Two-in-One Notebook | Author L.B. Schulman and Senior Editor Mary Colgan, Stolen Secrets

L.B. Schulman

Schulman, L. B. Stolen Secrets. Boyds Mills Press, 2017, 304 pp.

The Whole Megillah (TWM): How did you come up with the idea for this book?
L.B. Schulman (LS): After listening to an interview on the radio, I realized that before we knew it, there wouldn’t be any firsthand witnesses to the Holocaust alive anymore. A year or so later, I saw an age-progressed photo of Anne Frank that showed how she would look today, if she had lived. I brought these two pieces together in a contemporary and historical mystery that I’m so proud to have pulled off with the help of my amazing editor, Mary Colgan.

TWM: How did your interest in genealogy impact the writing of the book?
LS: Having my DNA done at ancestry.com helped connect me to my Jewish relatives. I was also surprised to discover how many Jewish people are related to each other. In fact, my dad and my husband’s mother turned out to be fourth cousins. For this reason, I believe that most Jewish people have lost relatives in the Holocaust, whether they know them by name or not. Livvy, my main character finds out that she may be Jewish, and it changes how she feels about herself, her feelings about the Holocaust, and her community, much as my own DNA research changed my perspective.

TWM: Why was it important for you to posit that Livvy’s grandmother could be Anne Frank?
LS: I was intrigued with the idea that Anne Frank might have never died, having hid her existence for the sake of keeping memories of the Holocaust alive for the rest of the world. It would be both a lie and a selfless decision. As an author, I love exploring conundrums like that.

TWM: What were your challenges in writing this book?
LS: One challenge was keeping Oma’s identity a secret when she was in so many scenes. Alzheimer’s was the vehicle I chose for this, as the tragic symptoms worked to conceal the answers to the mystery. Her memory issues and erratic behavior allowed my main character to explore and find the answers on her own.

TWM: What were your satisfactions in writing this book?
LS: I researched this thoroughly and had experts (yourself included, thanks!) to look over my work, so I feel it is as historically accurate as I could get in a fiction book. This made me proud, as I want the book to be a teaching vehicle for teens, as well as entertainment. I also enjoyed my characters, especially Franklin D. who serves to lighten moments and keep readers laughing.

TWM: Let’s turn to Boyds Mills Press senior editor Mary Colgan. Mary, what attracted you to the manuscript?
Mary Colgan (MC): When I received Stolen Secrets on submission, it kept me glued to the page from beginning to end. I was immediately taken with Livvy—her strength and independence, as well as the vulnerability she worked so hard to keep hidden. Her complicated relationship with her mother felt authentic and relatable and I was on Team Franklin D. from the moment he opened his mouth. And all this is on top of an absolutely brilliant concept, something I knew would be met with gasps when I brought it to an acquisitions meeting. I loved how Stolen Secrets would spur many young readers to think about Anne Frank and the Holocaust in a new, deeper way, connecting the past directly to their present lives, just as it happens for Livvy. I appreciated that it was an important and meaningful book, as well as a compelling, can’t-put-it-down read. And I also loved how Stolen Secrets didn’t simply rest on its concept. Lisa wove together two beautifully layered stories—Adele’s in the past, filled with thorny questions about morality, shame, and forgiveness, and Livvy’s in the present as she wrestled with moving across the country, dealing with her mother’s addiction, all the trials of being the new girl at school, and then stumbling upon an infinitely complex family mystery. I was gobsmacked by how Lisa managed to weave these threads into an extraordinary tapestry when they could easily have ended up a tangled knot. I knew we had found a true talent of a writer and I’m so very proud to have had a hand in this phenomenal novel.

TWM: What books and authors inspire you?
LS: I have such a hard time with this question because all authors and all books inspire me—for different reasons. I admire the separate pieces of a novel—beginnings, endings, characters, pacing—as much as the whole work. There is something to be admired in every book.

TWM: Do you have a critique group? Could you talk about that?
LS: I have been together with my critique group for 12 years. We have had many ups and down together but have continued to help each other every step of the way. They serve as both my critiquers and my cheerleaders. Much like a marriage, I love them at times and want to run screaming away at others. In all seriousness, they helped so much with this book. They read every chapter several times and always showed up to give me their best opinions. They should each be on the byline, to be honest.

For more on L.B. Schulman, visit her website.

Order this book from your local independent retailer.

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2017 Year of the Book | Second Quarter Progress Report

I pledged 2017 as the Year of the Book. my year to sell a book manuscript. I’m a bit late with this second quarter report, so I’ll extend my coverage to the end of August.

Poetry: My chapbook manuscript, Chicken Fat, will be published in October by Finishing Line Press.  Heartfelt thanks to those of you who purchased pre-sales copies.

Creative Nonfiction: I postponed an online class from Creative Nonfiction magazine  that I had initially signed up for this fall. I want to be able to place all six essays I wrote during last spring’s courses. Two have found homes so far.

Novels in Verse: The first 30 pages of my Holocaust work in progress was workshopped at the Tent: Jewish Children’s Literature program at the National Yiddish Book Center in August. It’s now with my agent. At the brilliant suggestion of Carolyn Yoder at her August retreat at Highlights, I rewrote my YA biography as a novel in verse. Am I now the poet of tragedy? We also settled on a topic for another novel in verse, related to both America and the Holocaust. I’m applying to a residency to work on that next summer.

Picture Books: I still have a few in progress, but I’m focusing on the novels in verse right now.

Other projects: While reading a Holocaust survival story, I got some ideas for revising a YA historical novella I wrote a couple of years ago during Camp Nanowrimo. I discussed a few projects with the PJ Library staff; those are still in ideation phase. And, I am thinking about a couple of academic articles for peer-reviewed journals.

Question 4U: How is your Year of the Book coming along? Please share!

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Literary Offerings into the World | August 2017 Report

Poetry: 8 submissions (Salt Hill Journal, Zone 3, Washington Square Review, The MacGuffin, Coldnoon, Potomac Review, South 85, Contrary), 1 acceptance (Coldnoon), 1 rejection (South 85).

 


Creative Nonfiction:
 10 submissions (Lunch Ticket, The Smart Set, Rose Red Review, The Capra Review, Lindenwood Review, Lascaux Review, Saranac Review, West Branch, Diagram, The Forge), 1 acceptance (Drexel University’s The Smart Set, a paying market!), 6 rejections (Puritan, Pleiades, American Scholar, West Branch, The Forge, Lascaux Review).

Read my The Smart Set essay, “A Day with Murray,” here.

Fiction: 0 submissions, 0 acceptances, 0 rejections. My two short stories in progress continue to take a backseat for the moment.

Other August 2017 activities: I workshopped a Holocaust-related middle-grade novel in verse at the Jewish Children’s Literature Tent Program at the National Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts. My  YA biography for Carolyn P. Yoder’s Alumni Retreat at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania has morphed into a YA novel in verse, which my prospective editor, my agent, and I are very excited about. Magical things always happen at Highlights!

Coming up in September!

Cycle 7 begins for The Whole Megillah online fiction students. I’m working on a Holocaust book for hire followed by another one with German content. I’m teaching six courses at one college and one university, ranging from composition to fiction writing to American Ethnic History. I’ll be finishing my draft of the YA biography/novel in verse, writing three articles about 19th-century women for Cobblestone, and writing five biographical entries (two about Jewish personalities) for a volume about Paterson Lives for William Paterson University, where I teach in the both the English and History departments. After the High Holy Days, I will be continuing my work with my poetry mentor on a new chapbook dealing with my experiences in 2011 in the Czech Republic.

The reading period for many lit mags opens this month, so I’d like to carve out some time between teaching and physical therapy to send out some more work. My goal is to have any piece out to at least five places at a time.

 

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Report on Tent: Jewish Children’s Literature, August 2017

National Yiddish Book Center
Amherst, MA

From August 13-August 20, 2017,  the National Yiddish Book Center, in partnership with PJ Library, and funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, hosted the first-ever Tent program of Jewish Children’s Literature. They received about 130 applications and selected 20 writers to attend this inaugural event. I was one of them.

We gathered on August 13 in Amherst, Mass. We represented a variety of Jewish practices, including one pulpit and one recovering female rabbi. There were three attendees from Israel and one from Spain. All of us had children’s writing in common; some were published authors several times over and some had their first books just coming out.

Here’s the gist of the program:

Workshop: Three workshops met three times each for three hours. Emma Dryden and Leonard Marcus led picture book workshops. Kendra Levin led the middle grade workshop. I was in Kendra’s, workshopping a novel in verse. There were six of us; the work was diverse, including historical fiction based in America and Israel and contemporary coming-of-age novels. Kendra led us through several exercises to deepen our understanding of the balance between backstory/exposition and action and characterization. I received some great suggestions for my work in progress.

Lecture: National Yiddish Book Center academic director Josh Lambert delivered several lectures that more or less centered on some brief readings. We had guest lectures, too, most notably one by professor Miriam Udel of Emory University, who spoke of Yiddish tales and the need to modernize them. My biggest take-aways:

  • The market is looking for books about diversity of Jewish life so today’s Jewish kid could find herself in the book
    • Mixed race
    • Mixed culture
    • LGBT
  • Yiddish tales need modernizing to be relevant to today’s kids and we’re the writers who can take this on

Panels: We attended panels on the state of the industry (facilitated by Marjorie Ingall, panelists Emma Dryden, Leonard Marcus, Kendra Levin) and diversity (facilitated by Josh Lambert, panelists, Nicole Tadgell, Grace Lin, and Lesléa Newman). My biggest take-aways:

  • Middle grade is inching toward what we used to call lower YA
  • Picture books are getting shorter, 500 words or fewer
  • A gap exists for young YA, high school freshmen
  • Publishers are hiring sensitivity readers

PJ Library: PJ Library staff attended most sessions and gave a talk on the next to last day. We were able to sign up for one-on-one consultations with them to discuss our book projects, questions we had, etc. My biggest takeaways:

  • Both PJ Library and PJ Our Way are offering author incentives
  • PJ Library needs a lot of high-quality books!
  • Gaps–board books and early chapter books

The Grinspoon back yard is prepared for a BBQ

Dinner at Harold Grinspoon’s home: Another highlight of the week was to hear Harold speak about his mission, to meet him and his gracious wife, and to meet area authors. I sat at a table with Ilan Stavans and his wife. Grinspoon’s foundation, run by his daughter-in-law, funds PJ Library. Key staff members spoke briefly about their responsibilities and what they’re looking for.

My biggest takeaways:

  • To participate in Tent is a huge honor and privilege
  • PJ Library needs a lot of high-quality books!

 

 

Eric Carle Gallery
Eric Carle Museum
Amherst, MA

Eric Carle Museum: We had a special tour of the museum and several of us participated in book signings. Needless to say, I left there with a few more picture books to add to my collection, most notably Eric Carle and Friends’ What’s Your Favorite Color? and Uri Shulevitz’s How I Learned Geography.

Exploration: For some participants, the week provided a period of deep reflection. For others, an opportunity to write. For me, I reflected and I wrote. I learned some new sources like Moses Gaster’s book of Jewish tales and Nathaniel Deutsch’s discussion of S. An-sky’s pre-war ethnography study in The Jewish Dark Continent. The week felt like an MFA mini-residency.

The program is funded for 2018. Stay tuned for announcements. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with fellow Jewish children’s writers, your own practice of Judaism, and your identity as a writer.

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Time Is Running Out–Pre-Order Your Copy of Chicken Fat Now!

The pre-order period for Chicken Fat ends August 18.

Note from Barbara: I really hope you’ll check out my book. The poems are personal. The people on the cover? My grandmother, Rose Entel Perlman, an immigrant from Poland, my mother, Lillian Perlman Krasner, and I think that’s my twin sister, Andrea, visible in the stroller. The photo was taken in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where my grandparents lived and my mother was born and raised.

To pre-order your copy, click here>>>

Chicken Fat

 

by Barbara Krasner

 

$13.99

Barbara Krasner’s collection of poems, Chicken Fat, is rich and soulful, redemptive, and full of the soothing spice that makes poetry come alive. She writes about heritage, family, the Jewish experience and identity in a way that is fresh and robust. Her poetry is warm, accessible, and utterly singular in its ability to put you right into the middle of the simmer and let you feel all the spice and ‘fat’ of the human experience. There is a love in these poems that is tangible. She has mastered the art of the ‘living language’—an ability to take very personal moments, the small intimate details of a life, and make them speak to a universal scaffold of truths that anyone can acknowledge. This book is called Chicken Fat but there is nothing excessive here, just the rich and full flavor of poetic voice that is beautifully rendered.

–Matthew Lippman, author of Salami Jew and The New Year of Yellow

In Chicken FatBarbara Krasner displays a gift for linking moving memories of her New Jersey Jewish childhood and life with the collective memories of her parents’ and grandparents’ history of the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe. Krasner’s narrative poems contain both directness and tenderness as she details family and personal loss as well as a tenacious endurance.  She demonstrates a rare gift of describing current and traditional Jewish food (kishka, gribenes, lungen stew) in a way that is not only tantalizes but also provides an ethnic background of this endangered cuisine.  Krasner’s Chicken Fat is a powerful book of poems that transcends her personal story and connects to her readers with a compelling immediacy.

–Laura Boss, author of The Best Lover ( New York Quarterly, 2017) and Editor, Lips

To pre-order your copy, click here>>>

 

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New One-Day Sessions from The Whole Megillah

It’s Back to School time!  The Whole Megillah is delighted to introduce a series of one-day sessions to take your writing to the next level:

  1. Setting and Achieving Your Writing Goals—Learn from an experienced project manager how to set your long- and short-term goals for your writing and hold yourself accountable. Optional: Sign up for a dedicated writing goal-setting and sharing community on a private Facebook page.
  • Sunday, September 10, 1-3 pm ET, $30, private Facebook page

2. Sending Your Literary Offerings into the World—Maybe you’ve been reading the monthly report of submissions, acceptances, and rejections from The Whole Megillah and want to send your work out, too. This two-hour session will introduce you to online tools and tracking mechanisms to make the process less intimidating and more efficient.

  • Sunday, August 27, 1-3 pm ET, $30, private Facebook page
  • Encore, September 17, 1-3 pm, ET, $30, private Facebook page

3. Writing in Real Time—Generate new fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry by writing to timed prompts using Google Hangouts video chat (if you’re video shy, you can just turn off your computer’s camera). Sessions led by certified Amherst Writers & Artists method facilitator.

  • Sunday, October 1, 2-4 pm ET, $30, Google Hangouts
  • Sunday, November 5, 2-4 pm ET, $30, Google Hangouts
  • Sunday, December 3, 2-4 pm, ET, $30, Google Hangouts

How to Register

Send an email to barbarakrasner(at)att(dot)net to register. Payment can be made by check or PayPal after registration.

Registration deadlines:

  • Setting and Achieving Your Writing Goals, September 3
  • Sending Out Your Literary Offerings, August 21
  • Writing in Real Time, September 24 (for October session), October 29 (for November session), November 26 (for December session)
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Literary Offerings into the World | July 2017 Report

Poetry: 2 submissions (Penn Review, BOATT Journal), 1 acceptance (Kelsey Review), 3 rejections (The Literary Review, Rattle, Penn Review). This last rejection was personal!

Fiction: 0 submissions, 0 acceptances, 0 rejections. Fiction has taken a backseat for the moment.

Creative Nonfiction: 6 submissions (Penn Review, Pleiades, Minerva Rising, Creative Nonfiction, The Fourth River, Hippocampus), 0 acceptances, 5 rejections (Penn Review, Missouri Review, Paris Review, Origins, Images) but 2 of them personal. I revised another essay and am signed up for two online essay/memoir classes in the fall. I also completed the first full draft of my YA biography during Camp Nanowrimo. Now I just have to work on the image file and, of course, revisions!

Other July 2017 activities: I completed an article and activities for a Scholastic magazine, a new client for me, and I’ve begun research on a new work-for-hire assignment for an educational publisher. I also drafted a new article for Cobblestone. I continue to teach The Whole Megillah online fiction classes and work with picture book biography authors to develop their manuscripts. I think I’ve completed a new poetry chapbook. More on that in the fall as well as info on new The Whole Megillah online classes.

Coming up in August 2017: Workshopping a Holocaust-related middle-grade novel in verse at the Jewish Children’s Literature Tent Program at the National Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts and the YA biography at Carolyn P. Yoder’s Alumni Retreat at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania.

Central New Jersey Opportunity!
If anyone lives in the central Jersey area and would like to be part of a group where we write to timed prompts using the Amherst Writers & Authors method (I’m a trained facilitator), please let me know!

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