All sorts of great news to share

Yes, I’ve been AWOL again. And yes, I have all the usual excuses. And I have news–lots of it!

  1. I’ve finally got a title for my new middle-grade novel, coming out, G-d willing, this fall: Adina at Her Best. Look for it in Menucha Publisher’s fall catalogue. I’m not sure that it will be out in time for Rosh Hashanah, but it should be available by Chanukah time.
  2. I finished the second draft of my first novel for adults, and I’m getting a lot of feedback from beta readers. It’s been rather harrowing — there’s lots and lots to fix. (I’ll admit to some public ugly-crying.) But hopefully this is another step pushing the book closer to completion.
  3. It might not all pay off, but two weeks ago, I sent off a picture book submission to an agent, an article submission to a Jewish magazine, and short story submission to a secular venue in a matter of four days: bam! bam! bam! The article was, thankfully, accepted, and I’m very excited. I’m very doubtful about the others–they are definite long-shots–but I’m proud of myself for pushing myself.
  4. One of my editing/coaching clients is now nearly done with the second volume in their series of picture books! They’ve been working hard for months, and I’m super-excited to see the reaction with the next book hits shelves.

I’m not getting much creative work done. It’s summer and the kids are all home from school. But I’ve been doing a bunch of editing and picked up another client for picture book coaching. Now I’ve just got to figure out how to get the mental space and time alone to revise my novel…

What are you up to this summer? Do you have more or less time for creative endeavors during the summer? And do you have any exciting news?

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Can teenagers really save the world? Musings on middle grade and YA lit

I’m completely behind both writing and housework this week due to a bout of strep throat (thankfully, on the mend now due to penicillin).  This was the second time I’ve been laid up for several days since Sukkos, so it was pretty much a drag, and I really need to try to wrap up at least one story this week. However, I just feel the need to share this with my readers.

airborn by oppel

Can three teens really save their airship from pirates? Not sure I buy it.

While lying in bed trying very hard not to swallow (it just hurt too much), I read a slew of middle grade and YA novels. Now, I know that tween and teen novels tend to share certain characteristics, and that many of these meet the psychological needs of tweens and teens. But as a once-but-no-longer teen, a particular trait rubbed me the wrong way. Continue reading

In case you need to feel validated for writing literary fiction, science will back you up

I’m not usually the type to post an hour before Shabbos starts, but this news item (first heard this morning during the break between some Mozart and some Corelli on KUSC) is just too wonderful to wait.

In case you feel defensive because you still think high-quality literature belongs in schools, or you’re trying to encourage quality over quantity in your own writing (thus spending way more time on each piece than seems wise), a new study indicates that reading literary fiction (Jane Austen, Don DiLillo, Chekov, or Alice Munro) temporarily enhances a reader’s emotional intelligence.

For more, read the study’s abstract here and a New York Times piece about it here.

Looking for a gift? 5 New books to consider this Chanukah season, including Red is My Rimon, Chanukah Guess Who?, The Torah Book of Opposites, The Wooden Sword, and The Tempest in the Tea Room

lighting chanukiah with abba

Chanukah is coming! Did you remember to get this cutie a gift?

In the upcoming Chanukah edition of CitySpirit Magazine (available here in L.A. within the next week or so), you’ll find reviews of four books either authored or illustrated by local L.A. talent. Any of them would make perfect gifts for Chanukah for kids. The books I reviewed for CitySpirit (with links to their pages on Amazon) are:

Red is My Rimon

Chanukah Guess Who?

The Torah Book of Opposites

The Wooden Sword

If you’re looking for a Chanukah gift for a teen or an adult reader, why don’t you check out Libi Astaire’s newest The Tempest in the Tea Room.  Continue reading

More crazy ideas from yours truly

I’m sorta infamous among my friends for having lots of whacked-out, creative-but-slightly-off-kilter, usually (but not always) impractical ideas. Here’s my latest:

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Nivin–a motivational speaker/life coach/teacher/rabbi–speaks of everyone having a yeod, a unique life mission with which they are supposed to serve G-d (and people), and a tikkun, a soul correction they have to make in order to maximize their potential (by fulfilling their yeod). Also, a person has short-term lessons that must be learned as stepping stones to reach their yeod and tikkun. This self-development paradigm is very useful for those of us who want to build ourselves (especially now that we’re in Elul, the introspective month that leads up to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

“That wacky Mrs. Klempner has some weird idea again!”

As I mentioned in a post last week, I’m going to be rewriting (yes, again!) the novel I wrote last year. One of the areas I want to focus on is character, really fleshing each one out better and more coherently. Many expert authors suggest strategies about developing character such as:

1) Learn about Myers-Briggs personality types and assign one to each of your characters.

2) Consider what each character most wants, most fears, their biggest secret, and what they have to learn.

3) Use drawing, cut-and-paste, or the like to assign an appearance for your character. Brainstorm their likes, dislikes, etc. Paste such items on your character chart.

4) Pretend to interview your character for a magazine.

All these strategies make sense, but they didn’t appeal so much to me. Then I thought, “Hey! Why don’t I apply Rav Nivin’s rules to fictional characters?” Assign a tafkid, a yeod, to each one, and a tikkun, as well?

So that’s what I think I’m going to be doing. Maybe not exclusively, but I think it will bring a Jewish approach to my mostly Jewish characters and subject matter.

Has anyone else out there tried “unorthodox” (pun definitely intended) ways of developing characters or doing other work that usually isn’t done in a “spiritual” or “religious” way?

Jewish Sci-Fi Update

Yaakov the Pirate Hunter
Yaakov the Pirate Hunter is the new-ish novel for tweens by L.A. local Nathaniel Wyckoff. Yaakov Peretz has just started summer vacation, and an accident with one of his family’s robots results in his discovery of a treasure map. Wacky adventures result from the Peretz’s choice to seek out the treasure so it can be returned. It’s all reminiscent of a Geronimo Stilton book, but with no mice and only black and white print.
I remember reading a while ago that the way George Lucas and Steven Spielberg invented Indiana Jones was by fantasizing about all the coolest scenes they wished had been in matinee serials and adventure novels pre-1960, and then binding these scenes together with a plot. You know: Trapped in a pit with snakes–check! Fight with strongman who gets too close to a propeller–check! Pretty but tough girl gets trapped in a basket, but which one?–check!
That’s what Yaakov the Pirate Hunter is like. What would tween boys most like to read about? Robots–check! Pirates–check! Bumbling cops–check! Kids save the day–check! It makes perfect sense for this to be the novel’s general impression, too. Wyckoff originally invented the story to entertain the kids in carpool (How’s that for a successful carpool strategy?). With all those elements, how could it go wrong?
The recipe works like magic. Yaakov the Pirate Hunter is pure fun. My 9 year old son LOVED it. Like begged to find out if there’s a sequel in the works kind of loved it. (Answer: not in the immediate future. Alas.) He also loved that the book is set in Los Angeles, not the NY metro area or Israel, like most Jewish books.
I’d recommend this book for 7-11 year old kids, especially boys. It could work as independent reading or a bedtime read-aloud. Here’s a link to Amazon if you want to purchase it: http://www.amazon.com/Yaakov-Pirate-Hunter-Nathaniel-Wyckoff/dp/1456452495/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313374964&sr=1-1

There was also an outstanding sci-fi story FOR ADULTS (shocker!) in Binah Magazine’s Aug. 8th issue (thanks to Miriam Hendeles for the heads-up). It was authored by the wonderful Yael Mermelstein, and it’s so good, it should be anthologized or something. It would be a pity if its only appearance was in a single magazine issue.