Menucha Publishers Launch Book Club for Jewish Schools

Growing up, I used to wait eagerly for my teacher to hand out the monthly book club catalog. I’d read and reread it, carefully picking out my selection of books, which I received a few weeks later.

That excitement continued when I was a teacher and handed out age-appropriate book club catalogs to my own students. I also used the catalogs to furnish our classroom library and find engaging reads to my students.

Now, yeshiva/day school students can have a similar experience as Menucha Publishers launches its “Classroom Solutions” program. The initiative includes a book club complete with book catalog from which students can order both secular and Jewish books in English. Teachers can learn more about the program at the Menucha Classrooms Solutions.

 

 

 

 

On the Importance of Jewish Literature

In the most recent issue of Jewish Action magazine, “The How-To Issue, Summer 5578/2018,” Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, penned an essay “A Community in Search of a Culture.”

In the article, Bane posited the question of cultural identity as it relates to Torah-observant Jews. “Whether we describe ourselves as ‘modern’ or ‘centrist’ or ‘non-isolationist’ or by some other term, the question must be asked—do we share a communal culture? And if not, does it matter?”

I am not going to address Bane’s many points in the piece, save for one: his points of issue of literature.

“Literature can also serve as a cultural unifier,” the O.U.’s president writes, highlighting the works of famous Jewish authors like Sholem Aleichem, Hayim Nahman Bialik and others noting that though their messages were “frequently offensive to Torah values,” their literary works “nurtured a shared Jewish identity during the late nineteenth century and the tumultuous early twentieth century.”

Then, he asks: “Is there a role for contemporary Orthodox literature in developing a communal identity? If yes, we need to ensure that our day schools are taking this goal into account and preparing future generations of Orthodox Jewish authors. We should encourage the creation of high-quality Orthodox literature for children, teens and adults.”

Thank you Mr. Bane!

This is an idea that I’ve long been a proponent of. It is crucial for the Orthodox community to have books that are engaging, well written and of high-quality that will appeal to all Jewish youngsters.

While there has been growth in the Jewish fiction market recently, particular for children, we need books and authors that will speak to those Orthodox youngsters who are regular readers of popular fictional fare like Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Junie B. Jones and Pinkalicious.

It is something that I try very hard to do with my children’s fiction. I want the children in my close-knit circle—my nieces, nephews and the children of my close friends—to see themselves reflected in my stories. I want them to WANT to read one of my books not out of obligation but because they love the characters and the stories.

Yet, I know that I have not always been so successful. At least one of my stories had a character whose name was very relatable in more “yeshivish” crowds, but not common in more “modern” circles.

Still, I believe it is crucial that books exist which speak to all Torah-observant children.

I truly believe we need to encourage those Jewish readers who buy their books on Amazon or at BN to try “Jewish books.” (I’m not talking about seforim here, I’m strictly talking about fiction for children, teens and adults.)

To that end, I’m putting together plans for a book festival for readers and authors, one specifically geared to Torah-observant families. “Read Religiously” would include workshops for aspiring writers (including one for children who love to write), book-related crafts for kids, a huge book fair with Jewish fiction titles and a chance to meet Torah-observant authors and buy autographed books.

I’d love to hear your opinions on what you’d like to see at a “Read Religiously” Read and Write Day! Is this something you’d want to attend? Do you children have a favorite Jewish author? Would you love the chance to hear from Torah-observant authors? Do you want to learn the ins and outs of being an author with a goal toward publishing quality fiction for the Jewish market?  Leave your comments below and share this link with your friends!

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How do you feel then you get corrections?

This blog post was inspired by my last school visit of the 2017-2018 school year. The principal had sent me a list of about 15 questions that students had come up with for me to answer. A number of them I’ve gotten before, but for some reason the question about corrections, which in publishing we refer to as edits/edit notes/revisions, resonated with me.

Now, it could be that it hit particularly close to home as I had just (literally the afternoon before my talk) gotten the copy edits back on my fall release, “Layla’s Vistaville Summer.” The edits were happily very minor.

I was actually feeling pretty good about getting the “corrections,” as the kids called it. I mean who wouldn’t want to get a nearly clean edit letter?

If only it was that simple. The fact is the manuscript had gone through several drafts and numerous changes before the copy editor ever saw it. (There’s was also a second round of copy edits that were sent two days later.)

Getting revision requests and making edits are a good thing in my mind. Assuming you are with a good, reputable publisher and working with quality editors, they will have your book’s best interest in mind when they ask you to make any changes.

As for how I answered the student who asked how I feel about getting corrections from my eidtor, I told her what I’ll tell you it’s kind of like getting back the test you thought you’d aced only to discover there were some mistakes. (Maybe you really do learn everything you need to know about life in grade school.)

 

 

 

News & Notes

I know you’re all anxiously awaiting the second-half of the A to Z Guide to Character Building and it’s in the works, but this summer has been unusually busy so the guide is taking a short hiatus.

So … what is keeping me so busy? In between all the usual summer stuff (barbecues, trips, family fun) there’s also a little book project I’m working on called “The Accident.” Actually it’s not so little, it’s pretty big and it’s the third book in my Achdus Club series. I’m working on revisions now and, hopefully, it’ll be in stores in late November/early December just in time for Chanukah!

If you’re doing any traveling this summer, make sure to stop into a local bookstore and peruse the aisles. Discover an author you’ve never heard of or try a different genre. Ask the booksellers for suggestions on who the popular hometown authors are and seek out one of their reads.

When you are on vacation and traveling it can be hard to maintain a strict writing schedule, at times like this its good to catch a few minutes here and there whenever possible.  If you can finish up your assignments before you go even better, but if you can’t set aside a specific time (maybe before breakfast and when everyone else is still asleep) to work on your writing. Just don’t let the opportunity for growth as a person and, yes, as a writer pass you by. Enjoy your time at the beach or in the mountains or exploring a new city. Recharge and reset your writing battery. Let your mind wander. You never know what little image or tidbit of history or information will spark your imagination and inspire a column, short story or your new novel.

​Happy Summer!

The ABC Guide to Characterization

PictureThe A,B,C Guide to Writing contains the entire web series along with additional original writing prompts and details.

Welcome to the newest installment of the ABC Guide to Writing. If you missed the earlier series you can read it in its entirety starting with this post. The series is also available in a workbook with additional writing prompts, tidbits and more. You can find  the book here.
 
The book was so well received, that I’ve decided to continue the series with a new addition, The ABC Guide to Characterization. Over the next few months, I’ll be offering tips to building your characters and creating a protagonist (or villain) that will draw readers in.
 
This blog series will include “homework” assignments to help you build your characters. Feel free to use the guide to create your hero, heroine, supporting character and more!
 
Like The A,B,C Guide To Writing, the Guide to Characterization will be available in book format at the conclusion of the blog series. It will contain additional advice on how to create strong, compelling characters.

Building an Idea Factory

Build an Idea Factory for WritingLooking for writing ideas? Learn how to build your own idea factory.

It’s a comment I hear often from aspiring writers, I don’t know what to write about. I think this is concern that many new writers have, I know that I had this problem when I was starting out.When my editors would assign me a story, I could do it no problem. My head would spin with ideas and angles and potential questions for interview subjects.

But when I was asked to come up with my own story ideas and present them to my editors, I would literally freeze up. What was there to write about? Did I have any press releases on my desk that might work for a story? Was there a story I did previously that I could follow-up on?

Those are certainly valid sources of potential stories, especially at a daily/weekly newspaper.

However, as a writer, my goal was to think outside the box, to find the stories that others didn’t have and hadn’t thought of. That was where the panic came from. Was I somehow less of a writer if I couldn’t figure out story ideas? Was I doing something wrong?

I can say definitely not. Figuring out where to find stories is perhaps one the hardest things a writer can do … until you realize that stories are all around you.

So, I can hear you say, there are no stories around me! What can I possibily have to write about? Well, since we just finished the holiday season, let’s use that as an example.

Did you try something different this year? Maybe you tried a concierge service or shipped your gifts while you flew to visit family. Maybe you found a great online source for toy ideas?

Any of these could be a story idea — if pitched to the right publication and written in the right tone and interest.

Now, make a list of some thing you did different this year, think about how you might be able to use that to jump start a story and then start your research. Who knows, you may just have found your next big assignment!

Good luck!

 


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Studio photography secrets

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