Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jane Boruszewski Based Novel "Escape from Russia" on Her Memoirs

Escape from Russia, a dramatic and inspirational memoir-based novel by Jane Boruszewski of Syracuse, New York, has been published by Pennywyse Press, and is now available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

This announcement is a bittersweet one, because Jane did not live to see her book in print. Sadly, she passed away on August 1, 2009, at 82 years of age.

Born in Poland, Jane was just 13 years old in 1940, when following the invasion of her country by first Germany and then Russia, she and her family were deported to Siberia. Escape from Russia is a fictional rendering of their struggle to survive and transcend this harrowing ordeal.

Jane worked on early versions of some of the chapters in Escape from Russia while taking part in several of my online memoir workshops through Ryerson University between 2004 and 2006. Even in writing about the adversities she and her family had faced, Jane managed to weave threads of hope, love and faith. Her strength of spirit shone in her stories. I remember her fondly, as do her fellow students from those courses.

Some of Jane’s short stories, both memoirs and life-based fiction, also appeared in the annual anthology OASIS Journal, published by Imago Press of Tucson. Following her death, her husband, Walter Boruszewski, worked closely with Leila Joiner – editor of OASIS Journal, and publisher of Imago Press and Pennywyse Press – to produce Escape from Russia, a beautiful book that’s a tribute to the author's memory and her long-time love of writing.

“My mom had been writing all her life and she worked on this story for years,” says Jane and Walter’s daughter Linda. “My dad, in her honour, had the book self-published. It’s fiction, but a lot of it is true. I’m very proud of my mom for never giving up on it, and proud of my dad for making her dream come true.”

From a review on Amazon.com: “This is a very simply written, yet powerful book written from the perspective of a young girl who, with her family, is taken from her homeland and deported to Siberia during World War II. It tells the story of the family’s deprivations and struggles to eventually return to Poland.... For all the suffering detailed throughout the book, the message that comes through is one of hope....” [Chuck Raynor]

The 2009 edition of OASIS Journal is dedicated to Jane Boruszewski.


More about OASIS Journal:

OASIS Journal is an annual anthology of short fiction, non-fiction including memoir, and poetry by writers age fifty and over. Produced in coordination with The OASIS Institute, a national non-profit organization in the U.S. that promotes ongoing education for seniors, OASIS Journal has showcased the work of older writers since 2002. Oasis Journal editions 2008 and 2009 are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. The book currently runs approximately 350 pages. A contest is held each year for Best Fiction, Best Non-fiction, and Best Poetry with a $100 prize in each category. Prose submissions are limited to 5000 words. Original illustrations (both artwork and photographs) are also accepted for consideration if they accompany a poetry or prose submission. OASIS Journal considers entries from Canada. Submissions are accepted from May 1 to July 31 (postmark) each year, and are judged anonymously.

To obtain a 2010 submission form, write to anthology editor Leila Joiner, after May 1, at ljoiner@dakotacom.net.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Telling Life Stories, by Seymour Eliesen (Guest Blogger)

“Dad, I don’t really know you” began the conversation I had a few years back with Michael, my eldest son. This made me realize that I wanted to tell my children, grandchildren and the rest of my family about my life when I was a toddler, teenager, young adult, maturing parent, and now a senior. I wanted them to know what it was like for me. I needed to jump-start my memory.

I rented a tiny, secluded cabin appropriately named SHALOM, Hebrew for “peace.” The wooden structure was musty, without running water or electricity, and I loved it. My guests were a family of Canada Geese, chattering red squirrels, hummingbirds, blue jays, and a red fox that the owner told me was named Daisy Mae.

So on a warm day in July 2007, a bright sun beaming infrared rays into my body, I set up a folding table and chair in a field surrounded by yellow buttercups with the crystal waters of Aylen Lake on one side and the forest treeline on the other. I opened my coil-bound notebook, remembered to apply number 30 sunscreen, as I’m not stupid, and with pen in hand, I began to write. I wrote and wrote. I had a great time recording every memory I could recall.

In the middle of the afternoon, dark, ominous clouds appeared out of nowhere and within ten minutes a heavy downpour interrupted my writing. The thundershower was brief. To my pleasure, as the clouds moved to the west a beautiful double rainbow appeared. It seemed a sign to go on with my story.

I've continued to write about events I've experienced, people I've known, and what life was like for me "in the olden days." I've developed a real passion for Life Story Writing.

Telling stories has taken a number of forms for me. Some are primarily documentary in nature, recording various details of life and the times for posterity. Others are about aspects of my family background and heritage of which my children and grandchildren are not aware. My writings have become a learning and healing process and before I’m done I’ll write how I have grown from this. Some stories are quite personal, and may not be finished or shared for decades. My favourites, the ones that are the most fun to write, are vignettes of specific times, about the neighbourhood where I grew up, friends, happy occasions, sad ones, when I became a hippie, and then a farmer.

As I write, I'm finding that decorating the stories with photos, a family tree, old documents, recipes and whatever else strikes my fancy brings the level of my storytelling up a notch. I’ve gone to the Internet for some photos and artwork and I’ve researched libraries for other bits of information. I’ve interviewed cousins, former employers, business associates and friends. I had never thought that being involved in this task would give me so much satisfaction and enjoyment. To leave a legacy like this for my family makes me feel very proud of myself. There is an inner artist in me that I wasn't fully aware was there.

People ask if these stories are true. The answer to that question is yes, and the answer is also no. Sometimes my brother reads a story I've written and says, “That's not what happened at all.” I generally grin and reply, "Write your own story!"

These stories represent my memory of what happened and what the events meant to me. Therein lies their truth. In the end, the value of memories is the meaning they hold for us. But these are more than memories, they are stories. Beyond the twists of memory, storytellers learn not to let a few puny facts get in the way of a good tale.


Seymour Eliesen was born and raised in the 1940s in the St. Urbain Street district of Montreal. The first son of working class Jewish immigrants, he went to Baron Byng High School. At 15 he began a successful 52-year career in the apparel industry. He and his second wife, Lydia, were back-to-the-land organic farmers in the 1970s. Seymour is writing his memoirs as a gift to his children and grandchildren for his 75th birthday.

Seymour took part in my workshops at North York Central Library (memoir) and online (dialogue writing), and in February 2010 flew to Santiago, Chile, to participate in the two-week residential writers’ retreat workshops I led there: "Journeys and Discoveries: Writing from Your Life." His ever-present binder already brims with completed stories, drafts of others, photos and more, and the collection continues to evolve. This guest blog is the introduction to those stories.