A few days ago my novel,
Fields of Exile
, was published in the USA, and this month marks exactly four years since I started the free online literary journal that I created and edit,
. The convergence of these two events has got me thinking about solitariness and community in the lives of writers.
I feel very fortunate to be both a writer and the editor ofJewishFiction.net. Writing is a solitary activity, and this journal provides me with a kind of community since producing it occurs in communal, social space. In our first four years, JewishFiction.net has published 186 first-rate works of fiction (stories or novel excerpts) that had never previously been published in English, and that were originally written in eleven languages and on five continents. We’re honored to have published some of the most well-known Jewish writers living today, as well as many fine writers who are not yet well-known.
I’m often asked why I started JewishFiction.net, and the answer is that—in light of the crisis in the publishing industry—I was concerned that a lot of the great Jewish fiction being written now around the world would get lost. Recently, though, reflecting on the upcoming fourth birthday of Jewish Fiction.net, I recognized another, subtler antecedent to the birth of this journal.
My paternal grandmother, Leah Shteinman Gold, strongly believed that she (and everyone else) had an obligation to support Jewish writers and artists. I heard her say more than once, “We have to feed our poets.” She meant this not only figuratively—she was generous in her encouragement and appreciation for their work—but also literally. In the world she lived in, Yiddish-speaking Montreal, her home was a haven for struggling poets, writers, and intellectuals, and she often fed them actual meals. Some of my less charitable relatives referred to these people as “shnorrers,” but my grandmother stoutly rejected this characterization. “They are our writers,” she’d say. “We have to support them. They’re the future of our culture.”