Shifra Malka is the pseudonym for a Jewish resident of Pikesville. She relishes the quiet neighborhood, where, she said, she can luxiriate in solitude while participating in community events.
Malka recently published her debut memoir “Dare to Matter: Lessons in Living a Large Life.” The book is a deeply personal narrative that highlights inner spaces negotiated to build personal identity. The multiple threads of Malka’s personal story create a universal message that worth must be built, rather than bought or borrowed.
What inspired “Dare to Matter”?
This book did not begin as a memoir. It began as an innocent collection of interviews I had conducted as the producer and host of a Sunday night radio program that aired live in the mid-Atlantic states. I began to think that these conversations, mostly designed around Jewish social and educational initiatives, could be relevant to a broader audience. I asked myself, “If this could inform, engage and even entertain others in the way it had for me and the radio audience, shouldn’t I try to deliver it forward?”
Ultimately, the book morphed into a deeply personal narrative focused on a specific message. How that happened is a major part of the story. Although there are multiple threads to the story, there is one core message which fueled me to keep putting my fingers to keyboard. This singular message is tightly bound to the life of my personality-disordered aunt with whom I shared a close connection in my formative years.
What are you working on now, or next?
We had planned to simultaneously release “Dare to Matter” in three formats this past May
In fact, only the audiobook (11 hours of personal narration) was virtually launched by The Ivy Bookshop in May. The pandemic delayed the release date for the paperback and e-book, which is now set for Oct. 13. Along with this launch, we are creating an online Mastermind course featuring the objective lessons around which the storyline is crafted.
There is also another book underway, which begins where “Dare to Matter” ends.
Why do you like writing?
This is a sensitive question for me because I have mixed feelings about writing, which I discuss in the book. Writing is nothing less than thinking on paper, and it is one form of communication. I highly value communication, the art of distilling a thought to its clearest. most usable form. And I have noticed that while writing, time behaves differently than when I am doing things that I don’t enjoy, i.e., I lose track of time when writing, which must mean I enjoy it. While I have professionally served the diverse writing needs of many individuals and companies for nearly twenty years, I do not personally journal and I have never wanted to publish anything personal about my life. Keeping the craft cerebral and objective delights me, which is why writing a memoir was incredibly challenging. So why did I do it? That is also part of the story.
As someone who is fascinated with the inner spaces that humans inhabit, I have learned that we never know in whose words our healing lies. Words have great power to influence the way we think and feel, as they potentially can comfort, direct and build us. Uplifting others, especially in our current circumstances that demand our deepest efforts to manage our well-being, is a very worthy endeavor.
What are your favorite reads and why?
Though I am not supposed to admit that I am not a huge reader of books (mainly because I don’t have the time), I can’t resist reading on topics of leadership, creativity and politics. I am not much of a fiction reader and do not value having to travel through overly scenic words and images to get to a point; just tell me what you want me to know. Helen Keller, Malcolm Gladwell and Julia Cameron are several authors whose works have penetrated my thinking. What don’t I like to read? Cookbooks. And that is because I am not an enthusiastic cook.
What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?
When people approach me specifically about how to actualize their desire to write a book, I ask them to look very carefully at what they need to give to the process, and what they need from it to make it rewarding and worthwhile for them and for their readers. It takes more commitment than I could have known; there has to be something sustaining your grit. And you have to be prepared to stand behind your message, which is not always easy. If your writing is a response to an inner voice, compulsion really, then you are well-positioned to travel the distance at all costs.
As I mentioned before, writers must be aware that their words, in any genre, are weapons that can build or destroy themselves and others. Positioning people in a story often requires a lot of patience and finesse. Discretion, too. When you find a way to do this, there is very little that can rival that inner sense of reward and accomplishment.
With respect to the craft of writing, I encourage writers to “let the process lead the way.” In what I call “keyboarding,” writers may be facing a blank page and yet drift into empty stares or snoozes, making it seem like they are doing nothing. I have discovered that it is wise to respect that process, that it is not empty at all. It is allowing one to connect inward in a deeper way, which is hardly doing nothing. Attending to the inner, expansive landscape is actually a strenuous effort, which requires time, patience and a relaxed position. And it often yields a rich harvest.