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


Irene Latham said...

Dear April - I've heard you tell the story behind this book before, and I was just as charmed and amazed when I read it here today. I love how you were willing to take others' advice while still holding to the message you wanted your book to deliver. It's so hard sometimes, isn't it? And now IT'S A BOOK! Yay! Thank you, April. Precious book trailer. Dayenu!

jama said...

Quite a story! And how much do I love that you got the first seed of an idea in Hawaii? :)

Today, I am extra thankful for this book, and everything you and your editor went through to make it the best it can be.

Carmela Martino said...

Congratulations, April, and thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes story. All our hard work has paid off. :-)

Linda B said...

I'm off to read Jama's post about your new lovely book too, April. I have to say I admire that you were willing to make so many changes, am sure it's a beautiful story now, too, but I liked the idea of that hike, and hope you've kept the poem, your memory! Congratulations on this new book!

Even in Australia said...

I'd love a copy of this book!

Rachel Fremmer

Joy said...

I loved your original poem. I do like the idea of "If I had.... Thank you for the back story on your book. Too bad the Hawaii got dropped. But, that may be why Jama liked the book so much.

Joy Acey

laurasalas said...

Thank you for sharing your book journey. So often, manuscripts morph into something totally new as we collaborate with editor or (via editor) the illustrator. I'm sure the book is perfect as it is, but when we know what it was, it's hard, sometimes. I can't wait to read it--it's just a lovely and peaceful concept. Congratulations and hugs, April!

Unknown said...

Oh my, what a behind-the-scenes story! Congratulations on your beautiful book!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
author amok said...

Hi, April. Thanks for sharing all of these insights into your writing process. I'm working with third graders right now and they find it fascinating that authors do so many revisions -- much more than a rough draft and a final draft.

The idea of "blessings of the moment" is beautiful. I'm going to carry that with me into the weekend.

Carol Varsalona said...

April, I was fascinated by your backstory. I did like the first version of your story because it made me think about the sequential storyline. The second version is what your publicist wanted and it does justice to your rewrite process. Kudos to you. Being grateful is an important concept to bring to the minds of little ones and to the adults who read the story to them. Everything about this post was wonderful. Thank you.

CS Perryess said...

Ah, revision, revision, revision. I suppose we must also feel gratitude for revision.

Margaret Simon said...

I love hearing the original story behind the idea that grows into this new book. Kudos to you for sticking with the process.

Shirin said...

It would be great to have a look
At this amazing book!
But to hold it in my hand
Would be oh so grand!

Violet N. said...

Congratulations! Very revealing backstory. Do you think your agent had her image of your book from the beginning and talked you into it step by step? Or did the concept evolve with the various drafts? Fascinating. (And I love the video with the sweet little girl.)

molly pitcher said...

This books looks so cute! I also love that you have a little blonde boy on the cover -- just like mine. Hard to find Jewish books with images like him on them.

Charles Waters said...

And that's the revision process that so many hardworking writers go through. What persistence. In the end, that's all we have. A great food for thought post.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

I love the backstory, and how it reveals your resilience as a writer. I like the hike part of the story because I like hiking with my family. Yet, your story inspired me to remember than even though vacations provide such exotic ideas that stories close to home are often the best received.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Yay! It's here! (Well, the copy I ordered will be here at my house this week at any rate.) I am so thankful for YOU, Dear April - your generous, glowing spirit and your talent and your stick-to-it-iveness, among other things. Congrats to you and Katie Kath, and thanks for sharing how this book came to be. XO

Susan B James said...

I love this post. I see your journey. Thank you for sharing it.
The baby book sounds and looks wonderful.

Jarm Del Boccio said...

That's quite a story, April. . .thanks for sharing your 'over hill and dale' journey with us!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Congratulations, April! What an adventure this "it would have been enough" journey has taken you on! I'm glad you kept the faith.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thank you, April, for sharing the story behind this beautiful story, as well as introducing us to your illustrator and book designer.
Each post would have been more than enough. :)
Speaking of which, here's another "dayenu" - your New York Times Book Review!

Mazel tov! Mazel tov!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Irene ~ I'd forgotten I told you this story around the "campfire!"

Jama ~ Yes, yes--Kauai is one of our favorite places in all the world...except, of course, on your blog sitting next to Mr. Cornelius.

Carmela ~ Thank you. I look at this foreign story in wonder. WHO wrote it?!?!

Linda B ~ I HAVE kept the original story...and have started to make it into a playlet for the Jewish Women's Theater. (Started, not completed...)

Rachel ~ Love your web son's in Australia!

Joy and Laura Salas ~ Yes, so many compromises...and this book is selling faster than any of my other books. An interesting lesson.

Kristi ~ Thank you!

Laura Shovan ~ Yes...isn't that a huge part of what we model to kids when we speak in schools...revision? And yet sometimes I have to be dragged to the next draft!

Carol and Violet ~ it wasn't my publicist but my editor who requested the changes. She has a fine eye and ear, and luckily I trusted her.

Violet ~ I don't think she had anything in particular from the beginning. But...hmmm...not you've got me wondering...

CS ~ Ha! You're right--I hadn't thought to be grateful for revision. You've made me see it in a new light. Thank you.

Margaret ~ Thanks for your support. Writers get it!

Namesake ~ Love your poem! I hope you get to take it home!

Molly ~ I thought about that blonde boy, too. Of course it was the illustrator, Katie Kath, who created him. But I had a blonde boy, too...(now all grown up, and his blonde turned brown!)

Charles ~ Thank you.Yes, we all go through this. I'm glad my editor stuck with me. It's nice to have a new book published!

Brenda ~ interesting observation about stories close to home (and heart). Thank you.

Robyn. You, too, heard this backstory before...and I'm grateful for buds like you. <3

Susan ~ Thank you! I like your succinct comment!

Jarm ~ My pleasure. It was good to have a vessel in which to spill the backstory.

Michelle ~ Thank you so much. Truly.

Esther! I'm OVER THE MOON that this book was noticed by the NY Times!!!!! They've never even whispered my name before! Thanks for putting the link in your comment! <3

Damon Dean said...

April, what a wonderful story about the growth and development of this beautiful book! Five years in the making...that's a long labor of love. Thanks for sharing your encouraging tale and giving the world this wonder.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Damon Dean ~ hank you for your comment. This story is something I clearly backed into...reluctantly. As now that I've had a chance to run it by audiences, I have to admit, I'm liking the book...and the age group. Who knew?

jan godown annino said...

April, Hello.
Perhaps that dreamy hike that lifted you into lovely storytelling,
poem making bliss will appear in another work?
This is so generous of you + your team to share the process of a gifted writer who trusts her discerning editor + agent's intuitive editing/coaching. Would love to read this book in school.
Will look for it. Brava!

Jane Heitman Healy said...

April, Thank you for sharing this amazing journey to publication. It is very instructive. Congratulations on your new book!!

Sandy Brehl said...

The book itself is a charmer, but your story about its inspiration and transformation are utterly inspiring. I've spent a long writing life feeling that the best thing I'd ver wish for would be having an editor who helped my work improve. Dayenu. Now that it has actually happened to me I know all too well the frustration of having an editor both love and re-envision the work. It's painful to consider letting those special elements go, and join your case it was a never-ending string of changes. Kudos to your editor for handling the requests in manageable bites, and to you for trusting and exploring.
Can't wait for its release, and your SCBWI- launch pages are delightful! Congratulations.

Chana said...

I will be thinking of you (and your book) while I'm humming Dayenu in my sleep! Thank you for sharing your revision story. I'm going through something similar now and I'm so happy to see your success. Can't wait to share your book with the little people at my seder.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Jan ~ yes...I do think the hike story will be recycled and come up kicking ~ thanks!

Jane ~ I'm amazed at how this telling has hit a nerve for so many fellows as we trudge the road together to happy editing!

Sandy ~ You've put it so's in line with that line, "be careful what you wish for"...

Chana ~ I can't wait to share it at Passover, too!!