Posts Tagged Jewish kidlit

WNDMG Wednesday – COMING OF AGE Interview

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Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado

COMING OF AGE Anthology Author Interview

We Need Diverse MG is so lucky this month … we get to feature an incredible new anthology called COMING OF AGE: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman)–which happens to be the number one release on Amazon for children’s Jewish fiction. We’re thrilled to have an “in” with one of the editors and a contributing author–because they’re both MUF contributors! Jonathan Rosen and Melissa Roske graciously agreed to interview with us. Moreover, because they’re so cool, we did half our interview in text and the other half on Zoom audio. So, enjoy our multi-media visit and get excited for COMING OF AGE before it appears on your bookshelves on April 19.

Book Cover for COMING OF AGE antholody features book title and starburst graphic around the text

 

About COMING OF AGE Anthology

Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories: As you might be able to deduce from the title, COMING OF AGE  is geared to a middle-grade audience. What does it mean to become an adult in your faith? Join thirteen diverse characters as they experience anxiety, doubt, and self-discovery while preparing for their b’nai mitzvah. And whether celebrating with a lavish party or in reception room A with an accordion player, the Jewish rite of passage remains the same. Filled with humor, hope, and history, there’s something in this anthology for every reader, regardless of their faith.

Meet Co-Editor Jonathan Rosen

WNDMG: Tell us the origin story for the book?

JR: Basically, the impetus was just wanting to get something with Jewish content for kids out. I’ve experienced someone telling me to make a book “less Jewish”. Or that Jewish books don’t sell well. I’ve spoken to many other Jewish authors who have told me about their similar experiences. Also, in my mind is how over the last ten years or so, antisemitism has been skyrocketing. So, wanted to do something that would feature Jewish characters, not just for Jewish kids to see themselves and their own experiences, but hopefully for non-Jewish kids to be able to read, and see how similar Jewish kids are. I know it’s cliché, but making a difference really does start with children. Lastly, one of the things that was important to me was to have a portion of the proceeds donated to Jewish organizations that fight antisemitism.

yellow road sign with word antisemitism lined through with red

WNDMG: How did your selection of authors come together?

JR: To start, it really was as simple as first reaching out to Jewish authors that I knew. I had done a couple of trips sponsored by PJ Library, so I got to meet several other Jewish authors as well. So, I reached out to who I knew. There were also people who were on my wishlist who I didn’t know. When I spoke to Henry Herz, my co-editor on this book, he suggested some people he knew, so between the two of us, we were able to get a great collection of authors. Fortunately, almost everyone that was asked, immediately agreed to participate. My biggest regret was after word got out, many other Jewish authors reached out to me to find out if there was room, because they wished to participate, but there wasn’t enough room. Perhaps, I’ll have to do another anthology. 😊

Centering on B’Nai Mitzvah

WNDMG: What direction/driving question did you give the authors for their stories?

JR: I didn’t want to give too much direction, because I wanted each one to write what they wanted. The only criteria was that it had to be centered around a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, since we were targeting Middle Grade readers, that’s kind of the biggest event in a middle grade Jewish kid’s life. But, otherwise, each author had the freedom to take the story where they saw fit. It was interesting to me that everyone wrote such different kinds of stories. We had memoirs, comedic stories, more serious, and even a few sci/fi which surprised me that more than one person thought along those lines.

Welcome to Melissa Roske

At this point in our conversation, we are joined by contributing author Melissa Roske, whose short story is a lovely exploration of a meeting of generations.

Connecting to Grandparents

WNDMG: Let’s talk about your stories—both are about connecting to grandparents but in very different ways. Melissa, what led you to write about connecting with Grandma Merle?

MR: Unlike Bella, the protagonist of my story, I was extremely close to my maternal grandmother, Molly. We even lived in the same New York apartment building, and she took care of me after school while my parents were at work. Most days we played “School,” where I was the teacher and Granny (that’s what I called her) was the pupil. I insisted on playing this game every single day, and Granny was kind enough to go along with it.

Author Melissa Roske with her grandmother posed in front of a decorated orange backdrop

Melissa and Granny

Like most Jewish grandmothers of her generation, Granny loved to feed people—especially me. She even kept a special drawer of chocolate in her kitchen for my sole enjoyment. Unfortunately, the chocolate drawer was the source of multiple cavities and a root canal. J Another thing about Granny, besides her tiny stature (she was 4’10”), was her impressive collection of flowered housedresses. I never saw her in anything else, except on the day of my Bat Mitzvah. She wore a fancy black-and-gold dress to please my mom.

Melissa Roske at her Bat Mitzvah standing with her parents

Melissa and Family

Earlier in her life, Granny was against the Viet Nam War and refused to pay her taxes in protest. My mom was convinced Granny would be arrested and begged her to pony up the funds. I was too young to witness this, but it says a lot about my grandmother’s character. She was little but fierce. Maybe that’s why I wrote a story about a girl who didn’t know her grandmother. I was blessed to know mine, and somehow wanted to pay it forward.

((Curious about more books with B’Nai Mitzvah themes? Read Melissa’s book list here.))

Time Travel and Grandparents

WNDMG: Jonathan – same question for you, but I need to add – is there a personal significance to the time travel watch? (I mean, I’m half expecting you to say you met Abraham Lincoln at your Bar Mitzvah, which was of course only 20 or so years ago)

JR: Twenty? More like fifteen! Actually, my kids always wonder why their ages keep increasing, but when I give them mine, it decreases every time they ask.

But as far as the story goes, I had figured that most of the stories would be more conventional stories, or memoir types, so I figured I’d do something different. Little did I know that I’d get other sci/fi submissions as well. But, the idea for me was always to show that the tradition is more important than the spectacle. That’s something that’s sometimes lost, because the tendency, at times, is to treat a Bar/Bat Mitzvah as big as a wedding, and there really have been times throughout history, where Jews had to do these things in secrecy because of certain regimes in power made it illegal for Jews to observe. So, through time travel, the main character kind of gets to experience that.

Jonathan Rosen Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall standing with his father behind him, a young boy and his smiling father wearing sunglasses

Jonathan Rosen Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall

Finding the Relatable

WNDMG: As authors, we all want our books to resonate with readers. Beyond that, we also have dreams about how exactly our words might become a part of our readers’ hearts. What do you each hope for with this book?

MR: My hope is that kids from all religious and ethnic backgrounds will find something relatable within the pages of Coming of Age. Yes, it’s a B’nai Mitzvah-themed book, written by Jewish authors and aimed primarily at Jewish readers. But you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the stories and themes each author presents. In my story, “Grandma Merle’s Last Wish,” I wanted to show readers that there’s more than one way to achieve a goal. In Bella’s case, it was having a Bat Mitzvah—something she thought was unobtainable because she wasn’t “Jewish enough.” Children often feel as if they’re not “enough.” Smart enough, fast enough, thin enough, popular enough… Here’s hoping they’ll see themselves in a more positive light, and acquire greater self-acceptance, after reading the stories in this book.

JR: Really, I just hope that the book as a whole entertains. Of course, there are things that I hope the reader takes away, but the overall purpose for me was to put out something with Jewish stories, and Jewish characters, which Jewish readers could identify with. And even non-Jewish readers could relate to seeing kids their age going through similar experiences to things that they experience in their lives.

The Jewish Equivalent to the Easter Egg

WNDMG: Authors often like to put small references in their books—maybe to a friend’s inside joke, a family tradition, or even a previous book. Ironically, they’re often referred to as “Easter eggs.” What would the Jewish equivalent phrase be? And did either of you put any in your stories?

So, What’s the Answer?

Curious about Jonathan and Melissa’s answer to that last question about the Jewish equivalent to the Easter egg?

We decided to have some fun and offer you all a mixed-media interview: blending text with audio for a true immersion into our conversation. So, to hear the answer,

Click here to listen to the rest of our interview:

We also talked about being Jewish in America, Jonathan and Melissa’s own Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and whether Melissa is going to be able to sell books out of her car at Time Square.

Thank you so much to Jonathan and Melissa for a wonderful chat and CONGRATULATIONS!

Release Date: April 19

COMING OF AGE: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman) releases April 19, 2022.  To buy a copy:

Amazon

Bookshop

About the Authors

Author head shot, dark-haired man with beard

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan Rosen is a transplanted New Yorker who now lives with his family and rescue dog, Parker, in sunny South Florida. He is proud to be of Mexican-American descent, although neither country has really been willing to accept responsibility. He is the author of the Spooky Middle Grade titles, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies and its sequel, From Sunset till Sunrise, as well as the co-editor of the anthology of Jewish stories, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories, He is an administrator of the Middle Grade reading site, FromtheMixedUpFiles.com, and the co-host of the YouTube channel, Pop Culture Retro. He can also be found on his own site at www.Houseofrosen.com

Author photo woman in dress sitting in bookstore signing books

Melissa Roske

Melissa Roske is a writer of middle-grade fiction. Before spending her days with imaginary people, she interviewed real ones as a journalist in Europe. In London she landed a job as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine, where she answered hundreds of letters from readers each week. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest (just the funny ones), and received certification as a life coach from NYU. In addition to her debut novel Kat Greene Comes Clean (Charlesbridge, 2017), Melissa’s short story “Grandma Merle’s Last Wish” will appear in the forthcoming Jewish middle-grade anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman & Compay, 4/19/22). An active blogger for the popular MG website, From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-grade AuthorsMelissa lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and the occasional dust bunny. Learn more about Melissa on her Website and follow her on  TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

 

B’nai Mitzvah books + a giveaway!

My bat mitzvah reception was held at Roma di Notte, an Italian nightclub in Midtown Manhattan. Described by New York magazine as the perfect spot for an “after-hours rendezvous,” the club boasted an impressive collection of Roman statues, medallions, and urns. Hidden caves, or “grottos,” insured ultimate privacy for lovers indulging in “a romantic nightcap.”

Mystery of the White Gym Socks

Why my parents chose this particular venue to fête my coming of age as a Jew is beyond me. Another mystery is why I wore a pink floor-length dress best suited for a five-year-old flower girl at a fancy wedding. Or why my mom allowed me to wear white gym socks with my patent-leather T-straps.

Turning the Tables

Another thing I don’t get? Why I didn’t claim my rightful place at the head of the kids’ table instead of way down at the end, next to my dorky cousin Jordan. (I dare you to find me in the picture, below.)

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

These details aren’t important, of course. I’m telling you this because, to be brutally honest, it’s all I can remember about my mitzvah. The day went by in a blur.

Sure, I have photographic evidence of the event, courtesy of my shutterbug cousin Keith, and I know I read from the Book of Leviticus, which details how and when religious offerings should be made to God. (I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say I learned more about animal sacrifice than a 13-year-old old should ever know.) Other than that…? Nada.

That’s why, when I was asked to write a short story for the upcoming Jewish MG anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories, out from Albert Whitman & Company on April 19, I chose not to borrow from my own bat-mitzvah experience. I had too many unanswered questions, and no one to answer them for me. Fiction felt more real—and more immediate—than anything my memory could provide.

With that in mind, here’s a collection of middle-grade novels that feature characters preparing for a b’nai mitzvah. Their fictional memories are way more reliable than mine. 🙂

PLUS don’t miss a chance to win a copy of Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories if you enter the giveaway. Scroll down for details! 👇👇👇

B’nai Mitzvah Books

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Ari Fish, who’s in the throes of studying for his bar mitzvah, believes in two things: his hero-Wayne Timcoe, the greatest soccer goalie to ever come out of Somerset Valley—and luck. So, when Ari finds a rare and valuable Wayne Timcoe trading card, he’s sure his luck has changed for the better. Especially when he’s picked to be the starting goalie on his team. But when the card is stolen—and his best friend and the new girl on the team accuse each other of taking it—suddenly Ari can’t save a goal, everyone is fighting, and he doesn’t know who, or what, to believe in. Before the team falls apart, Ari must learn how to make his own luck—and figure out what it truly means to be a hero.

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Seventh-grader Caroline Weeks has a Jewish mom and a non-Jewish dad. When Caroline’s nana dies around the same time that Caroline’s best friend, Rachel, is having her bat mitzvah, Caroline starts to become more interested in her Jewish identity.

The Long Trail Home by Kiersi Burkhardt and Amber J. Keyser

Rivka can’t wait to get away from her family for the summer. Since that terrible day last year, she wants no part in their Jewish community. At least at Quartz Creek Ranch, she feels worlds away from home among the Colorado scenery, goofy ranch owners, and baby animals. Other parts of Quartz Creek, however, are too familiar, including the unsettling wave of anti-immigrant threats to ranch workers. On a trip to the country, Rivka is also surprised to learn the history of Jewish pioneers in the area. When she and her defiant cabinmate, Cat, face disaster in the wild, Rivka will need to find strength deep within her to help them both get home safely.

The Queen of Likes by Hillary Homzie

Karma Cooper is a seventh grader with thousands of followers on SnappyPic. Before Karma became a social-media celebrity, she wasn’t part of the in-crowd at Merton Middle School. But thanks to one serendipitous photo, Karma has become a popular poster on SnappyPic. Like most kids at MMS, her smartphone—a bejeweled pink number Karma nicknamed Floyd—is like a body part she could never live without. But after breaking some basic phone rules, Karma’s parents take Floyd away, and for Karma, her world comes to a screeching halt. Can Karma learn to go cold turkey and live her life fully unplugged?

My Basmati Bar Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend, Ben-O―who might also be her boyfriend―and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with the snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown, Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

Recipe for Disaster by Aimee Lucido

Hannah Malfa-Adler is Jew . . . ish. Not that she really thinks about it. She’d prefer to focus on her favorite pastime: baking delicious food. But when her best friend has a beyond-awesome Bat Mitzvah, Hannah starts to feel a little envious …and a little left out. Despite her parents’ firm no, Hannah knows that if she can learn enough about her own faith, she can convince her friends that the party is still in motion. As the secrets mount, a few are bound to explode. When they do, Hannah learns that being Jewish isn’t about having a big party and a fancy dress and a first kiss—it’s about actually being Jewish. Most importantly, Hannah realizes that the only person’s permission she needs to be Jewish is her own.

This Is Just a Test by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan Long Shang

Twelve-year-old David Da-Wei Horowitz has a lot on his plate. Preparing for his upcoming bar mitzvah would be enough work even if it didn’t involve trying to please his Jewish and Chinese grandmothers, who argue about everything. But David just wants everyone to be happy. That includes his friend, Scott, who is determined to win their upcoming trivia tournament but doesn’t like their teammate: David’s best friend, Hector. Scott and David begin digging a fallout shelter just in case this Cold War stuff with the Soviets turns south… but David’s not so convinced he wants to spend forever in an underground bunker with Scott. Maybe it would be better if Hector and Kelli Ann came with them. But that would mean David has to figure out how to stand up for Hector and talk to Kelli Ann. Some days, surviving nuclear war feels like the least of David’s problems.

Echo Still by Tim Tibbitts

Twelve-year-old Fig’s life at school is perfectly normal: He’s sure his science teacher hates him, his dad is forcing him to attend Bar Mitzvah classes because his mom would have wanted it, and he’s just been passed over for the football team in favor of Gus Starks, a ball hog and a bully. And, as if Fig’s life needed one more complication, his grandmother Gigi is unexpectedly coming to stay with him and his dad for a while. As Gigi helps Fig navigate the obstacles of school and a tough football season, Fig comes to understand some important things: about his religion, about his family, and about Fig himself.

Pink Slippers, Bat Mitzvah Blues by Ferida Wolff

After her Bat Mitzvah, all Alyssa wanted to do was dance. She loved the practice sessions at the studio. And she loved performing. But suddenly there were so many other pressures. The persistent but sympathetic rabbi wanted her to join the confirmation class. Alyssa’s best friend was very sick and needed her badly. And if Alyssa missed another dance rehearsal, she would be thrown out of the Nutcracker. If only she could decide what to do.

And last but not least…

Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz

What does it mean to become an adult in your faith? Join thirteen diverse characters as they experience anxiety, doubt, and self-discovery while preparing for their b’nai mitzvah. And whether celebrating with a lavish party or in reception room A with an accordion player, the Jewish rite of passage remains the same. Filled with humor, hope, and history, there’s something in this anthology for every reader, regardless of their faith.

Giveaway!

For a chance to win a copy of COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIEScomment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account, for an extra chance to win! (Giveaway ends 3/25/22; U.S. only, please.)

Melissa Roske is a writer of middle-grade fiction. Before spending her days with imaginary people, she interviewed real ones as a journalist in Europe. In London she landed a job as an advice columnist for Just Seventeen magazine, where she answered hundreds of letters from readers each week. Upon returning to her native New York, Melissa contributed to several books and magazines, selected jokes for Reader’s Digest (just the funny ones), and received certification as a life coach from NYU. In addition to her debut novel Kat Greene Comes Clean (Charlesbridge, 2017), Melissa’s short story “Grandma Merle’s Last Wish” appears in the Jewish middle-grade anthology, Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories (Albert Whitman & Company). An active blogger for the popular MG website, From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-grade AuthorsMelissa lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter, and the occasional dust bunny. Learn more about Melissa on her Website and follow her on  TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Shining Light Onto Death: Interview and GIVEAWAY with Joanne Levy, author of SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS

Our instinct is often to want to shield kids from death, despite death being something that is difficult for adults to understand any better. And despite the chances that children will encounter it in some form—whether it’s the passing of a loved one or a close friend’s loved one, or even a tangential acquaintance.

Enter SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS, a new middle grade novel by Joanne Levy, about a girl whose family runs a funeral home. Besides being a brilliant idea, Joanne pulls it off with just the right balance between heartfelt, moving, sad, funny and respectful, as the main character Evie must navigate a friendship with Oren whose parents have just been killed in a horrific car accident. I’m so honored and excited to welcome Joanne to our blog.

MD: Hi, Joanne–welcome to …From the Mixed Up Files!

JL: Thank you so much for having me! I’ve been following along almost since the beginning so it’s a great honor to be here. And thank you so much for the kind words about SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS—I’m so pleased it resonated with you!

MD: Absolutely. Joanne, I had to laugh when your email subject line to me was “The book whose title doesn’t do well as a subject line.” I definitely can see that when you’re cold calling people to promote your book offering them condolences (“Sorry for your loss”) might get you off on the wrong foot! It’s both a funny joke but also feels like perhaps it is a metaphor for the complicated business of writing a children’s book—or any book for that matter—that is about death and the rituals and procedures surrounding it. Beyond avoiding putting the title in email subject lines, what were other challenges or complications you had to navigate when writing SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS?

JL: It wasn’t until I started sending out emails about the book that it quickly occurred to me that I might alarm people with a subject line containing the title! Of course, that pitfall was easily avoided. What was more difficult to navigate was including the right content in the book. You’re right that writing a book with such difficult topics (not just for kids, either, since as you say above, adults also struggle with death, grief, and loss) is complicated business. I didn’t want to scare kids or be overly graphic, but at the same time, I felt it was really important to be honest and pull back the curtain on death and funerals in a way that would satisfy readers’ curiosity without crossing the line into nightmare territory. I made very conscious decisions in what details to include and which to leave out and hope that I found that right balance. Even so, I recognize that some readers are going to wish there were more details and some might wish there were fewer and some won’t pick up the book at all. That’s perfectly okay, especially when it comes to difficult topics.

Still, as I’m writing this response to your question, I’ve only gotten feedback about the book from adult readers so I am very nervously holding my breath, waiting to hear from kids.

MD: Evie’s family runs a Jewish funeral home and Evie opens up to the reader (myself included) many of the mysteries of the rituals and practicalities surrounding death and burial –whatever the religion–that are often shrouded in mystery and whispers, deemed too morbid or “gory” to think about. I personally found it refreshing and eye-opening and I think other readers, young and old, will too. Were there parts though that you originally put in but had to take out?

JL: As I mentioned above, I was very conscious of the details I included in the book. I wanted to make sure that each was organic to the story and not just there for shock value. So I don’t think I had to back out any details but I will say that I struggled a little with how far I wanted to go with respect to Evie and Oren seeing a body. Slight spoiler: It wasn’t until I wrote the scene where they open the fridge that I even knew for sure what was going to happen there. Looking back, it feels inevitable that it would play out the way it did (and I strongly feel I made the right choice) but just to give you that little behind-the-scenes insight into how it happened, it took until that moment for me to know what was going to happen even though I’d known for weeks that the scene was coming.

Sidebar: if anyone is interested in my research, I have put a page on my website that tours the funeral home my dad manages – with pictures and further reading links. You’ll find it here.

MD: Great, thank you. In general, how did you balance writing a book about death and funerals with writing a book for children?

JL: My number one consideration when writing for kids is being absolutely honest. That doesn’t mean I need to put every single detail about death and funerals on the page, but I’m not hiding them, either. Kids are curious and resilient and want to know what happens to us when we die. That said, this book is about so much more—friendships and bullying and finding little joys in life, even in dark moments.

Also, I looked at the story through Evie’s eyes and how she would see the things around her. She sees funerals nearly every day and it’s just a part of her life and family business, so while many of us shy away from death and grief, for her, elements that we find taboo or strange are mundane. Caskets? She sees them as dust-collecting furniture she has to polish. It’s through her perspective that we can get past the scary symbols and rituals to the feelings underneath.

MD: To what extent did you draw from your own experiences? You mention in the promotional materials that you did research by “touring” the funeral home your father manages. Did your family manage the funeral home when you were growing up too? If so, like Evie, did you help out? And did you find that other children had difficulty accepting you and/or understanding the vital role your family played in the community? 

JL: Actually no, my parents came to the funeral business later in life. My great aunt was a member of the group of volunteers that prepares bodies for burial and I believe she recruited my dad who, in turn, recruited my mom. The manager of my hometown Jewish funeral chapel retired and my father took over that role and I believe by then he was in his sixties. So I didn’t grow up entrenched in the business the way Evie does in the book. But I’ve always been fascinated by the industry and had I been born to it, I have a feeling I’d have been the one dusting caskets and giving out tissues.

MD: One of the points that come up several times throughout the novel is the idea of respect, especially the importance of respecting the body of the person who has died. Can you talk about that?

JL: Not only is it built right into the ritual of caring for the body—there are even specific prayers that require those preparing the body for burial to beg forgiveness for any inadvertent wrongdoing–but this is how my father looks at his role. He takes great pride and care in what he does and that respect—both for the deceased and their families—never wavers. Knowing that gave me great comfort when we laid my mom to rest because I knew everyone taking care of her would treat her with that same respect. I never had to worry and I felt that it was really important for readers to know that the people behind the scenes really, really care about what they do and take it very seriously.

 

On Writing:

MD: This is your 6th published book. Congratulations! Did you find the process of writing this one similar or different to your previous book? Did you feel more experienced having gone through the writing, editing and publishing process before?

JL: Every book feels like its very own mountain to climb but I will say that with every book I trust my process more. That doesn’t mean books are easier to write, just less anxiety-inducing and I know that even when I feel blocked, it’ll come back and I’ll get it done. I just need to trust that process and get out of my own head (or house – long dog walks are great to unstick plots!).

That said, this book was a huge challenge because of how important it was to me to get it right. I was committed to making it readable and entertaining and maybe even educational for kids, same as all my books. But SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS is also a tribute to my dad and those like him who do such important work. I also wanted it to be accurate, accessible, and interesting to non-Jews as well. I have never worked harder, done so much research on a project, or sent out to so many beta readers for feedback, but I’m proud of the result and it feels like a job well done.

 

On Crafting (and writing!):

MD: I follow you on Instagram and adore all the crafty things you make and sell on Etsy. Do you find there is a connection between being a writer and the other creative things you do?

JL: That’s a great question and I think that indirectly there is a connection and it’s that creativity piece. I was always a crafty kid and I love being creative and making things with my hands. But crafting things out of wool or some other tangible medium is different than crafting worlds and characters out of thin air. Still, I think that creativity begets creativity and one type can influence another and crafts have woven their way into my books – quilling in for SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS, knitting in FISH OUT OF WATER.

That said, repetitive crafts, like needle felting (stabbing wool with special needles), give my brain space to wander while my hands are busy. I’ve detangled many a plot issue while my hands were occupied with other things. I think a lot of writers turn to other artistic pursuits either as a respite from a constantly whirling mind, or to give that mind space to work in the background.

Hmm. That feels like a convoluted answer to a very straightforward question. Let’s just say yes.

MD: Haha. As a knitter, crocheter and needlepointer myself I am smiling at that answer! 🙂

MD: Joanne, when I first met you it was at breakfast my first morning as a fellow of TENT: Children’s Literature, a week-long writing residency  I was a 2019 fellow and you was a past fellow, returning to use the time as a retreat as well as mingle and meet the new crew of authors writing children’s literature with Jewish content. I was jet lagged and bleary-eyed from my journey but I’ll never forget how I perked up when you told me you were writing a novel that is set in a Jewish funeral home, based somewhat on your own experience of being part of a family who manages a Jewish funeral home. I thought it was a brilliant idea, with so much potential, not to mention something that would definitely fill a hole in kidlit, with the practicalities of death in any religion not something often covered.

I was delighted this past month to read the finished result.  I think that readers will laugh and cry with Evie and Oren and that SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS will open up many important discussions about respect in death as well as the procedures and customs surrounding it regardless of faith or religion. Scroll down for a chance to win your own copy. Joanne, thank you so much for joining us on MUF today 🙂

JL: Meira, I remember that breakfast well and despite your jet lag and long journey, you were a joy to talk to! Thank you so much for your kind words about SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS. It means so much to me that the book resonated with you. While I wrote it from a Jewish perspective, I wrote it for ALL readers, hoping they would find relatable characters and lots to discuss. Thank you for this opportunity to chat about it here and share it with you and the MUF community!

MD: Thanks, Joanne!

Joanne can be found at www.joannelevy.com and https://www.instagram.com/joanne_levy_/

SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS came out October 10th and can be found here and wherever fine books are sold.

Giveaway!!!

Joanne has offered to send an author-signed copy of SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS to one lucky winner!

Enter here for your chance to win! Entries close October 28th 2021. US & Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE! Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who has won a signed copy of SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS!