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Two former Winnipeggers see short stories published

Avra Love/Marcus Spiegel

By BERNIE BELLAN It’s not easy for a writer to obtain recognition. How’s that for a cliché?

As someone who’s on the receiving end of numerous requests from publishers’ agents or often writers themselves, asking whether I’d be interested in reviewing a particular book or story, or perhaps interviewing the author, I know how difficult it is to get noticed in a world where tens of thousands of new titles appear every year.
But, as I’ve noted many times in this paper, I often try to go out of my way to help publicize new works by local Jewish writers or writers who may have come from Winnipeg but now live elsewhere – which seems to be a common pattern for writers in this city i.e., leave Winnipeg and hope to carve out a writing career somewhere else.

I’ve decided to profile the works of two young writers, both former Winnipeggers, and both of whom, interestingly enough, have chosen the short story genre as the primary form in which they are hoping to establish themselves.
By choosing to focus on two short story writers at the same time, my hope is that it might provide inspiration for other writers who may have thought at one time or another that perhaps they’d like to try their hand at writing a short story – with the hope of having it published. It’s certainly not an easy challenge to undertake, but the gratification that comes with finally seeing a work of yours published might make following up that initial accomplishment worth repeating.

Both writers, about whom I’m writing, as it turns out, are very close in age. Avra Love is 38, while Marcus Spiegel is 37, but when I asked either of them whether they knew one another, the answer was “no.”
The similarities don’t end there. Both studied English and Philosophy at university and both have worked as teachers – which is a natural, I suppose for a writer, and both have chosen to write fiction, although Marcus Spiegel tells me that he has also written some non-fiction.
And, while Avra Love is relatively new to the game, having just published an anthology of her stories, titled “Into the Junk Drawer and Other Stories,” Marcus Spiegel has had a number of his short stories published in American literary journals, one of which has just recently been awarded a very major prize.

Marcus says that he first began writing short stories when he was around 16, but it was only when “he was around 26 or 27” that he was “really inspired to be a writer.” Avra says that her first interest in writing was poetry, but she also tried her hand at writing “skits, young adult fiction, and children’s books.”
As for their Winnipeg backgrounds, it turns out that I’m well acquainted with both Avra’s and Marcus’s parents. Avra, as you might have guessed, is the daughter of Myron and Symma Love, while Marcus is the son of Jeff and Esther Spiegel.
Marcus, by the way, was brought to my attention by his in-laws, Neta and Yair Bourlas (who happen to live across the street from me). It was when I was talking with them one day that they mentioned they have a son-in-law who had recently been awarded a major award for a short story he had written. Marcus was one of 65 writers whose works were published recently in a very prestigious annual anthology of short stories, essays, and poems, known as “The Pushcart Prize” Series. Marcus’s story appears in the XLVI edition for the year 2022.

While Avra’s collection of short stories has only recently been published, she says that she has another collection of short stories which she’s hoping to publish soon, along with “a handful of children’s books awaiting illustrations.” She adds that “I would like to challenge myself to a longer piece, but haven’t hit upon the right idea just yet.”
Both Marcus and Avra like to use their imaginations to create scenarios that might seem somewhat implausible to the reader, but which draw upon experiences that they might have witnessed in some way or either read about or saw somewhere.

Marcus Spiegel’s award-winning short story, titled “A Tale of Two Trolls,” was first published in the Santa Monica Review, which is a national literary journal sponsored by Santa Monica College.
He says though that it took him quite a long time to be comfortable writing in a more contemporary style that would be accessible to readers. Prior to that realization, he notes, he was writing in a more “classical” style.
Just as Avra experimented with different genres before settling into short story writing, Marcus also tried his hand at poetry and writing a novel which, he says, “I guess turned into a novella.”

It’s easy for a writer starting out to be distracted by more mundane concerns, such as making a living – which is hardly something that anyone can expect to do writing short stories until you’ve achieved a certain level of success. As Avra Love notes, the process of writing is rewarding in itself: “Over the last year, I’ve begun trying to pen concepts without worrying so much about a traditional plotline. These stories have been a way to pay tribute to people in my life, to explore abstracts and metaphor, and to have fun with common expressions. Because they are so succinct, it is relatively quick to put them to page, in addition to being cathartic.”

As for the financial rewards associated with writing short stories, let’s be honest: No one starting out is likely to make much money doing that. Avra says she’s “been teaching since 2013, adding she’s “taught and tutored in all ages and subjects, worked in early child care, and done some editing work, as well.”

Both Avra and Marcus are married. (Marcus’s wife, Yarden, by the way, is also a teacher.) Marcus’s career has been somewhat eclectic, however. When they were both in their twenties, he says that he and Yarden spent quite a bit of time traveling. They actually ended up in South Korea for almost five years (from 2011-16), where they both had intended to teach English.
While Yarden did work as a teacher, Marcus says that because of bureaucratic red tape he wasn’t actually able to work as a teacher in Korea. Instead, he began working as an editor for a Korean woman who would give him things that had been translated from Korean to English and, as he says, “I would correct things for her and polish them.”
When Marcus and Yarden returned to Toronto, while Yarden acquired a teaching degree and began teaching full time, Marcus says that he began “picking up assignments” here and there.
In recent years he’s been submitting stories to various literary journals. Marcus says that he would typically send a story simultaneously to a number of different journals, with the hope that one of them would publish it.

Such was the case with “A Tale of Two Trolls,” which is quite an amusing read. It tells the story of two misfits named Yuri and Winch, who are both college dropouts. They have a YouTube show and podcast, and they purport to be “alt-right” activists, but their primary ambition in the story is to exact retribution on a former professor of Yuri’s by the name of Badendorf. It’s all quite deranged – and hilarious, especially when Winch dresses up as a frog wielding a samurai sword as he prepares to attack Professor Badendorf.
The story should appeal to young readers as it’s laced with all sorts of references to contemporary tropes having to do with the internet, but it would also certainly appeal to older readers as well who would get a kick out of how awkward Yuri and Winch are – Yuri especially when he happens to run into a former female friend by the name of Hannah while he’s prowling the halls of his former college. His desperate attempt to make small talk with Hannah while eating vegetables – to impress her (and which is something he hasn’t done in ages prior to that day) is quite hilarious.
It’s easy to see how such a terrific story would garner a major literary prize but, unfortunately, unless you’re able to pick up a copy of the Santa Monica Review from Spring, 2020, or you manage to acquire a copy of the 2022 edition of the Pushcart Prize anthology you won’t find “A Tale of Two Trolls” anywhere on the internet. However, the Pushcart Prize XLVI is available for order at McNally Robinson, Chapter’s, and Amazon.
That story sprang from Marcus’s imagination, but you can see how he fastened on to themes that are pervasive in an internet dominated world, especially the alienation from society and loneliness that so many people feel.

As for Avra’s writing, she too has a satirical bent in many of her stories. She notes that her “inspiration has come from a variety of sources. The more satirical ones are often based on personal experiences and observations; some ideas relate to people that I’ve known; still others occurred to me as I contemplated symbols around me (maps, flowers, the diversity of confections!) or when a certain phrase crossed my mind (heart of diamonds, opportunity knocks…).”
And, while Marcus has enjoyed some success in having a few of his short stories published, he admits that having his name become more familiar to readers is a challenge. “I have a primitive website,” he says (marcusspiegel.com). 
As well, his interests are quite eclectic. A recent non-fiction story of his, he says, was titled “Century of the Hoax”, which he describes as a “history of hoaxes, from the 19th century to the present…and how they evolved into ‘misinformation’.”
In the fall, Marcus will have another piece published in Boulevard, which has published some of America’s top writers over the years. “It’s actually about professional wrestling, of all things,” he notes.

Avra Love tells me that “Into the Junk Drawer” is available on Amazon and in the Kindle Store, in paperback, hardcopy, and e-book formats.” She adds that she’s “currently looking into getting the book into the Chapters/Indigo store… but have yet to receive confirmation. Finally, one can order the book directly from Avra herself at avraklove@gmail.com or from her parents at myjolove1@gmail.com.
And, while being profiled in The Jewish Post & News might not be a surefire path to recognition for a writer, the way things work these days is that one thing can lead to another, perhaps in a painstaking manner, but eventually if you’re willing to keep at it, you might begin to attract a following. 
But, after having communicated with both Avra Love and Marcus Spiegel, one realizes that writing is its own reward. It can be painfully difficult to sit down day after day – as Stephen King says a dedicated writer must force oneself to do (and as Méira Cook noted in our last issue she demands of herself as well), but once you’ve completed what you’ve set out to do, there’s a pride in having accomplished that task – whether or not what you’ve written is read by a great many others.

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Features

A Positive Outlook for Communities as the Canadian iGaming Industry Prepares for a Banner Year

Since the implementation of Bill C-227, the Gaming Control Act in 2021, Canada’s online gambling scene has undergone a dramatic transformation. Legalization has unlocked heaps of previously untapped potential and paved the way for a banner year for the Canadian iGaming industry. This June, the Canadian Gambling Summit for 2024 promises an optimistic journey through the exciting prospects unfolding for players, operators, and the Canadian economy as a whole.

The Growth of Canadian iGaming has Sparked Optimism

Gone are the days of ambiguity and uncertainty; a clear legal framework has provided a healthy foundation for stability and growth. This newfound confidence has unlocked the immense potential of the Canadian iGaming market, attracting established operators and nurturing innovative local talent.

Players have already been enjoying the arrival of a regulated environment, which offers enhanced security and responsible gaming measures. Large numbers of gamblers can now play at a casino online for real money that operates on Canadian soil, much to the benefit of the local economy.

Many of the best-rated platforms available today allow Canadian players to engage with sites that offer a wide range of modern payment methods, reliable games and lucrative bonuses with exceptionally efficient payout speeds. The introduction of new features on these sites also gives players peace of mind that their safety is being prioritized.

The positive momentum continues to build as Canadian operators prepare for the Canadian Gambling Summit, which will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto from the 18th to the 20th of June, 2024. Anticipation for the event has created ripples of excitement throughout the local industry and bolstered a shared belief that 2024 will be a landmark year for the industry as a whole.

When Industries Thrive, Communities Flourish: Exploring the Positive Impacts of Financial Success

A healthy industry isn’t just good for its bottom line; it can be a powerful mechanism for positive change within local economies and communities. When any local industry experiences a period of financial growth and stability, the ripples of its success extend far beyond boardrooms and factories. These benefits reach individuals and families and can uplift the very fabric of local life. Here’s how the thriving iGaming industry is already benefiting many communities in and around Canada:

Job Creation and Increased Spending

When industries are able to grow and expand, this success often translates into more employment opportunities, higher wages and improved job security for residents. This increased income can then lead to greater spending power which boosts a range of local businesses like restaurants, shops, service providers and entertainment venues. This creates a virtuous cycle, as local businesses benefiting from increased consumer spending can themselves hire more employees, further strengthening the local economy.

Infrastructure Development and Public Services

A financially secure industry often means increased tax revenue for local governments. This influx allows for investments in vital infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, public transportation and, perhaps most importantly, schools. Additionally, it strengthens funding for essential public services such as healthcare, emergency response and social programs, leading to a higher quality of life for all Canadian residents.

Community Investment and Philanthropy

Many successful industries will often choose to reinvest in the communities that support them. Recently, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg stated that the surplus money they currently hold will be used in various ways that will ultimately benefit local communities in some way. Often, community investments will go beyond financial support and foster a lasting sense of pride, collaboration and shared success between an industry and its community.

Education and Skills Development

Recognizing the need for a skilled workforce to sustain its success, a thriving industry will generally partner with educational institutions to develop targeted training programs and internships. This gives local residents the skills and qualifications needed to secure future jobs within the industry, closing the skills gap and creating a pipeline of talent for future growth.

Attracting New Businesses and Talent

The positive buzz surrounding a successful industry can attract new businesses and talent to the area. This diversification is likely to strengthen the local economy and spark new innovation. In addition, increased numbers of skilled professionals raises the overall talent pool for other industries, greatly benefiting all businesses in the local area.

Since the implementation of Bill C-227, the Gaming Control Act in 2021, Canada’s online gambling scene has undergone a dramatic transformation. Legalization has unlocked heaps of previously untapped potential and paved the way for a banner year for the Canadian iGaming industry. This June, the Canadian Gambling Summit for 2024 promises an optimistic journey through the exciting prospects unfolding for players, operators, and the Canadian economy as a whole.

The Growth of Canadian iGaming has Sparked Optimism

Gone are the days of ambiguity and uncertainty; a clear legal framework has provided a healthy foundation for stability and growth. This newfound confidence has unlocked the immense potential of the Canadian iGaming market, attracting established operators and nurturing innovative local talent.

Players have already been enjoying the arrival of a regulated environment, which offers enhanced security and responsible gaming measures. Large numbers of gamblers can now play at a casino online for real money that operates on Canadian soil, much to the benefit of the local economy.

Many of the best-rated platforms available today allow Canadian players to engage with sites that offer a wide range of modern payment methods, reliable games and lucrative bonuses with exceptionally efficient payout speeds. The introduction of new features on these sites also gives players peace of mind that their safety is being prioritized.

The positive momentum continues to build as Canadian operators prepare for the Canadian Gambling Summit, which will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto from the 18th to the 20th of June, 2024. Anticipation for the event has created ripples of excitement throughout the local industry and bolstered a shared belief that 2024 will be a landmark year for the industry as a whole.

When Industries Thrive, Communities Flourish: Exploring the Positive Impacts of Financial Success

A healthy industry isn’t just good for its bottom line; it can be a powerful mechanism for positive change within local economies and communities. When any local industry experiences a period of financial growth and stability, the ripples of its success extend far beyond boardrooms and factories. These benefits reach individuals and families and can uplift the very fabric of local life. Here’s how the thriving iGaming industry is already benefiting many communities in and around Canada:

Job Creation and Increased Spending

When industries are able to grow and expand, this success often translates into more employment opportunities, higher wages and improved job security for residents. This increased income can then lead to greater spending power which boosts a range of local businesses like restaurants, shops, service providers and entertainment venues. This creates a virtuous cycle, as local businesses benefiting from increased consumer spending can themselves hire more employees, further strengthening the local economy.

Infrastructure Development and Public Services

A financially secure industry often means increased tax revenue for local governments. This influx allows for investments in vital infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, public transportation and, perhaps most importantly, schools. Additionally, it strengthens funding for essential public services such as healthcare, emergency response and social programs, leading to a higher quality of life for all Canadian residents.

Community Investment and Philanthropy

Many successful industries will often choose to reinvest in the communities that support them. Recently, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg stated that the surplus money they currently hold will be used in various ways that will ultimately benefit local communities in some way. Often, community investments will go beyond financial support and foster a lasting sense of pride, collaboration and shared success between an industry and its community.

Education and Skills Development

Recognizing the need for a skilled workforce to sustain its success, a thriving industry will generally partner with educational institutions to develop targeted training programs and internships. This gives local residents the skills and qualifications needed to secure future jobs within the industry, closing the skills gap and creating a pipeline of talent for future growth.

Attracting New Businesses and Talent

The positive buzz surrounding a successful industry can attract new businesses and talent to the area. This diversification is likely to strengthen the local economy and spark new innovation. In addition, increased numbers of skilled professionals raises the overall talent pool for other industries, greatly benefiting all businesses in the local area.

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Features

Life in Israel four months after October seventh

Orly & Solly Dreman

By ORLY DREMAN

(Special to the JP&N) Feb. 1, 2024

In every news broadcast that we hear that “The IDF spokesman is permitted to announce”… then every person in Israel sits down, holds their breath and waits to hear the names of the soldiers fallen in action that day. This causes deep sadness to every family in Israel. For example, I found out the son of my T.V technician was killed and my handyman’s son was seriously injured. Death in Israel is so personal.

Our synagogue recently mourned twenty seven year old Inbar Heiman who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music nature party on October seventh and was murdered in captivity. She was a gifted young woman filled with love and compassion. She was a creative artist that was supposed to enter her senior year at university this academic year. We had prayed and wished that she would return until her family received the tragic news of her death.

When we made personal medical visits to the Hadassah hospital, we often heard helicopters overhead bringing in wounded soldiers from Gaza. In the surgery department we saw a reserve soldier being released after six weeks in the hospital. His wife and newborn baby were with him. The department had a touching farewell gathering with Israeli flags, music and cakes. This is how every soldier who leaves the hospital is treated. More than fourteen thousand civilians and soldiers were hospitalized since October seventh with most of the injuries being in the hands and legs, burns, head and eye injuries.

We seldom are in the mood to go to a restaurant these days, but if we do, such outings are accompanied by guilt feelings. Is it right to go when our people are suffering?- the hostages are starving. We all wear the metal disc that says “Bring Them Home now- Our hearts are captured in Gaza”. They occupy our thoughts pervasively. Some of the hostages have suffered untreated gunshot wounds and the hygiene conditions are poor, many of them not showering for four months, sitting thirty meters under the ground in dark tunnels, with no electricity and suffering from extreme malnutrition. Some of them have diseases like Celiac, Asthma, Colitis, Diabetes, Fibromialgia, heart diseases and allergies. They are getting no medications and time is running out for them. Twenty five of them have already perished. What sort of civil society will we be if we abandon them?

Whole families are recruited for combat duty in different areas of the country. It might be a brother and a sister fighting in Gaza or a father in Judea and Samaria while another brother is fighting on the Lebanese border. If you ask soldiers who have lost their siblings in combat if they wish to go back to fight after the shiva, they do not hesitate, even though it is so hard on the parents. This demonstrates the dedication of Israeli citizens and their wish to complete the task of exterminating the Hamas, while at the same time knowing their family member did not die in vain. The grief is intergenerational and we are even acquainted with grandparents whose grandchildren are in combat and they are given the opportunity to go to workshops that help them with their anxiety.

In a Knesset Committee it was recently reported That many survivors from the Nova party have taken their own lives. Others continue to experience the trauma of the horrific events. They cannot sleep nor eat. Many were sexually abused and even though they were not murdered they continue to experience the pain- the sights, voices- cries for help and the fear. They are in a sense also fighters who awaken to a new existence everyday and continue to fight for their existence.

At the military cemeteries there is one funeral process after another and the families are asked to leave the site to make room to prepare for the next funeral. Wounded soldiers arrive in ambulances, on hospital beds or wheelchairs in order to eulogize their fallen comrades.

The reservists who return home after months of combat are having troubles adjusting because this war, like the War of Independence, is very meaningful. It is the most justified war our homeland has encountered. Upon their return there is a big downfall in physical and mental energy. A stranger cannot understand this. These soldiers were disconnected from normal civilian routine for a long time and they had difficult and intimate experiences with their combat mates. They have lost friends and did not have time to mourn. They must release the stress they were exposed to. They are back in body but not always in spirit. They also might be recruited again in the near future to the southern or the northern front, the war is not over. Many men who were injured worry about their future fertility and sexual functioning.

They entertain such existential thoughts as would it be better that I am killed in action before I have children and leave no descendants, or losing my life and leaving behind orphans. Dozens of children remain orphaned from both parents. They also have witnessed their family members being murdered and their homes burned down. Years ago, Solly treated and did a follow up on a family where both parents were murdered in a terrorist attack. Even though the children were adopted by loving relatives they suffered from survivor guilt and this expressed itself in such phenomena as dropping out of school, turning into juvenile delinquents and having trouble in intimate relations.

The evacuees from the south and the north are dispersed in hundreds of hotels in the center of the country. Hence, they have no permanent home, have no privacy and many have no work, nothing to do for months on end and experience feelings of powerlessness. Some pupils are not capable of returning to their temporary schools because of anxieties, depression and fear. Some teenagers have turned to drugs and alcohol which increases violence and vandalism. For them school is experienced as a waste of time. Their friends were murdered, some still have relatives in captivity and everything is falling apart. They also experience sleep disruptions and are in no mood to study. For them life is a living hell. Some families are moved from city to city several times. The children do not have friends in the new locations and they feel lonely and express a lack of social support.

In the realm of parenting many mothers even those who were NOT directly exposed to the dramatic events reported that their children cry more (eighty three percent). Others say the children have difficulties sleeping (seventy three percent), have concentration problems (fifty four percent) and many children are developing eating disorders. In sixty percent the anxiety of the children is so high it hurts functioning. For example, they are often afraid to leave the house. Other disturbances were reported such as bed-wetting, insisting on sleeping with their parents and acts of anger and aggression.

We, as Israelis are also concerned with our Jewish brethren who are experiencing thousands of antisemitic incidents, higher than the number of all incidents in the last decade. There are many Jews in the diaspora who are considering emigration to Israel after experiencing antisemitic events such as seeing their synagogue, Hebrew school, kosher butcher and other Jewish businesses being stoned and burned. For them Israel is their safest haven.

On a more optimistic note the Jewish people have prevailed over thousands of years despite terrible events. In spite of the uncertainty not everything is lost. We are united and strong. The soldiers are full of motivation and good values. I firmly believe that if we are patient and persist, the Jewish people and the state of Israel will prevail.

Orly Dreman is a 10th generation Israeli. Her cousin, Ruvi Rivlin, was a former president of Israel. Orly’s father was a diplomat who served both in North America and in Europe.
By profession Orly is an English teacher. She has dealt with children suffering from ADD.
Since childhood, Orly has been involved in voluntary work with the disabled, the challenged, new immigrants, the elderly and others. 

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Features

Popularity of Online Casino Games in Canada

In recent years, the popularity of online casino games in Canada has surged, captivating the attention of a diverse audience seeking thrilling entertainment. With the convenience of accessing these games from the comfort of home, Canadians are exploring the vast world of virtual casinos that offer an extensive array of gaming options.

Diverse Selection of Casino Games:

One of the key factors contributing to the widespread appeal of online casino games in Canada is the vast selection available. There are hundreds of top casino games online, covering every genre imaginable. From classic table games like poker and blackjack to immersive slot machines with captivating themes, Canadian players have a plethora of options to choose from.

The Rise of Online Slots:

Among the various casino games, online slots have witnessed a significant surge in popularity. The ease of gameplay and the potential for substantial payouts make slots a preferred choice for both seasoned players and newcomers. With themes ranging from ancient civilisations to popular movies and TV shows, online slots offer a diverse and engaging experience for players of all preferences.

Convenience and Accessibility:

The accessibility of online casino games is a key driver behind their growing popularity in Canada. Players no longer need to travel to a physical casino to experience the thrill of gambling. Instead, they can enjoy their favourite games with just a few clicks on their computer or mobile device. This convenience has opened up the world of online gambling to a broader audience, attracting both seasoned gamblers and those trying their luck for the first time.

Technology Advancements:

Advancements in technology have played a pivotal role in enhancing the online casino gaming experience. High-quality graphics, realistic sound effects, and seamless gameplay contribute to an immersive environment that mirrors the excitement of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. Additionally, the integration of live dealer games brings an authentic touch to online gaming, allowing players to interact with real dealers in real-time.

Regulatory Environment:

The regulatory environment in Canada has also contributed to the popularity of online casino games. While each province has its own regulations, the overall legal framework allows for a thriving online gambling industry. This has given rise to reputable online casinos that prioritise player safety and adhere to strict industry standards, ensuring a fair and secure gaming environment.

Social Aspect and Community Engagement:

Online casinos in Canada are not just about individual gameplay; they also provide a platform for social interaction. Many online casinos feature chat rooms and community forums where players can connect, share experiences, and discuss strategies. This sense of community adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the gaming experience, making online casinos a social activity beyond the solitary pursuit of winning.

The popularity of online casino games in Canada is undoubtedly on the rise, driven by a combination of diverse gaming options, convenience, technological advancements, and a favourable regulatory environment. With a wide array of top casino games available at their fingertips, Canadians can indulge in the excitement of gambling from the comfort of their homes. As the online casino industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that virtual gaming is here to stay and will likely continue to captivate audiences across the country.

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