beginnings and Better Endings

  1. Sharon

    Your words always touch me. They have given me hope and a sense that I am not alone in my struggles. It was great to learn that there are communities in which parents and families are welcomed and suppoted. I am sorry it was such a drain on you.

    You courses sound quite exciting. May your writing and creativity continue and you and your year blossom into one as sweet as honey.
    G’mar Harminar Tovah


  2. Merri

    You are an inspiration to me in many ways. Thank you, and many blessings to you and yours this new year and always!


  3. Happy New year! MFA sounds great- where from? I’ve thought about a low residency program but I need to get my kids to school first. Send me your syllabus, tips, anything!!!! Seriously, good luck and enjoy!


  4. Happy New year. Congratulations on the new path of your educational resume. Sounds like fun!


  5. Amy Barad

    Hi Nancy!

    Sending support& thanks for sharing. Wishing us all a drama-free year. Second meeting of our Rodef parent support group is This Thursday! Wish you could join us!!

    Amy Barad

    Cell-415-509-3038 Home-415-454-4971



  6. Dee

    I would have LOVED to have been a professional student !! ( Hope things improve for you !)


  7. Dee

    Goodness !! Meant to add : GOOD FOR YOU !! Glad you have a great prof !!


  8. Leibenluft, Ellen (NIH/NIMH) [E]

    Glad to hear about the course….sorry to hear that things are hard now….let me know if you want to talk. In any case, look forward to seeing you and Jim on weds.


  9. just me

    Hi Nancy. What an inspiration for you to dive into your own life while being challenged by such personal things. I am new to your story, and I also have a young adult who struggles. For about five years, it was really horrifically worrisome. A devastating ending felt eminent. It was hard to function in this realm and so hard to know what was right as I raised my son on his own, as his father had passed when he was a baby. I really admire your grit and forward movement. My child being a young adult has been the most trying time of my life, and hanging in there fore yourself and for your child is everything. Well done to you.


  10. Hello Nancy,
    I feel your pain and your excitement. I have a couple of millenial daughters who keep me on my toes. I constantly ask them to keep me up to date with the latest, whether music, lingo, expressions or technology. One of them is committed to a weekly meet-up which we cal our own “Tech Tuesday” with the folks. It helps me stay in touch with the trends, get answers to my “how to” questions and to keep up or rather try to keep up with it all.
    I am thrilled that you have enrolled in this master’s program. I’m almost envious, but still drowning in my own soul-searching. I shall see the light one of those days. Meanwhile I am counting on you (no pressure) to keep me inspired…
    Fadia Jawdat


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