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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

And don't forget to surprise your reader

“Basically, all novelists should want to tell a story, and if they don't want to, they shouldn't be novelists. I think story-telling is important and underrated.” – Susan Howatch

One of the giants of 20th Century literature who took Howatch’s admonition to heart was Isaac Bashevis Singer, who started out wanting to be a journalist but kept getting drawn toward the creative side instead.

Born this day in 1902 near Warsaw, Poland, he was first groomed to be a rabbi, but that too proved a fruitless endeavor and he gravitated quickly into the writing life.  After emigrating to the U.S. where he lived, worked and wrote for newspapers and journals in New York City, he debuted as a fiction writer in 1925 with the short story "In Old Age." In 1935, his first novel, Satan in Goray, was published.

He continued writing short stories that reflected both his daily life and times and those of his childhood.  Among his acclaimed short stories was one of his best-known, "Gimple the Fool."   His 1950 novel, The Family Moskat, about a family living in the ghettos of pre–World War II Poland brought him worldwide success from which he never looked back.

Isaac Bashevis Singer

One of his most recognized works from his later years was Enemies: A Love Story, about the emotional struggle of a Holocaust survivor.  His other important novels included The Manor, The Estate and his memoir, In My Father's Court.   In 1978, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his life’s body of work.  Aspiring writers everywhere continue to study Singer's work for the surprising blend of religious morality and social awareness combined with an investigation of personal desires.

“A story to me means a plot where there must be some surprise,” Singer said, when asked what led to writing successes.  “Because that is how life is, after all, full of surprises.” 

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