Countdown to Muse 2021: Small Victories by Rachel Barenbaum by Rachel Barenbaum

The Muse and the Marketplace 2021 is almost here! This year’s conference is taking the form of a virtual enhanced writing residency (taking place Wednesday, April 21st – Sunday, April 25th) with new Premium Workshops and the Manuscript Mart (taking place Wednesday, April 28th – Sunday, May 2nd).


This year’s conference theme is “Small Victories.” We all know what the “big” victories are (landing an agent, snagging a book deal, or getting a flashy award), but this year we aim to celebrate the equally important, tiny, and often unseen victories of our writing lives. In anticipation of the conference, we’ve asked Muse 2021 presenting authors to describe one small victory they’ve had as a writer that nobody knows about. Our next presenter in the series is Rachel Barenbaum, author of A Bend in the Stars.



My debut novel, A Bend in the Stars, is set in 1914 Russia.

On the surface, it is the story of a Jewish scientist racing Einstein to prove relativity. Underneath it is about anti-Semitism and survival in the face of hate. Every day my characters ask: Do we run today? 

The answer should be yes, only Russia is their home and they don’t want to go to a country where they don’t speak or read the language, or even know anyone. What choice do they have?

Early in my book launch, while presenting in Boston, I talked about this struggle. I shared that my own family taught me to always have a valid passport and enough money to pay for a way out of the country – to be ready to run. 

Afterwards, a woman showed me her new American passport. She was Black and had run from an African country. 

“I understand you,” she said. “I carry this everywhere not because I’m proud but because I’m scared.” 

She cried as she told me how much she connected to my characters and their struggle even though she had never even met a Jew until recently. She kissed my cheeks and I realized that moment was why I write. I connected with a woman who had nothing in common with me on the surface – but countless ties underneath. 

This is the beauty and power of fiction – it is why I read and write and love books. 



Rachel Barenbaum’s debut novel is A Bend In The Stars. It has been named a New York Times Summer Reading Selection and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. It is also a Boston Globe Bestseller. Rachel’s second novel, Atomic Anna, is forthcoming from Grand Central (2022). Rachel is a prolific writer and reviewer for the LA Review of Books, the Tel Aviv Review of Books, and DeadDarlings. She is an Honorary Research Associate at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and a graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator. She is also the founder of Debut Spotlight and the Debut Editor at A Mighty Blaze. In a former life, she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor. She has degrees from Harvard in Business, and Literature and Philosophy. 



You can catch Rachel‘s virtual craft discussion, “Real or Not so Real? Writing and Researching Historical Fiction,” via Attendify at the Muse 2021 from 10:00 am – 11:15 am (EDT) on April 22nd, 2021. Don’t wait! Register for the Muse and the Marketplace 2021 today.