Hello Mixed-Up Filers!
Hope you’re all well! It’s been some time since I’ve posted without it being an interview, and I’m glad to be able to have the chance to do it today. Why, you might be wondering? Well, I’m glad you asked. For those who are connected with me on social media, you probably recently saw me inundate my feed with tons of pictures of my trip to Israel. First off, I can’t even begin to say what a moving and emotional experience it was for me. I hadn’t been there since I was thirteen-years old. The last memory I had, before this trip, was having my Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall. I moved back to New York shortly after that, so I was glad to be able to experience the land through an adult lens.
So, what does any of this have to do with Middle Grade? My, you are filled with great questions today! Well, the trip was sponsored by PJ Library, which for those of you who don’t know, provides Jewish-themed books to children. It’s a wonderful organization, and this was the second consecutive year in which they gathered kidlit authors for a trip to Israel, in order to try and inspire them to write Jewish stories. I was extremely grateful and fortunate to be one of those chosen, and even more grateful and fortunate that I got to meet and spend time with other great authors, the majority of whom I’d only known through social media, but now got to meet in person.
Also going were Jonathan Auxier, Ariel Bernstein, Emma Carlson Berne, Adam Jay Epstein, Debra Garfinkle, Donna Gephart, Eric Kimmel, Leslie Kimmelman, Nancy Krulik, Debbie Levy, Katherine Locke, Leslie Margolis, Madelyn Rosenberg, Sean Rubin, Barney Saltzberg, Laura Shovan, and Mark Shulman. So many people whose work I had admired, and now got to meet in person.
Right from the beginning of the trip, they had us running from morning until night. First day was a trip through the Ramon Crater, a visit to a Bedouin tent to partake of coffee and tea, and an exhausting hike through the Ein Avdat desert springs, followed up by a return to the crater at night for some stargazing through high-powered telescopes. See, when I say exhausting, I mean exactly that. Long trails, high, steep steps, and ladders built into the sides of mountains, were just some of the things that were involved, and that was the very FIRST DAY! Needless to say, I slept well that night.
Besides that, we went to the top of Masada, floated on the Dead Sea, visited the Old City and the Western Wall, went hiking through tunnels under the city, went shopping in the market, and participated in an active archeological dig. The sense of history was overwhelming, which was great for someone who loves all things history, like me.
Oh, and the food! Did I mention the food? I already miss having a string of shawarma places for me to pick and choose from.
And even though I’m a huge history geek, some of the best moments of the trip were some of the simpler ones, like having lunch with an Ethiopian family, spending Friday night with an Israeli family for the Shabbat meal, and on our last full night, getting to have dinner with some members of the Israeli chapter of SCBWI and meeting authors and editors from Israel. Everyone was incredibly nice, and I’m hoping we all keep in touch.
On a surface level, this trip was great, because of getting to visit a fantastic place and getting to spend time with so many wonderful authors. I definitely feel a connection to them, since this was the trip of a lifetime, and I’ll always remember the people who went with me.
On a deeper level, I think the trip was important. As anyone who’s connected with me on social media can tell you, I’ve been harping on the need for Jewish characters in kidlit for a while. Not just Holocaust-based stories, which are still necessary, but just to see Jewish kids on the page. With antisemitism on the rise, globally, it’s nice to see an organization devoted to showing Jewish representation. While I do think there is a crying need for more inclusion in mainstream stories as well, it’s comforting to know that there is a place where kids can find it if they know where to go.
This trip did inspire me, and I have several Jewish-themed stories that I want to tell. Hopefully, I can get them out there, and some of the others will do so as well.
For any authors thinking about applying for future trips, I highly encourage you to do so. It was an amazing learning experience, as well as an opportunity to meet other authors.
If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to private message me on social media, and I’d be more than happy to answer when I can.
Well, my mixed-up friends, Dorian Cirrone is texting me to let me know that I’ve overshot my post limit by three words, so that’s it for now. In the meantime, you can visit the PJ Library page below, to learn more about their organization.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little recap, and until next time . . .