Behind the scenes of Shelter Us

I thought I’d share some “behind the scenes” of how my debut novel, Shelter Us, evolved from first draft to final form. Today’s tidbit: Torah study.

What’s that? You heard me.

After I had completed the first draft and was working sloooowly on revising, I began attending Torah study with Rabbi Amy Bernstein, at Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation, a progressive and all-around awesome place. (Her podcasts are here.)

Every week in Torah study we read and dissected ancient stories, and found connections to modern human foibles, habits, and yearnings — both personal and universal. What surprised me about Torah study, and what kept me coming back, was twofold: how relevant it was — how much I learned from it as a parent, a friend, a citizen. And how completely beautiful its purpose — to inspire humans toward becoming our best selves, all the while recognizing hey, we’re only human.

So nuts and bolts, how did this affect Shelter Us? Well, the first draft already had Sarah meeting and reaching out to Josie, a young homeless mother. (Obviously, my good Jewish Tikkun Olam training had already seeped into the plot.) But I went back and deepened Sarah’s motivation for doing that, deciding to make her late mother a Jewish convert, someone who often modeled the most important Jewish value: Remember we were strangers; welcome and take care of the stranger.

There more I think about it, the more Jewish values I find infused in Shelter Us, from its title, to the idea of passing values from one generation to the next, to the role of ritual, and even to the biggie: beliefs about God. And the more questions there are to explore.

  • How do you continue to learn and grow, be it philosophy, spirituality or history or something else?
  • Have you found yourself more or less drawn to religion or spirituality as you’ve gotten older?

Thanks for reading. Any questions you’d like answered? Feel free to ask in a comment, or contact me. More to come soon!

2 thoughts on “Behind the scenes of Shelter Us

  1. Hi, Laura.I enjoyed your novel very much, especially revisiting places I’m quite familiar with, in L. A. and even oakland and berkeley which I visited quite a bit when I went to humboldt state. It was good to read somewhere that you have a philly connection. I lived there when I worked at the allentown morning call. Ive been renting out my house in manayunk for 10 years. I keep telling myself I’m going back some day. Good luck on your post publication tour.-jose

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

    • Jose, I’m thrilled to hear from you, that you read my novel and enjoyed it. Thank you. Yes, I do have a Philly connection. I went to college there, and my husband and his family hail from there (which means we suffer through football season). Thanks for your good wishes.

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