Friday, February 4, 2011

The Story Behind My Stories

You may have noticed that on the book flap of that novel that you're reading, there is a very small bio about the author. I found it to be quite a challenge to sum up the past *ahem* 29+ years in just a few short sentences. It was an interesting exercise, and I did in fact, come up with the following blurb: 

Dori Weinstein grew up in Queens, New York. She is a graduate of Binghamton University and Teachers College, Columbia University. Dori taught in public schools in New York City as well as the Talmud Torah Jewish Day School in St. Paul, Minnesota. She currently teaches Hebrew to preschoolers. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Gary, and their three children.

Short and to the point. Well, of course, given the space I could share so much more. And hey, what do you know? I have a blog! I've got nothing but space! So here, dear readers, is my much longer story. It's the story of the path that led me to my new life as the writer of a children's book series called YaYa & YoYo:

After graduating from what was then called SUNY-B (State University of New York at Binghamton, now known as Binghamton University), I decided to become a teacher. I moved to Manhattan, went to graduate school (Columbia University, Teachers College), did a year of student teaching (Columbus Academy and PS 87 on the Upper West Side), and taught in my own classroom (PS 11 in Chelsea) for a total of four years. I enjoyed teaching math and writing but my absolute favorite time of the day in my classroom was “Read Aloud” time. I loved sharing great books with my students.

Along the way I met the wonderful man who is now my husband, got married and moved out of New York. And not only that, but I left the Big Apple to go to (as I believed at the time) live amongst the cows, cornfields and snow banks of Minnesota. (As it turns out, they don’t actually grow corn in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and I have yet to see a cow grazing on our street.) Exactly one day after we moved here, I began setting up my classroom at the Talmud Torah Day School in St. Paul. I had the immense pleasure of teaching there for four years. I would have kept going, but I started popping out babies and it became too hard for me to balance my two lives as a teacher and a new mom. I took the role of teacher to my much more intimate class of three Weinstein children and once again had the opportunity to enjoy “Read Aloud” time with my kids as we snuggled up at bedtime and dove into great books together.

When my first two kids were in the 1st and 4th grades, I set out to find some good, older-kid Jewish books for them. I found lots of wonderful picture books about holidays for preschoolers as well as many middle-grade books in the genres of historical fiction and non-fiction books. I was looking for contemporary fiction that my kids would love, that also celebrated all that is wonderful about being Jewish, but I was unable to find just what I was seeking. Inspired by my childhood author-hero, Judy Blume, as well as All of a Kind Family, my favorite book series when I was growing up, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I planned, drafted and started writing, setting aside my plans to someday return to having my own classroom. I came up with the model of doing a book series; twelve books, each taking place in a different calendar month, focusing on either a Jewish holiday, life cycle event or other Jewish experience, while intertwining one or more Jewish values into the story. And so, YaYa and YoYo were “born.”


My kids loved it (which was really my original goal) and once I started sharing my story with other kids, Jewish educators and rabbis, it turned out that they gave YaYa and YoYo a big thumbs-up as well!  The series follows tweens Ellie and Joel Silver as they grapple with real issues faced by modern Jewish families. The first book, Sliding Into the New Year, is set against the backdrop of Rosh Hashanah and is on its way to bookshelves everywhere! I am almost finished with the first draft of the second book in the series, Shaking in the Shack, which takes place during the holiday of Sukkot.

So there you have it, the story behind my stories. I hope you enjoy reading the YaYa & YoYo books as much as I am enjoying writing them. And by the way, they make great “Read Aloud” books!


  1. This was so much fun. You know I always see the back of the book with the author info but I never thought about what I'd write or how much work goes into what you'd say. Much like a synopsis or the acknowledgements.

    I love your story, such a great one! It was amazing getting to know you and since soon I'll have a published book out in the world and I should probably start thinking about this!!!! I don't have credentials like you but I still want it to rock!!!

  2. What a pleasure reading your blog and seeing how persistence -- not to mention wonderful creativity and great writing ability -- pays off!!!

  3. Thanks, Dori, for sharing your writing journey and for "tooting" or shall we say, "blowing" your own shofar to wake everyone up to your new career choice! I really enjoyed having you share your publishing process with the PTO group at HMJDS today.