Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Monday, June 20, 2011

Many Like Me

It is official. I am now a published author. I got the contract and am waiting on the royalties – if any. My children are deeply unimpressed and appear to suffer from the ‘show-me-the-money’ syndrome. Although, Isaiah Sender insisted I sign the last draft of the book I signed off on. Apparently, he did so in hope it might have some intrinsic value one day for which he can auction it off on eBay.

I always thought my first ‘published’ work would be one of the three novels-in-waiting I have spent the last few years toiling away on. I never dreamed my first published work would be a non-fiction historical book….or e-book until the fall when the trade paperback is scheduled to come out.

I was contracted as a hired gun, I suppose ghost-writer is the more accurate term, but my name as ‘author’ is clearly on the cover so I am not sure ‘ghost’ is the most appropriate term in this case. It has been an interesting process, and while I wish that Jaques Bar had been alive to answer in detail many of my own questions that remain unanswered, and consequently, the answers would have given the memoirs more depth but I believe the book does stand as an interesting historical narrative of the times from a unique prospective.

Besides, how many men fought on the Russian front with characters with like Andrei Kirilenko and Sergei Gorbachev? Or were sappers for the British Polish II Corps in Rommel’s Gardens, and then were militarily instrumental in the creation of the nascent Israeli state?

There were times when I really doubted my ability to churn out the first draft before (the always looming) March 31st deadline. I had to keep an impossible schedule to meet that deadline. I would go to my day job from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., go home, feed the sons, go bed and get up around mid-night and work until 6 a.m. Then I would get ready for work and begin the process all over again.

Since I am a hired gun, I do not get a dedication page, but if I did, I would dedicate the book to Gavriel. I met him by chance shortly after I signed the contract to write the Bar memoirs. I was whining away at a party about the inability of my family to leave me alone to work and the horrendous hours I needed to keep, in order, to be able to write. Being an Israeli man, he immediately took action. Of course, being a thoroughly North American woman, I was a somewhat taken back by the boldness of his solution to my predicament. But if there is one thing I have learned in my life - it is this - sometimes one must take a chance. And so I did.

He would wisk me away to his apartment far from my downtown home, in what I call affectionately call the Shtlel, and he allowed me to work undisturbed. I admit the ‘wisking’ (aka driving) made me to understand that everything I had ever heard about Israeli drivers was true and not the least bit exaggerated. Never before, in my life, have I had so many opportunities to recite the Shema in a 15 minute interval. Did I mention that the drive should have taken 40 minutes and my knowledge of modern Hebrew slang and cuss words has expanded considerably and dramatically? I still may not be able to express a complex thought in Hebrew but I can now effectively deliver the most disparaging monologue on the deficiencies of male organs or your mother’s innate promiscuousness with goats, camels etc.

And when guilt would rear its head (like when my youngest son took to addressing me as ‘birther’ rather than ‘Ima’), he would forcefully insist my teenaged sons were old enough to be left alone now and then - and would benefit for fending for themselves – especially given there was a freezer full of meals pre-made for them and my cell-phone was always on. He was quite amazed at how we (North Americans) - baby our children - even in late adolescence – at a stage of life when most Israeli teens are getting ready to join the army.

The entire "Life on the Russian Front" was written in his apartment. It is the part of the book which I am most proud of, but it gave me no end of trouble to write. He would ply me with endless cups of Israeli coffee which would always seem to magically appear at my side whenever I needed a cup the most. He translated reams of Hebrew to English for me when my own written and cursive Hebrew skills were seriously compromised by the material in front of me. Gavriel was fascinated that he had never heard of this man before and he let me ramble on when I needed to.

And so to him, I would say,

תודה לך

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