Layla’s Vistaville Summer: A Review

It isn’t often that Jewish children books written for the Shomer Shabbat market get reviewed, which is why I was thrilled when author Judith Pransky told me she is now reviewing books in the Philadelphia Jewish Link.

Even more exciting was that she chose Layla’s Vistaville Summer as one of the first books to review. Then I read the review, which said, in part:

“The reader is drawn along, eager to find out more about the family relationships and the hidden mystery. The book is a quick read, with sentences that flow, and vocabulary that is easy to comprehend. But the characters and storyline have depth and interest, and the reader grows along with Layla.”

You can read the whole review for yourself on page 30 of the Philadelphia Jewish Link.

Thank you so much Judith, The Philadelphia Jewish Link and all the readers who’ve enjoyed Layla’s diary! Her next adventure will be out this fall, but it’s not too late to get caught up with Layla’s time in Vistaville.

To learn more about Judith Pransky’s work, including Mister Lister (a recent PJ Our Way selection) and its sequels check out her new website.

Do you review Jewish children’s books? Do you have a favorite Jewish children’s book, leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Article Round-up

Hi Everyone,

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been working on a number of longer news features and writing book five of the Achdus Club (yes, there will be another book!). Because I’m still not caught-up with my writing, I figured I’d give you a round-up of some of the articles that I’ve written recently.

ON EDUCATION

The State of Holocaust Education

https://www.jns.org/how-to-teach-the-lessons-of-the-holocaust-in-the-school-classroom/

Hebrew Education in the Public Sphere Grows

https://www.jns.org/hebrew-becomes-hip-in-american-schools-as-a-boon-for-kids-and-communities/

ON SECURITY

Facebook shutters anti-Semitic page

https://www.jns.org/facebook-shuts-down-new-jersey-group-accused-of-peddling-anti-semitic-tropes/

New York’s Bail Reform Is it Too Much?

https://www.jns.org/did-new-york-bail-reform-changes-take-on-too-much-too-quickly/

A Month of Brainstorming

Storystorm January writing challenge

Just want to give another shout-out to Tara Lazar and her amazing Storystorm January writing challenge. For 31 days, writers (primarily picture book writers) try to come up with 30 potential story ideas. These ideas can be a snippet of a scene, a character sketch, a plot idea or just about anything that sparks a potential story idea. The goal is not to create a whole story, but a notebook (or computer file) filled with potential ideas that you can work on throughout the year. I’m a bit behind in this year’s challenge – thank you Flu B — but I hope to catch up. Even if I don’t come out with 30 ideas, the sheer practice of sitting down and just seeing what comes to mind is great brainstorming practice.

Prepping My 2020 Reading Log

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For many years, I thought about tracking what I read. Last year was the first time I tried putting that idea into action. I tracked mostly my adult book reads. I included an occasional middle-grade title and completely ignored picture book or chapter book reads. In total, I read more than 50 books, including some nonfiction titles.

I’m hoping to do a little better with my recording in 2020. To get myself on the right track, I created a log and reader tracker in my bullet journal. My pages aren’t artistic (I can’t draw at all), but they are functional.

Among my goals this year, is to track all books regardless of genre and page count. I’ve already recorded my first title of 2020 and I look forward to filling out these layouts.

I also read a ton of newspapers and magazines, but I think trying to track them may be too daunting.

Have you ever tracked your reads? Looking back, was there anything about your reading list that surprised you?

What are your 2020 writing goals?

I’m excited about what 2020 has in store for me. I have a new book coming out this fall, Layla’s Sugarland Adventure, which is set in a HersheyPark-like setting complete with kosher food and another mystery for Layla and her cousins to solve.

I’m also anticipating completing the next Achdus Club adventure. Ruthie once again takes front and center in the new story, which doesn’t have a name yet. The only thing I know for sure is that Ruthie is up to her old tricks and the Achdus Club won’t stand for it!

For much of last year I put a focus on learning and growing. (You can check out my previous blog post for more.)

While I’m continuing in that area, my buzzword for 2020 is expansion. I hope to share more soon!

What are your goals for 2020? Leave a comment below to receive my free Writing Goals PDF worksheet.

2020 Plans and a Look Back

One of several writing workshops I participated in during 2019.

For me, 2019 was a year of learning and growing.

It started in January as I enrolled in an online, yearlong program on writing picture books and learning what it takes to be publishable in this area. Not surprisingly, there is no comparison between my journalism writing and picture books, but what was surprising to me was how different PB (aka picture books) are from the middle-grade novels I currently write.

As the year went on, I had the opportunity to participate in online workshops, study picture books from a writer’s perspective, utilize critique opportunities and, yes, write PB manuscripts. I’m not sure if I have the skills—and it most definitely is a skill—to effectively write for this audience, but I intend to keep trying in 2020.

My first stop in PB 2020 journey is Storystorm, which PB author and Storystorm creator Tara Lazar describes as 30-day brainstorming event. The goal is to end the month of January with 30 new story ideas. Does that mean I’ll be writing all 30 stories? Nope, but if January 2019 was anything to go by, I’ll come up with a few ideas that are worth considering and one or two that I just can’t let go of and will end up turning into a story.

The fourth book in the Achdus Club series was released in May 2019.

This spring brought two more learning opportunities, one on the personal side and one of the professional side. In May, I joined more than 100 other Orthodox Jewish women to be part of Orthodox Union’s Women’s Initiative Lay Leadership Summit.

The two days of workshops and networking, learning and discussions was eye-opening. I could not believe the breadth of talent, scope of knowledge and clear determination of my peers. I don’t know why I was so surprised, perhaps it is because so many of us work on our own, which is why coming together for this summit was so inspiring.

With June came the chance to return to my professional journalism roots. I traveled to St. Louis for the annual American Jewish Press Association conference. There, I had a chance to reconnect with old colleagues and peers, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. I also had the opportunity to meet new friends, hear from newsmakers and focus on the important place that Jewish journalism has in our communities.

With colleagues at AJPA in St. Louis.

This fall, however, came a very different kind of learning experience; I learned what it takes to be a successful businesswoman. (Yes, freelancing is a business!) Through books, in-person classes, online workshops and classes, including a four-week build your business intensive geared specifically to Orthodox Jewish women, I have gained insight into what works for me and what doesn’t professionally, uncovered what my value is to my potential customers, focused on ways to build my brand and to reach new heights professionally. (Thank you Estie Rand and Abbey Wolin for your insights and encouragement.)

I am excited by how I spent the last 12 months. All that I have learned in 2019 and the skills I gained have given me the energy to move into 2020 with a focus on some new, creative endeavors. I don’t know what the future holds professionally, but I am looking forward to the next chapters of my writing journey.

Oh, there’s one thing I do know … the sequel to Layla’s Vistaville Summer, “Layla’s Sugarland Winter,” will be released from Menucha Publishers in fall 2020! The countdown is on!

12 Types of Writers

12 Types of Writers

Whenever I visit schools and meet with students, I like to ask them what they think a writer does. They know that a writer writes stories and poems and plays.

But what they, and dare I say many of us, don’t recognize is the breadth of what the writing industry entails. Writers work across a spectrum of specialities and industry. Though they, hopefully, share some of the same skills, the way they go about their writings, the words that flow and create meaning can vary.

I tried to come up with a dozen types of writers. Can you add to this list?