When am I going to write another book? People ask me that a lot. I usually hesitate to answer because the next book just hasn’t germinated yet. I know I should write more, but that isn’t the stuff books are made of. I don’t want to write a should. I want to write something that gives me so much energy and momentum that it will carry me through the long process of researching, writing, and re-writing that I know will be needed.
One idea has been to write the non-fiction version of the Metal Jews of Westerbork. This would get down to the nitty-gritty details of what my grandfather and his colleagues were doing to try to keep as many Jews in Westerbork as possible, so they didn’t get sent to the death camps. I have a friend, Myriam Daru*, who has been researching this line of inquiry. There is a LOT of information and it involves black marketeers and economics and so many different people that I have trouble keeping the facts straight. The idea of writing this book feels like starting a dissertation – and I don’t want to write a dissertation. I already did that a long time ago.
The title of my dissertation is Exploring the Self-in-Relation Theory: Women’s Idealized Relationships-of-Choice and Psychological Health. I spent two (or was it three) years ‘dissertating.’ Back then I turned dissertation into a verb because it was such an active part of my life. It wasn’t a thing; it was all I did. My dissertation was my partner, my lover, my existence. We even had arguments and break ups and periods of not talking and then getting back together. The Self-in-Relation Theory (Relational-Cultural Theory) is based on the work of Jean Baker Miller. The theory says that women engage in relationships that make them feel energized and connected and give them more zest in life.
Having written one book I know that an author has a very real relationship with the story and its characters. A book isn’t just a thing. When you step onto the page you start a relationship. It is a commitment. If you can’t make a commitment, then that book won’t come to life. It needs your full attention and needs to be nurtured and fed. It is only possible to do that well if you can fully engage and that means that the research and the manuscript must be something that gives something back to the author as well. It can’t be one-sided or the relationship won’t grow and the book won’t become fully developed.
Last week it hit me like a thunderbolt. I haven’t started writing The Metal-Jews because that book isn’t giving me zest. I just can’t engage. Why am I starting a relationship with something that isn’t right for me? I need to end this relationship before it even starts and move on. There is something else out there for me.
I was on the train to NYC when the idea sparked. This idea came to me full throttle. This one makes me want to start writing – now! No more procrastination. I’m ready to stop thinking about writing and jump in. This will be a book of short stories of how the Latin American passports forged by the Polish diplomats and their Jewish partners saved lives. This is the book that I, as a trained interviewer, can sink my teeth into. This is the book that makes me want to dive in. How many families can I find and interview? How many will let me write their story? I see this as a book of inspiration. A book that will bring a tear and make the reader say, “Wow!” The reader will see how a few good men made the difference in the lives of people that were in the worst of circumstances.
Consider this my proposal. I am on one knee. Will you share your family story with me? Will you read this book?
*Myriam has posted some of her research on Academia.edu. Here it is.