skip to main |
skip to sidebar
Monday, January 27th, 2020 marked the 75th
Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz (a German concentration camp in Nazi
occupied Poland). The International
Holocaust Remembrance Day is in commemoration of the day, January 27th
1945, when Allied troops found nearly 8,000 sick and starving prisoners and
This liberation happened nearly a decade before my birth and
as a young child many of the adults in my family spoke in hushed tones about
relatives that weren’t lucky enough to have made it to America, and relatives
that died in the concentration camps. I was raised amid whispers of different
camp names and the evil “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Jewish
children, safe in America from Nazi Germany’s plans to annihilate our race were
sheltered by parents who mourned loved ones and were horrified by what had
My parents had a friend, her name was Anne, and one day I
asked Anne about the numbers tattooed on her arm. My mother gasped. Anne took
my hand and quietly told me that it was a mark put on her arm by Nazis when she
was taken to a concentration camp. And then she somberly old me a “gentle”
version of what she had lived through. Knowing how protective my parents always
were I innocently asked Anne where her parents were during her ordeal and she
told me. And I cried when I learned that she had watched her mother walk into
the gas chamber, and she was separated from her siblings all of whom she was
sure of their deaths, and her father was shot to death for not working hard
A few years later, in public school, one teacher was brave
enough to show our class a film that was taken by a soldier upon liberating one
of the camps. There were corpses and tattered clothing, and even remnants of
dolls and he told us how many died during this horrendous time; he even told us
that more than 6-million Jewish lives had been taken along with thousands of
gay men and women, non-Jews who tried to help their Jewish neighbors, Gypsies, twins
who were used for experiments, physically and mentally disabled people, Catholic
priests, and others who didn’t look Aryan enough. There were parents who were
upset about his harsh reality their children witnessed in the film and there
were complaints — I think that teacher was fired, we had a different classroom
teacher the rest of the year.
Throughout my life I met several more people with numbers tattooed
on their arms and poignant stories to tell. And I heard stories of hope as
people rebuilt lives. I visited a small local Holocaust museum some years back.
And my own daughter visited Auschwitz during a USY (United Synagogue Youth)
Pilgrimage to Poland and Israel. And I learned the name of a young relative in
my family who died in one of the concentration camps, Sara was just 10-months
I was very distressed to read headlines today which implied
that growing numbers of millennials have no idea what the Holocaust was. There
have always been some deniers, but it happened… the numbers on Anne’s arm were
real, the stories I’ve heard from other survivors are real, the film our
teacher showed us was real, and 10-month old Sara was real. I fear that
#NeverAgain has become a meaningless cry for too many.
We can NEVER FORGET when any people have been tortured,
killed, dehumanized, and singled out because of a religion, race, lifestyle or
ethnicity. Please teach your children and your children’s children — we must
remember so that we can, G-d willing, stop history from repeating itself.
The Railway to Auschwitz
I began my life as a writer long before I ever married and
after marriage I continued to use my maiden name professionally while I used my
married name socially (to be completely honest, I was married BEFORE local laws
allowed a woman NOT to change her name to her husband’s). I wear both names
with pride, both Chelle Cordero and Mrs. E. Even my official IDs carry both
So it took me back a bit the other day when this rather nasty
old man accused me of using a different surname than my hubby for some
nefarious purposes! I felt like shouting “I’m a professional woman married to a
man who doesn’t suffer from a low ego!” — But I didn’t. In this day and age,
why should I have to explain why I use the name I do? And I’ve never hidden
that I am married to Mr. E. and anyone who knows either of us has never questioned
Several of my friends
also use their maiden names in their professional lives, some of them never even changed it upon marriage. None of our husbands are so small minded that they
begrudge the names we go by. I admit that when my own offspring were being
married I did marvel at the marriage license application where not only were
women given the choice of what name they would use, but so were the men! (and
it was their decision for the man’s surname to be used) Times sure have
changed, I for one applaud that.
Of course we’ve had some amusing events because of the “different”
names. For several years we both freelanced for a newspaper, I worked as a
writer and Mark worked as a photographer. There were several times we were
assigned to cover the same subject and while we never hid our relationship, we
always introduced ourselves by our working names.
There was one day when I left the room where I had just
interviewed a subject to get some info from his business partner; Mark remained
in the room taking pictures. Out of the blue our subject asked if Mark thought
I might be interested in going out with him… Mark took a moment and then replied,
she’s married. The subject thought about it and then asked Mark if I was the
type to date anyway, without missing a beat, he said, “Her husband has a bit of
a temper.” Mark told me about the conversation as we were driving home (okay, I
admit, it was a bit of an ego boost, lol).
So really, what is in a name? Neither woman nor man should
have to give up their own identities because they want to share their lives
with each other. The choice of which name or combination of names should only
be made by the individuals involved. Be proud of who you are and who you’ve chosen
to be with, it is nobody else’s business.
I went to a shiva call the other night (shiva: In Judaism, the first period of structured mourning. Throughout
the shiva period, mourners come together in the mourner’s home to offer their
condolences and support.) Although it might sound odd to those who are not
familiar with the custom, this shiva was truly what one should hope for.
Yes, everyone offered their condolences and concern for the
bereaved, but then the house was filled with smiles, chuckles, and remembered
stories to share. The table and counters were laden with trays of cookies,
cakes, fruits and hot foods — all brought by visitors or sent by friends to
help “take care” of the grieving family.
The house was full, so much so that there was barely a place
to sit, with friends who knew the deceased (some from early childhood), knew
the mourning family, and distant relatives. The woman had been a teacher and
former students and her fellow teachers came, neighbors stopped in, members of
her social club. There were a lot of people filled with love.
Seeing how this woman touched so many lives and how many
people loved her makes someone wonder at their own mortality and how she will
be remembered when her time comes. Of course I know my immediate family will be
there and most probably some cousins and even a neighbor or two… but will the
funeral chapel be filled and will my loved ones’ home be filled with people who
remember me and who will help to ease the grief?
I’ve been haunted by a funeral I once attended. She was, in
my heart, a wonderful person, but she had survived all of her blood family and
many long-time friends. There was a storm the day of the funeral and while she
had been active in her local community, she had pre-made her arrangements in a
funeral home that necessitated public transportation for her neighbors to
attend. Between those that weren’t left to mourn her passing, the horrible
weather, and the distance from her small circle of friends, there were only
five of us (plus the officiant) in the chapel. Six people to send her on her
When it is my time, will there be a houseful of people to
remember me, or only a mere handful to send me off? Which one will I be? I hope
that people will laugh and smile, I hope that I will be remembered fondly, and
I hope there will be warm hearts to surround my loved ones and help them to
He has achieved success who has lived
well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of
intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and
accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he
Who has looked for the best in others
and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory is a benediction.
I came across this little bio I wrote about my writing when I was included in "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" produced by The Authors Show in 2010. This is full of enthusiasm and excitement about writing, and, wonderfully, it is STILL the way I feel. My parents always encouraged me to find a vocation that I LOVED doing and I did.
I began dabbling in writing in High School (maybe earlier if you
count my scribbled storylines for my favorite TV shows) and two of my short
works were selected for my High School yearbook. The first time I actually
wrote for publication was in college – it was a newspaper report and it was
printed in a local weekly paper where I lived.
I went back to writing as a pastime but
pursued it as a business in the early 80’s. As a child, and even now, I always
had a very vivid imagination and loved making up stories and playing “what if?”
My imaginary friends were very complex individuals and quite believable when I
spoke about them. I often had teachers ask my mom how she managed raising five
kids (there was only my sister and me).
I write because “I have to” – it isn’t
just a job, it is a drive inside of me, it just has to be. I always say that my
writing is synonymous with my breathing. I like knowing that my words are being
read, whether it is my fiction or my newspaper journalism. I like reaching
people and making them think because of something I’ve said/written. It’s even
better when my words create a dialogue between readers. Because I have a strong
Internet presence, readers have been able to find and contact me online. It is
wonderful to read their comments and to be able to say “Wow. He (she) really
gets it!” and to know that my meanings are clear.
It’s not always easy to combine creative
writing time with the business end of promotion, marketing and even finances. No
matter how well written or interesting your book may be, if no one knows about
it, then no one reads it. To be “in the business” means that you have to tackle
some of the non-creative stuff as well. Seeing my name on a book or as a byline
under an article always thrills me. My greatest victory as an author has been
seeing my work published and knowing people are seeking out my words to read.
The day I sent my manuscript query to
Kimberlee Williams at Vanilla Heart Publishing was a huge moment in my life. I
was thrilled when she asked to see the complete manuscript and literally
speechless when she offered me a contract a short while later. Kimberlee is a
terrific publisher, she is very accessible and encouraging, and she remains on
top of her industry to learn the newest and most innovative ways of doing
things. Promotion and marketing of my books is a team effort between author and
publisher and what we are doing seems to be working.
I was very fortunate to have poet Daisy
Aldan as my creative writing teacher in high school. The late Ms. Aldan was very
encouraging and taught us how to tap into our imaginations. I would have loved
to have lunch with Daisy Aldan and let her know what a wonderful influence she
had on my life. Later I volunteered in the NYC Auxiliary Police in the early
70’s and was mentored by Detective Hank Spallone – Hank was our police
department liaison and community affairs officer. He taught me to open the
lines of communication with people. I use what I learned from both Aldan and Spallone in my career as a full-time writer; I
write both fiction (my favorite) and non-fiction journalism. I enjoy developing
a character and a setting, building a background and seeing it all come to life
in my fiction. I immensely dislike walking away from my computer keyboard when
I have more words in me to type.
I think that we humans like to tell
stories and writing books is a way of recording our stories and giving them
life. I build my characters with personalities and pasts that affect their
thoughts and feelings, then I sort of throw them into a world I’ve created and
let them make their own decisions. I always have a story to explore and I am
always working on another book.
All of my fiction is based on life. I
glean story ideas from the world around me, my own experiences, newspaper
reports and even random people-watching. Little snippets of conversation may be
the beginnings of an entire novel as I use my imagination to fill in any
missing pieces and give names to the otherwise unknown characters. I tend to
embellish things that have happened; I say to myself that I can’t be the only
person to have experienced such things, but my imagination still runs rampant.
I enjoy helping new writers learn about
the field and pursue their dreams. It’s sad to hear that someone gave up on a
dream because of lack of confidence or encouragement. I’ve been blessed with
the generous support and encouragement of my family, friends, publisher and
fellow VHP authors. I’ve facilitated workshops on the writing process,
character development and the road to publication.
I write as a job and sometimes have to
juggle the hours to make everything fit. I lead a very busy life with my
community and family. Writing of any kind helps to relax me, even under the
tightest deadlines. Whether it was seeing my words on the typed page as in my
early days of writing or on my computer screen in more modern times, there is a
thrill inside from the first opening sentence through to the last line of a
I write when I feel the urge and can get
to my computer or a pad and pencil. Writing is a way of life, it’s a way of
thinking and a way of breathing. Always remember that you are dealing with
humans who have thoughts and ideas of their own – some people will like your
work, some people won’t, you’re the one who has to believe in your work the
Never give up, never stop writing.
So it’s a New Year (in the Gregorian calendar) and aside from
all the jokes about having terrific vision this year (2020 eyesight and all
that), it is, like all New Year celebrations, another NEW beginning; I wrote
about new beginnings this past October.
So what makes THIS new beginning different from all other New
Year events? Well for one this New Year is based on the Gregorian calendar and
seems to be more universal, most times even people who observe religious and
ethnic based festivities also celebrate the coming of January 1. The Gregorian
calendar is accepted as the most widely used calendar as it most closely
represents the Earth’s spin around the Sun.
Most of us will probably, as in many years past, need a while
to get used to writing the “2020” in our checkbooks and other correspondence.
Luckily for those of us who make use of EFT (electronic fund transfers) through
our online banking apps will send our check payments out with the correct date thanks
to the computerized systems. But snail-mailed greeting cards and letters, for
those few still doing that, will provide enough challenge, lol.
Here’s some fun facts about the year 2020: It’s a leap year
since it is divisible by four (4), which means that there are 366 days instead
of the usual 365 — this allows for the approximately one-quarter extra day per
year that the Earth moves around the Sun, or exactly 365 days 5 hours 48
minutes and 46 seconds. This year February 29 is a thing! By the way did you
know that the turn-of-the-century years, even though still divisible by four,
are NOT leap years? This is because years that are equally divisible by 100 are
excluded… I have no idea why.
October 2020 will make the 438th anniversary of
the Gregorian calendar, its predecessor was the Julian calendar (named for
Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar was named for its creator, Pope Gregory
XIII (with the assistance of undisclosed and uncelebrated astronomers). It
seems that the approximately 11 minutes per year that the Julian calendar did
not take into account threw the observance dates of certain Christian holidays
askew. The new Gregorian calendar specifically allows for 365-days per year with
an extra day every year divisible by four (February 29), and centuries divisible
by 400 (otherwise years divisible by 100 are excluded).
Whew, I am glad I didn’t have to do
Most people still make resolutions, ideas of things to better
themselves, every New Year. And then most people break those well-meaning
resolutions after only a few weeks (if they are that lucky to last that long).
The new concept recommended by therapists and life-guides is to set goals WITH plans
of how to reach those goals so that we each have a “road-map” to guide us. Part
of reaching January is to let go of the past year — that doesn’t mean
forgetting! Build on what happened last year, it taught you lessons, maybe you
met new people, maybe you lost someone dear, but it was a definite part of
making YOU. Let go of the disappointments, know that you have a chance to re-do
most of what you didn’t manage in the year before.
Perhaps that fact that this year is 2020 and allows for all
the jokes about vision is a sign… It’s a new year, and a new time to evaluate
ourselves and work towards doing better. It’s a time for us to treasure our
friendships especially those that have traveled the many years with us. Be sure
to celebrate the person you’ve become, you reached this day, this year and this