Writing for Children: not for those who want glory, fame, or big bucks

Last week’s Hamodia/Inyan Magazine had an article by one of my favorite columnists, Rabbi Fishel Schachter entitled “Guided by Tale Winds.” While today Rabbi Schachter is well-known in the Torah world for essays and presentations for adults about the weekly Torah portion, parenting, and other subjects, he first gained popularity as a rebbi and storyteller to students in Jewish day schools.

Rabbi Schachter explains in the article that one of the adults in his audience told him many years ago that he had to choose between teaching grown-ups or kids — and he indicated that the natural choice for a man of Rabbi Schachter’s talent and intelligence was to teach adults.

Turning to his own rebbi for guidance, Rabbi Schachter asked if teaching kids was really beneath him? Were all the silly voices and so on undermining his stature?

Continue reading

Most writers procrastinate. But why?

My best friend and fellow writer, Cy, sent me a link to an article in the current Atlantic about why writers are infamous procrastinators. Read it here and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to include the reasons you procrastinate in your comment. Personally, it took a relative taking me aside and disabusing me of the notion that talent is the source of success (or even deserves any praise). But my current biggest barrier to writing is poor time management. I tend to pick distractions or less important writing tasks over the more serious ones.

My first foray into playwriting: lessons learned about writing and directing plays for kids

As I mentioned last week in passing, I spent a good chunk of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur preparing a play for the kids at my synagogue. The topic: the story of Jonah, which is read during the afternoon of Yom Kippur.

Jonah sheltered by the vine

Yonah waiting to see if Nineveh gets destroyed. He’s kinda hoping it does. How’s that for schadenfreude?

Now, I’ve always thought this story was packed with humor. I mean, G-d singles Jonah out for a little tete-a-tete and he hops on a boat headed in the opposite direction as the mission G-d sent him on? Then he sleeps through the ginormous storm that has everyone else aboard freaking out and get swallowed by a giant fish. Come on!

And when Jonah finally makes it to Nineveh, it gets even wackier. Continue reading

School is on and I’m back to work!

The kids are back in school, and I am back to work. For four days, at least.

school, classroom

When the kids go to school, Mommy gets to write!

Because of the unfortunate discrepancy between the Jewish calendar and that of the traditional American school, my children will not experience a full week of school this fall until October. That means that even though their summer vacation is over, my days of child-wrangling are not.

It’s really important to me to take advantage of time alone during the day. I cherish the time I get to spend with my kids over summers and holidays, but when they are home, I can only write at night. Unfortunately, I am decidedly a morning person. The quality and quantity of what I write is strongly affected by my kids’ days off.

So today I tried to be as productive as possible. I got to pray at length, spent a couple hours on a story, took care of some housework, and made sure to listen to some music.  As a treat, G-d sent a playdate for my preschooler to extend the quiet a little longer.

One of the areas I’ve decided to work on this new year is time-wasting, so I tried very hard not to lose too much time to unnecessary internet surfing or checking my email repeatedly. I fought off the time wasting habit better than I expected today.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? And Friday, for sure, will be spent minding my kids and preparing for the Yom Kippur fast. Sukkot will start just a few days later. But at least this evening, I’m wrapping up a workday feeling I did my best, B”H.

It’s the week of Shavuos!

Things have been a bit crazy in the Klempner household as of late. We’re already in the week of the Jewish holiday of Shavuos, the subject of my picture book, A Dozen Daisies for Raizy.

A few weeks ago, in honor of the 5th anniversary of Raizy, I asked librarians, teachers, and parents about how they’ve reacted to Raizy. Here are some of the responses:

From fabulous librarian Davida Levin, of the Torah Day School of Atlanta:

I love using the book every Shavuos with my K-2 library groups, and was delighted that several of the 1st and 2nd grade girls said that they also own the book.

This year we talked about what the daisies meant to the recipient and decided that they meant “I like you” or “I care about you”. The second graders were able to  say that the flowers were a reminder of Raizy’s invitation or offer of help.  This year I gave the girls the attached pages to fill in during check out time–one even suggested that you could send them to Hashem, but another was sure that Hashem can make His own flowers.

Here’s a copy of the handout she used. Feel free to borrow it, but give credit to Davida, okay?
Regular Binah and Inyan writer Rochel Burstyn says of Raizy:
I worked a few years ago in a playgroup and it was one of the kiddies’ favorite and the only ‘long’ one I could sit through!
Another fan of Raizy, Chani Fischman, wrote me to say:[m]y daughter has brought your book, A Dozen Daisies for Raizy, home from her school library a few times and we’ve enjoyed reading it together at bedtime. I like the fact that 1. The book is not too wordy (I hate wordy children’s books) 2. The pictures are vivid. 3. Subtraction becomes so clear to children without them realizing that they are actually doing a mathematical operation.

Last year, I gave out a couple craft ideas to create daisies for Shavuos following a school visit I did here in L.A. Here are a few more last-minute ideas, with an emphasis on projects that are particularly kid-friendly and can be done mostly with stuff you can find around the house:

daisy craft

Recycled kid’s project for Shavuos.

Have a great holiday everyone!