Recently, I traveled to Israel to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem, an incredible, although agoraphobic experience. The last two days were spent in Tel Aviv, which I’d visited briefly during Christmas, 2002, as an alto member of the Budapest Academic Choral Society. Our performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Maestro José Serebrier at the Tel Aviv Opera House was part of a three-week Liturgical Tour organized by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. This “Night at the Opera House” was so memorable that it inspired the opening pages of my memoir, ODYSSEY OF LOVE.
Soon after returning home from this trip, I flew to nearby Sweden to attend the Stockholm Writers Festival. It had been my experience from other writer events that they can be quite cliquey, and I was a bit wary. However, almost immediately, I met two fellow writers from Tel Aviv. This seemed an omen, as I’d rarely met anyone from their city outside of Israel. Together, we went from seminars on self-publishing and platform-building to book signings, and rallied one another in preparation for our agent one-on-ones.
On Saturday, attendees had a chance to enter the first 250 words of their manuscripts into the Festival’s Literary Idol for judging. This daunting process involved having your work read anonymously (thankfully!) in front of three literary agents, as well as Festival instructors and other writers, or about two hundred listeners in total. The agents were asked to raise their hands as soon as they lost interest in hearing more of the manuscript. Not for the faint of heart! (At least they didn’t use a bell, as I’d witnessed at a New York City conference.)
I entered the first page of my memoir and listened with eager anticipation as the first dozen or so entries were critiqued, most not keeping up with the agents’ interest through the end of the page. Then, ODYSSEY was up, and the opening sentence was read: “As the concertmaster warmed up the strings onstage, the overhead lights in the distance dimmed to tiny flecks, like stardust in the Judea Desert.” Yes, those were my words! I closed my eyes and reveled in recent memories of my trip to the Holy Land.
Moments later, I was jolted by the sound of applause. Not only had ODYSSEY made it to the finish line unscathed, but my writing was appreciated. Wow! One agent said that if the entry were non-fiction, she’d keep reading, but if it were fiction, she would not. This was very encouraging and convinced me further that I should keep to the truth of my story and not turn it into fiction, although that’s an easier sell. This most likely means self-publishing, but I’m excited about this prospect and look forward to exploring it and other options on this writer’s journey.