Wild Heart woe: Sobel's journal needs a home

When we last left Eliezer Sobel in March 2003, his short story "Schneiderman" had just won runner-up in The Hook's fiction contest, and he was actively seeking a publisher for his novel, MINYAN: 10 Jewish Men in a World that is Heartbroken.

Flash forward to October, and not only has Sobel's novel landed a publisher (the University of Tennessee Press), but it's also won the prestigious Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, judged this year by Charlottesville's own John Casey.

Winning two literary contests in one year would seem reason for elation, but 51-year-old Sobel, who teaches children's music at Tandem Friends School, is singing the blues. Why? Because his creative baby, the Wild Heart Journal, is about to bite the dust.

"I'm losing $7,000 every time I put it out," he sighs.

Founded in 1998, Wild Heart Journal features poetry, interviews, and visual art, intertwining the two main themes of Sobel's life: art and spirituality.

Thirty years ago the Fair Lawn, New Jersey, native abandoned his college music major to embark on a spiritual quest. He became editor of New Sun Magazine, where he evaluated whatever was latest in the catalog of ways to reach enlightenment.

"That was at the vanguard of the new age spiritual movement," he says, laughing. "I was kind of the Roger Ebert of spirituality."

Sobel also started teaching workshops combining creativity and meditation, first in New York City and later around the country, touching down at various new age centers.

But a battered heart eventually brought him to Batesville. Sobel had met Asha Greer, founder of the Lama Foundation, a New Mexican spiritual community, while in Israel years earlier. When Sobel's girlfriend suddenly left him in 1991, he retreated to Greer's Virginia home in emotional tatters.

"Oh my God," Greer recalls. "He woke up sweating with dread every day."

Sobel spent four years recovering in Greer's "hippie household," where he wrote a do-it-yourself guide to his one-day creativity workshop, entitled Wild Heart Dancing (Simon & Schuster, 1994). The biannual Wild Heart Journal grew from the book's success, beginning as a 12-page homey newsletter celebrating "art, creativity, and spiritual life."

In 2002, Sobel decided to convert the colorful journal into a real magazine and began accepting advertising. But gaining a financial foothold proved slippery. "My only personal shortcoming," Sobel admits, "is, like a lot of creative people, I'm a terrible businessman."

At this point, he says, he's ready to give the journal away, if only an appropriate organization would take the publication under its wing.

Should Wild Heart's heart stop beating, what's next for Sobel?

"I don't know," he says, starting to smile, "except that maybe, having won that writing prize, it's been suggested that maybe I should write another novel."

Eliezer Sobel