And Now December Comes



Hello all–I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine was.  Surrounded by family and friends, and “kvelling” about my little granddaughter who astonishes me daily, what could be better?  Just a quick note to let you know that has again chosen my work as publication for the day.  This one is the preface to my memoir, MY MOTHER’S SHOES.  Please check it out through the link below:

Scriggler Story of the Day: AND SO by Shirley Russak Wachtel

 And here is a recent poem.  I hope you enjoy it.    Till next time, SHIRLEY






A drop of water

Falls from my hand entering

The big sea

Merging in a wave until

I can no longer tell

Where it is

Where it ends

And another begins

I stand at the shore and watch

The waves a multitude

Now undulating in the dusk

Orangeviolet lights that reflect

The moon until ultimately

All seeps into

A vast grayness.

I stand on the shore

Looking for the distant light

My fingers still oh still wet.



—Shirley Russak Wachtel

November 30, 2014

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My Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving.

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My Thanksgiving

ShirleyIconHow fast the days go!  I know, I know, it’s been months since I last posted but I have been quite busy with work and family obligations.  What’s happening?  Before I begin, since Thanksgiving is drawing upon us, I want to give special thanks to my family for, well, for everything they do and who they are.  I am blessed to have them in my life. Thank you to my dear friends for your continued advice and support!

Happy to say that MY MOTHER’S SHOES continues to attract readers.  I was privileged recently to be invited Family 5to speak for The Ralph J. Bunche Library Speaker Series at the US State Department.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone and introducing them to my parents’ story.  I am grateful for their warm reception and insightful questions.  In the spring I will be back in DC for a book signing at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum–details to come!  Finally, I am excited to announce the forthcoming publication of my new book, THE MUSIC MAKERS  next month–will keep you posted.  Check out where a chapter of the book was chosen in October as “Publication of the Day.”

Meanwhile, enjoy your turkey or tofu, as the case may be.   Kisses to Zoey!

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Another Mother’s Day





Mother’s Day, 2014.   Another year, another day when I am missing my dear mother, Betty Russak, so very much.  She was my cheer leader, my counselor, my sage, my protector, my healer….perhaps the word “mother” best sums it up.  Those who have such mothers understand, and those who have lost such mothers, I know, share my tears.  So, in memory of my one beloved mother, here is a poem I wrote some years ago….

Mothers Shoes 002



What do girls do once they’ve lost their mothers?

Fill the cup.

The cup needs filling.

Who will care?

Who will plug the emptiness, the sadness?

Because you know that life goes on.

But not for mothers

who worry of belly aches

and finals

and two-hour plane rides

and almost jobs

choking sounds which are words made

when we’ve had a day that was, oh, not quite?

(The perfect pitch of mothers who can hear us in the silence)

Who find with equal grace

a dropped hem,

a swollen eye?

(Their eyes in shadow and yet they see the language of our souls)


What do girls do once they’ve lost their mothers?

They tell their husbands at the breakfast table

who smile and turn the page.

They tell their friends

who embrace and share a serving of heartbreak and coffee,

and then go home to their own stories left untold.

When all we really want  –oh–

  1. Mommy.  Ma.

Standing before us in the old blue sweater

tissues and safety pins in the pockets

with hands as firm, timeless as oak,

soft as the moon.

How many tears can one shed in a void?

Who will count the tears?
Does it really matter?

(There is a paradox in this proximity, so close we feel that breath

in harmony with our own.  Yet distance cannot reach them).


What do girls do once they’ve lost their mothers?

They wipe their tears and leave the void

to face their children

who have mothers still.

They take up the sweaters,

turn them inside out .

Arms in sleeves,

they fill the cup again.—Shirley Russak Wachtel


And so, I fill the cup…….

Mother's Day 2012 005




!Charlie and Shirley 001


And yet again….SEE PHOTO AT TOP!

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BlimaiconWhat did I do on my summer vacation?  Well, first of all, it wasn’t exactly a vacation since I taught a class and then began writing another novel (which, by the way, I am still working hard at).  On the other hand, I do love both teaching and writing, so perhaps these activities weren’t work, after all.  Today I would like to talk about another favorite subject, probably the best of all–family.

Va. Wachtel's

After a return trip to Washington,DC, where we revisited some memorials, saw others honoring those who fought in Korea and World War II, we proceeded to Richmond, Virginia, home to my brother-in-law, Mark, his wife Michelle, and son, Jesse and family.  It had been 21 years since we last visited, and now I wonder why we waited so long. We caught up with Mark and Michelle at a restaurant which used to be a tobacco warehouse, ate in a  family-style Italian restaurant, and visited the lovely home of Jesse and Shontea.  It was truly a pleasure to meet their young children, the beautiful Hannah and rambunctious JJ.  We could see that they are truly raising their children the right way, and that these two have bright futures ahead!  We are proud to have Jesse in our family not only because he is an Army veteran, but because he is such a nice young man.

We also visited Virginia’s Holocaust Museum, probably the best museum on the subject as it replicates camp bunkers and also the courtroom at Nuremberg.  At one point, as I emerged from a dark enclosure, I had the shivers, not even a close approximation of what those in blessed memory had to endure.

There was much more to my summer (hint–a trip to Europe!), but I will leave that for another time.  Meanwhile, look for me at The Town Book Store, 270 East Broad Street in Westfield, on Saturday, October 12, where I will be discussing My Mother’s Shoes between 2:00 and 4:00 PM.  I look forward to seeing you there!


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Just Do It!

BettyiconThe people we love remain with us long after they are gone.  While we may no longer hear their names each day or recall the ordinary moments we have shared, they stay, nevertheless, within us.  Their voices brace our spirits for whatever the future holds and spur us to seek our passions, no matter what the cost.  I continue to hear the voices of my departed loved ones speaking to me each day; they are the force which keep me trying, keep me writing.  In the words of the NIKE ad, they say simply, “Just Do It.”

I am happy to announce the publication of my personal essay, “When She Sleeps” in  You may recognize this essay as it appears as the prologue of my novel, MY MOTHER’S SHOES.  Check it out!

Also, I would like to share a new poem which expresses my desire to pursue our passions, no matter what age we are!





I am afraid.

Afraid to look

to examine too closely

that thing which

beats within us all.

Virginia’s angry moth, Emily’s insistent fly

I do not like to look at them

for fear of getting to the edge

and plunging toward

my own mortality.


And yet I write.

Some say it is a futile task

to dissect the pit of a plum when after all

soon all will turn to ash and earth.

What worth the pages in a desk drawer

if no one bothers to turn the lock?

But does not the simple sparrow delight in the beating of wings against the breast

as it makes a first ascent into the clouds?

Or the bee shiver with ecstasy as it yields its honey?

Or the whale inhale deep such liquid elixir as it plows beneath a wave?

The youth who dares smile as he tastes sweet wine upon the lips?


I cannot but move toward joy—

And if no one ever reads my words,

would I bother to write them?

Yes—I think—yes.



–Shirley Russak Wachtel 7/1/13


Zoey eats cake

Finally, I want to give a big shout-out to my adorable granddaughter, Zoey Grayson Wachtel, who just celebrated her first birthday.  She is the other voice in my head–the voice of the future.  Zoey, I love you more each day.

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Hooray for Hollywood!

ShirleyIconI am a proud mom.  All of my three sons make me immensely proud everyday, but today I send special kudos out to my youngest, Charlie, who resides in Hollywood and is in one of the most daunting (and often frustrating) professions, movie-making.

Charlie & cast
Charlie (far right) and cast.
Four years ago, he set out cross-country to make his mark in LA.  He has endured several internships, jobs, and even rejections.  He went to LA knowing nary a soul, and since the day he set out as a pioneer for the land of fantasies, at least four of his very close childhood buddies have followed him out there.  A testament to the kind of a friend he is, I think.  A graduate of American University and the Famu film program in Prague, Charlie is a talented, determined, and optimistic young man who is not afraid to take risks to make his vision a reality.
Thanks, Charlie, for making me one proud Mama!
More Announcements…
Some of my poems have been accepted for literary magazines.  The first one, THE WRITE ROOM, includes “After the Storm” and “The Bird.”    These poems appear as two of fourteen featured poems in this online magazine.  There are a total of 341 poems.  Check out the first link.  My poem “Betty” appears in RIVER POETS JOURNAL, special matriarchal issue, page 10.  This journal will be coming out in print as well in a couple of weeks.  Click on the second link.  I am proud and happy to be in the community of published writers.  Thanks, as always, for your support.
 Finally, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads—especially two wonderful fathers….
my dear husband and dynamic Dad, Arthur, and my son, Howie, the best new Dad celebrating his first Father’s Day.  Zoey loves you, and so do we.
Till next time–Shirley
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