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KU celebrates Jewish literature and creative writing in the heartland with Oct. 21 event

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

LAWRENCE — A one-day writing workshop and symposium will celebrate Jewish literature and creative writing in the heartland. 

“Writing Jewish: Midrash, Myth and Miracle” is the second annual offering of the “Jews in the Midwest” speaker series. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, 917 Highland Drive.

Both the workshop and symposium are free. The symposium is open to the public, but to attend the writing workshop, RSVP online. Lunch is provided for writing workshop participants. If a kosher lunch is needed, please email JewishStudies@ku.edu or call 785-864-4664 before Oct. 5.

The morning writing workshop, 10 a.m. to noon, is hosted by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the 2009-2013 Kansas Poet Laureate.

"Writing our own midrash – the Hebrew tradition of re-visioning traditional texts from the Torah and beyond – allows us to get into the control room of cultural and religious dominant narratives to rescript how we live and re-vision who we are,” Mirriam-Goldberg said. “Using innovative and short writing prompts based on poetic meanderings through midrash, you’ll find your way into unearthing and inventing individual and collective stories that can lead to greater freedom and resilience. Throughout the workshop — open to anyone interested in midrash and writing — participants can experiment with poems, stories and any other form of writing that calls to them."

The afternoon symposium, 1:45-5 p.m., will feature talks by three Jewish writers.

Rena Rossner will present “Don’t Ask Questions about Fairy Tales: Jewish Myths and Legends Re-Imagined.” Using her debut novel, “The Sisters of the Winter Wood,” (2018) as a jumping off point, Rossner will discuss all the elements that go into creating a Jewish fantasy novel that is rooted in Midrash, Hasidic tales, Kabbalistic texts and folklore.

Rossner lives in Israel, where she works as a literary agent. All eight of her great-grandparents immigrated to America to escape the pogroms in Moldova, Russia, Romania and Ukraine. It is their story, together with her love of Jewish mythology and fantasy, that inspired her to write “The Sisters of the Winter Wood.”

Renee Perelmutter (writing as Rose Lemberg) will present “Queering the Miraculous in the New Jewish Literature of the Fantastic.” They will examine a range of short stories and poetry created by a new generation of LGBTQIA+ Jewish writers of fantastic literature working in English.

Discussing their own work, as well as that of others, they will investigate how these texts incorporate Kabbalistic and fantastic Jewish elements and observe them through the lens of queer and trans lives that have often been erased or obscured in the canon of Jewish thought.

Perelmutter is an associate professor of Jewish studies and of Slavic languages & literatures. They have published fiction and poetry of the fantastic, which draw on Jewish and LGBTQIA+ themes. Their debut collection of poetry is “Marginalia to Stone Bird” (2016). 

Mirriam-Goldberg is the keynote speaker and will present “From Jonah’s Tree to Miriam’s Well: A Writer’s Midrash Journey.” From her first book, “Lot's Wife,” a collection of poems, to her most recent, the novel “Miriam's Well: A Modern-Day Exodus,” and in other writing, Mirriam-Goldberg has explored the edges of midrash to unearth insights, images and guiding stories from what lies beneath Jewish myths and mythic characters.

She'll also explore writing Jewish in Kansas and how amplifying stories can help shift limiting myths about what it means to be a Kansas writer or "a Yid in the Mid" — a Jewish writer in the heartland. Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-2013 Kansas Poet Laureate, is a poet, writer and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. She is the author of more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, memoirs and anthologies.

A complete schedule for “Writing Jewish: Midrash, Myth and Miracle” can be found online.

This event is coordinated by the Jewish Studies Program. Principal funding for this program is provided by the Community Legacy Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Many KU units have contributed toward this program, including the offices of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Provost, Chancellor, Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity; the departments and programs of American Studies, English, Global and International Studies, History, Humanities and Western Civilization, Religious Studies, Women Gender and Sexuality Studies; the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; and The Hall Center for the Humanities.

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