Thursday, May 26, 2016

BELVA PLAIN: She Dared to Change the Face of Jewish Novels

In recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month, I want to share the incredible literary journey of third-generation Jewish American author, Belva Plain (1915-2010). Ms. Plain has been quoted as saying she wrote her first novel, Evergreen, because she’d had her fill of stereotypical Jewish characters who failed to reflect the reality of Jewish life. Published when she was 62, Evergreen became a New York Times bestseller and remained at the top of that coveted list for 41 weeks. During the balance of her 95 years, she penned 22 more novels, all written in longhand, 20 of which also became NYT bestsellers. More than 30 million of them were in print in 22 languages when she died.

Belva Plain graduated with a degree in history from Barnard College and had her first short story published in Cosmopolitan shortly thereafter. She continued to write and submit short pieces to help support her husband's ophthalmology studies until the birth of her three children, after which she devoted her time and energy to raising her family. Only when they had grown and had children of their own did she return to her pen and pad and begin her career as a novelist.

Her books covered a gamut of subjects. Some were historical; Crescent City, for example, takes place in New Orleans during the Civil War years. Others depicted the lives of Jewish people in Europe during the 1930s and 40s. A number of them, however, were contemporary in nature. The 5-book saga of the Werner family is both historical and contemporary; Evergreen, Golden Cup, Tapestry, Harvest, and Heartwood delve deeply into the multigenerational lives, relationships, and secrets of husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and others of the Werner clan.

Ms. Plain was a master at creating well-rounded characters of depth, characters as noble and as imperfect as we all are, characters who make good decisions and bad—exploring their lives and relationships with a powerful magnifying glass not often utilized by modern authors. She also
tackled sensitive topics that touch many today: Blessings – adoption, Promises – divorce, The Carousel – sexual abuse of children. In all of them, passion abounds; but she steered away from graphic sex scenes.

Her last book, Heartwood, was published after her death. Fittingly, it comes full circle, closing her prolific writing career with the final chapters of the Werner family saga.
Belva Plain was the first author whose books inspired me to write. I loved her feisty characters who rose up from the pages of her stories and invited me into their world. They were so real, so human that I could relate to them as though they were my friends and neighbors.

Do you have a favorite author who inspired you to write? If so, please share with us.

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Taking Ownership

Photo credit: Owen Moore
Ownership manifests itself in many ways.

Take for instance a cold. Not long ago, someone I knew had one. When speaking about it, I referred to it as her cold. Then, when I soon caught the germ, my husband actually called it my cold. Hearing him say that at first seemed strange, until I realized the cold's ownership had now been transferred to me, along with the responsibilities of trying to get better and not sharing the germ with others.

Here are a few examples of how a writer can take ownership:
  • A writer needs to own up to mistakes. It would be wonderful to believe every word we write is perfect, but, actually, that's not really the case. We need to own up to our mistakes, learn from them, and polish our prose. We can do this by either hiring an editor, or at least by submitting our work to some darn good beta writers.
  • Okay, the book is done. Before it's released, although in the U.S. original works have been automatically copyrighted since 1978, it doesn't hurt to also take ownership of your printed and/or electronic book by placing the copyright symbol on one of its first pages to tell the world you own the rights to the amazing words you've written. To see some exceptions, check Wikipedia.
  • Be careful not to be too exclusive. The strange thing about taking ownership of our books is that often in order to do so, we need to share blurbs, descriptions, and excerpts with others in order to entice readers to read our books. Sometimes, it may even mean giving away free copies for advertisement purposes.
    My thriller, Two Wrongs, is currently perma-free, and you're welcome to nab your free copy.
Can you think of other ways authors take ownership, or maybe you'd like to expand on something I've mentioned.

Experience Morgan Mandel's diversity and versatility. Check Out Her Standalone Romantic Comedy,  Girl of My Dreams, the romantic comedy series, Her Handyman, and A Perfect Angel. For Mystery/Suspense, try Killer Career or Two Wrongs. For the small town of Deerview series: Hailey's Chance: Will Baby Make 3? and Christmas   Carol.Websites:Morgan Mandel.Com Morgan Does Chick Lit.ComTwitter:@MorganMandel