Tag Archives: writing

A Princess Story Giveaway / Celebration

Okay, the title may be somewhat misleading.  What I mean is I want to celebrate The Path of Names‘ recent nomination for two awards, and the way I want to celebrate it is by giving away a silly retelling of Snow White I did a few years ago, back when I thought it was in my power to keep my eldest daughter from hearing the traditional version of princess stories.

First the awards.  I’m super excited to announce that in the past few weeks The Path of Names  has been nominated for both the Diamond Willow Award and the Sheila A Egoff Prize in Children’s Literature.  The Diamond Willow award is an award where lots of Saskatchewan school children read The Path of Names and (hopefully) vote on it to receive the Diamond Willow.  The Sheila A. Egoff Prize  is the BC book prize for children’s literature (and so, as far as I know, involves not even one Saskatchewan schoolchild.)

Now for the princess story giveaway.

I have two daughters, and over the last few years I’ve occasionally been called upon to tell the odd princess story.  However, as some of you may remember, the traditional princess story is sometimes a little… well … sexist.  Lookist.  Not too mention just gross.  (As in the scene in Snow White where the prince begs the dwarves to let him take home Snow White’s (apparently) dead body.  Just because she’s so beautiful.)

When my eldest daughter was younger and at the height of her princess preoccupation, I used to deal with this by simply changing the words of the stories.  Then, one day, a few hours before my mother was scheduled to babysit her, I realized my mother would read her the words to the Snow White story.  The real words.  Where Snow White is appreciated only for her beauty (rather than her juggling skill, as in my version.)  Where trees are frightening apparitions (rather than sad creatures who wish Snow White would teach them how to juggle.)  Where Snow White cooks and cleans for the dwarves (rather than juggling their cooking implements).

In short, I had to do something.  So I jotted down my version of “Snow White The Juggler,” printed it out and pasted it over the words in her story book.  From my current vantage point as the overemployed father of three, my main thought looking back, is ‘God, I used to have so much free time.’

In that spirit, I thought other harried parents may find the attached file useful.  Feel free to modify it as you wish.

The Story of Snow White the Juggler

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The Path of Names gets a starred review from Booklist!

The Path of Names Cover

Yesterday I heard from my editor that The Path of Names got a starred review from the magazine Booklist.  Hurray!  Then, this morning I woke up to find that The Path of Names got a very nice, very intelligent review in The Quill and Quire, which is sort of the Canadian publishing industry’s version of Booklist or Publisher’s Weekly.  Neither of these reviews are posted on the Internet yet, so you’ll have to take my word for them at this point.  I’ll post links when they are made public / free.   That said, somehow a snippet of The Quill and Quire review has already made it onto  The Path of Names’ Amazon.com page.  Read it here.  (Scroll down to the editorial reviews section.)


So what’s the big deal?   As I understand it (based on my exhaustive research (by which I mean a four minute Google search carried out via cell phone)), there are a handful of  periodicals that cater to various segments of the publishing industry.   Booklist, for instance, particularly caters to librarians, the idea being that they’ll read the starred review and be more likely to order a copy of The Path of Names for their library.  The idea is that though these periodicals don’t have the biggest circulations, their readers are influential – book buyers for bookstores, librarians, reviewers for newspapers and bigger magazines, etc.  (Most of this information is cribbed from this ten-year-old Slate piece, but what are the chances anything has changed in the publishing industry in the last ten years?)  

Okay.  So that’s why this is a big deal.  The other reason it’s nice is, well… Come on.  It’s nice when anybody likes a story of mine.

The reviews are also an exciting sign that the publication date is almost upon us.  After I read the review in Q & Q, it occurred to me that at this point, nineteen days before The Path of Names’ release, my novel has already been read by a few dozen people. By my calculations, this is almost exactly a few dozen more people than will ever read any of my academic publications.

Speaking of the imminent launch of The Path of Names, I will post soon about my book launch events (in Vancouver and New York City), plus some additional events I’m doing in Philadelphia and maybe even Bethesda (I’m going to Bethesda for a teaching conference but may fit in some book events before or after.)  This next post will include the beautiful flier that the good people at Scholastic Canada produced for my Vancouver event.

Nineteen days left until publication…

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Answering the question: how did you come to write your novel?

I am getting super excited for the release of The Path of Names in May.  Last week I had my first conversation with my publicist at Scholastic, Lauren Felsenstein.  This was great, in part because now I get to use the phrase, ‘my publicist at Scholastic.’   It was also great, because she seemed smart and on the ball in all sorts of ways that I am totally not.

Among other things, Lauren asked me to come up with a few lines describing how I came to write The Path of Names.  At first, this didn’t seem like such a big deal.  However, the more I thought about it the more I wondered, ‘huh.  How did I come to write The Path of Names?’

The Path of Names Cover

I know some authors – you ask that question and they’ll say, “Oh that.  I was walking home from work one day and I remembered how my old next door neighbor used to always want to go on a witch hunt, and I never thought witch hunts were moral but I felt all this pressure to go along, anyway.  So last spring I decided to write Witch Hunt! about the ethical problems one boy faces when his neighbor invites him on a witch hunt.”

It wasn’t like that for me.  It may be that I just have trouble answering any question with a short answer.  In my day job as a teacher at a local university, it took me years to learn to answer yes / no questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  The real world is complicated, and I’m always wanting to give the whole story.

It’s not that I don’t remember writing it.  In fact, I remember very well.  I started writing the short story that became The Path of Names in July, 2001.  I was attending the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, a six week workshop where everyone writes one story / week.  One weekend, I drove back to Vancouver where my then-girlfriend, now wife was living.  She was reading a book about mazes.  It was the middle of summer, and at that time summer always reminded me of the summer camp where I’d spent 14 summers.

Simple enough, right? Maze + Summer Camp = The Path of Names

Okay, but that doesn’t say anything about my grandfather.  At some point, a few years before — after I’d been attending the summer camp for a few years — I discovered my grandfather had visited the same summer camp half a century before.  That image stayed with me for years:  a teenaged yeshiva drop out from the Lower East Side visiting rural Pennsylvania in the early 1940s – standing in the same field where his suburban descendants would play Frisbee and knot friendship bracelets half a century later.  What would they make of each other – teenagers from these two very different mileus?  How could they meet?  Those questions were in the back of my mind as I wrote the short story that turned into THE PATH OF NAMES.

And, hey, I should also mention I didn’t look at the short story for eight years.  Really.  Not once.  I went to graduate school.  I wrote a totally different novel.  Then another one.  I got married and had a baby daughter.  After my daughter was born, I started thinking about middle grade novels, and how I wanted to write a middle grade novel that had a strong female protagonist.   I wanted her to be smart and capable and obsessed by her own idiosyncratic obsessions, and I wanted the conflict not to be defined by her sexuality or relationship with a male character, but rather by her strength of will and intelligence.  So, really, that’s how I came to write The Path of Names.

But wait, I should also mention how I’ve always loved the little bits of Jewish magic and folktales I’ve come across in various places.  My impression is that in the last few generations, Jews have moved away from a lot of the folk tales we used to tell.  Still, over the years, I’ve come across little glints of stories about wonder rabbis calling down lightning on their enemies and exorcising disembodied spirits and so on.  (This may also be a good place for me to note how much I love the phrase “wonder rabbi.”  Like a super hero / rabbi hybrid.)  Anyway, I always wanted to write a contemporary fantasy novel drawing from these old Jewish folk tales.  Once I started working on a fantasy novel set in a Jewish summer camp, it seemed obvious that this was my chance.

And that’s how I came to write The Path of Names.



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The Beat Goes On — copy edits (almost) in

Today I will send my copy edited version of The Path of Names back to Cheryl Klein (my wonderful editor at Arthur A. Levine).  This is now the third cycle of edits we’ve been through.  The first was a sort of ‘big idea’ round where Cheryl raised big questions (e.g.  can you make Dahlia more vulnerable, earlier?) and I tried to revise the manuscript accordingly.  The second was the ‘line edit’ version, where Cheryl raised medium sized questions (e.g. what’s Dahlia feeling when she discovers ___?).  And now, I’m just about to respond to the copy edit version, where Cheryl and two other editors at Arthur A. Levine raised small – medium sized questions (e.g. maybe this line would read better like this.  Oh, and can you tell us more about what Dahlia’s feeling when she’s hanging out with her friends in this scene?)

One of the fun things about the copy edit version is the concept of ‘stet’ (latin for ‘let it stand.’)  As the author, if I want to restore a change the editors have made, I make the text the way I want it, and then scribble ‘stet’ in the margin.  Well, okay, actually I do the track changes, insert comment, and write ‘stet’ but you get the idea.  Usually my editors are right, but it’s nice to have the option, especially when you have my predilection for sentence fragments.

I’ve been trying to convince my family that we should bring the concept of ‘stet’ into our family life.  As in, ‘stet the fact that we’ll barbecue for dinner tonight.’  (This is a joke.  I would never dare to suggest that I be given that kind of control to anyone in my family, with the possible exception of our seven-month-old twins, and that’s only because they don’t speak English.  Or Latin, as far as I know.)

My next job vis a vis my novel is to edit the ‘flap copy.’  This is the stuff on the book flap – the novel teaser / summary and the about-the-author.  Once I take a look, I’ll post that here, too.


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