Author David A. Adler has written more than 200 books. I first met David at the annual Jewish Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Conference and was impressed with his overall knowledge and skill. I had been reading his picture book biographies for a while.
David says about his own writing, “For me writing is a process. I begin with story idea, with the main characters, and the setting. I struggle most with the “voice,” – how I will tell the story. For me writing involves constant revisions. It’s so much easier, I think, not to try and get the story just right in the first draft, to leave that for the second and third drafts. My best stories have been rewritten scores of times. ”
Here he graciously answers a few questions for readers of The Whole Megillah.
The Whole Megillah (TWM): You’ve become a master of the picture book biography. What drives your interest? How do you pick your subject? How do you go about your research?
David Adler (DA): The subject of a biography must be of interest to me and my editor and hopefully librarians. The research varies depending on the subject. My favorite resources are autobiographies, old newspapers, and family members.
TWM: You’ve also devoted several of your books to the Holocaust? What led to this? Can you comment on the statement we often hear from editors, “We don’t want any more Holocaust stories”?
DA: Editors have been saying that for decades, that they don’t want another Holocaust book. I heard that before I wrote The Number on My Grandfather’s Arm but since that book was published I wrote and had eight more Holocaust books published. Each new book on the Holocaust must add something to what has already been published.
DA: The idea for a character with a photographic memory came from a classmate of mine in elementary school who was rumored to have one.
TWM: Do you have an agent?
DA: I didn’t always have an agent, but I have one now.
DA: The writing world keeps changing and that’s great for all of us. If children wanted the same books today that they read fifty years ago there would be no need for new books — for our books.
TWM: Among the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite? Why?
DA: I have a long list of favorites. Among the books on that list are Don’t Talk To Me About The War, We Remember the Holocaust, A Little At A Time, One Yellow Daffodil, B. Franklin, Printer and others.
TWM: What is the greatest challenge that faces you as a writer?
DA: We’re all challenged to become better and better at our craft.
TWM: What single piece of advice would you give to writers of Jewish-themed children’s books today?
DA: Try to keep your writing from being too didactic.