About Greta Beigel:
American journalist Greta Beigel is the author of three Jewish-themed books: The humorous/satirical “Mewsings: My Life as a Jewish Cat” (also in audio); the short story, “A Jew from Riga,” about her efforts to learn more about her Dad’s mysterious past, and “Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life,” a memoir (paperback/e-book) about growing up an Orthodox Jew and a gifted pianist in South Africa during the apartheid era. Beigel worked for many years as an arts reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times. She resides in Honolulu, HI.
What inspires you to write?
All my books to date have been personal, autobiographical, even my favorite, “Mewsings: My Life as Jewish Cat,” a humorous, albeit learned take on Jewish life from one feline’s perspective, but in reality reflections on Judaism from my alter ego. With all my creations, suddenly there’s a flash, an idea saying hey, time to write, and let’s begin. The reminder seems to come out of the void. I’m always surprised. My desire to pen my memoir “Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life,” evolved over decades. The need was propulsive, with no way out. Inspiration, I suppose, comes in myriad ways.
Tell us about your writing process.
With my memoir “Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life,” I felt compelled to get a certain event, a certain image, a certain dialogue down on paper. I usually write in cafes, or coffee shops or restaurants, away from my normal milieu, and carry a notebook and jot thoughts or chapters down in shorthand, a skill that I learned in Johannesburg in my 20s that sustained my early years as a newspaper reporter interviewing celebs in Los Angeles. In the case of my fun feline creation, “Mewsings: My Life as a Jewish Cat,” a series of essays on Jewish rituals, especially during the High Holidays, inspiration hit whilst swimming at the Turtle Bay Hilton resort on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Splashing away, and giggling, I came up with the concept of cat Ketzel expressing concern over not getting enough food during the approaching Day of Atonement when we fast for 24 hours. And then came other musings about holidays and travels. But I could not find the right way to proceed with the script until I sojourned in New Zealand. Walking past a bookstore in Auckland I learned about a famed children’s book author who found her muse writing in rhyme. I slipped into that mode and it was wonderful. Later I discovered that there’s a software program for rhymers, but I still prefer to make up my own text.
As a journalist the process is more rigid. I do much research, interview subjects, transcribe my notes (moaning all the time), and then prepare an outline of the story to follow. If not, the piece would be all over the place. It’s a far easier world of writing, albeit much more disciplined.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I had so much fun talking to cat Ketzel, the protagonist of the made-up “Mewsings: My Life as a Jewish Cat,” a series of essays, in rhyme, on Jewish rituals and the High Holidays and worldly travels, ultimately all reflections of my own upbringing and customs. Actually, I’d become Ketzela in conversation. I’d go on and on about worrying about being fed on Yom Kippur. And would giggle over shenanigans with candles, latkes and spinning tops (dreidels) at Hanukkah celebrations. These chats helped to get the prose in context. Of course I had to make up rhymes speaking out loud. Otherwise, they’d never, well, rhyme.
What advice would you give other writers?
I think most of us are hungry to be published, and long to see our names in print, on or offline. But I would urge writers to be rigidly honest. Go deep inside to see what it is you truly desire, because writing, let alone publication remains a long, arduous and difficult game. And depending on the subject matter, can be fraught with angst. If your passion is to publish go for it, but if reading in groups, or sharing with a friend, or attending conferences fills your soul, all the better. It’s all about being truthful and giving yourself what you need
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Growing up a lonely child in South Africa, I became obsessed with the writings of British author Enid Blyton who wrote wonderful mystery series for children. I resolved by age 10 that I, too, would write a book one day. This pronouncement continued over the years and in many countries and I would insist that I’d tell my story of growing up a gifted piano prodigy with a superambitious, cruel matriarch. As a journalist I would never write on spec, and every piece I have ever penned has appeared in print. I don’t believe in leaving my stories in a drawer or in a file online. Just as a concert pianist longs to be heard by a live audience, I love to see my byline, and getting my work in the public domain was a given. When the chance came along to publish e-books, I was on a roll, and quickly adapted to the new methodologies. And then embracing publishing in paperback, has been another enormous learning curve. It all takes time and effort and editing and rewrites and patience, even heartache. For new authors, a cautionary tale. To thine own self be true. Query: To publish or not? Print or electronic? Promote or relax? Be a success or be happy to be in print?
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think there will arise multiple publishing tracks: The billionaire hotshots will continue to attract the masses and make fortunes and who knows, perhaps launch their own publishing empires in order to sidetrack difficulties that can arise with online publishers etc. The self-published authors doing so well writing about zombies and strange universes will continue to flourish, until the world tires of the latest concepts. And then some new trend will arise. New publishing tools will emerge, new software and the field will become even more competitive. The niche writers will continue their labor of love. Making money or sales or not. And those who just want to publish, no matter whether their writing is good, bad or indifferent, will. Ideally, authors will publish across a variety of formats: In hardback, paperback, audio, e-books, etc.
What genres do you write?: Non-fiction, memoir, humor, rhymes, history, biography, travel
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print