INTERVIEW WITH AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR, POET, AND ARTIST JANET KRAVETZ

K Busch


Janet Kravetz, also recognized under the pen name Topaz Ruby, is an award-winning author, poet, and artist.


Ms. Kravetz was born in Ukraine 1983 though spent the majority of her life growing up in Israel, where she had a career in legal research and public policy, also joined the Israel Bar in 2009.


Soon thereafter she immigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada and continued working in the field of legal research and public policy, while volunteering with various local committees for the promotion of diversity and inclusion. Ms. Kravetz also speaks Russian, Hebrew, and English.

In 2014, her career launched as an award-winning author when a book of poetry and art titled, “Reaching Beyond Ourselves – Leading a Spiritual, peaceful and Diverse World” won the international Beverly Hills Book Awards for both content and presentation, published under the pen name Topaz Ruby, (second edition 2020). The book itself had originated from a single poem titled “Thank You Steven Spielberg” which she had read during the 2013 Nova Scotia Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.

In the following years Ms. Kravetz had most notably concentrated on writing and producing more poetry and had even compiled some unpublished manuscripts ranging from: human rights, diversity, the environment, spirituality, and mental health.


Some of Ms. Kravetz’s mental health advocacy is featured in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHNf8auzy28

Ms. Kravetz has an upcoming sci-fi novel series titled,Sky Cursewhich follows a tale of Cecilia Miller, who is a coder of artificial dreams, and lives in the year 2045 when climate chaos has become the norm and the collective mental health of humanity has fallen to a grave state. It seems like only technology can help, and Cecilia is determined to be the one to bring that help. When Planet Earth faces an apocalyptic prophesy and a curse, she must conquer her own daemons to have a chance to save this world.



When did you decide to pursue a career as an author?


Since I can remember myself, I wanted to pursue a career as an author. It feels like it’s a childhood dream that I’m still pursuing. Writing is a journey in the desert, not a promised land. I’m grateful for every lesson, milestone and miracle on the way. Writing in my third language and constantly changing genres, I’m often walking on the road less traveled by.



Do you have a favorite poet?


I like listening to spoken word poetry, but Robert Frost still remains a favorite poet. His poetic words that I read back in high-school still resonate with me today:


“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”


I’m a firm believer in taking the road less traveled by.



What are your career goals?


I think it’s an old Yiddish proverb that says “We plan, God laughs.” So, I don’t have career goals, just career aspirations.


My main aspiration is to get a wide audience for my writing, so it can continue making a difference. Specifically, I aspire to complete and publish the books in the Sky Curse series and also publish the other unpublished manuscripts I have. Moreover, I’m committed to lifelong learning and Screenplay writing might be in the future for me, because I’m visually oriented. I enjoy creative photography and when I write I visualize the scene I’m describing like in a movie.


Lastly, I would also like to continue the mental health advocacy I do by writing on this subject. Currently I’m writing articles and teaching materials for the Canadian website The Teacher App.ca. The organization connects teachers across Canada with the support they need to build resiliency within themselves and to address mental health in their classrooms. This tool works towards building a more resilient Canada and I’m happy to volunteer with them.


Whatever I do in the future, I hope to continue making positive impact on society through my writing.



What is your favorite poem that you have written so far? What inspired it?


My favorite poem I have written so far, The Dancing Phoenix, had been featured in the international ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal (Issue 1, June 2013) before I included it in my poetry book. Here are a few stanzas from the poem:


"Can ashes from yesterday’s fire

Rise to tomorrow’s future

While taking shape and form

Step by step?


Maybe we need to dance,

Because then we move back,

As time moves forward

Step by Step.


Moving one quick, longing step back

Pausing, then reflecting for a moment,

Moving from today to yesterday,

Step by Step.


To dance with our subconsciousness

A silent, subtle dance,

To rise up in conscience

Step by Step…”



The poem is about my wishes to the world to move forward towards peace and away from war. I was inspired to write it during a walking meditation at a 2012 writer’s retreat in Nova Scotia. I look at it today and ask myself – is humanity moving forward or just back?



When did you become trilingual? What was the hardest language to learn?


Born in 1983 in Ukraine, my mother tongue is Russian. In 1990 I moved to Israel and learnt Hebrew rather quickly. Hebrew took over as my prominent language. A few years later I started learning English at school. I’m only half joking when I say that English is the hardest to learn, because I’m still learning the vastness and richness of this language.


Do you have a favorite author?


I generally enjoy reading books that are skillfully written, but can also teach me something new about myself or about the past/future. Some notable authors are Deepak Chopra, who teaches me through his writing that human are spiritual beings of infinite possibilities and Roméo Dallaire who asks, “are all humans human? Or are some more human than others?”


In recent years I also turned to Alice Hoffman’s magical realism when I sought out some light reading. I especially enjoyed reading The Dovekeepers, a well-researched historical fiction novel set-in ancient Israel, which is suitable for fans of both history and fantasy alike. The novel is based on true historic events. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean, desert, Masada. Nonetheless, it is the rich writing that brings the story to life for me. When I read this book, it feels just like the few times I climbed the Masada fortress to witness the sunrise above the dead sea. The story is skillfully narrated by four different female characters, each more convincing than the other.



Do you have a favorite quote?


“I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God.”― Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands With The Devil



What is your favorite movie?


I really enjoyed watching the film Minority Report, which served as one of the inspirations for the upcoming Sky Curse series. They are actually very much alike and at the same time very different from each other in terms of storyline and character development.


Minority Report is a Tom Cruise film that came out in 2002 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. It is a sci fi/action film. Minority Report tells the story of a police department that prevents crime before it happens. Sky curse is about stopping the climate emergency before it’s too late.


The idea that technological advancements might define humanity in the future made me want to write a sci-fi book with spiritual elements to it, because a society that worships science but denies spirituality can be very dangerous.


I recently found a few more similarities between Minority Report and Sky Curse.


Both

• Are action packed

• Deal with humans who have cognitive abilities to see into the future

• Deal with questions of free will vs. determinism

• Deal with political, social and legal implications of advanced technology

• Have a relevant message to convey.



What inspired you to write the poem, Thank You Steven Spielberg”?


In the 90’s Steven Spielberg established a non-profit foundation in California – USC Shoah Foundation – the institute for Visual History and Education. The foundation recorded testimonies from Holocaust survivors from around the world. The foundation sent a filming crew to my home in Israel to film my grandmother’s survival story. In 2012, long after her passing, I viewed her story on video. She ended her talk by saying that the world needs to live in peace. I felt fortunate to hear that massage. To have a piece of my heritage on video. I decided to put this message of peace in writing. The book of poetry about the ramifications of war and the need for peace and social change started with this poem.


On April 8, 2013 an overflow crowd of over 200 people gathered at the Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University’s Scotiabank Theatre to solemnize Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day.) I was honored to read this poem at that occasion, while sharing my Jewish heritage with others. The positive feedback made me feel I was on the right track with the book.




Can you recite this poem for us to read?


Thank You, Steven Spielberg by Janet Kravetz


One day as a teenager in Israel

I heard that Steven Spielberg sent

A filming crew to our house

To record a testimony.


I hear grandma say:

“I am not sure about it,”

My dad pleading, “please leave

A legacy for the girls…


Fifty-eight members of my family

Were murdered during the Holocaust,

I can’t tell a single story about their deaths,

They were taken away and never came back.”


I am eavesdropping

Behind a closed door,

For the first time I hear grandma cry,

Speaking of unspeakable horrors.


I stood there shocked

To the very core of my being

But since I was four

That moment was nearing…


I knew at that moment that

Babi Yar will forever remain my legacy,

The great Evgeny Yevtushenko -

The master of poetry and truth!

Klara Rubinstein, my grandmother’s mom,

Who had saved her daughter’s life

Just before she was murdered by the Nazis,

Will always live in our hearts.


I also knew that the spark

In my grandmother’s eyes

Came straight from the hearts

Of the righteous of nations.


Christian farmers who risked their own lives,

The lives of their children,

To save a neighbor,

An orphan of humanity.


That day our grandpa Tuvia spoke,

About the forced march with the Red Army,

Through frozen Europe.

His comrades later described his heroism in their books.


He showed us dozens of heroism medals,

Retelling us the stories behind each one.

They were the army of liberation,

Strangers hugged and fed them.


He smiled recalling his car being run down

By a Nazi tank in the last days of the war.

He spent a year in a full body cast

In a hospital in Berlin.


As he spoke he could still feel the pain of

The injury, but he smiled at pain…

That day he cried for the first time when

Recalling entering Auschwitz with the Red Army.


He saw American soldiers

Giving away their own chocolate bars

And people dying from them

Due to prolonged starvation.


I knew that day that

The heroism of my two grandfathers

Both receiving the highest honors from the Red Army

Is too my war legacy.


Today I want to thank Steven Spielberg

For being the man

Of the golden cameras

That spin wheels of time.


He captures the coldest moments of my history

Coming out of lips that were frozen for too long

So we can all break down the icebergs

Silently freezing our own hearts.


When our dear late grandmother,

Became an angel in the higher courts of truth,

We pulled out her video testimony

And knew that she left a spoken trace for mankind.



Do you have a favorite hobby?


Last year I discovered tennis and it’s my favorite pastime now, especially outdoor tennis when the weather is nice. I play indoor tennis too.



What was it like winning the international Beverly Hills Book Award?


It was a range of emotions that spread over many years. First, I was oblivious. Then excited and grateful. Then finally humbled, till this day.


Funny story, I applied to the competition through a newly established email address in January 2014. As I never expected to win this award, I forgot to check this email address for months afterwards. Apparently, the notification I set-up didn’t work either. On September 2014 I opened an email dated March 28, 2014 and in disbelief read the following:


“It is our great pleasure to inform you that you are a Winner in the Poetry category of the 2nd Annual Beverly Hills International Book Awards. Your book, Reaching Beyond Ourselves - Leading A Spiritual, Peaceful and Diverse World, truly embodies the excellence that this award was created to celebrate, and we salute you and your fine work.”


I felt excited and grateful to the book award selection committee as well as to all those who made the publication of this book possible, including some world-renowned Canadian artists who donated their art to my book. I should mention that since then, I have been checking my emails regularly.


The award inspired me to write more. I was working in research and public policy at that time and I realized that the world cannot be spiritual, peaceful and diverse as long as climate change is threatening our future. Making a positive impact on society through my future-writing seemed to take precedence over anything else. I knew I wanted to write something mind-provoking on this topic, a near-future sci-fi. I developed a new interest in sci-fi books and movies and especially in near future sci-fi.


The award also attracted some local readership for years to come. In Spring 2016 a group of four high school students from the 2015 Asper Human Rights and Holocaust Studies program all chose individually to present my poetry from “Reaching Beyond Ourselves” at the Nova Scotia Holocaust memorial ceremony in Halifax. I felt humbled when I spoke to their teacher. The book was making the intended impact, as they were moved by it. I realized I wanted my future writing to appeal to young adults too. I wanted to create a realistic sci-fi novel protagonist they could easily relate to, writing something entertaining but also educational to guide them on their path to making the world a better place in times of environmental crisis and other uncertainties.



What are your current goals or ambitions?