The author of her own scenario

After living here for nearly 40 years, Dvora Waysman still draws most of her inspiration from Jerusalem.

Dvora Waysman 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dvora Waysman 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
She was seven years old when her first piece of writing was published. It was a poem entitled “Little Miss Olden-Days” and it appeared in a children’s magazine in her native Australia and garnered her a small prize. “I then decided it was my career and would make me very rich,” laughs Dvora Waysman in retrospect.
Writing may not have made her a millionaire, but it certainly became her career – and her passion. The author of 11 books and hundreds of articles, short stories, insights and reminiscences, the 79-year-old writer says, “I think I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to do the work I love the most, and even be paid for it.”
She loves to write everything, she says – articles for Jewish newspapers abroad, short stories for women’s magazines in the US and the UK, poetry, essays. “I even wrote articles recently for an online website about bed bugs,” she notes.
As for her books, Waysman has had 11 published, the first few of which were for children. Her novels are The Pomegranate Pendant; its sequel Seeds of the Pomegranate; Esther, a Jerusalem love story; and her latest creation, In a Good Pasture. Her book of poems is entitled Woman of Jerusalem.
In fact, Jerusalem is the well from which she draws much of her inspiration. “It is such a privilege to live here,” says Waysman. “Even nearly 40 years after making aliya, it still excites me.”
And people are another source of fuel for the fire. “I meet so many people every day, and in Israel I feel that every one of them is family. Each person is unique, and I feel I can learn from them all.”
In essence, for Waysman the world around her supplies her with all the material she needs to write and delight. Rather than conjure up convoluted scenarios or create galaxies far, far away, she delves into her own past or sentient present to create fiction out of fact or elaborate on life as she knows it.
“Whether it’s intentional or not, everything I write comes out of my own experience ... how can it not?” says Waysman. “It is the music I love, the jokes I laugh at, my childhood memories, the people who have impacted on my life, the movies I cried at, the cities I visited.
You can only write about what you know and the experiences that have formed you,” she says. “I think all writers file away in their minds everything that happens to them, good and bad, for future use.”
So what does she do with all those “files”? As a writer, how does all that material transmute from memories and observations to books and articles – and published ones, at that? For starters, Waysman says she is not a 9 to 5 writer. “I write whenever I have the opportunity – in the evening, on buses, while I’m under the dryer at the hairdresser,” she admits. “I love writing, and I never have fewer than 12 pens in my handbag, just in case I run out.”
She write her articles directly on the computer. “I usually I write Page 1 at the top and just keep going until I reach ‘The End.’ I usually do only one draft, but of course I’ve been writing since I was seven, so it’s easy for me now to be spontaneous.”
But in her early days, in those inconceivable days before the computer, things were not so easy, she recalls. “I used to type everything with carbon paper; use lots of white-out. Then I would take the manuscript to the post office to be weighed, always worrying that it wouldn’t reach its destination in time for the deadline,” she recounts.
However, she confesses that she was very resistant at first to learning how to use a computer. “But it was forced on me when I worked as the press officer at Shaare Zedek Medical Center – and I have blessed them ever since.”
Although she now asserts that computers have changed her world, she still writes poetry and fiction in longhand – in a spiral-bound notebook. “I find that the technology interferes with the creativity,” she says.
Needless to say, her books take longer to write than one sitting – but not that much. It took her three or four months to write each of her novels, except for The Pomegranate Pendant, which she had been commissioned to write by Feldheim Publishers in 1994. The epic story of a Yemenite family that comes to Jerusalem in the late 1800s, it took the author six months to research the material and seven months to write the book. And it surpassed her wildest dreams, as not only was the book itself very popular, but it was recently made into a movie called The Golden Pomegranate, which was filmed in various locations in Israel.
Continuing to be edified by the world around her, Waysman says that everything about her chosen career is enjoyable. “Writing is a challenge and so therapeutic. To me, words are magic – they can inspire, soothe, excite, console. I guess I am in love with words,” she says.
In that vein, what advice does she have for aspiring writers? “Don’t write just for the money – write out of love. Unless you can come up with a Harry Potter or be another John Grisham or Stephen King, you won’t be rich. You should probably keep your day job. But the thrill you get from writing is something more than any financial recompense,” she asserts.
As for her future projects, she is working on a novella that she wants to expand into a romance for seniors that is also a gardening book. “This is the first book of mine that doesn’t have any Jewish or Israeli theme,” she says. “So far, publishers are not knocking my door down with offers,” she admits.
But to cite her favorite Chinese proverb, “Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps the singing bird will come.”
With Dvora Waysman’s track record, I’d expect to hear some chirping pretty soon.