I never intended to write about the Holocaust. Perhaps (if possible) my character, Max Golanski sought me out. His entry into my world came unannounced. It was in the late 1990’s when I had one of those vivid, “right before waking” dreams we remember for a few minutes after opening our eyes. That’s where I was plunged into Max’s world, seeing the entire span of his life in one fell swoop. It appeared like a rainbow, intact from the place where it leaps from the earth on one side, soars across the heavens, and returns to earth far from where it emerged. I sprang from the bed, looked at Charles (my wonderful, albeit long-suffering partner), and sharply said, “Don’t speak to me!” As I raced to the computer to grab the images, ideas and story dancing inside, Charles sat perplexed. “But I didn’t do anything!” I recall him saying as I quickly jotted down a quick outline of an emerging book just as the story began to fade from my consciousness. (Charles did forgive me.)
I had visited Poland on behalf of Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies as part of a Spertus Museum planning group seeking to put together an exhibition of Polish/Jewish art, but that was a decade earlier. I wonder how long Max had languished somewhere deep inside waiting for the right moment to grab my attention, and wonder still what spurred his bursting forth at that moment.
Having no idea as to what was involved in bringing a work of literary fiction from concept to fruition, I doodled away in my spare time over the years, writing whenever mood, or time allowed. Some years time simply didn’t allow, and yet the insistent voice of this 81-year old Jewish man living on NYC’s Lower East Side jabbered away to me in Yiddish (which I don’t speak), or prodded me in a Yiddish-laden English (which I do). He was not to be quieted, so I wrote.
At times, I was frustrated by the amount of time needed to move the work forward. Now that the first draft is solidly in place and I am into revisions, I feel blessed for the process. During those 12 years the Internet was born, and with it, access to historical data. My writing also matured and I discovered professional avenues to hone my craft. “The Writer’s Life” is not an easy one. Not easy for those of us who create in isolation, or the poor souls (like my dear Charles) who allow us to exist beside them even as we travel to alternate realities. Has anybody out there ever had a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it!