Write Now With Yona Zeldis McDonough

Today’s Write Now interview features Yona Zeldis McDonough, an author featured in a new anthology.

Write Now With Yona Zeldis McDonough
Photo courtesy of Yona Zeldis McDonough

Who Are You?

I’m Yona Zeldis McDonough, Brooklyn bred (though not born) and living in Park Slope Brooklyn since 1992.

What Do You Write?

“Zhid,” the story of mine that appears in Frankly Feminist: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine, was inspired by a story my grandmother told me about something that happened to her when she was a young woman and living in Detroit in the 1930s and 1940s. But my grandmother was a difficult, unhappy woman and when she talked to me, I tended to tune her out, like the irritating crackle of static on a radio. It was only when she died that the stories she told me, the ones I could barely make myself listen to, came flooding back, and with them, grief and regret. Why hadn’t I paid more attention? Asked her questions? I found myself needing to write what I could remember, and to invent what I could not. Writing “Zhid” was a way to apologize, to give her the dignity and regard I was unable to give when she was alive.

Where Do You Write?

I write in an upstairs room in my house. At one time it was the room I shared with my husband, then it became the bedroom of each of my children, and now it is mine alone. I work on an iMac, facing a window through which I can see a bit of Brooklyn backyard greenery, including my neighbor’s magnolia tree which, when in bloom, is as radiant as a bride.

When Do You Write?

When I wrote my first novel, I had a strict schedule: Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:00-3:00 when my kids were in school. I set a small, doable goal: two pages a day, five days a week. Even with my limited mathematic skills, I figured that would yield 10 pp. a week and 40 pp. a month. Sometimes I could write more than my two pages, but even if I could just do the two pages, I was still on track. And it worked. I was able to complete the manuscript and to sell it too.

Why Do You Write?

I don’t really know why I write what I write. I only know that if I’m not writing, something in me feels incomplete. I need that form of expression to feel whole, which seems a good enough reason to keep doing it. After having written for these four decades, motivation is deeply ingrained in me. If I didn’t write, I honestly don’t know what else I’d do. As for inspiration, it can come from anywhere—something I’ve seen, read, heard. That’s the beauty and the magic—never knowing when the muse will land on your shoulder and what she’ll say when she does.

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

I always have two projects going at a time—a novel and a kids’ ms. or an essay. So if one thing is not going well, I switch gears and work on the other one. Usually that’s like a reset and restores my confidence so I can go back to whatever has stalled.

My thanks to Yona Zeldis McDonough for today’s interview.