Thursday, January 19, 2017

Interview about Tucson Jo with Tucson Tales Publication

Tucson Tales is a children's literature publication run by undergraduate students at the University of Arizona. They  showcase new and established writers. This is the interview they did with me about my middle-grades historical novel Tucson Jo. Click here for the entire interview.

The questions were not cookie cutter questions and really made me think. Here's an excerpt from the online interview:

Q. You often write about World War II and the Holocaust. Did you find it particularly challenging or beneficial looking at some of these anti-Semitic themes through the lens of the American Southwest?

A: That’s an interesting question. It’s always challenging to write about The Holocaust and/or anti-Semitism. I suppose what is so surprising to young people is how long anti-Semitism has been with us. They often have no idea that it dates back to the early days of the Church and that it was propagated by both Church and state as a way to scapegoat a particular religion and people. But I did find it compelling to write about the true story of how Strauss’s political rival tried to use it to defeat Strauss, even though there had been no real cases of anti-Semitism in Tucson up to that point. (It didn’t work!) Unfortunately anti-Semitism is ever present, and today we are seeing a frightening escalation in the United States and in Europe.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

WHO AM I? is out! And KIrkus gives it a great review!

Waiting for that first review is so nerve-wracking! So what a relief to read the Kirkus review of Who Am I?, my new sci-fi thriller for YA and middle grades.

"Girl-power heroines confronting bad guys and the nature of the self. Hitchcock-ian fun, full of deep questions to ponder."
(Click here for full Kirkus review.)

Kirkus seemed to like just about everything except the title! Since I personally came up with the title and thought it was so clever I was a little crushed but since everything else was good – I'm good too! Most importantly the reviewer saw what I was trying to dowrite a book about what it means to be a human being.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Back From The Future – Who Am I?


How do you update a science fiction novel?

When I wrote Cloning Miranda, The Second Clone and The Dark Clone in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were set in the near future.

When Fictive Press agreed to republish them as one novel and bring them out for the first time in the U.S. this fall, I thought I should update them – at least in terms of cell phones and social media. But once I started to do that I realized that the science of cloning had also advanced over the last decade. And so a small little edit suddenly became an entire revision. And in order to make the book really up to date, I set in the the present. Yes, that's right. Because the present is, in fact, where all the cutting edge cloning work is happening – especially where gene splicing is concerned.

So can we still call this book science fiction? I think so. As far as I know there are no human clones. But there is already a huge market cloning pets that have died. Sadly, our dog died in December. It would never occur to me to clone her even if could afford the $100,000 bill! (And even if I could afford that, I'd rather give the money to charity.) No one could ever replace her.

But the book isn't about cloning, really. It's about what makes us human. And when I read science fiction, that's what really interests me. It's why I'm a proud Trekkie!!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Just Kidding!

Well, I really wasn't kidding. We really thought we had our new cover. But then we changed our minds.
OKAY!
This is truly the final, final cover!
And Thursday I sent the final copyedit to my editor so we are getting very close to publication. Fall for sure.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Finally! We Have Our Cover.


Here is the final cover for Who Am I?


We must have done—and by "we," I mean my publisher Fictive Press—at least 50 different cover mock-ups.  I kid you not! A big thanks to Fictive Press for going the extra mile.

We tested the covers with students at Grant Park High and Laidlaw School here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as far away as the The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy in Atlanta, Georgia! In the end, this is our final choice.

A big thrill for me as a writer to be included in the deliberations. Usually, it's a take-it-or-leave-it attitude from publishers—and you have to take it! Sometimes you do get to offer feedback but usually it is a done deal by the time you see the cover. I must admit I've had a few meltdowns over the years when I first saw the cover for a new book. And the opposite. At some point, I will post some of my favourite covers.

Meanwhile the edit is ongoing and Fictive Press is aiming to have this book out as a fall release. So I'd better get back to work!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Minds Series has just been reissued!!

Thrilled to report that The Minds Series is now out in beautiful new covers created by Asa Nodelman, designed by Tara Smilinski and photographed by Robert Wilson. Hopefully, like any good fantasy series, this one will be just as relevant to a new generation of readers as the last iteration. It was so much fun writing this series with my friend and co writer Perry Nodelman. In fact, it all started with Perry playing his usual role of first critic and editor of all my first drafts. Except when he critiqued Of Two Minds he had a much better idea of how to rewrite it than I did and in a rather sarcastic manner I believe I said something like, "If you're so smart why don't you do it."

So he did! At first Perry wrote the male character Coren and I wrote Lenora and we went back and forth like that draft after draft until I started getting annoyed with Coren who I thought was too weak and Perry started getting annoyed with Lenora who he thought was too bossy and at that point we started writing alternative drafts changing both characters and finally finding a happy medium.

The books are about a young woman and young man—one who can make anything she imagines real, and one who lives entirely in his imagination where reality is better than the physical world. The two are misfits in their worlds because neither likes or appreciates their gifts. So naturally their parents arrange for them to marry. Of course! Needless to say all does not go smoothly. Or even well. The two of them find themselves pitted against a particularly dangerous villain in the first book—and they can only survive—together—much to each other's dismay.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Hunt for the Best Cover Continues

A cover is so important—so we asked lots of young people and adults which cover they liked best. A big thank you to everyone who participated in our informal survey, including students at The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy #davis5 in Atlanta, Georgia, and at Grant Park High and Laidlaw schools in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A special thank you to Bonnie Brask for her outstanding photos and artwork on our test covers.

It was a fascinating exercise even though there was no consensus. The best part was hearing what young people had to say, why they liked or disliked a particular cover, what they thought the cover was telling them. For example, we were super interested to learn that most students didn't know about the DNA helix, and didn't recognize that it was being used as a motif on several different covers. Because of that new info, I am going to add an afterword about the DNA strand and have my publisher add it as a graphic element in the novel's layout. So a huge help just in those terms for the book itself.

Below are the last six cover choices we presented to the classes. Which cover do you prefer, and why?

I will be posting our final choice any day now...





Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book Covers For "Who am I?"

I am very lucky that Fictive Press has made me a partner vis a vis choosing and even helping to create the cover for my new book Who Am I? We have considered all sorts. Here are a couple:

   

But we have ended up with something else altogether. I will post it soon. It's such an important decision, but I am really happy with the one we have chosen.

Human Cloning!

So just as I am into the edit of my series about the first human clone this article appears. It is so close to what I have written I feel a little scared, vindicated, psychic, and discombobulated.

My updated and revised series has never been published  in the United States so for all you readers it'll be brand new.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meet Barbara Bietz

Barbara was kind enough to be my third guest ever on my blog! Here's our Q&A:

First of all why a Jewish book blog? http://jewishbooksforkids.com
My first book Like a Maccabee, was a Jewish children's book and when it was published I became aware of the incredible community of parents, teacher, librarians, readers, and more who are interested in books with Jewish content. My idea was to create a blog community that celebrated Jewish books for kids in an accessible way. I love interviewing authors, illustrators, editors, and others who can share back story that makes their work even more interesting! As an author, I also know the challenges of marketing a new book and I am happy to support authors by helping to spread the word about their work. On a more personal level, reading books about Jewish kids was very important to me as a young reader. My childhood and my Jewish identity were partly formed by reading All-of-a-Kind Family books. If the right book lands in a child's hands it can be life changing. To be part of a community that fosters that experience is amazing.

How do you choose the books to read?
I'm always reading! The interviews on my blog tend to happen organically. Sometimes I contact an author and sometimes authors or publishers reach out to me. I also meet many people at writer's conferences and workshops. The children's writing world is a warm and lovely place to be and there are always new people to meet.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Meet my second guest ever - Deborah Kalb!

So I am thrilled to add Deborah to my guest list! She kindly hosted me over at her blog, and now I'd like to return the favour!
Deborah Kalb is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She spent about two decades working as a journalist in Washington, D.C., for news organizations including Gannett News Service, Congressional Quarterly, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill, mostly covering Congress and politics. She is the co-author, with her father, Marvin Kalb, of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama (Brookings, 2011), and she’s also the co-author or co-editor of two books published by CQ Press (The Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents; and State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush). She started her blog, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb (found at deborahkalbbooks.blogspot.com), in October 2012, and has interviewed hundreds of authors—including Carol Matas!—about their books.

Here are some questions I ask Deborah- and her answers!

Q: How do you choose your authors?

A: I look through lists of upcoming books, I read book reviews, I ask friends if they know of anyone with a book coming out soon, and I keep an eye out in general for authors and books that seem interesting. Also, authors and their publicists often get in touch with me to ask if I’d like to interview them/their author. It’s a real pleasure to learn about so many great books before they’re published!

Introducing My First Ever Guest- Barbara Krasner

Barbara Krasner has been kind enough to host me on her blog, https://thewholemegillah.wordpress.com and I'd like to host her here so I'm diving in!

First a little bit about Barbara. When I say a little I mean- wow- she's amazing!

Barbara Krasner, http://www.barbarakrasner.com is a writer and historian. She is the author of two picture books and more than 200 articles for adults and young readers. Her literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Paterson Literary Review, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Jewishfiction.net, Lilith, Poetica, and numerous other journals. She teaches expository and creative writing at William Paterson University. She holds a B.A. in German, M.B.A. in Marketing, M.F.A. in Writing for Children, and is now pursuing an M.A. in public history. She often writes about women and on Holocaust themes. She has most recently served on Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and is the editor and publisher of The Whole Megillah | The Writer’s Resource for Jewish Story. 

Blog Tour for Tucson Jo!


So I've been on a blog tour for Tucson Jo and really really enjoyed meeting the bloggers, answering their questions and sometimes being forced to think about things I hadn't considered because of the questions!

Here are the links:

 Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb

Jewish Books for Kids with author/blogger Barbara Bietz

The Canadian Balance with author/blogger Anna Levine

The Whole Megillah by author/historian Barbara Krasner

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tucson Jo named a National Jewish Book Awards Finalist for Children's & YA Literature!

Firstly, I have to say that when the general email blast announcing the awards came through on my email I didn't even check to see if Tucson Jo had made the cut. I have never been honoured with this award, and didn't think that was about to change.

My daughter called five minutes later to ask if I had seen the news. That's when the screaming started. My publisher and best friend Morri Mostow of Fictive Press was out at an aerobics class so I had an agonizing couple of hours before I could share the news with her. And before she could share the official letter she had just received from the Board of Directors congratulating her.

For those of you who have followed my blog, you know that this book was special—although all my books are special to me—but this one in a different way. First of all it took over eight years to write— not continuously, of course, but on and off between other projects.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

19th Edition of Jesper from Edebe!

Wow! 19. That's quite the number. The 19th edition of Jesper  -my book about The Danish Resistance in World War 11 -
just arrived in the mail. The coolest part? The publisher is Edebe from Spain! So in Spanish translation...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tucson Jo Book Launch!

What an evening! The really spectacular thing, outside of a fabulous turnout at McNally Robinson's Bookstore, was to have two very special guests, my best friend and my publisher, Morri Mostow, and the head of the Simonsen Foundation in Denmark Marianne Olsen.
We weren't sure how a dual launch would go - me talking about a children's book and my husband Per talking about a book he had translated of a Danish Jewish philosopher, Andreas Simonsen. But funnily enough it seemed to all fit together. I spoke first and talked about the writing of Tucson Jo, then read a chapter. Per talked next and read the forword from the book and then described each chapter. We took questions and the questions overlapped in interesting ways. Tucson Jo is about a Jewish family, so there were a lot of Jewish themes in the evening, and Tucson Jo also asks some big questions so it all seemed to fit together. In this picture Marianne is beside Per and that is Morri beside me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Writing a first Draft/ Tucson Jo

Writing a first draft is so different for every writer. Some take years to fine tune every sentence as they work. Some take months or years to prepare, detailing everything in a long outline. For me. the process has always been the same. I have a rough idea, maybe a few paragraphs long, the beginning, the middle, and an idea of where it might end. If it is an historical I take as long as needed to do the research which could be months or years! Plus never underestimate the thinking time involved in writing. Walks, showers, staring into the distance, all times when the "little grey cells" are working are the most important time for me - the time before the writing starts. That's when the themes of the book take shape, the characters start to emerge, and finally, that most important thing- the first sentence. When I have my first sentence- which often changes as the book changes- I am ready to start writing. And then the first draft goes fast. Maybe 3 weeks tops with no interruptions -  that's when all things domestic seem to get ignored and we have to hope the water doesn't get turned off because I've forgotten  to pay the bill! Oh- but did I mention the procrastination that comes just before the first draft starts? That's when all things domestic get done! The house gets a spring cleaning, drawers that haven't been looked at in years get organized-all because I feel like I will never start the book, it is too difficult, I can't write it - for various reasons depending on the project-  etc.
I love the first draft process. It's like running a marathon maybe- not sure since I've never run one, but it is all encompassing and really hard work, and somehow full of elation.
And working this way tends to banish writers block because I don't give myself time for doubt. Or more accurately I try to pay doubt no attention. So when that little voice says to me " This is rubbish" at the end of the work day, I ignore it and keep on writing the next day. It also helps that when I tell my husband it is all awful he reads it and disagrees and that helps me to keep pushing ahead.
The second draft and sometimes up to 20 more? Well, that's another story. But when you write this fast on the first draft there is bound to be lots to fix on subsequent drafts. And I know that and expect it.
Except for my book Lisa which came out just about as you see it on the page...
Tucson Jo had so many drafts I've lost count. Actually I have tried to count and it is well over 30! And that isn't just changing a word here or there that is changing major characters, adding new ones, subtracting ones that aren't working, even changing plot lines. OK. Enough of this- must get back to reading over the first draft of my new science fiction book.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Writing Tucson Jo

One of the hardest things about this book is remembering how to spell Tucson! To be fair it does sound like Tuson or should be pronounced Tukson.  I have to admit I'm an awful speller- always have been- and without the computer correcting me I would always sound at the very least confused and at worst just bad, but there it is!

Anyway, back to the reason for this post!

I have been working on this book for eight years, obviously doing other projects as well -  in fact, during that time I've  published eleven books including, The Freak series,  Behind Enemy Lines and Pieces of The Past. But all the time -  ever since I finished the first draft after a research trip to Tucson in 2006 - I have been returning to this book and trying to get it right.  I worked with an editor from a big publishing house at first and it got better but still wasn't quite right. Finally my best friend, Morri Mostow, who had just started a publishing house, offered to have a look at it. It was her notes that made me realize what wasn't working but more importantly how to fix it. I think the biggest stumbling block for me was being too tied into the historical material. Based on a real person, the first Jewish Mayor of Tucson, Charles Strauss,  I tried to follow his story and the story of his family - during the time he was running for mayor. That tied me down too much and didn't let my own creative take on the story evolve.

When I chose to write a story "inspired by the first Jewish mayor of Tucson and his family," I was able to focus not only on telling an exciting story but on what I wanted the story to be about. Jo, the fourteen-year-old daughter of the patriarch wants nothing so much as her freedom, but her father is running for mayor on a platform of  law and order. I was able to use the story to explore what freedom really means to us personally and to our society. Freedom is a word bandied about freely by everyone but what does it really mean? For Jo it means not being constrained by the fact that she is a young woman. She wants to be able to wear pants! She wants to be able to speak freely. She wants to be able to ride a horse and not side-saddle! She wants equality with her brother and to be taught Torah just as he is. And yet her father points out that society will not accept these freedoms for her, and that she must live within her society and accept some restraints.

Which brings us to an interesting problem. What kind of restraints are we willing to accommodate in order to live both safely and freely? That, I think, is an important question these days with threats around us from bad people who have guns and weapons. Will safety and freedom force us to strike some sort of balance?