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Jewish writing course

by: Cara Wides - Last updated: 2006-04-11



Jews are often referred to as the People of the Book but perhaps they should be called the ‘People of the Pen’, given that there are so many successful Jewish writers.

As a hope-to-be author myself, I find inspiration in contemporary female Anglo-Jewish authors such as Anna Maxted, Tracy Chevalier, and Freya North. However, which ever type of literature interests you, there’s a suitable Jewish scribe – as the list of names includes a variety of countries and backgrounds.

With this vast tradition to encourage me, I decide to enrol on the weekly creative writing class run by the London Jewish Cultural Centre, and taught by Silvia Paskin. As well as creative writing Silvia teaches film and  literature, and has edited a Yiddish film guide and books of poetry and

Talking about what makes the class particularly Jewish, Silvia said: "Students in a ‘Jewish’ creative writing class share a history and culture - although often from different personal perspectives - which brings a richness to any discussion."

She believes that there are common themes that run through the work of Jewish writers. "They are often preoccupied with identity, belonging, and exile. Also the notions of what we owe to past generations, and what we can create for ourselves."

There are eight classes in one term, and for each one all the members can bring along something they have written. This is read aloud to the group, who respond with their views.

Don’t worry, the comments are never of the ‘that was so rubbish I almost fell of my chair in boredom’ variety. There is a warm atmosphere in the class, and everyone tries to be encouraging; saying things like ‘instead of…why don’t you try…’

Silvia contributes her own tips. When you feel like what you have produced is the most useless piece of drivel, an insult to the paper it is written on, Silvia cheers you up with a charmingly positive comment about it. She said: "I try to create a supportive and friendly atmosphere in which students can appreciate and critique each others’ writing. One thing that works very well in the current class is that we have a range of ages, genders and interests."

The lessons are also a golden opportunity to meet like-minded creative types. Writing is a solitary pursuit, and after you spend hours scribbling away at your desk, it is a great relief to be able to share your ideas with someone else.

The course is useful for budding poets, wannabe novelists and potential playwrights. Some of the time is spent examining work that has already been published (not just by Jewish authors). This element satisfies practical types, who want to know the quickest path to getting something into print. There is a theory that everyone has a novel in them. Don’t let yours remain locked inside your imagination – Silvia Paskin has the key.

The class in on Monday nights at the London Jewish Cultural Centre
Tel: 020 8457 5000/020 8455 9900

Related link:

London Jewish Cultural Centre