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March 29, 2013

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro: A Cosmic Oddity

Like Miriam Kaminsky, the heroine of both my novels, I’m a phone psychic and have been for over thirty years. People contact me to inquire about their relationships, finances, health, and loved ones who have passed on. I’ve been psychic all my life, a gift inherited from my Russian grandmother, but my writing career started as one of those cosmic oddities.

In 1985, I was eagerly looking forward to a much anticipated visit to a famous psychic who had a seven year waiting list. A day before my appointment, he phoned to say that he had to cancel.

“But I waited seven years,” I said. “Could I make it another day?”

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m closing my practice.”

He was sorry? I was so sorry for myself that I felt tears running down my cheeks. “Can’t you tell me anything now? Anything at all?”

“You’ll sell a book to Simon & Schuster,” he said.

Oh, yeah, I thought. Like that’s so likely. I wasn’t even writing, never even wished I was. I was no longer upset that he couldn’t do the reading for me.

But I decided to start writing a journal because doing psychic readings is like breathing. You can’t hold on to the end product. So I began writing a journal just to remember how I spent my days—anecdotes about my kids—such as my son falling out of a tree like Icarus and my daughter receiving a vial of ants for her ant farm that turned out to be red biting ants. It was nothing anyone outside the family would be interested in.

And then I took a plane trip to Florida and sat next to a businessman from New Jersey. When he asked me what I did, I was hesitant to say that I was a psychic. If he wasn’t a believer, I’d see his eyes roll and my IQ would go down 50 points in his estimation. If he was a believer, he’d ask me for psychic information the whole trip and other passengers and flight aids would want readings too. Maybe even the pilot would want a reading and more than anything, I wanted him to pay attention to his own work.

“I’m a novelist,” I said.

“Oh, what kind of novels do you write?”

“A mix of family drama and the supernatural,” I said.

It sounded cool to him and cool to me. When I got home, I began writing seriously. I couldn’t make the leap from a journal to a novel, so I began with essays that chronicled my psychic experiences. They were published in The New York Times (Lives) and Newsweek (My Turn.) An article was also published about me in Redbook. and can be read on my website (Click PRESS). By the time I got my novel together, I had, what’s known as a platform like big bloggers do today. Without much trouble, I landed an agent who sold my first novel, Miriam the Medium, to Simon & Schuster within six weeks. As I signed the contract, my whole body quivered with that feeling of destiny.

When my newest novel, Kaylee’s Ghost, came out and Kirkus Review called it “an intriguing mix of family drama and contemporary fantasy,” I LOL-ed. It was as if I had made my own psychic prediction.

About the Author:

Articles have been written about Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s psychic gift in such places as Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, the Dutch Magazine, TV GID, and the Long Island section of the New York Times. She’s chronicled her own psychic experiences in Newsweek (My Turn), and The New York Times (Lives) which can be read on her website at

Her first novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster) was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Besides her psychic practice, Shapiro teaches writing at UCLA Extension.
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