More exciting book news here for THE WHOLE STORY OF HALF A GIRL. It was recently selected as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book. Do you remember Sydney Taylor and her All-of-a-Kind Family series about a Jewish family living in New York at the turn of the century? Do you remember Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie? I do. I was obsessed with these books growing up. I remember when Henny dyed Ella’s dress with tea to cover up the stain she got on it and how Ella went to a restaurant for the first time on a date and didn’t know what to do and how exotic and long their Passover seders seemed to me. In fact, Taylor’s books in some ways gave me more information about Jewish identity and culture than my family did.
I also find it interesting that this honor is only for books writing about the Jewish experience and since WHOLE STORY’s Jewish content is certainly not typical, I loved that my book and the diversity it represents was recognized. The honor came at the same time a newspaper called India Abroad, which is published in the U.S. for the Indian community, contacted me about doing a story on the book which I’ll post when it comes out. How perfect for a book about a character trying to come to terms with both her Jewish and Indian identity.
Also, the paperback of WHOLE STORY comes out February 12! I hope this will bring a new group of fans who are excited to pay the lovely paperback price ($6.99).
All this has me thinking, though. I worry about my little book‘s future. I do. I worry that it will disappear too soon and won’t reach its full potential, whatever that may be. Then I remind myself that no matter how many tweets I tweet or blog posts I write or schools I visit, my book will have the life it will have. And hey, I’m not a publicist, I’m a writer. So I take a deep breath and send that thought out into the air and start to think about my future, and the stories (there are so many) I want to share with the world.
I like to make fall resolutions. Since I have kids in school and I’ve worked on an academic schedule, fall always feels like a new beginning. I start to turn inward and get in touch with my senses. I cook more. I fix up my house. I notice scents like dry leaves and wood smoke. I enjoy the happy chaos of school starting and holidays brewing. It’s a good season.
One of my fall resolutions is to blog more. I miss the immediacy of taking my thoughts and news and sending it out into the world like a little boat made out of twigs. So here, I’m sharing now. I have lots of good news too, so much good news that in the neurotic corner of my mind, I sometimes wonder what bad luck is about to descend on me as I swim around in all this excitement. Crazy, I know, but true.
WHOLE STORY keeps selling, which is a wonderful thing. I’m delighted with the emails I get from readers all the over the country--even internationally since I just heard from a reader in Canada! It’s a miracle to me that my little book has traveled so far. So keep on reading and sharing your thoughts on my contact page!
The biggest news is that my brilliant agent, Sara Crowe, recently sold my chapter book series to the lovely people at Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin Group). I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. It’s the kind of thing that I think about all the time, except for when I forget about it. Then when I remember again, it’s like discovering a special gift left for me on the kitchen table. The working (and possibly final) title is PHOEBE THE FOODIE, about a spunky second grader who actually likes to eat interesting things and slowly discovers this about herself when she befriends a new girl from France. Phoebe’s kind of the anti picky-eater who’s not afraid to be herself. This gets her into some trouble sometimes and I hope young readers will enjoy her unique adventures in food and in life! The first books will be out in about a year and a half.
Recently, I’ve also been lucky enough to contribute to the middle-grade series DEAR KNOW IT ALL. All books are published under the pseudonym, Rachel Wise, and I’ve written books #5, #6, and #8, the first of mine appearing in January 2013. The first two books by another writer are out now. It was a lot of fun and I wish I had been more like the brave, smart, but slightly anxious narrator Samantha Martone when I was in middle school!
I’m also working on another middle-grade novel. More to come about that…
Because of all this good stuff, I have decided to pause my Montessori teaching career, but I know I’ll always carry what I’ve learned with me into my life and parenting and future writing classes.
I’ve had many career paths, writing being the only constant, and now to have that part of my life move to center stage is quite amazing. I never thought it would happen and yet I always believed it would. So thanks for reading, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m certainly enjoying the ride.
Think of a friend, a family member, a favorite book character. What’s the first thing that pops into your head? Usually a name. We are our names. We embody them like skin. I always find it disorienting when I meet someone whose child is named the same as mine. At the first sound of my daughter or son’s name, everything they are to me--the way their hair smells, the sound of their voice, the feeling of their hand in mine--floods my brain. How could anyone else have that name?
We can’t underestimate how important names are. Yes, people sometimes change their names, but usually it’s because they are changing, or wish they could change, a huge part of themselves. It’s not something anyone does lightly. Think about classic children’s book characters, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, James and the Giant Peach. What if Charlotte’s name was Susan? Susan’s Web. No way.
Before I write, I make a list of all the characters I plan to have in my story, and before I even think too much about who they are, I name them carefully, tenderly, like newborns. I look in baby name books or on the internet. I find out what their names mean. Then I try them on for size. Once in a while I change them, if the character turns out quite differently than I thought. But usually, as they develop, they become their names.
I was thinking about all this because of the teddy bear my son lost 7 months ago. The teddy bear has a name of course. It’s…wait for it…Teddy. Quite a simple name, given by my five-year-old son when he first learned how to talk. For four years, my son went to sleep with Teddy every night. Every day he played with Teddy and told him all his little secrets. Teddy was like a member of our family. One day, last July, we couldn’t find Teddy. We looked EVERYWHERE. After a few days, I knew Teddy was really gone. I told my son, almost in a whisper, that maybe Teddy went on vacation? I was heartbroken for him. He cried the first few nights without him, and then helped me make up stories about all the places Teddy was visiting—the forest, the jungle, the beach. And every time we finished a Teddy story, my son said, “And then he’ll come back.” I nodded, what else could I do?
Seven months later my daughter’s bracelet rolled under my desk. She reached her small hand all the way in the back (you know, to the part where you can’t see if you look under it), pulled out her bracelet, and a very dusty teddy bear. “Teddy!” she yelled and went running over to my son and thrust it at him. When I heard the name, everything came back to me, how Teddy looked, felt, and the particular way my son pressed his face into the top of Teddy’s head. The reunion was sweet and not really that surprising to him. After all, he knew Teddy was coming back all along.
So in writing, spend time choosing your names, and in life, spend time knowing people’s names. Spend time using people’s names. Luckily, we can’t lose those.
My car is covered in a sheet of ice. Somehow I find this more appealing than snow, just because I’m tired of seeing it stacked higher and higher on the sides of my driveway. It’s been one snowstorm after another this winter and a collective weariness has spread over everyone I know. I’m trapped once again in the house with my lovely and loud little children who are having their SIXTH snow day of the season. I figured, as they watch their second movie of the day because I have given up, it might be a good time to get this blog going. Whenever I create something, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted it to be, it still leaves a trail of brightness, of effort, of something new. I missed having a blog. I started a food blog last year when I went through a big cooking binge. I wanted to try my hand at a little food writing, but then I got tired of reporting what I cooked and ate all the time, so I stopped. But I missed the way a blog can focus your thoughts or heighten what you notice about your daily life.
So it dawned on me one day, why don’t I write a blog about writing, which is what I do. I didn’t want to limit myself to craft, or the writing process, or writing in general, though. This blog will certainly be filtered through that lens, but I’m going to give myself some wiggle room. People don’t give themselves enough wiggle room. I find it interesting that when you ask people what they do, they don’t answer “I do (blank) which of course would sound weird. They say, “I’m a doctor… I’m a website designer…I’m an accountant… I’m a teacher.” As if that’s it—that’s all they are. Nobody wants to be put in boxes. I’m a writer, yes, and thankful to be one. But I’m also a lot of other things. I write for children and adults. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a teacher. I draw and paint. I cook. I clean the bathroom and do the laundry. I do yoga. I sing badly in the car. I am all these things and more.
After writing many mass‐market children’s books based on licensed characters for several years, my dream came true, or I should say one of my dreams came true. I sold a manuscript for my original middle‐grade novel to Random House/Delacorte Press which will come out in about a year. Most of the time it feels really wonderful and satisfying. But right now in the middle of this gray, icy day with lots of editing ahead of me, it feels a little unreal and delicate, like something I have to protect.
I’d like to take you through this journey, this book getting off the ground. I’ll also talk about some of my favorite literature, both for children and adults. Sometimes I might write about finding inspiration, or craft, or revising. Sometimes I might write about my refrigerator that keeps breaking, or my two incredible children that challenge me in ways I didn’t know anyone could challenge me. I might write about Montessori education since I’m also in the process of getting certified to be a Montessori teacher. Sometimes I might even post a random drawing or painting I’ve done. I don’t know. I just need a big, wiggly place for all of it.