Thought for the Day:
“The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.”
~ Robert Frost ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
The Editor’s Blog has a terrific post that will answer a LOT of questions about quotations and italics usage. Click HERE.
Since marketing is increasingly becoming the purview of authors, HERE is a site that is chock full of helpful information.
Writers Rumpus has 12 Tips for Effective Critiquing. Click HERE to read it.
This is a special edition of my blog because I couldn’t wait until the weekend to introduce Barbara Krasner‘s wonderful debut picture book, Goldie Takes a Stand: Golda Meir’s First Crusade, out this week from Kar-Ben Publishing. AND Barbara was kind enough to do an interview with me as well! Barbara runs one of the best blogs in the business — The Whole Megillah: The Writer’s Resource for Jewish-themed Story: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. If you have never visited, you really should. She has the best interviews of agents, editors, and writers I’ve ever seen and lots more besides. Click HERE to visit.
Most of us know who Golda Meir was and know about her leadership in Israel, but Barbara has found a very interesting story from Golda’s early life, then broke a bunch of picture book rules and told her story in first person from Golda’s point of view. We don’t see much in the way of historical fiction in the picture book market and it is even more rare for stories in the point of view seen here.
Goldie is nine years old, living in Milwaukee, when she forms the American Young Sisters Society made up of her young friends who are also Jewish immigrants from Russia. Of course, Golda is the president of the Society. The topic of the meeting is school textbooks. The girls and their friends in school are struggling to learn with tattered, out-of-date textbooks. Goldie said they would each need to raise 3 cents per week, but the girls knew it was too much. Golda tried charging people extra in their family store, but people objected. By the next meeting, no one had been able to raise much money. The girls had to think big and Goldie knew just what to do.
This charming story will capture young readers’ interest and leave them wanting to know more about this great lady. Of course, Barbara has added some interesting back matter about Golda Meir and places to find more information. Now, please join me for more fascinating information from Barbara Krasner.
I really enjoyed reading your new picture book, Goldie Takes a Stand! Golda Meir had many extraordinary accomplishments in her life. How did you happen upon this fascinating story from her childhood?
I had signed up to spend two weeks at Carolyn P. Yoder’s Alumni Retreat at the
Highlights Foundation at Boyds Mills, PA. The weekend between those two weeks were free, however, and I planned to attend the annual reading of the Moses Seixas and George Washington letters of religious tolerance at Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. I perused the spines of books on the shelves in the farmhouse, the homestead of the founders of Highlights for Children magazine, and came across Golda Meir’s autobiography, My Life. I borrowed it for my trip.
On the night before the Touro event, I was lying in bed reading Golda’s book and she talked about a time when she was living in Milwaukee and attending the Fourth Street School. Kids had to buy their own textbooks and few could afford them. So she formed a society of 22 girls, named herself president, and she organized a successful fundraiser. I knew this story had to be told.
I know your research is always impeccable. Tell us a little about your research process for this book.
I contacted the Milwaukee Jewish Museum and the archivist there sent me a copy of the September 1909 newspaper article from the Milwaukee Journal that pictured these girls and talked about the fundraising event. A friend in Milwaukee was able to get me background information on the school district (thank you, Lisa Idzikowski!). I also consulted books about the Jewish history of Milwaukee and Golda Meir biographies, and I reached out to Norman Provizer of the Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership at Metropolitan State College of Denver to vet the manuscript.
Why did you decide to write this story as historical fiction rather than as non-fiction? The first-person point of view is a bit unusual for a picture book, although it certainly works well. Did you try writing the story from other points of view? Can you tell us how you came to this decision?
The story needed dialogue, so that led me to fictionalize the story. I also felt I needed to fill in some of the gaps to dramatize the fundraising efforts. I initially wrote the story in third person, but Golda’s voice was so strong, she demanded first-person treatment! And you’re certainly right, that is unusual in a picture book.
What messages do you hope your young readers will find in your book?
There are actually quite a few messages here. First, that even a child can dream big and make something big happen. Second, there’s the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, which even as child, Golda sought to do. In my program, “What Would Goldie Do?” I lead children in a discussion of how they could make a difference in someone else’s life by doing one small thing.
How long did you work on Goldie Takes a Stand! before it was acquired? Did you have the help of an agent or did you sell the book directly to the publisher? Please tell us something of your journey.
Let’s see. I read the book in August 2010. I contacted the Jewish Museum in Milwaukee the following month. I wrote the first draft in October and workshopped it with one of my favorite authors (and friend/mentor) Candy Fleming. I revised and revised and sent it out on submission in April 2012. I received an offer of publication from Joni Sussman at Kar-Ben in June 2012. I did not have an agent, but I really believed in this story. Who knew Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, lived in Milwaukee as a kid—and made a difference?
The quaint illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Reilly for your book certainly ground the reader in the time and place of the story. As writers, we often hear writers have no input on illustrations. Did you have any input on the choice of illustrator or any communication with Garrity-Riley during the process? How did you feel about the look of the book when you finally saw it?
I did not have any input on illustrations, but I know Kelsey was expressly selected to give the book that “period” feel. Kelsey and I have never communicated directly or even indirectly with each other.
As writers, we hear so much about the editing process. Did you have to do a lot of re-writing once your books are acquired? What’s it like working with your editor?
I started out by working with Judy Groner. My manuscript was way too long, so we had to cut it. Golda’s sister, Clara, and her father ended up on the cutting room floor. Then I had to verify a few tidbits. I did not have to do a lot of rewriting, though, and the editorial process was fairly straightforward.
I’ve long been a fan of your blog, The Whole Megillah. It certainly has broadened my literary horizons. Do you find having that kind of web presence to be very helpful in landing your contract? If so, in what ways?
That’s a very interesting question. As you know, I’m on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries. I receive a lot of Jewish-themed books as a result that I must read and evaluate. I pay particular attention to authors whose work stands out for me and, as you also know, I invite editors, authors, agents, and illustrators to participate in interviews for The Whole Megillah. From time to time, I query these editors because I think my own work suits their list and they know I know their list. Instead of attending a conference of 1,000 people where an editor might be, I’d rather invite them to an interview and then after some respectable and reasonable time, pitch to him or her, if appropriate.
What advice would you pass along to those of us who haven’t gotten that first book published?
Patience and perseverance is what it takes. Some writers find publication quickly. Others, like me, don’t (I have a novel I began in 1999 as time travel. It then became historical fiction and I’ve rewritten it from scratch at least three times. Each time I think it’s ready to go out, it really isn’t.) But that doesn’t mean you should give up. At the risk of sounding cliché, write the very best story you can write and revise, revise, revise. Don’t send the work out too soon.
Thank you for so generously sharing your time and thoughts. Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you’d like to tell us?
Be open to different kinds of writing. I never expected my first book for children would be a picture book. My second book for kids, Liesl’s Ocean Rescue (Gihon River Press, December 2014), is a picture book as well.
I have a gently-read copy of Goldie Takes a Stand to share with one of you. All you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower (free and easy — check the right-hand column), and leave a comment. If you want extra chances, please share the link to this post by Twitter or on Facebook or any other way you choose. Just tell me in your comment what you have done, and I will give you extra chances. This contest will be open until Sunday, August 17.
If you haven’t left a comment yet on Sunday’s post and still want a chance to win The Other Half of My Heart, it’s not too late. I won’t draw a name for that until next Sunday, the 10th.