The history behind “The Clearing in the Spring”

Image copyright 2019 Google

THE STORY IN BRIEF
Two young girls find a magical clearing and a mysterious note.

HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
When I was arranging the book — and rearranging it, and rearranging it again — I realized that (1) I needed to make it longer than it was, and (2) I wanted to give Annie and Rachel, the two girls who were the descendants of Chana and Sophia, more of a spotlight than they got in the final story. So I wrote this story specifically for the book.

It took me a while to figure this one out and write it to my satisfaction (there was, for example, a long dream sequence that got thrown out along the way). I finally realized that the two girls needed to find the same magical glen that Chana and Sophia had met in nearly a century before.

But I still hadn’t gotten it quite right. At first, the book started with this story, and then went back in time to “The Clearing in the Autumn.” But that didn’t quite work, and eventually (it took a while), I realized that the two stories should bookend the novel, with the only outlier being the story that the book was named after, which needed to end the tale.

“What if this is really a magic place? What if that really is a note that your great-grandmother left for her best friend?”

The Clearing in the Spring

NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
Neither Rachel nor Annie are based on real people. Instead, I tried to make them individuals with something of their ancestors in them. For examine, Annie, like Chana, is intelligent and curious, although she is not quite as adventurous. Rachel has Sophia’s theatrical flair, but is a little more down-to-earth. They are simultaneously the reflection of their families, and their own unique individuals.

By the way, I took classes in Yiddish when I was about the same age as Annie is here. It was sponsored by the The Workman’s Circle (now changed to The Workers Circle, for obvious reasons). As you can guess by the name, it’s a progressive Jewish organization with socialist roots that offers education, cultural events, and political activism. When I was a child, there was a Canarsie branch which gave classes in a small building not too far from the project I was growing up in.

NOTES ON THE PLACE
As I mention in my rundown on “Sophia’s Legacy,” the area of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park leading up the forested area is fairly accurate; it’s an entrance into the park from Prospect Park NW (a friend of mine lived right across from that entrance, so I was familiar with it).

However, the forest and the magic glade is, well, magic. I haven’t found it yet. But if you happen to be in Prospect Park, and come across it, please let me know.

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