Until Our Last Breath

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Title page of 2007 manuscript sold to St. Martin's Press
Title page of 2007 manuscript sold to St. Martin's Press

Recently I was sorting through some old files and came across several items that might be of interest to those aware of Michael Bart’s claim that he is the author of UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. Shown here is the title page of the manuscript as sold to St. Martin’s Press in 2007 and the title page for the original 2004 book proposal. Both of these provide concrete evidence of my role as the book’s author.  The meaning of “by” and “with” is clarified inside the proposal:
About the Author

Laurel Corona is a tenured professor of English and Humanities at San Diego City College. She has also taught at the University of California at Davis, San Diego State University, and the University of California at San Diego.

Additionally, Dr. Corona is the author of approximately twenty books for middle and high school students, published by Lucent Books, a division of Greenhaven Press. A partial list includes the following titles:
World Religions: Judaism
American Immigrants: The Jewish Americans
The Cold War: The War Within a War: Vietnam and the Cold War
The Way People Live: Life in Moscow
Building History: The World Trade Center
Modern Nations Series: Israel, Poland, Norway, South Africa, The Russian Federation, Ukraine, France, Kenya, Brazil, Ethiopia, Peru, Afghanistan

Dr. Corona was a Charter Fellow in the San Diego Area Writing Project in 1977, and has won awards for her writing, including winning the on-site writing contest at the Santa Barbara Writing Conference in 1996. She has been active as an editor and contributor to the San Diego City College literary journal, City Works, which attracts submissions nationwide.

Title page of original 2004 book proposal
Title page of original 2004 book proposal (with contact information removed)


Dr. Corona has also been a guest lecturer on subjects relating to Judaism at local synagogues and community groups as a result of her authorship of books on Israel, Judaism, and Jewish immigrants. She has traveled extensively to Eastern Europe, Israel and elsewhere in the course of her research on Judaism and the Jews. A formal resume is attached as an appendix to this proposal.

About the Contributor

Michael Bart is the son of Eliezer (Leizer) and Zenia Lewinson Bart. He has taken information and original documentation shared with him by
his parents and spent eight years researching and interviewing Holocaust survivors throughout the world, and collecting additional documentation and photographs to help tell the story of Until Our Last Breath.

He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, where his parents had found sponsorship with American relatives. He has been a resident of San Diego for 37 years. He has a BS in Business Management and an MBA in Finance from San Diego State University. He has worked as a real estate investor and developer for 26 years. He is a current board member of the Second Generation of Holocaust Survivors Group in San Diego. He and his wife Bonnie live in Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego.

This is a truthful representation of the authorship of UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. Mr. Bart’s approval of both the proposal and manuscript title pages, as well as the author and contributor descriptions, is direct acknowledgment that throughout the process the word “author” (as that word is commonly used and understood in connection with books) applied to me alone, and that the book was “by Laurel Corona.”

The only “official” source of information is the book itself. A footnote in the preface states that I “did all the writing for the text.” The back flap states that I am “the writer of this book.” Instead of using his website and appearances to promote himself–and himself alone–as “the author” of a book that he did not write, Mr. Bart should be saying how fortunate (and grateful) he is to have found someone with my background and skill who was willing to take on this difficult, multi-year project with no assurance of publication, or indeed any form of reward except what comes from a job well done.

It would be painful for any author to see the arduous process of writing so disrespected, and to stand by watching years of one’s work appropriated by someone else. Given the many books and shorter pieces I have published as an individual author, and in light of what I presume is the obvious value of experience and expertise in producing work of award-winning quality, it is astonishing to be treated so dismissively. I  am not only professionally harmed but also deeply offended by Michael Bart’s abuse of the honorary title of “author”; by his refusal to acknowledge me as the writer of UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH; by his comments about my motives; and by his  insinuations that I lacked the competence and/or the willingness to write, revise, and edit this book in an acceptable manner, and that my work required major intervention by him to bring it to a publishable level. He is aware of my concerns but has not acted in any positive way to address them.

For more information, please visit the Q&As on this site

Uncategorized, Until Our Last Breath

Spring Housekeeping

People tell me they love my website, created by Gabriel Porras and Patricia Maas at Blue Jay Tech, but there’s always room for improvement!  While they’re working hard behind the scenes on the technical requirements to improve access, add information, and make the site more fun to rummage around in, I am doing some updating of the text.  For those of you who check in regularly, watch for a lot of changes over the next few weeks.  For now, I’ll point you to the first substantial change, which is my rewritten Q&As on Until Our Last Breath.  Go to the bookshelf button to locate the book,  and click Q&As once you’re there.  Or you can cut to the chase, and use this link.

Uncategorized, Until Our Last Breath

Laurel Corona, Ace Reporter

Recently I was asked by Donald Harrison, editor of San Diego Jewish World, if I would like to write for the newspaper. Last week I contributed a guest column about writing Until Our Last Breath and just today my first attempt at reporting an event is in the paper. I’m looking forward to doing more of this, and I have enhanced respect for what journalists do to turn live, streaming reality into organized, polished prose. To outsiders, it may look easy, because nothing but the finished product ever sees the light of day, but as the Italians say, “Che pasticcio!” (what a mess!) exists inside my head and on my desk before it’s ready to push “send.”
Here’s an update:  I now have my own author page at San Diego Jewish World
Until Our Last Breath

Press Release

San Diego City College has issued a very nice press release about Until Our Last Breath and the Christopher Award. It’s been amazing to me how many people–faculty, staff and students–seem to be aware I have been honored in this way, and it’s been immensely gratifying to see how happy they are for me. It’s so wonderful to have the support of so many good people. Here it is:





San Diego, CA (March 19, 2009)….San Diegans Laurel Corona and Michael Bart have won a 2009 Christopher Award for Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance (St. Martin’s Press 2008).  Since 1949, the Christopher Awards have been given for books, films, and television productions that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” 


The award honors Corona for her writing ability to “craft words and images into a clear, cohesive vision.” Bart is being honored for his years of research into his parents’ involvement with the Jewish resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Lithuania.


Corona is a professor of humanities at San Diego City College. She began her career as a published author in 1999 with a book on Kenya for Lucent Books. After writing 17 young adult titles for Lucent, she turned her attention to books for adults. Her most recent work is The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice (Hyperion/VOICE 2008).


Corona will travel to New York to receive her 2009 Christopher medallion on April 16 as part of the Diamond Gala celebrating the sixtieth year of the awards.  One Book/One San Diego author Sonia Nazario was a recent winner for Enrique’s Journey.


Corona’s next book reading and book signing for The Four Seasons will be on Tuesday,

March 24, 2009 from 1:00 to 2:30 pm in D-121A/B at San Diego City College at 1313 Park Blvd.  For more on the City College Spring Literary series: www.sdcitybookfair.com/2009springlit.pdf.  For more on Laurel Corona: www.laurelcorona.com.


About San Diego City College
Founded in 1914, San Diego City College serves as the educational cornerstone of downtown San Diego. With more than 17,000 students, City College offers 240 Associate Degrees and Certificates and 1,500 day, evening and weekend classes, including programs in nursing and cosmetology. Home to KSDS Jazz 88.3 and the award-winning Knights, City College is part of the San Diego Community College District, comprised of City College, Mesa College, Miramar College, and Continuing Education.  www.sdcity.edu


The Four Seasons

THE FOUR SEASONS at San Diego City College on March 24

Many thanks to Virginia Escalante for her quick response to my need to reschedule my author appearance at San Diego City College, to enable me to go to New York to receive a Christopher Award for UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH.  Thanks also to the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, One Book/One San Diego, The San Diego International Book FairJazz 88, and other sponsors for making the 2009 Spring Literary Series possible.


Until Our Last Breath

UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH Wins a Christopher Award


I am pleased to announce that UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH has won a 2009 Christopher Award.  These awards are given for books and productions in other media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”  According to their website at www.christophers.org, these awards  “specifically honor the storytellers who, whether using fact or fiction, tell us something about the human condition,” including “ writers …who craft words and images into a clear, cohesive vision,” and  “exhibit exceptional artistic and technical proficiency.”  I am honored to have my writing recognized in this fashion and offer my congratulations to Michael Bart, also receiving this award for his research contribution to the book.  Last year’s recipients include David McCullogh (lifetime achievement); Edwige Danticat (Brother,I’m Dying); the films, Amazing Grace, Juno, and The Kite Runner; and  Ken Burns’ television series, The War.  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of these awards.
I’m looking forward to going to New York to accept this award.  A trip to New York–even a brief one–is always fun.  I’ll be meeting with my agent and catching up with a few of my author friends, and hopefully finding time for a stroll through Central Park in bloom!


The Four Seasons


About two weeks ago I went to a 95th birthday party for a dear friend’s mother. As she does every time I see her, she asked when UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH and THE FOUR SEASONS were coming out as audiobooks. Once again, I had to tell her that as of yet the audio rights had not been sold for either of them.

Her face fell. Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be and she won’t be able to “read” my work except by listening, and she won’t be able to do that unless something happens that is entirely out of my hands. Perhaps one or both will end up as audiobooks, but I don’t know when.

My friend’s mother looks fabulous. I can’t believe she is 95. But there’s no point in pretending that the passage of time is immaterial. If she is to participate in my success the way we both would like, it needs to happen soon.

Just a few days after the party, my mood brightened considerably. The Kindle 2 (Amazon’s e-reader) had just come out with an experimental read-to-me feature. I listened to a couple of pages of THE FOUR SEASONS presented by a robot voice and was, by turns, pleased with how acceptable some of it sounded and cringing at how utterly awful it was in others. The voice wasn’t an interpretation by an actor or another skilled reader, but it was saying the words on the page nonetheless.

I got in touch with my friend right away. Did she know that any book that could be downloaded to the Kindle 2 could be read aloud? Not just THE FOUR SEASONS, but pretty much any book her mother might want to read? It felt as if the heavens were opening!

But where I had pictured blue sky, the heavens that opened did so only to pour down rain. The Authors Guild (of which I am a member) launched a strong campaign objecting to what they believed was copyright infringement. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me the Kindle application is more like asking someone to read something to you because the print is too small and you’ve misplaced your glasses. There’s no permanent copy, and the work is not being transformed into a distinct and tangible work in another medium. It’s just an alternative way of accessing a legitimately purchased e-text without using the eyes.

My guess is that the Author’s Guild is more concerned that a read-to-me feature could be improved upon to the point where it might actually rival the experience of an audiobook. This is a legitimate concern, and I’m glad they have it. But it’s my observation that generally people don’t own the same title in more than one medium, and if this is true, people would make the choice at the outset. A vision-impaired person would buy the audiobook. Others might buy either, depending on their preference, but they’re unlikely to buy both. The author gets one sale either way. For authors whose books aren’t available as audiobooks (most aren’t), the question I have is whether they would prefer non-reading consumers not to have access to their work at all. I suspect most will realize the read-to-me feature is likely to increase their sales because people who have difficulty reading will be a new source of customers.

Just a few days ago, Amazon announced that that authors with books on Kindle would be given the opportunity to opt in or out. Sounds as if they’re listening to authors, and that’s always good. I can’t wait to say yes to the robot voice. A beautiful and beloved friend is waiting.


Will the Woman in the Corset Please Get Off the Court?

boucher-madame-bergeretAnother ball hits the frame of my tennis racquet and careens off into a corner on my side of the court.

“How come you’re missing the easy ones?” my opponent asks.
“The characters in my novel won’t go away,” I say. “It’s like they’re right here on the court.” And then, suddenly they are. Here comes the heroine, Lili, strolling through the open gate. “I can’t believe you left me at home, she said. “You didn’t even let me unlace my corset before you disappeared, and I can hardly breathe.”
“And what about me?” Delphine, also sixteen, is standing beside her. “I was practicing curtsies for my presentation to the Queen of France. My thighs are killing me, and my back feels like it’s going to be stuck forever.”
She’s looking around. “The weather’s much nicer here. Back in your study, it’s November in Paris.” “And raining too,” Lili adds, as if it’s somehow my fault.

“Are you okay over there?” my opponent calls out.

“Can you move out of the way?” I ask the two girls. “I have to serve the ball.” Delphine sighs loudly. “Come on, Lili,” she says, heading for a row of chairs on the sidelines.
I serve, well aware I have two characters to impress. To my surprise it goes in, and when I win the point I hear applause from more than two pairs of hands. I look over and the entire cast of characters is now watching from the sidelines. There they are—every last dour, sweet, ditsy, scheming, lusty, loving, stern, warm, solemn, treacherous, precious one of them.
“Oh man,” I say to myself. “I’m toast.”
I’m down fifteen-forty and net my second serve. I toss a stray ball across the net to my opponent. His serve.He shoots a bullet to my backhand, and I return it down the line. Wow! Where’d that come from? Love-fifteen. He serves one of these weird twisty things that usually end up far away from where I’m swinging my racquet head, and much to my surprise there’s a clean pop on my strings as I connect again. Love-thirty. Fifteen-thirty. Fifteen-forty. Game to me. Expecting applause, I look to the sidelines.
They’re gone.
I picture them, finding their way over the few blocks from the courts to where I live. Cars screech to a stop to let them march across the street. What’s a crosswalk? What’s a red light? I cross my fingers for them. Maybe when I get home they will have recovered enough to resume the story. With any luck, they’ll tell me what’s supposed to happen next.
I love them all, but sure do hope they won’t use up the hot water and drink all the wine.

My Years of Writing CopiouSSSSSly



I’m a writer, so I love words. I couldn’t help but notice, when I spoke on a panel at theWest Hollywood Book Fair last fall, that almost all the advice I had for the audience could be summarized in words that started with the letter “S.” 

I worked with this a little more to come up with the theme for a speech I gave on Presidents Day Weekend at the Southern California Writers Conference. I called the talk “My Years of Writing CopiouSSSSSSly: How I Wrote 20.5 Books in 10 Years and Remained Relatively Normal (I Think),”  and here are some of the things I said about what writers need to have, be, or do to keep producing.



Sitzfleisch—A Yiddish term for—well, you figure it out.  It’s the ability to stay put in your chair for long periods of time without jumping up to see what’s in the fridge, or who’s sent you e-mail.

Structure—A calendar with specific goals and deadlines (self-imposed are fine), and a work schedule (including quitting time) are really essential to keep from working too much.  That’s a bigger problem for me than working too little, but I think it would work equally well in the opposite situation.

Stamina —Staying fit is crucial. I do tend to slack off on this when I’m in the middle of writing a book, but I try not to regress too much, since it affects my overall health, and that governs everything else.

Sanitation—Get out of the jammies and into the shower.  Wash your hair, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss. Serioussssly!

Stretch–I have a small deck off my study, and amazingly, even going outside for a minute or two to think through a phrasing or a plot detail can have amazing results.

Side interests—Sudoku? Step class?  Shopping?  Calling on different parts of your body and brain is restorative.

Sunscreen—Take time out, even if it’s just for an hour or two. Find a pool to jump in or a patch of grass to sit on. Think “vacuoussssss.”  Try not to think about what you’re writing, but even if you do, it will still feel like a change of pace.

Skin—As in “Superthick.” Learn to laugh at your reviews.  Reading them aloud in a whiny voice helps.

Self-Confidence—writing well is never easy, but you can do it.  Remember, it’s just a draft until it’s published.

Spellbound—This is something you have to be. You have to find your subject enthralling. Your curiosity needs to be boundlesssss.

Seniority—Writing is one of those things where it helps to have some years under your belt. Tell yourself that all that wisdom is why you need a larger belt.

Say “When”—at some point you have to say “I’m finished with this.”  When you’re agonizing over commas, that’s a good clue.

Supporters, Sidekicks, Soulmates—Self-explanatory! If you’re lucky, you have a supportive family and friends, like I do.  Another source of support is a writing group.  I don’t participate in these because I get too wrapped up in my own work to pay quality attention to anyone else’s (I have difficulty reading even published books when I am actively writing), but many people find sharing works in progress essential to their productivity.

I asked people in the audience if they had any other “S” words of advice, and I got three good ones:

Sleep–I can’t believe I didn’t think of this.  Maybe it’s because a good night’s sleep is rare when I’m in the middle of a book, although I do find that very often I wake up ready to rip with a new idea I must have been processing during the night.

Sucks!–Give yourself permission to write badly when that’s the best you can do.  Or jump forward and write something that isn’t going to happen for another twenty pages or so, and go back and fill in the rest later

Speak–though I tend not to talk about what I’m writing until I’ve finished the first draft, one person in the audience said that it helps him to tell his story out loud, since it often gives him insight into what to do next or how to make it better. He told me afterwards he used to do this on long car commutes with his friends, but eventually he found himself driving alone, so he changed his ways!

Fellow writers out there in the blogosphere–got more? 



With an AAUW group at The Grove, San DIego
With an AAUW group at The Grove, San Diego