Can it be–August already? What a summer it’s been. Mine (in a nutshell) has entailed exploring Nova Scotia’s seaboard with family, cavorting with friends in Charleston, beach-hopping with Wyatt in Rowayton, tackling boatloads of travel writing assignments, and, of course, pushing to complete a second round of edits to my manuscript.

Dvora's mother often made this traditional Polish XX, or poppy seed cake - it was a family favorite

Dvora said her mother often made this traditional Polish makowiec, or poppy seed cake; it was a family favorite

In my last post, I introduced you to Dvora, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, who grew up in my family’s hometown of Radom, Poland. I connected with Dvora in June, over the phone. She surprised me with her quick wit, her candidness, and her stamina–we spoke for nearly three hours. My questions revolved largely around life as a young girl in pre-war Radom. What did she do for fun? Where did she go to school? What was her favorite snack?

To be defeated and not submit, is victory; to be victorious and rest on one's laurels, is defeat.

“To be defeated and not submit, is victory; to be victorious and rest on one’s laurels, is defeat.” ~Józef Piłsudksi

Dvora’s memory was sharp. She regaled me with stories of picking wild berries at Lake Garbatka, where her family (like many Radomers) spent the summers, and of strolling from her home (a stone’s throw from the Kurc’s) to the market, the park, the Przyjaciol Wiedzy, a Jewish school for girls where she studied six days a week (the norm). I could feel her nostalgia as she reminisced about her mother’s poppy seed cake and savory Seder brisket, and the sadness in her voice when she told me how everyone “cried their hearts out” at the 1935 death of Józef Piłsudksi, a heroic leader of the Second Polish Republic, and how life for Jews began to deteriorate thereafter.

When I hung up the phone with Dvora I felt like I’d gleaned a new, colorful perspective on what it meant for my grandfather and his siblings to grow up in Radom. To my new friend Dvora–I can’t thank you enough for your precious insights.

In June I also collaborated with a cartographer, Ryan, who was referred to me through a travel client. I charged Ryan with creating a map that depicted the Kurc family’s WWII Diaspora…which, considering its breadth, was no easy task. After several revisions, we ended up here:

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I’ll include this map with my manuscript when I’m ready to begin pitching to agents. I’d also like to use more detailed maps throughout the book, once it’s published.

And just a couple of weeks ago, I’m proud to report I completed a second round of manuscript revisions and, after quieting the demons (I can make it better! What if they hate it?), finally mustered the courage to hand it over to a few trusted editors. It was hard (so hard!) letting go. But now that it’s off my plate, I feel lighter on my toes than I have in months. To my better half Robert, my mother Isabelle, and my good friend John–I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking on the role of The Lucky Ones’ first audience. I’m so excited for your feedback.

TLO on MV

My mother was on Martha’s Vineyard when I sent my manuscript–I had it printed for her at the local UPS store. She picked it up by bike and texted me this photo, which I love. Her caption read: TLO, meet MV. MV, say hello to TLO.

I’ve still got plenty of work ahead, of course, but with this early draft of the book out I feel like I’ve checked off a major milestone, and I’m determined now more than ever to make The Lucky Ones as great as it can be. A heartfelt thank you to all of the folks–from survivors to cartographers to editors–who have carved the time out of their own busy summers to lend a hand.