Monday, March 28, 2016

What One Interview Can Do for a Book

One benefit of writing nonfiction books is interviewing amazing people.  My last book FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES: CONCUSSIONS AND FOOTBALL'S MAKE-OR-BREAK MOMENT was no exception.  For this book, I interviewed all types of people involved with this issue-the experts at Boston University, coaches, athletic trainers, mothers, fathers, former NLF players, wives of NLF players and many more. 

Kevin Turner, a former NFL player, was one of those people.  Unexpectedly, my interview with Kevin changed my book-for the better. 

I’d done the research about the science of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) but I needed to understand the world of football.  Not how the game is played, but what football means to a player.  I got connected with Kevin.  He was already suffering from ALS (NLF players have higher rates of ALS probably from repetitive head trauma) and had some trouble speaking.  When I called Kevin, I told him up front that I was getting background material for my book, that it wouldn’t be in the text of the book.  But I didn’t know Kevin yet. 

We talked for two hours, but the two most important questions I asked Kevin were: 

How does it feel to play football in the Alabama high school state championship game?

How does it feel to make a touchdown in the NFL? 

And Kevin told me.  He told me how it felt to play the game he loved!  With a genuine southern boy charm, he was warm, funny, and gracious.  He made me laugh with his honesty and humor.  And he made me cry with his honesty and humor. 

After our interview, I could not get Kevin’s stories out of my mind.  I knew that every athlete would understand what Kevin felt on the field.  I knew Kevin and his experiences must be in my book.  And they are. 

When I wrote about Kevin in the book, I asked him if he had any photos of him playing ball as a child.  He said, "My mama's got 'em. Call her and she'll send them to you." And can you believe it? Mrs. Turner sent me original photos of Kevin and I used one in the book.

Kevin Turner started playing football at five years old.

On March 24, 2016, Kevin Turner passed away from ALS.  I will always be grateful to Kevin.  My interview with him was a turning point in the research for my book.  I was blessed by knowing Kevin. 

Kevin Turner

Some text from 
will be used in an upcoming PBS documentary created by Arkansas Education Television Network (AETN) titled 
It will air in Arkansas on April 7 at 7:00PM, and at later dates in other parts of the country.

The credit screen for my book FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES:
CONCUSSIONS AND FOOTBALL'S MAKE-OR-BREAK MOMENT that will be seen on PBS documentary Bell Ringer: The Invisible Brain Injury

Carla Killough McClafferty

Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures in Indie Publishing

Today I'll be discussing a new adventure I've been on the last few months. I don't have a poem to share, but on this Good Friday, I'm honored to have a Gospel reflection posted on the CatholicMom website, More about that at the end of this post.

After my middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola (Candlewick), went out of print, I made sure to get my rights back. The book had been published only in hardcover and I wanted to see it come out again in paperback and e-book form. I researched companies that bring books back into print but didn't find any I thought were a good match. Given that Rosa, my main character, is a devout Catholic who struggles with her faith after a family tragedy, I thought I might be able to interest a Catholic publisher in re-publishing it. However, I discovered that few Catholic publishers publish fiction for children, and those that do have very limited lists. I confess: it's rather disheartening to receive rejections for a book that was previously published by a major publisher (and that was featured on several award lists).

So, after weighing my options, I decided to self-publish, or what is also known as "indie publish" (as in "independently publish") a new edition of Rosa, Sola. I'm well aware that indie published middle-grade novels generally don't sell well. Some of the reasons why are explained in this 2014 post by Daniel Kenney:
"The key seems to be that kids don't make the buying decisions in their home and the primary way self-publishers reach their audience is through the internet, not through bookstores and libraries. Even kids who read e-books on Kindles or e-readers usually aren't the ones making the buying decisions. While it's easy for an adult power reader to buy books online, it's not easy for kids to do this. Ultimately, kids continue to learn about new books from their friends, from their teachers, and from their librarians." 
Interestingly, in a more recent discussion on bestselling indie author Hugh Howey's site, Kenney talks about achieving some success with his middle-grade titles.

In any case, my goal in bringing Rosa, Sola back into print isn't to make a ton of money. I'd simply like to have copies available for my students, who often request them, and for school visits. I'm also toying with the idea of writing a sequel. But that will definitely depend on how things go with the new edition.

My first step in researching indie publishing was to ask advice from my friend, bestselling indie author Megg Jensen, Megg recommended I start by reading Susan Kaye Quinn's Indie Author Survival Guide. Quinn's book turned out to be a great resource for not only the mechanics/process of indie publishing but also evaluating and setting personal writing goals. Both in the book and on her website, Quinn provides resources for indie authors, including this list of freelance service providers, such as cover artists, book designers, formatting services, etc.
I'm currently working with one of the designers recommended by both Megg and Susan to create a new cover for Rosa, Sola. I hope to do a cover reveal here on our blog at the end of next month. Meanwhile, I'm adding some discussion material to the new edition of the book and researching how to use Scrivener to create the formatted documents I need for both the e-book and paperback versions.

In addition to reading Quinn's book, I recently attended several workshops on indie publishing presented as part of the 2016 Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) Online Conference. Jane Lebak, who has published both traditionally and independently, gave two presentations on indie publishing that I found extremely helpful. And Dawn Witzke, who is both an author and cover designer, spoke on "Book Cover Design Basics." Even though I'd already done quite a bit of research on cover design, I still found her discussion of specific examples of both appealing and unappealing book covers quite eye-opening!

As an aside, I first learned of the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) when I was looking for Catholic publishers who might be interested in re-publishing Rosa, Sola,  Two years ago, I attended the CWG LIVE conference, which is held in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network's annual trade show. The Catholic Marketing Network (CMN) is an association of religious publishers and booksellers, so their trade show is analogous to Book Expo America (BEA), but on a MUCH smaller scale.

At the conference, I pitched to several Catholic editors and attended presentations by CWG members on writing and marketing for a religious audience. I also learned about the CWG Seal of Approval. As it says on the CWG blog,
"The purpose of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval is to help Catholic bookstores and venues in their determination of both the Catholicity of a work as well as its being held to a higher standard of editorial quality. This reassurance from a professional organization can assist authors in marketing and promoting their works." 
I subsequently submitted Rosa, Sola for consideration, and am happy to announce that the book has been awarded the CWG Seal of Approval. Now I have a batch of embossed stickers I can affix to the paperback edition when it is released, hopefully soon!

If you're interested in writing for the Catholic market, I encourage you to attend the next CWG LIVE conference, which will be held in Schaumburg, Illinois, July 26-July29, 2016. I plan to be there.

And if you join CWG, be sure to also join the member Facebook group. That's where I connected with Lisa Hendey, founder of the CatholicMom website. She put out a call for submissions, and that's how I came to have my Good Friday Gospel reflection posted there today. If you have a moment, I hope you'll check it out.      

Don't forget: if you haven't already entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of TeachingAuthor April Halprin Wayland's More Than Enough—A Passover Story (Dial), you want to do so soon. The giveaway ends on March 31, 2016, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Happy writing!

Monday, March 21, 2016

What's Your Motivation?

Spring brings daffodils and new hopes for better times ahead. Did you know the daffodil also symbolizes inspiration, creativity and reflection? It’s often the time when, after finishing our winter revisions, we now start a new project. We anticipate new characters with the same enthusiasm of a new relationship. We wake up early, eager to see how they are doing. We spend the day with them, meeting their family and friends, going on fancy adventures, and otherwise worrying about them.

And at night, we dream about them.

We fall in love with our characters. And we want our readers to feel the same affection. For a reader to bond with your story, s/he must fall in love with your character. James Scott Bell (The Art of War for Writers, 2009) identifies three lead character types:

 The positive lead character is your traditional hero. S/he represents the values of the community. The hero gives the reader a window into the story. Readers love traditional heroes because if the hero wins, everyone wins. Including the reader.

A negative lead character does things that most wouldn’t approve of. In fact, readers don’t always like the negative lead. As such, this character type becomes the hardest to create. Hannibal Lecter is the serial killing antagonist in Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. But he becomes the primary character in the third book and movie, Hannibal. We don’t like him, but we certainly are fascinated with him!

The third lead character, the antihero lead is a specialized kind of hero. Society may see her as an outlaw or a villain. But the reader sympathizes with the anti-hero. She is the individualist, the one who goes it alone. Readers fall in love with these types of characters.

The key to creating memorable characters is understanding their motivation. Her motivation helps establish the vital bond between herself and the reader. After all, readers can empathize with a character’s motivation, especially if it’s similar to her own. Readers want to know why these characters are in the mess they are in.

In fact, psychologists distinguish two kinds of motivation: social and physiological. Your character has basic biological needs. Our bodies are hardwired to fear and avoid pain and death. Your character may also find motivation in social situations, from familial to cultural to national situations. The social motivation reflects behavior, and determines how behavior influences personality. These also include unconscious response to early conditioning, and ingrained beliefs on gender, race and religion.

If the plot is what happens to your character, then her motivation is the force that sets it into motion and keeps it going. It’s why she goes after her goal in the first place.

Story is driven by motivation. Gregory Martin (New Writer’s Handbook, 2007) points out that this ‘desire’ is driven not only by the character’s desire but by the reader’s desire as well. The reader wants to see the character succeed, or at least wants to see what happens next. And, more importantly, it’s the writer’s desire to “thwart both the character and the reader,” for that is the essence of story.

But motive and motivation can be complicated.

Just as there are times when we don’t fully understand why we do the things we do, you’ll discover that your character does not always understand her behavior. This confusion, however, makes your character real to the reader. Her confusion reinforces her struggle.

As Rust Hill explains, motivation may lead to conflict, but if the story reflects only two characters who motives are each clear and distinct, and who eventually come to a face to face confrontation, this is just external conflict. Far more effective “…is the internal conflict that occurs when motivations are in conflict within the same character. With some exceptions, all the intriguing characters in literature have very unclear motivation.” (Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, 2000)

Your character’s history relates to her inner struggle. As Dr Phil tells us, our past affects our present. Understanding this psychological make-up of your character adds depth to your story. Daughters who grew up neglected by their fathers often look to their lovers to fill some fundamental sense of emptiness. They may be too needy, always wanting to be told how special they are, always too eager to please. Sons who mothers abandoned them at an early age often have a hard time trusting women. Are monsters created or are they born? Remember the lead character in Monster (2003), in which Charlize Theron plays lead character Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer who – we discover through backstory -- had been brutally victimized as a child.

 “Whatever your characters do and say will be born out of who they are, so you need to set out to get to know each one as well as possible." -- Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird, 1994)

By the way, read about the backstory and motivation for April's wonderful brand new book, More Than Enough! And enter the giveaway!

Meanwhile, take a walk with your character, and fall in love again!

Bobbi Miller 

(PS. All photos by

Friday, March 18, 2016

Out and About with Poems and Selfies

I've had a busy couple of weeks Out and About, beginning with a poetry reading on March 8 at Mount Mary University, where I used to teach graduate writing classes. I was happy to meet poet Paulette Beete and catch up with former students and colleagues. My sister Eileen accompanied me and also took photos. Thank you, Eileen!

Earlier this week, I traveled way up north to spend two days at Tomahawk Elementary School in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. I'm always happy to work with such attentive, enthusiastic poetry lovers! Here I am, ready for my last presentation.

Can you detect a smirk? I feel a little foolish taking pictures of myself and a little uncomfortable posting them. But I'm trying to get used to tooting my own horn, so here I go. At least I'm in a comfortable place.

I did manage to take a few photos of the icy Wisconsin River from the Hiawatha State Trail.

I'm much more comfortable posting landscape photos.

On Thursday, I visited Parkview Elementary School in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, where we discussed acrostic poems, including this one by Avis Harley from  African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways.
Above All

Celebrate these
Long-standing giraffes,
Up clouds and eaves-
Dropping on the wind!

In airy
Nibbling on high, they
Decorate the
Avis Harley,
African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways 
We all enjoyed imagining giraffes eavesdropping on the wind and thinking about what the wind might say.

No selfies on that trip, though. Here are my thoughts this morning:
I cannot take a selfie
no matter how I try.
I always look like I'm asleep
or just about to cry.
My hair sticks out all over
or there's something in my eye.
I cannot take a selfie.
I sure wish I knew why.
Remember to enter our Book Giveaway! You could win your own copy of Teaching Author April Halprin Wayland's MORE THAN ENOUGH—A Passover Story. The giveaway ends on March 31, 2016, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Robyn Hood Black has the Poetry Friday Roundup (and some inspiring student haiku) at Life on the Deckle Edge. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mina Chung: designer of MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ and a Wednesday Writing Workout!

(Pssst!  Click here and then scroll to the end to find out how to enter
our Book Giveway of an autographed copy of
MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ A Passover Story;
Giveaway ends March 31, 2016.)

Howdy, Campers!

Below you'll find a quick and hopefully inspiring Wednesday Writing Workout...based on my new book.

But first...two posts ago I told you about the rollercoaster behind-the-scenes story of how a seed of an idea became my newest picture book. (Which comes out TODAY!)

In the last post, I interviewed illustrator Katie Kath, whose pictures have brought my story to life.

Today, Katie climbs back up to the TeachingAuthors treehouse and brings a guest!

Katie, while you two are snacking on freshly made charoset which our blogging,cooking,reviewing friend Jama Rattigan made for you, will you make the introductions, please?

Jama Rattigan not only prepares tasty charoset,
she cooks up a delicious review and interview
of MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ A Passover Story
, too!
KKSure ~ TeachingAuthors readers, I'd like to introduce you to Mina Chung:

Mina's a children’s book designer, amateur letterpress printer, and master doodler. She currently resides in Queens, NY, with her husband David and their Japanese-American cat, Mei-chan. You can find her professional work on her website.

Hey, Mina!  Could you briefly describe a “day in the life” of a Designer at Dial?

My typical day is the same and very different at the same time. It always starts with a much needed cup of coffee to start and decompress from the morning commute, checking and responding to emails, and then creating a general outline of my workload for the day. The workload is why no day is ever the same here at Dial.

Since we work on so many different kinds of books at one time, and each book is at various stages of production, my to-do list can consist of meetings to review a developmental stage of a picture book, typesetting a young adult novel, color correcting artwork, or spending hours looking for that perfect typeface.

On really special days, I would receive the final artwork from an illustrator, or get to hold a freshly printed and bound book, and those days honestly feel like my birthday.
Mina on a really special day...(photo courtesy
KKWhat did you find most inspiring or exciting about working on MORE THAN ENOUGH ~A Passover Story?

When I was assigned to work on More Than Enough, my knowledge of Passover was very limited. It was inspiring for me to learn why it is so significant and what each of the traditions to celebrate Passover symbolizes. Not only was this a fun book to work on with an illustrator I admire, but it was also a learning experience which made it even more memorable. I was then very excited to read the book to my young niece so that she can also learn about Passover as I did.

 Katie Kath... an illustrator Mina admires...
(but does Mina really know her?)

Katie Kath, illustrator of MORE THAN ENOUGH...after a long day at her desk...
KKMore Than Enough focuses on a Jewish holiday, yet the themes are still approachable to non-Jewish or secular families as well. How do you think books like this can be important steps forward in creating more diverse books for children?

Books like More Than Enough are important because they are a reflection of the diversity in classrooms today. These books are a way to raise awareness and for children to experience the many different backgrounds and cultures of those they interact with. 

They may even see themselves in these books and be eager to ask questions about where they come from, and be excited to share the traditions of their families with their classmates. I think that these books that expose diverse cultures, people, and places are necessary stepping stones for children to grow up more aware, open-minded, and hopefully, without prejudices.

KKI wanted to be an artist when I was very little. What piece of advice would you give to our budding young writers and artists?
  • Be true to yourself and love the work that you do. 

  • Work hard to develop your voice/style 

  • and then unleash it out into the world. 

  • Your work should be a direct representation of who you are and the kind of work you want to be doing, and people will respond to that. 

  • Social media and the Internet may seem daunting at first, but its easier now than ever to put yourself out there so don’t be afraid to try!

Speaking of daunting social media and the Internet (with a capital T), thank you for taking the time from book designing today, Mina...and thank you bringing her to our readers, Katie!

And now for a super short...

MORE THAN ENOUGH is a book about being present; about noticing each moment.

Your prompt for today is to write a poem or a story or a list or a single word about something you are specifically grateful for today.

While being grateful for a beautiful day or for your loved ones is nice, today you're looking for something quirkier, more specific.

I'll start:
I'm grateful for that one last sip of coffee I left in my travel cup today.  I love getting in my car after the gym and finding that small reward.  

What are you grateful for today?  

Readers ~ Click here and then scroll to the end to find out how to enter our Book Giveway of an autographed copy of MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ A Passover Story! Giveaway ends March 31, 2016.

posted with matzoh crumbs all over her keyboard by April Halprin Wayland, with help from Mr. Cornelius

Monday, March 14, 2016

Say hello to Katie Kath, illustrator of More Than Enough ~ A Passover Story

(Psssst! Click here to find out how enter our
autographed Book Giveaway of
More Than Enough ~ A Passover Story ,
which ends March 31, 2016 )

Howdy, Campers!

On Friday, you learned my true and gritty tale of books, back alleys and dead bodies...

no, wait... learned about the rollercoaster-behind-the-scenes metamorphosis of a story about a hike for seven-year-olds into a playful and luminously illustrated picture book about a family joyfully preparing for Passover, all the while being aware of the blessings of each moment--ta-dah!:

And here today, for your reading pleasure, is my new friend and the fan-tabulous illustrator, Katie Kath, all the way from North Carolina--hiya, Katie!  Uh, Katie...what are you doing...?

~ Illustrator Katie Kath sketching in Yellowstone National Park ~

While Katie's putting away her sketch pad and settling into her seat on the front porch of the TeachingAuthors tree house, I'll tell you a little about her.

She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with a Master's degree in illustration. Her career was jump-started when she won one of two SCBWI Student Illustrator Scholarship awards in 2013. Shortly thereafter she was picked up by  Justin Rucker, an agent from Shannon Associates, and now spends countless hours happily working on her colorful and unique illustrations in her studio.

Katie loves to work primarily in watercolor and ink, sometimes accompanied by collage. She lives in those rolling hills of North Carolina, with her husband and their cat, Pangur-Ban.

​Katie, while you're sipping this iced tea, could you tell us more about your rocketship-​to-​the-​moon career path and how my manuscript came to you?

Towards the end of my schooling at SCAD, I pretty much had no clue where my career would go from there, which was a pretty terrible and scary feeling. So, you can imagine my elation when a few images I submitted to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) won the Student Illustrator Scholarship in 2013! This is what started my career. From there, I met Justin Rucker, and have made countless professional connections through SCBWI.

MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ A Passover Story was my very first picture book job and only my second job contracted through my new agent. I can’t describe how excited I was when I got the email from my agent asking if I was interested in illustrating this book. All I could think was, “This is really happening! I am getting hired for this book! This is actually, for-real happening!”

Can you describe your initial thoughts and your illustration process as you worked on More Than Enough?

My initial thoughts were, “I gotta hit the books!” because I knew nothing about Passover and the traditions involved in the holiday. I spent the next few months and beyond studying Jewish culture and the Passover celebration.

Illustrator Katie Kath doing research ~
her first Passover Seder (meal)!

As far as my process goes, the first thing I focused on is creating the characters in the book because they really make the story come alive. I offered a few different options of each character to the publisher and we settled on the characters you now see in the book.

photo courtesy Jama Rattigan from her most marvelous interview and review of our book

Illustrating a book is a very involved endeavor. It involves a process of research, planning, thinking, doodling, sketching, and re-working—and More Than Enough was no stranger to this process!

This is a Passover book...could you talk a bit about this aspect of the book and how you handled it in your art?

I knew what I needed to do was familiarize myself as much as I could with the Passover holiday and its traditions. I read a lot about it on this fabulous website called, I read and re-read the Haggadah, and I also read a wonderfully informative book called The Jewish Book of Why. Of course, I made sure to attend a Passover meal as well!

I knew that if I was familiar enough with Passover, I could create artwork that did not rely on stereotypes to tell a successful visual story about the holiday. I wanted to let my readers know that the point of this book was its theme of love, thankfulness and family, which is approachable to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation.

And your illustrations convey those themes beautifully, Katie.  Switching gears now, tell us one surprising thing about yourself.

Fun fact about myself? When I was little I was really into opera (yes, opera. Like Mozart, Gilbert & Sullivan, Bizet…) and I loved to illustrate some of my favorite operas after watching them!

I  love that!  What's next for you, Katie?

The books that everyone can expect to be coming out next is "Weekends With Max and His Dad" (Linda Urban) "What a Beautiful Morning " (Arthur Levine) "Nora Notebooks 2: The Trouble With Babies" (Claudia Mills), and "Come Over To My House" (by Theo LeSeig, aka Dr. Seuss).

(Did you catch that, Campers? Katie was picked to illustrate a book by Theo LeSeig, aka Dr. Seuss!)

Projects I'm working on now are "My Kicks" (Susan Verde), "Nora Notebooks 3: The Trouble with Friends" and a second Max and His Dad book.

Katie concludesPhew! Lots o' books!

...and I say:

I'm so lucky to have you as the illustrator, Katie ~
how 'bout a cross-country high five!
note: on some screens it actually looks like we're high-fiving...
Author April Halprin Wayland (and Eli)...
& Illustrator Katie Kath
Thank you for stopping by, get back to work on all those luscious books!  

And thank you, Campers, for reading all the way to our cross-country high five...and remember to enter our book giveaway for an autographed copy of MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ A Passover Story, as described at the bottom of the last post.

STAY TUNED!  On Wednesday, Katie interviews the woman who designed MORE THAN ENOUGH ~

posted after a happy day of book signing by me, April Halprin Wayland, with the assistance of my trusty pup, Eli.

Friday, March 11, 2016

MORE THAN ENOUGH (behind-the-scenes) ~ A Passover Story

Howdy, Campers!

I'd like to present my newest picture book.

Book, say hello to everyone.

More Than Enough ~ A Passover Story
by April Halprin Wayland, illustrated by Katie Kath (Dial 2016)
You can see that it's still a bit shy, so here's the elevator pitch:

it's a story for 3-5 year olds
about being grateful
for having more than enough each moment
as a family prepares to celebrate Passover.

Would you like to hear the crazy, rollercoaster tearing-out-my-hair behind-the-scenes story of how a seed of an idea became this published book?

Thank you for nodding yes.

It all began in 2009, as I was hiking with my family in Kauai, Hawaii. There were a lot of steep hills. But the leaves were glistening from the morning rain, the soil was a rich red, and I was with the ones I love most. I thought of my favorite Passover song, Dayenu.  

Dayenu means "it would have been enough." We sing about being grateful even if we'd only been freed from slavery; grateful even if we'd only been led out of Egypt, etc.

To me, it's what all great religions and philosophies teach: be aware of and grateful for the blessings of the moment.

As I sang the song, I was keenly aware of the blessings of each step of the hike:

If I only hike up this rich, red dirt, that's enough;

if I only see the blue and green ocean from the top of this hill, that's enough;

if I only dive into the warm waves, that's enough...

My husband  hiking Kauai
I flew home and wrote this as a free verse poem, based loosely on the form of the original song, and read it aloud at a friend's Seder (Passover meal).  They liked it!

So I rewrote it as a picture book and submitted it in May of 2009 to my editor at Dial, who I'd loved working with on my last picture book, New Year at the Pier.  

Here are the first four stanzas of the manuscript as first submitted:

If we had driven along the jungley road
And had not found the hiking trail

If we had found the hiking trail
And had not reached the hill overlooking the ocean

If we had reached the hill overlooking the ocean
And had not gone swimming

If we had dived into those deep blue waves
And had not built cairns when we got out of the water

My editor liked it. She liked it!

But...would I change the setting of the story?

Take it out of Hawaii? I harrumphed to myself.  The whole idea was that this concept is universal.  And wasn't Hawaii rich with illustrative possibilities?

But, okay. I took it out of Hawaii.

Great, she said.  And she really liked the farmers market at the end of the hike. So...could I expand on that...and shorten the hike?

Shorten the hike? Argh. I guess...

I did.

Fine, fine, she said, when she got that version.  Now--could you write this for three to five year olds?

Well, I can...but I don't want to.  I did, working closely with my critique partner and friend, poet and author, Sonya Sones, on the rhythm of each stanza. 

Wonderful, she said. And...could the family buy Passover foods at the farmers market?

Passover food? But the whole idea was to take the concept of Dayenu--of gratitude for each moment-- out of the holiday and into a regular day, I thought ferociously, pounding the carpet.

But I did. I deleted the fresh ahi tuna, avocado and mangoes and loaded the family's market bags with apples and walnuts, lilacs and honey. 

Terrific, she said. And...could you have them getting ready to go to a family Seder after the market?


Good, good!  And could you cut out the hike altogether?

 *  *  *  *  


 *  *  *  *

April, are you there?

*Sigh.* Yes, I'm here. And yes, I said weakly, climbing down from the proverbial cliff with the support of my agent, Marietta B. Zacker--yes, I can cut out the hike.

Fabulous!, she said. We're nearly done!

Between 2009 and 2014, I worked with experts in Judaism, checking every detail and writing and rewriting the glossary. (You may know the expression, "Whenever there are two Jews in a room, there are three opinions."  It's true--every fact is a matter of interpretation...)

I rewrote this 200-word story more than 34 times.

And finally, the skies cleared!  Now I love this story.  Thank you, Jessica Garrison, clear-eyed editor--Dayenu!

Now first four stanzas read:

We wander the market
surrounded by colors—

We buy apples and walnuts,
lilacs and honey—

We reach through the bars
to lift one purring kitten—

He licks Mama’s nose
so she says we can keep  him—

*  *  *  *
Dayenu!  Passover is April 22nd-April 30th this year.

Here's the 37 second book trailer my son and a friend's daughter sure to watch all the way to the end:

Aren't those illustrations delicious? For more, click the following:

 And congratulations to, Irene Latham and Charles Waters for winning the National Book Award!

                                                  Illustrator Katie Kath, who you will meet
                                                in the next post, holds our newborn book