The close friendship of three Newport women – Carla Perry, Sara Lou Heimlich and Jess Bondy – led to the publication of their first novel, filled with adventure and romance, and laced with real life challenges.
The trio of writers behind “The Jew Girls Adventure Series: You Can Call Me Andy” have been friends for 20 years. They decided to create a book that was about their many long, serious and humorous debates around the dinner table, but the underlying goal has always been to help each other stay sane during COVID and to s have fun.
“When COVID started, we were able to come together in our isolated bubble,” said Carla Perry, one of the book’s authors. “I wrote a proposal and asked if anyone wanted to write a book. I saw it as a way to have more joy in my life.
“My thought was, ‘let’s see where it goes,'” said fellow author Jess Bondy. “Carla was our inspiration. I didn’t know I would be involved in the creative process, but it gave me the confidence to do something new.
“We wrote primarily to stay sane during COVID,” added author Sara Heimlich. “We were telling each other stories about growing up.”
“It’s really been a collaborative process,” Bondy said. “The process was new and fresh for me. We got together and had fun. And we took our time.
“It was written by a committee,” Heimlich said.
“We spent months developing characters before we started writing,” Perry said. They spent those months getting to know the characters, with each friend taking on a character and developing their mannerisms and personality.
“Once we had a character, he could be placed in any structure and we would know how he would react,” Perry said, noting that they recorded conversations and then transcribed them for dialogue.
But despite the work, the women had fun, which was the goal of their effort. “The best moment was when all of a sudden something clicked and we all started laughing,” Bondy said.
The book follows three “middle-aged” Jewish friends as they visit Maui to save a solar project. Also traveling with them is Andy, a “secret service” German Shepherd/collie dog, inspired by a dog that once belonged to Perry. A pet iguana awaits their return home.
The writers weave a story that begins with seeking revenge and quickly becomes a fast-paced adventure. In Maui, they encounter nefarious characters, reunite at a Jewish township’s Purim celebration, and fight their way to a seat at the table of a solar investment group. It’s full of shenanigans, romance, and longtime friendship even as the trio plot to solve real life livability issues in Newport. And just as inevitable as it is in today’s world is the presence in the background of “a certain big-shot ex-politico now living on a golf course in Florida.”
The three main characters frequent places that local readers are likely familiar with, with references to places like Oceana Natural Foods Coop and the Lincoln County Humane Society thrift store.
The book also tackles local issues, including affordable housing, sexism, and solar power. And the authors say there are places in the book that still make them laugh out loud.
And then there are the Jewish holidays — celebrated together by the authors as well as the main characters of the book. The writers and their creations are affectionately called Jewish Girls.
The book is published by Bubbelah Press, a new imprint of Dancing Moon Press. Bubbelah is a Yiddish term for endearment, which exactly matches the book’s authors’ description as filled with pleasure and joy.
And it’s not over — Perry has started a dossier for the band’s next book. “It’s our hobby,” she said. The authors say the book is reminiscent of Nancy Drew’s adventure series.
While Heimlich and Bondy are new to writing fiction — Heimlich was a whale biologist and graphic designer and Bondy was a Lincoln County senior planner for more than 30 years — Perry brings decades of experience as a award-winning writer and editor and founded Writers On The Edge and the Nye Beach Writers Series. She wrote several books of poetry and the novel “Riva Beside Me”, which was turned into a play.
Former local resident Sarah Gayle created the Maui and Newport cover artwork.
Although all three writers are Jewish, they each embraced their culture later in life.
“I always knew the book was going to be based on Judaism because we were the Jewish girls to ourselves — that’s what we’ve affectionately called each other for years,” Perry said. “And that’s why the title of the book is ‘The Jew Girls Adventure Series.’
Some people may see this as a pejorative name, but that’s far from what is intended. “While we were working on the book, we thought it was very natural to use that term,” Perry said. “We knew some people might get offended, but it came naturally to us. It’s an affectionate term.
Heimlich said they discussed the title and whether people might be offended, but pointed out that “it’s an endearing term that we use ourselves.”
“We’re sticking to it,” Bondy added.
And while writing the book added to the trio’s closeness, it also reinforced their sense of being Jewish.
“I wasn’t raised religious, but I always felt culturally connected,” Bondy said. “Having this group of friends is very meaningful and helps me connect to Judaism. The Jew Girls were our group of eaters!
“We told stories of how we ended up in Newport and how our ancestors ended up where they arrived,” Perry added.
Heimlich said the group’s Passover Seder meals began more than 20 years ago — Perry was asked to host them because she had a table that could seat 14 people.
“And we all knew how to prepare food,” Bondy said. “When I think of our loud conversations, I can taste the minced chicken liver!”
“Every year it fills me with identity, connects me and gives me hope,” Perry said.
Heimlich added that attending Passover meals taught her what it means to be Jewish in a way that is meaningful to her.
“I’m proud to have my name on the book,” Bondy said.
“It was fun,” Perry concluded. “That’s why we did it, and it worked.”
Copies of the book will be on sale (cash or check only) and available for signing at a book release celebration from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, November 12 at the South Beach Community Center, 3024 SE Ferry Slip Road, opposite Fish Tails Restaurant and Aquarium Village. Free entry; light refreshments will be available and short readings will take place every half hour.
Additionally, a book reading is scheduled for the Nye Beach Book House, 727 NW Third St., from noon to 2 p.m. on December 10.
The book can also be borrowed from local libraries.
“The Jew Girls Adventure Series” can be purchased directly from any of the authors for $15. If the book is to be mailed, add $5 for shipping and handling, and send a check for $20 payable to Carla Perry, Bubbelah Press, PO Box 832, Newport, Oregon. For more information, visit [email protected]or call 541-574-7708.