When Nora Gold completed her first book, three publishers fought over the rights, and the book went on to win several awards. Now, with her latest book, she’s having trouble finding a publisher. She’s aware that many writers are going through the same frustrating times, as changes in the world of book publishing, including digitization, are resulting in the release of fewer books by traditional publishers.
Concerned about all the fine writing that was being lost, and very interested in finding new ways to bring the works of Jewish writers to a wider audience, Gold developed the idea for Jewishfiction.net. Launched on Sept. 27, the free online journal is the first English-language journal dedicated exclusively to publishing Jewish fiction, whether written in English or in translation. Gold, a novelist, community activist and previously a tenured professor, serves as editor.
The inaugural issue features 13 Jewish tales — both short stories and excerpts of novels — by a mix of award-winning and emerging writers, including Elie Wiesel, Steve Stern and Thane Rosenbaum; Israelis Nava Semel and Yoram Kaniuk; Marcelo Birmajer of Argentina; Alan David Gold of Australia; Yiddish novelist Chava Rosenfarb of Canada, and others. So far, 2,000 readers around the world have signed up for its e-mail list.
Gold, who lives in Toronto and holds both Canadian and Israeli citizenship, believes in the potential of stories to foster understanding among people in North America, Israel and throughout the Jewish world.
“Stories are where we all meet,” she says. “There’s so much rich work that talks about what it is to be human, or to be Jewish now or in the past.”
Gold, 57, is admittedly part of a generation that doesn’t find it easy to read on a screen and would prefer to curl up with paper. But she sees the power of new technology to “affirm the beauty of our culture.”
Gold’s own sense of what defines Jewish fiction is influenced by her former teacher, Harvard Yiddish professor Ruth Wisse. “It’s where the Jewish element is absolutely essential,” she says, noting that giving the characters Jewish names is not enough.
“It becomes obvious when you read 100 manuscripts,” she says.
She’d like to think that kids coming home from school might turn on their computers and read a story on the way home, or that high school teachers might assign stories from the journal to their classes.
Gold invites submissions, which she culls through along with a team of two others. The journal’s advisory council includes writers and academics (and several who are both), among them Alice Shalvi, Steve Stern and Norman Manea. Plans are to publish the journal — designed by Joseph Weissgold (Gold’s son), a student at Parsons The New School for Design — every eight to 10 weeks.