Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. I’ve hired a Jewish life expert in Poland to vet my novel under contract.
  2. On Brevity’s blog today, I read about DIY retreats. I’ve been doing this for years. At first, I booked myself into bed & breakfasts in either the Poconos or Lenox, MA. But then I found the Highlights Foundation’s Unworkshops to be a better deal. What do you do? Let us know through Comments below.
  3. This is a month of academic travel with little time devoted to literary writing except my weekly poem. I am itching to write.

That’s it for this week.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. I am thinking about iconography in children’s Holocaust literature. What are the typical symbols?
  2. I’ve also been thinking about children’s books about other genocides. There seems to be relatively few. Do any come to mind for you? Weigh in through Comments below.
  3. Who wants to participate in the July 7 online submission event? Through The Whole Megillah’s Facebook page, we’ll let each other know where and what we’re submitting to publishers and literary journals.

That’s it for this week. If you’re in the United States have a great Fourth of July and everyone, have a good week. Hope to see you on Sunday on the Facebook page.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. Even while traveling and participating in fellowships, I am continuing to write poetry, one poem at a time. This is part of a new contemporary YA work in progress. At some point, I really need to focus on its characterization and plot. I’ve been working on this since January. It is slow but progressing work. My question for you: Are you putting off working on a bigger project because you want space and time? Consider breaking it down into small components that you can tackle.
  2. Please weigh in through Comments whether you think we need more children’s Holocaust books. If you think we do, what would you like to see?
  3. Last week I said I was setting aside an evening to watch Claude Lanzmann’s iconic movie Shoah. Well, it turned out the version I have is nine hours and I barely made a dent.

That’s it for this week. Have a good one.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. My article on border crossing between the Nazi and Soviet spheres of interest in the fall of 1939 has been accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed academic journal. Through this writing exercise I learned to value:
    • Once again, the importance of primary documentation. Rutgers had one set. The Gratz College librarian sent me another set through interlibrary loan. HathiTrust had some, too.
    • Access to online videos from the USC Shoah Foundation
    • Always have a set of ear buds in my purse. Some of the Shoah videos are only accessible at certain repositories. I went down the street to Rutgers only to find I left the ear buds home. I had to go back and get them.
  2. My short story about 1930s American antisemitism, “Enough,” has been accepted for publication by the literary journal of Mercer County Community College, Kelsey Review. It’s based on a murder charge against a Jewish business owner when his plastics factory exploded in the summer of 1933. This man used to sit behind me in shul as I prepared for Bat Mitzvah in 1970. He was generally nasty and then I found out why. Morale: Your hometown experiences provide much grist for the writer’s mill.
  3. I’ve set aside tomorrow night to watch Claude Lanzmann’s iconic movie Shoah.

That’s it for this week. Have a good one.

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Author’s Notebook | The Brave Princess and Me, written by Kathy Kacer

The Brave Princess and Me, written by Kathy Kacer and illustrated by Juliana Kolesova,  Second Story Press, September 2019, 32 pp., $18.95.

The Whole Megillah (TWM): The Brave Princess and Me might just be the first Holocaust book for kids that takes place in Greece. What prompted you to write this story?
Kathy Kacer (KK): The story was actually a “gift,” brought to me by my publisher. I didn’t know too much about Princess Alice, but when I began to research her, I knew it was a story I wanted to write. Not much has been written about the Jews of Greece, and certainly not much has been written about what Princess Alice did to save this family. I particularly loved the fact that her deafness and the feeling of having been excluded was something that prompted her to reach out to others. There is so much in her story that is worth sharing with a young audience.

Kathy Kacer

TWM: Why did you choose to write it in the perspective of a Jewish child vs. a biography of Prince Alice of Greece?
KK: I never refer to myself as a historian or a biographer even though I am writing about real people in a read time. I think of myself as a storyteller. And I think that stories are the way for young people to make a meaningful connection to this history – one that is lasting, and prompts young people to want to read more. Most of my books are written from the perspective of the Jewish child who is hiding or escaping or simply trying to survive in nearly impossible conditions.

 

TWM: What were the challenges in writing this book?
KK: Because it’s a picture book geared to a younger audience, I think the greatest challenge is in trying the capture this story in so few words! Most of my other books are novels where I have had the luxury of unlimited prose. In this case, I wanted each character to be complete and evocative. It was hard to do that when I was limited in the number of words I could use.

TWM: What were the satisfactions?
KK: I think that despite the limited word count, I was able to create a story with these vivid real characters, and capture a snapshot of an extraordinary woman. I loved being able to do that. And I certainly loved being able to tell a story that took place in a part of the world that few have read about.

TWM: If I recall correctly, this is your second picture book. Do you have a preference for genre—fiction, nonfiction, picture books, middle grade?
KK: Yes, I’ve written in every genre. Each one is satisfying in its own way. So, I wouldn’t say I have a preference. I usually hear about a story of some kind and then I get a feeling about how to approach it—non-fiction, picture book, middle grade novel. I will say that I am blessed in that I can mix up my writing a bit and change genres when the story dictates that.

TWM: How did you conduct your research for this book?
KK: As usual, my research was pretty extensive. I read as much as I could about the Jews of Greece during the Second World War. I read as much as I could about Princess Alice. I found some remarkable photographs of her and the Cohen family (the family she hid). Combining all of those pieces of information, I began to construct this story.

TWM: Our recent The Whole Megillah survey about writing and publishing Holocaust books for kids identified a need and desire to write narratives that take place outside the usual Germany and Poland. What are your thoughts about that? What Holocaust stories are we missing thus far?
KK: I absolutely agree with this. Understanding the Holocaust is not something that should be confined to stories that took place in ghettos or concentration camps—mostly in Poland and Germany. To understand the breadth of this history, one has to go to other countries and understand the experience of Jews in those places. Certainly, there are other countries—Spain, Portugal, etc., where important stories about this history should be told. In addition, we need more stories that help us understand the plight of the disabled, homosexuals, the Roma, etc. Every story is a worthy one.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. I am completing my second week at the faculty seminar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Three immediate takeaways:
    • I’m convinced that the more I learn, the less I know. I am still trying to discern how my great-uncle left the DP camp in Germany in 1951 to come to America. I also desperately want to understand my grandmother’s role in getting him here.
    • Using primary sources trumps textbooks as the way to teach.
    • There are still so many stories to be told.
  2. I am still obsessed with Ancestry.com and look forward to teaching Family History in the fall at William Paterson University.
  3. I’ve learned how to use Google Tour Builder which can help to build a family narrative.

That’s it for this week. Have a good one.

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Mid-Week Notes

Three quick things:

  1. I am slowly navigating academic writing—and am finding creative writing so much easier. The academic peer review process is unnerving.
  2. Conversation Starter: What narrative would you most like to see as a picture book? Middle grade? YA? Just comment below. I would like to see more about early Jewish arrivals and their impact in America. I’d also like to see more, especially for teens, about the postwar refugee experience.
  3. The Whole Megillah is setting aside July 7 as a “Send Our Work Out into the World” day, keeping touch through The Whole Megillah Facebook page. Please comment below if interested.

That’s it for this week. Have a good one.

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