The Whole Megillah (TWM): Tell us a little about YM Books, its mission, and its publishing program.
Leah Larson (LL): The YM Book imprint was started in 2008 as an extension of Yaldah Magazine and its related programs for Jewish girls which I founded in 2004. Our mission is to provide high-quality, Jewish-themed books of interest to girls. Some of our books are aimed at a broad audience, and others may be directed specifically toward Jewish girls or the observant market. Our books promote traditional Jewish values in a contemporary light. Since Yaldah Magazine is created by Jewish girls, I was particularly interested in offering teens the opportunity to be a part of creating a book. I co-wrote the first title, The Yaldah Year: Crafts and Recipes for Every Month of the Jewish Year, with Chava Resnick, a a teen with a talent for cooking. Currently in production is Teen Talk, a book written by seventeen-year old talented writer, Chaya Freeman. She approached me with the idea of a teen-to-teen book addressing the questions and issues that observant Jewish girls face. I thought it’s a fantastic idea and a much-needed book. Chaya has been working on the book for over two-and-a-half years, and it’s been amazing to see how both the author and the book have grown from the process. Chaya is currently spending a year in Israel, so that slowed things down, but we’re looking forward to releasing Teen Talk later this year.
TWM: What attracted you to One Is Not a Lonely Number? How did you come to publish it?
LL: I think this is quite an interesting story. For a long time I’ve wished for a mainstream book that featured an orthodox Jewish girl. Of course there are some delightful books published by Feldheim and Artscroll which I enjoyed as a child, but they were not books I could recommend to my non-Jewish friends or stories that really reflected the growing diversity of the orthodox world. So, when I started YM Books, I was determined to find such a book. My mother is a professional writer and teacher who had two unfinished novels for adults in her drawer. She is also a great storyteller and teacher. I knew she also shared my vision of a crossover book. I approached her with the idea of writing YM Books’ first novel. After some convincing on my part, she agreed to give it a try. When I heard the initial plot outline, I was determined to see it through. I wrote a contract and paid her an advance.
TWM: And for Evelyn, why YM Books? What was the editing process like?
Evelyn Krieger: When I first started writing the story, I became quite excited by the evolving characters and plot. I had heard writers saying that sometimes the “book just writes itself” and I never believed it. I would say, with One Is Not A Lonely Number, I experienced a bit of this feeling. By the time I realized I had a children’s book in me, I had already committed it to YM Books. Perhaps because it was accepted before completion, I was spared the anxiety of rejection during the writing process. I found it kind of liberating, actually, though there was certainly a pressure to produce a compelling story (and on Leah’s timetable). I would send Leah chapters to read as I finished them. We worked with a freelance editor who made some valuable suggestions for revisions. I also used a few children as test readers. As unusual as the partnership may seem, we maintained a professional working relationship during this process. Leah is extremely talented, and I have a lot of respect for her vision.
TWM: Leah, how many books do you plan to publish each year?
LL: Right now we are a very small press with big dreams. We are quite busy with promoting our two books and finishing up our third. So at this point, I am not sure.
TWM: What types of manuscripts are you looking for?
LL: Something different–fiction and nonfiction that gives voice to traditional Jewish practice and values without being preachy. We’d also love to hear from talented young writers. I grew up on Harry Potter and am a big fan, so the idea of a fantasy novel with an orthodox character had been bouncing around my head. Not long after this, I read about Hereville! How exciting. I was thrilled by the ambition and creativity of his story. We hope to review it in Yaldah Magazine.
TWM: Mazel tov on your first book achieving a Sydney Taylor Honor Award! Were you surprised? What will this mean to your publishing program?
LL: Thank you so much. Yes, I was surprised because I know there are a lot of great new books out there. Still, I strongly believed in the book and felt very hopeful when I sent out the review copies to the committee. The award is significant as it offers recognition and validation to our new imprint and will help us with publicity and gaining a wider book distribution.
TWM: How can authors submit to you?
LL: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a short query and bio.
For more from award-winning author Evelyn Krieger, read her Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour interview.
For more about the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour>>>