On Sunday, November 13, Karen and I drove to San Diego for the Jewish Book Festival. When we arrived we were told by the organizers that they were going to try something new this year: the young adult authors were not going to make their presentation to general audiences, instead they were going to be resricted to teen audiences who were “invited” to show up.
Karen and I looked at each other sensing doom.
If you know anything about teens you know that they will not show up at authors readings. You have to go to them.
And so, along with the other authors, we braved near empty rooms. It was nice to hear the professional reader read, and we did sell a bunch of books, but the organizers kind of misread the teen audience and in the end they vowed to do it differently next year.
I met some amazing writers: JT Waldman a grapic novelist who has just published an astonishing version of Megillat Esther. Not to be missed. And Nancy Oswald, an author from Colorado who discovered that a Jewish community once lived on a corner of her ranch. She became so curious that she wrote a facinating novel about this long forgotten settlement. Her book Nothing Here But Stones, is a fine work. Nancy is not Jewish, and I salute all the research that went into this work. It’s a sensitive and deeply moving novel.
The next day, I flew to Newark for my Book Tour hosted by the JCC of Rockland County. I landed in the late morning, had time to get settled in a nice big hotel room which was stocked with kosher food. The JCC people, Mrs. Micki Leader and Susie Tzedek went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable. That evening I was interviewed by the local TV station and then spoke at the JCC to a large and enthusiastic audience. I signed about fifty copies of my book and then I spied a familiar figure at the back of the room. It was my friend Glen Holman. We met over a Chai Lifeline Shabbos where his description of the death of his daughter Nechama Liba, brought me to tears. We have been in touch ever since. He drove all the way from Far Rockaway to hear my talk. I was, as you can imagine, deeply touched. We spoke for a few minutes.
“You’re doing kiruv, ” said Glen.
Kiruv means bringing people closer to Judaism.
“I am? I thought I was just talking about my work.”
Over the next two days, I went to the teens. I spoke at the Solomon Schechter grade school, the local Conservative school; at the Alisa M. Flatow High School for Girls, an Orthodox Yeshiva; at Ma’ayanot, another all girls HS Yeshiva; and Ashar, a yeshiva elementary school. I signed hundreds of copies of The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden, answered hundreds of questions, and had a great time. I learned that Jewish kids are hungry for stories that feature Jewish heroes, that they are eager to read well written tales of action, adventure, romance — stories that convey true Jewish values.
I’m home now, exhausted, but happy.
My distributor tells me that there are only about 100 copies of hardcover edition of The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden left in the warehouse. We are preparing the softcover edition right now. It will be published in February.