The 100 Days Email

So far, soooo good! | Special post

It’s hard to believe, but Alphabet Soup is one hundred days old today! For me, the first few months of the newsletter have been an extraordinary experience. In the thirty years prior, I’d never written a story based on someone else’s idea, or named a terminally ill character after someone I don’t know, or played Truth or Dare with my readers. And yet, ironically during this Covid era of so few live events, I’ve had the opportunity to have this unusual, intimate encounter with my readers.
The other bonus of this newsletter is the chance to collaborate with talented people. In the past hundred days I’ve worked with several illustrators and photographers, most of whom are my good friends or even relatives. I’d like to use this celebratory occasion to write about a few of them and the role they play in my life. Because of the way Substack is designed, I could only choose one illustration by each illustrator mentioned here, and you can click through to the original post, in case you missed it.

Noa Gana: I begin with Noa, who, alongside Jessica Cohen, the newsletter’s translator and editor, is the third arm in the cockpit of our flying newsletter. Noa has been my personal assistant for the past two and a half years, and she helps me over and over again, with saintly patience, to successfully migrate into the twenty-first century. She taught me, for example, that Instagram is not a soup mix, and that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t really care what’s on my mind. On top of all that, she’s also responsible for the newsletter’s graphic design. And as if that weren’t enough, she’s also a brilliantly talented artist who has illustrated many Alphabet Soup posts. In short, Noa: thank you for existing!

Ofra Kobliner: I met Ofra, half by accident, in Tokyo. She is an amazing Israeli animator, and the animated short we made together, “The Evolution of a Breakup,” has been on the film festival circuit for the past couple of months. Ofra is Alphabet Soup’s in-house illustrator, and she regularly illustrates the “Alphabet Liquid Soup” emails. I’m impatiently awaiting the next animated film we make together.

Asaf Hanuka: Apart from being one of the best illustrators in the world, Asaf is also one of the best friends in the world. He and I have been friends for twenty-five years, and we’ve collaborated on two graphic novels (Pizzeria Kamikaze and Streets of Rage). When I told him about my newsletter idea, the super-busy Asaf immediately offered to design Alphabet Soup’s logo and the Matchbox Project banner.

Nir Matarasso: Nir is a musician, writer, comics artist, animator, cook, singer, and so much more. We’ve known each other for over two decades. It doesn’t seem likely that we’ll get around to starting an alternative rock band in this lifetime, but thanks to Alphabet Soup we’ve finally been able to collaborate.

Alina Gurban: Alina is a fantastic illustrator in high demand, and a unique person. We happened to meet through my son, Lev, and when she heard about Alphabet Soup she offered to illustrate one of the posts. I’m not sure if one can call a woman a mensch, but if so, that’s definitely what Alina is.

Lev Keret: Lev is my beloved son. I’ve already written a whole book about him (The Seven Good Years) as well as lots of stories. Alongside our pet rabbit, Hanzo, my partner Shira, and my best friend Uzi, Lev is one of my greatest muses.

Shira Geffen: Apart from being a children’s book writer, compulsive squirrel-feeder, and internationally acclaimed filmmaker with whom I’ve collaborated many times (Jellyfish, The Middleman), Shira is also my life partner. It’s true, she’s more of a photographer than an illustrator, but when I got stuck without an illustration for a post about my late father, she didn’t hesitate to pick up a pencil and provide a drawing.

Natasha Geffen: Natasha is my partner Shira’s little sister. She was born and lives in the U.S., but just as we were leaving for Berlin, she moved to Israel. Wait for us, Natasha, we’ll be right back!

Frida Malpica García: I met Frida at a writers’ festival in Colombia. She won an illustration competition inspired by my books, and made a great impression on me as both an illustrator and a person. As soon as I decided I was starting Alphabet Soup, I asked her to collaborate, and she immediately said yes. I’m already looking forward to our next project.

Issac Ben Aharon: Isaac is the Hebrew name of my friend Jeff, who lives in Atlanta. Jeff is a doctor and an incredible person, and when I asked him to illustrate the tragicomic “Rock-Solid Wife,” he didn’t hesitate even for a moment, and produced a moving illustration of my nightmare. And to think that he only does this for a hobby! I don’t know how to tell you this, Jeff, but you might want to seriously consider quitting your day-job.

David Polonsky: Since we’re on the topic of my late father, David Polonsky’s illustration of my father drowning in a sea of coffee is the only illustration that ever made me cry. That’s to be expected, because David is a bona fide genius, and other than his superb work on films (Waltz With Bashir, The Congress), he is also, to my mind, one of the best illustrators in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with him on two children’s books.

This is just a partial list of my wonderful partners in the first hundred days of Alphabet Soup, including friends who happen to be illustrators, illustrators who happen to be friends, and various talented people who generously offered to help out. I am grateful to you all and I hope to enjoy many more collaborations in the next hundred days!

Translated by Jessica Cohen