Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Here's a peek at the cover of the Advance Reading Copies of YaYa and YoYo: Sliding Into the New Year!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are We There Yet? The Journey to Publication

When I decided to write children’s books, I had no idea what went on in the background in terms of getting a book onto a shelf, but I knew that I was eager to find out! One reason for my creating this blog was to be able to share the mysterious, behind-the-scenes workings of getting published. People have been asking me about how one goes about becoming an author and/or what’s happening with my book. I can’t speak for all authors, because I’m sure that no one’s experience is exactly the same, but here is a short timeline and update on my journey.

This whole adventure began over five years ago. I got the idea to write a book in the fall of 2005. I researched how to write children’s books and then how to get them published. I started brainstorming ideas, organizing them and about three months later I actually got busy with the fun part--writing!

I worked diligently on the story for four months. I did almost nothing else. The laundry piled up, I served lots of leftovers for dinner and I forgot to floss (Just kidding, I would never forget to floss!) Once I felt that my first draft was finished, I asked other writers, teachers and kids if they would be willing to read my work and give me feedback. That was probably one of the most exciting steps of the process. I loved hearing what people had to say about my writing, good, bad and everything in between. Of course it was nice to get positive feedback, but I also really appreciated the critical comments because those helped me to tighten up my writing, confirm factual information and strengthen the story.

Once I was satisfied with what I had, I began to submit my manuscript to different publishing houses. There was a lot of waiting involved in this step. Since “simultaneous” or “multiple” submissions are either not allowed or at the very least frowned upon, I could only send my manuscript to one publisher at a time and then had to wait to hear back from them. One place held on to it for six months! That was a really good test of my patience. In the end, I landed in the perfect place; exactly the right home for me and my books.

One year ago, I signed a contract with Yaldah Publishing. Over the course of the past twelve months, my manuscript was handed over to Leslie Martin, my editor, who not only helped me with my many, many “comma issues” (amongst others!) but who also helped fine-tune my story and make it even better.

So that brings us to where we are now. Currently, my manuscript is being sent to various “Advance Readers” who have agreed to read it and write a “blurb” or a review about it if they liked it. (And so far they all have liked it! I’ve received three wonderful blurbs already!) It’s going out to rabbis, educators, librarians and other authors. Soon the cover art will be done and a large number of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of the book will go out to even more readers and reviewers. (Ever wondered how those quotes get on the back of the book? Now you know!)

In the meantime, I’m working on Book #2 of the series, and I’m busy making connections, sharing, promoting, marketing and getting the word out about my book which should be making its debut in March. I even joined Twitter yesterday. (I’m not really sure what it’s all about, but I’m going with my publisher’s advice.) If you are a Twitter-er (?!), I would love it if you’d “follow” me (@DoriWeinstein). If you’re on Facebook, please join me by clicking the “like” button on my author page (Dori Weinstein) for more progress updates and reviews. And of course, every now and then, I’m here writing on my blog. You can “follow” me here as well, or at least say “hi” and let me know you've visited.

So there you have it; the road to publication from the starting point until now. There have been many pit-stops, off-road distractions and requests for directions along the way. We aren't there yet, but I am completely enjoying the trip as I head toward my final destination. Thanks for sharing the ride with me!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Character Matters

Until this past weekend, the last movie that I can recall that made me cry out of control was Schindler’s List. Sure, I well-up regularly, get a lump in my throat, shed a tear or two. But that’s nothing like what I experienced on Sunday when I saturated my popcorn-greased napkin and had to move on to my sleeve for additional tear-absorbency. I bet you’re wondering which movie made me cry so much. Was it a war movie? A romance flick? Did someone die? Did someone lose something precious to them? Was someone forced to eat brussels sprouts?

No, no one died, nor was anyone forced to eat a vile vegetable. The movie was none other than Toy Story 3 and it was about a young boy growing up, preparing to leave his childhood behind and go to college. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, so I won’t give away anything that the trailers haven’t already shared.

The story is that Andy, now a young man, is heading off to college. His mother wants him to clean out his room prior to his departure and so, he is forced to look his beloved toys in the eyes (or eye in Mrs. Potato Head’s case, as she seems to have misplaced one of her eyes) and decide what to do with them. That’s all I’m going to give you. Go see the movie--you won’t regret it.

As I sat there sobbing at the end of the movie, at a certain point I realized that I was crying over a cartoon. Wait, make that blubbering over a cartoon. It made me realize just how connected to these characters I felt. It brought to my attention the impact that fictional characters can have upon us. Characters can feel like real people with whom we can empathize. They may just be computer animations on the screen, but they feel genuine. Like friends.

Was my emotional reaction really me, projecting my own combination of pride and sadness about my oldest son growing up and starting high school this fall? Maybe. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the first Toy Story movie came out when I was pregnant with said son. Now, all of a sudden, Andy, the (albeit fictional) boy whom I admired before I was a full-fledged mom, was flying the coop, and before I know it, my very real son will be doing the same. I watched Andy grow up along with my son. I can recite Toy Story 2 by heart, as it was my son’s favorite movie when he was about four years old. That well-played video cassette was a huge part of all of our family car-trips. We never took a road trip without that movie! My husband and I would sit in the front seat reciting the dialogue right along with the characters. It was as if we had visitors in the backseat, keeping us all company on our journey.

There’s an old saying that “character matters.” Well, apparently, characters matter, too. Whether you are a movie-goer, a reader or a writer, you know that well-crafted characters can make a story come to life and can become so familiar, that they feel like they’re close friends or family members. This is something that I keep in mind as I write my stories and create the characters that live in them. I hope my readers will laugh and cry along with the characters in my books. I want them to feel as strong a connection as the one I felt with Andy, Woody and Buzz.

Now, where are my tissues?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Grinch and the Nice, Jewish Girl

When I was a kid, I was petrified of the cartoon, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I never quite knew if my post-Thanksgiving upset stomach was due to overeating or if it was simply Grinch-angst. I dreaded the Christmas season because I knew that inevitably, along with all the advertisements for fun and exciting toys and games (of which I completely approved) came the commercials for the upcoming children’s cartoons. And of course, this included the Grinch. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the cute and non-threatening shows like the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I did. (Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, innocuous to most people, were borderline anxiety-causing thanks to the magician and the Abominable Snowman. Yeah, I was a mess. Don’t even get me started with the Wicked Witch of the West….)

And yet, despite my fears, year after year I watched the Grinch when it came on TV. Why did I do this to myself? Well, first of all, I thought Max the dog was pretty darned cute with his makeshift antlers. Second, I loved the happy ending when the Grinch’s “heart grew three sizes that day.” And really, how could you not adore sweet Little Cindy-Lou Who? So, in the end, I sat there with my hands over my face, watching through my fingers, suffering through that mean old guy, to get to the good stuff.

My relationship with the Grinch surfaced during a conversation I had recently with a friend who asked if I thought my books were going to be interesting and/or appropriate for non-Jewish readers. My answer? “You betcha.” Here’s why: When I sit down to write, the readers I am addressing are Jewish kids, in the same way that all those endearing (or terrifying) 1970s specials were made for children who celebrated Christmas. Undoubtedly, children who are not in that target audience can and do partake in these activities, just as I did.

YaYa and YoYo began as a project to enrich those kids who didn’t have their own holiday specials on TV or enough age-appropriate books about their unique heritage. However, I am certain that just as I enjoyed watching and learning life lessons from Charlie Brown, and yes, even to some degree, the Grinch, so too will non-Jewish kids enjoy what I’m writing about. The backdrop of each book is a Jewish holiday, life-cycle event or other theme with Jewish values intertwined into each book. For the non-Jewish reader, it is an opportunity to learn about a different culture through an engaging story. I believe that readers will feel a personal connection because the stories’ lessons, while uniquely Jewish, will resonate with people from all backgrounds and faiths.

The first book deals with the concept of T’shuvah, which translates in English to “repentance.” T’shuvah actually comes from the Hebrew word that means to turn around or to return. T’shuvah is all about being introspective. It’s about self-improvement and it is a very Jewish concept. However, it is also very much a topic for everyone. If each individual on earth took the time to consider his or her actions and try to improve their behavior, wouldn’t that make this a better world for all of us?

Now, here’s the clincher. As I sat down to write this article about my childhood Christmastime apprehension, I discovered something amazing: irony of all ironies--the Grinch is a perfect example of someone who undergoes T’shuvah!

Years ago, the thought of spending so much time pondering the Grinch, even uttering his name, would have sent me running to my room in tears. (And possibly even to therapy!) And now, look at the two of us. He turned himself around to be an all right sort of guy and I’m using him as an example of how we can all learn from one another. We’ve each come a long way. I’m proud of us both!

The Wicked Witch of the West, on the other hand….

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And Now a Word From My Editor...

You may be able to tell from the infrequency of my posts that I'm a bit of a reluctant blogger. The writing I enjoy is fiction and in particular, fiction for children. I've been fairly quiet here, just waiting for some action to write about since I'm not a big fan of writing just to "hear" my own voice.

Fortunately, I have a few things to share now, so here I am! First of all, the publishing process has picked up a bit and it is starting to feel like the wheels are really in motion! My manuscript was handed over to my editor, Leslie Martin, who wrote an incredible review of my book which she posted on my "fan page" on Facebook. I am sharing it here, with Leslie's permission. As I responded to Leslie after she posted her review, even my ever-present thesaurus is not helping me to find the words I want to say! I am honestly humbled by what she wrote. So, here it is, my first "official" review!

Readers, you will be in for a treat when Dori's book is published.

As an editor for many years, I've had occasion to scrutinize manuscripts, news and feature articles, college entrance essays and more. Trust me, the poorly written vastly outnumber those with finesse.

This experience has been a "first." I found myself reading only a few pages at a time, often with days in between, because the manuscript captivated me so. I wanted to savor it, didn't want the pleasure of reading it to end and certainly didn't want the book to end!

Dori's theme, story, characters, dialogue and details are so--and I keep using this word over and over--fresh. Her creativity shines in her characters' unexpected comments and thoughts, all true to character but so surprisingly...fresh.

Finishing the manuscript came as a mixed blessing. As mentioned, reading it was such a joy that I didn't want the book to end, which remained true through the very last page. More important is that the end wrapped up everything so skillfully. For a first-time author, or any author for that matter, Dori has achieved something wonderful here. What a talent. It's a gift that she has chosen to share it with the rest of the world. I can't wait for the second book.

Leslie Martin