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Friday, May 14, 2021

Vicki Abelson: Writer’s words link her heart to readers

Kylie Ora Lobell is a writer for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, The Forward, Tablet Magazine, Aish, and Chabad.org and the author of the first children’s book for the children of Jewish converts, “Jewish Just Like You.”

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Kylie Ora Lobell
Kylie Ora Lobell is a writer for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, The Forward, Tablet Magazine, Aish, and Chabad.org and the author of the first children’s book for the children of Jewish converts, “Jewish Just Like You.”

Vicki Abelson stands at a podium in the front of her living room. She has blond highlights in her hair, which is decorated with multicolored feathers. Smiling as she talks, she makes eye contact with various members of the 50-person audience, made up mostly of women. 

They are here for the Women Who Write group, a monthly gathering involving readings, music and more that Abelson holds in her Los Angeles home. On this day, Abelson is talking about her recently released book, “Don’t Jump: Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘N Roll … and My F—ing Mother.” The fictionalized version of her life chronicles her time as a rock promoter in New York City in the 1980s, and, as the title promises, discusses a mother-daughter relationship. 

Abelson wrote the book because she wanted to tell her personal story. 

“It’s a story of redemption,” she told the Journal. “It’s about making the transition into being a person I didn’t think much of to being one who is of service to the rest of the world. Even though it’s a fictionalized memoir, everything the protagonist feels is real.”

Without the Women Who Write group — no longer limited to females — Abelson may not have been able to complete the book, which she began in 2001. Seven years later, after finding trouble getting stage time in L.A. to read her work, she founded the salon. 

Thousands of people now are part of Women Who Write. They gather once a month to hear readings from celebrity authors, such Carl Reiner, Robert Klein, Susie Essman and Cindy Chupack, and enjoy music from artists from bands such as Earth Wind & Fire and the Byrds. There also is a separate meeting in which women bring their work and receive critiques from one another. 

Abelson workshopped “Don’t Jump” at those latter events, and committed to writing for five minutes every day. At this point, she’s been emailing what she writes to a friend for more than 4,000 days. 

“Writing is part of my everyday life,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine not doing it.” 

Growing up in New York City, Abelson was surrounded by celebrities thanks to her to her father, who was a master of ceremonies in the Catskills. She always wanted to be like Johnny Carson and have the chance to interview celebrities. 

“We all dream of accomplishing great things, and we all have heroes,” she said. “I got to live my life brushing up alongside my heroes. A lot of them became friends. My story is an inside view from an outsider.”

In school, Abelson’s favorite subject as a child was English. She crafted poems, and then transitioned into joke writing and stand-up when she got older with the encouragement of her husband at the time. He worked for “Late Show With David Letterman” and Bill Maher, and he helped Abelson snag a gig booking and promoting a rock ’n’ roll club. 

“I’d get there and work the club when the music was happening. I’d go in and make sure the bands were on point and everything was running smoothly. I’d go to clubs late night and scout for new talent. It was an ’80s-fueled, rock ’n’ roll kind of crazy time,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

For eight years, Abelson was part of the New York City music scene, hanging out with the likes of Eric Clapton, Davy Jones and Carole King, who jammed at the club one night after doing an off-Broadway show. “That came full circle, because just a year ago her daughter, Louise Goffin, played in my living room for Women Who Write,” Abelson said. 

After her stint in the clubs, Abelson had two children — a daughter who is about to graduate from high school and a son who is finishing college — and took a writer’s course. She wrote her first screenplay in 1997, and then started the book a few years later. In 2015, it was released by Random Content, which is based in Beverly Hills and run by Reiner and Lawrence O’Flahavan. 

Abelson is currently developing “Don’t Jump” into a TV show, and she pens columns for the Huffington Post on the side. Through writing, she has found a way to show the world who she really is.

“Writing is connecting you, the reader, to my soul and telling you my truth,” she said. “I don’t like doing anything that doesn’t come from my authentic truth. It’s my way to express my thoughts and feelings, and link mine and the readers’s hearts.” 

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