I have found the various writing communities in Canada to be very supportive of each other, and JewishFiction.net certainly fills an important niche in this country. Jewish Fiction .net is the online literary journal that was founded by Dr. Nora Gold, who continues to act as editor-in-chief to this day. Dr. Gold is also a published author herself, with 2016’s The Dead Man (Inanna Publications) being her most recent. Her personal website is noragold.com.
I wanted to learn more about JewishFiction.net, and Dr. Gold was gracious enough to take some time to talk about it.
Dr. Gold, why did you create this journal ten years ago?
The impetus to create Jewish Fiction.net was the result of the crisis experienced at that time by the publishing industry. One of the immediate effects of the advent of digital technology was that print publishers became more reluctant to take on books that they thought of as appealing only to “niche markets,” such as Jewish fiction. Although I personally did not encounter difficulty in finding a publisher for my first novel (my book of stories had won an award and praise from Alice Munro), I knew a number of writers of Jewish fiction who couldn’t get their work published. One was told by a publisher to keep her work in a drawer for a few years until the industry had adjusted to the digital revolution and, as a result, this author considered stopping writing. I became concerned that during the transition period to digital publishing, a lot of excellent Jewish fiction would be lost. So I started Jewish Fiction .net to create a publishing space for first-rate contemporary Jewish fiction by writers who are not yet well-known, in order to help their work reach the wide international audience that it deserves. I also thought this would be a great way to share Jewish literature within the broader Canadian literary community, and beyond, with both Jewish and non-Jewish readers around the world.
What is unique about JewishFiction .net?
Jewish Fiction .net is the only English-language journal in the world, either print or online, devoted exclusively to publishing Jewish fiction.Jewish Fiction .net is also unique in its commitment to publishing Jewish fiction in translation. Each issue of our journal includes not only stories originally written in English, but at least three stories that were translated into English from different languages. For example, our new issue (Issue 25), coming out this week, will contain works originally written in English, Spanish, Yiddish, and Hebrew.
How was Jewish Fiction .net initially received and how is it regarded now?
Jewish Fiction .net was recognized from the get-go as filling an important lacuna in the international Jewish literary scene. One writer summed up the general response, writing, “Jewish Fiction .net is a game-changer,” and articles and blogs about Jewish Fiction .net appeared in most of the major Jewish newspapers in the USA, the UK, Canada, and Israel (for instance, The Forward, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Week, Hadassah Magazine, Women’s Voice UK, and the Canadian Jewish News). Since then, the response to Jewish Fiction .net has continued to be very enthusiastic. We’ve obviously tapped into a crucial need because we continually receive accolades from readers, writers, publishers, translators, agents, academics, and editors, and we are flooded with submissions.
What have you accomplished in your first ten years?
In our first ten years, Jewish Fiction .net has published over 400 works of fiction (stories or novel excerpts) never before published in English, which were originally written in sixteen languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Danish, English, Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Turkish, Polish, German, Croatian, Hebrew, Ladino, and Yiddish). We are honoured to have published many excellent writers who are not yet well-known, alongside some of the most eminent Jewish authors of our time, such as Elie Wiesel, Aharon Appelfeld, Savyon Liebrecht, and A.B. Yehoshua. We are proud to be a journal that is based in Canada and to have published very fine Canadian authors, for example, George Jonas, Chava Rosenfarb, David Bezmozgis, and Morley Torgov. Jewish Fiction .net has readers in 140 countries.
What criteria do you apply when deciding which stories to accept?
Given the mandate of our journal, we only publish fiction that is Jewish-themed. Other than this, our only criterion for acceptance is literary excellence.
Sometimes we get asked if writers have to be Jewish to send us their work; not at all. We have published several first-rate, Jewish-themed stories by non-Jewish authors, and we welcome submissions from anyone interested in our journal.
How does Jewish Fiction .net operate day to day?
Jewish Fiction .net is very fortunate to have an Advisory Council that is very supportive of this journal in various ways, and we also have an amazing team of manuscript reviewers. At present, these reviewers are concentrated in three geographical hubs: in Toronto, Houston, and Jerusalem. All of these individuals are extraordinarily knowledgeable and devoted, and they constitute a central pillar of this journal.
In terms of our process, every submission we receive gets read through blind review by at least two of our reviewers. I make all the final publishing decisions.
Jewish Fiction .net is free of charge and therefore available to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. This was an important principle for me when starting this journal – I wanted anyone with a computer or phone, including high school students, to be able to access and read the stories in Jewish Fiction .net – and I am proud that we have been able to accomplish this. Related to this decision, though, everyone who works on Jewish Fiction .net (other than our website technician and lawyer) does so on a volunteer basis, me included. Jewish Fiction.net subsists entirely on donations from its readers (Canadian and American donations are tax-deductible), and thus far our readers have been very appreciative and generous.
Jewish Fiction .net is truly a labour of love. And while those of us who are part of it are financially unremunerated, we are richly remunerated in other ways: intellectually, literarily, spiritually, and emotionally. I may have often thought of this journal, in these first ten years, as my gift to the world, but I have also received many gifts from it in return. As every writer knows, writing can be an isolating business, so acquiring a network of writers from around the world (some of whom have become friends) has been an unexpected delight. And Jewish Fiction .net has introduced me to works of fiction and to Jewish sub-cultures I would never have otherwise encountered. I hope this journal can continue to offer to all our readers similar kinds of illumination, entertainment, stimulation, and pleasure, especially in this challenging time we are all living through now.
Dr. Nora Gold is a prize-winning writer and editor. Her first book, Marrow and Other Stories, won a Canadian Jewish Book Award and praise from Alice Munro. Her second book, the novel Fields of Exile, won a Canadian Jewish Literary Award and praise from Cynthia Ozick; her third book, The Dead Man, was awarded a Canada Council Translation Grant and was published in Hebrew. Her fourth book will be coming out next year. Gold, at one point a tenured professor as well as the Writer-in-Residence at the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at OISE/University of Toronto, is the founder and editor of the prestigious online literary journal Jewish Fiction.net, and the creator and coordinator of the Wonderful Women Writers Reading Series, currently housed at the Toronto Public Library (Deer Park branch). noragold.com