April Halprin Wayland
won the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award for her picture book New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story
. She will be speaking at the 2010 AJL Convention, and will also be an honored guest at the Tuesday night gala, where she will receive her award.April, the first AJL convention you ever attended was in 2009 in Chicago. The very next year, you’re attending as an honored guest, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award! Please talk a little about that transformation.
Honestly, I attended the AJL convention because it was the week prior to ALA in the same Chicago hotel, I finally had a Jewish book coming out…and I had frequent flyer miles. Since I live in Southern California, this was a magic one-two punch—how could I NOT attend?
I didn’t know much about AJL but I’d known Susan Dubin for years in Los Angeles—in fact, she was one of the first readers of an early version of New Year at the Pier (and thank goodness for her terrific comments on that 2003 manuscript!)—but I had NO IDEA she was a mover and shaker in AJL until much later—silly me!
I’ve always loved the excitement of ALA and didn’t know what to expect at the AJL. The intimacy of this convention and the warm and welcoming hugs won me over. I enjoyed the Authors and Illustrators luncheon, loved attending sessions and gathering informally with attendees and other authors.
There was one amazing evening of pizza and camaraderie at certified “readiologist” Esmé Raji Codell’s Planet Esme Reading Room
—a private, magical library which Esmé opens to speakers, writing groups, class field trips and gatherings like ours.
I was utterly star struck by you Heidi, by Barbara Beitz and others, including Mark Blevis of Just One More Book
. I am still starstruck by you, Heidi!
Another favorite memory is when I nervously introduced myself to Natalie Blitt, program director of the PJ Library.
I wanted to ask her how to submit my book for consideration by her organization. She looked at me a bit surprised…and then smiled. “New Year at the Pier
is on our list. It’s being sent out in August.” ALREADY on their list? Already a special edition printed to be sent in August? I was over the moon!Are you working on any new books, especially anything with Jewish content? Please tell us about your recent writing.
I am working on several books…one is a picture book with a Jewish theme. But I’ve learned that if I talk about an idea before it’s fully hatched, energy leaks out of it… It’s an idea I’ve been playing with for years. I recently wrote a poem incorporating this topic and that has helped me structure the book. Fingers crossed!
What else am I up to? I’ve been teaching a class on writing picture books for ten years through the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. In addition to that one, I’ll be rolling out a new class this summer which I’m looking forward to.
And I took the Poem-A-Day Challenge for National Poetry Month, which was scary because it can take weeks for me to write one poem. Write a poem every single day and post it for all to read? But I did and I can actually say that it changed my life.You can read the poems at http://www.aprilwayland.com/poetry/poetry-month
.Can you give us a recommendation for any recent Jewish books you enjoyed?
I am embarrassed to say that I’ve just discovered the 2006 book, Across the Alley
by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Putnam, 2006). Michelson wrote the wonderful As Good as Anybody
, illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf, 2009), about Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel [which won the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award].
I bought both books at The AJL’s Western Regional Jewish Literature for Children Conference this year in Los Angeles.The Seattle area is the home of both Amazon and Apple. What’s your preference, Kindle or iPad? What are your feelings on digital books, and the online world in general?
I love the size of my Kindle, which revolutionized my reading. But holding my Kindle as they introduce the iPad is like owning a black and white TV when they introduced color. Suddenly I am drooling over the newest thing. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? That, my friend, is the glory and the danger of how our appetites for new stuff are created. (See The Story of Stuff
As a poet and the author of a novel in poems and several picture books, I am waiting for the next generation of digital reader that allows us to increase the font size without messing with the alignment of each poem or the arrangement of text next to an illustration. It doesn’t work yet but it will…soon.
As I said, my Kindle, which my husband and son gave me as a surprise when New Year at the Pier
was first published, has changed me as a reader. I can read effortlessly at night when my eyes are tired, of course.
But more than that: when my mother, a voracious reader, was in an auto accident on a Sunday and needed a book, the fact that I could download one instantly and teach this 87-year-old technophobe to use it in a few minutes was a game changer for us both.
And when we were in Kauai, Hawaii, looking for Makua Beach where the sea turtles hang out, I downloaded a copy of Hidden Kauai
as we were driving! That made my husband a true believer.What are you most looking forward to about visiting Seattle?
Seeing my cousins! Pike’s market and local thrift stores!
Okay, for a more erudite answer, I can’t wait to take in all the convention has to offer…especially after a year of presenting my first Jewish book at workshops, schools and synagogues.
Also, I’m crossing my fingers that Stéphane Jorisch
, the illustrator of New Year at the Pier
will be able to attend the convention. I’ve never met him but I adore the man from his kind emails and his extraordinary art.April, as always, we love your enthusiasm! We can't wait to see you in Seattle!
Thanks, Heidi. And one final thing? Please listen to and then pass on: Circulate This: Stories from the School Library
/) It’s a wonderful NPR-style audio magazine of interviews with teacher librarians, library staff, teachers, community members, parents, administrators, an author and most importantly, students…telling personal stories of the importance of school libraries and teacher librarians in their lives. (It’s about 47 min. long…I’m interviewed 20-24 minutes in.)
Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us what you did!