"People of the Books" Blog

Convention Countdown, Week 6: Wendy Marcus

Wendy Marcus, the music director at Temple Beth Am in Seattle, has been hard at work on arrangements for the AJL Convention!




Wendy, you will be wearing several hats at the AJL convention, as a presenter and as a musician. Can you tell us a little about your various AJL activities?

Full disclosure: I am a daughter of a librarian.

I’m connected to NW AJL Chapter president Toby Harris through Temple Beth Am, in Seattle’s Jewishly happening North End, where I am music director and editor of Drash: Northwest Mosaic. Toby and Ronnie’s daughters were Bat Mitzvah students of mine!

I’ve scheduled musicians and presenters for the open-to-the-public afternoon on Sunday, July 4, and will serve as emcee. As well, on Tuesday, July 6 at 10:30am, I will gab about community building with the creation of an annual Jewish/Northwest literary journal, Drash: Northwest Mosaic – we’re releasing Volume IV! -- and about Drash readings in farflung corners of the region (fair number of ferries involved).

Your book, Polyglot, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Please tell us a little about the book!

Since 2004, I’ve been writing short stories, especially when inspired by unforgettable characters. I gathered those characters up into Polyglot: Stories of the West’s Wet Edge and won the 2009 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award from Georgia’s Snake Nation Press. Polyglot chronicles lives between Vancouver, BC, and Vancouver, Washington. The stories are linked by the advice of a gay Gypsy columnist (I am a former newspaper reporter), and there are sprinklings from ten different languages (hence the book’s title) – including the language of my heart,Yiddish. The Jewish Book Council kindly named Polyglot one of three finalists in its annual contest this spring. A sequel is in the works.

Studies have shown that Seattle is the most literate city in the nation. What makes Seattle such a great place for reading and libraries?

Between October and April, when skies are gray and sodden here, a good book and a hot cup of coffee keep serious depression at bay! While Seattleites love a good chat and at the slightest sun break leave work early to kayak, hike, bike, run, ski, or garden, we seek individual space, humbled by our dramatic natural elements. There’s a loner streak in us – we like to think, write, read, observe – alone; our external landscape mirrors our internal one.

Can you give us a recommendation for any recent Jewish books you enjoyed?

If you can overlook the typos, Borgo Press has come out with an edited version of short stories by Montague Glass (1877-1934), Potash and Perlmutter, about fictitious partners Abe Potash and Morris Perlmutter, and immigrant foibles in New York’s garment industry. While the dialog is dated and laced with wacky Yidddishisms and German-Jewishisms, the book is a valuable curio. It provides a lowbrow glimpse into the way people in the shmatte business really spoke and lived in the 1910s and 1920s. My grandfather, Louis Marcus, was in the ribbon business in NYC and the book allows me to imagine the kind of schmoozing that went on between him, competitors, buyers, salesmen, and social climbers.

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?

Feh. I don’t even have a cell phone.

What Seattle experience should visitors be sure not to miss?

Take a round-trip ferry ride between downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island (about 40 minutes one way). Horizon to horizon mountains, glorious fresh air and all these guys baring their chests in 50-degree sunshine!

MENTION CONVENTION

 

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 [email protected] to tell us what you did!

Link Roundup

Here are some great articles, book reviews and news on Jewish books, publishing and libraries this week.

Book review: The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor at the Indiana University Press blog.

Lemon Cake Rising at EarlyWord.com.

Library Blog Awards Announced at Points of Reference. Maybe AJL next year?

Not Your Father's Fiction Guide, a review of American Jewish Fiction, by Sanford Pinsker at JBooks.com.

Happy 122nd Birthday, JPS! at JPS.com.

Israeli author scoops German literary peace prize, at Yahoo.com.

The Skala Yizkor Book at Shtetlinks.jewishgen.org.

Judaica Librarians' Group (Israel)

This news item came to our attention thanks to Ya'akov Aronson.

JUDAICA LIBRARIANS' GROUP (ISRAEL)
Spring Study Day

Forty librarians from all over the country gathered at the National Library of Israel on 28 April to participate in the Spring Study Day of the Judaica Librarians' Group.  The event took place in the newly renovated lecture hall of the National Library's Music and Sound Archives Collection.

At a brief business meeting held before the lectures Haim Levi of the Hebrew Cataloging Department of the National Library of Israel (NLI) was chosen to serve as Chairman of the group.  The existing Steering
Committee of six members from five institutions will continue to assist the new Chairman.  It was also decided to hold the study days semiannually.

Opening the program was Gil Weissblei, Director of the Chaim Hazaz archive at NLI.  He talked about the ethical dilemma confronting an archivist when having to deal with an archive whose owner requested that all his papers be destroyed but his executor decided that the material was of such importance that it should be preserved.  Examples were drawn from the conflicts that arose concerning the archives of Chaim Hazaz and Franz Kafka.

Arnon Hershkovitz, Founder of the Internet Forum Family Roots, discussed resources for genealogical research available on the Internet as well in printed format.

Project Europeana Judaica, a part of the larger Europeana project to create a multi-lingual online collection of millions of digitized items from European museums, libraries, and archives, was described
by the Director of the Israeli section of the project, Dov Weiner. The Israel National Library has recently joined the project and will provide important items for the collection.

Closing the day Dr. Gila Flam, Director of the National Library's Music and Sound Archives Collection, discussed the unique challenges encountered in digitizing a music collection of over 30,000 hours recorded in many different formats over more than half a century.

Convention Countdown, Week 5: April Halprin Wayland

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 ofHidden 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(http://www.csla.net/audio/) 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.)

MENTION CONVENTION

 

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 [email protected] to tell us what you did!

Nonfiction Monday: The Man Who Flies with Birds, by Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem

The Man Who Flies with Birds, by Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem. Published 2009 by Kar-Ben Publishing. Hardcover.

Today's Nonfiction Monday features Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem's wonderful book, The Man Who Flies with Birds. The Man Who Flies with Birds is a profile of Yossi Leshem, an internationally recognized bird expert who has spent much of his life researching bird-migration problems over Israel so as to prevent injuries and deaths to both birds and humans by reducing the number and frequency of "bird strikes"- incidences where a bird or group of bird strikes a man-made aircraft, which causes numerous accidents every year.

As it happens, Israel is an important part of worldwide bird migration and studying this problem has lead to a greater understanding of bird behavior. This detailed, beautifully written book gives an impressive overview of many elements of the problem- everything from the physics of bird flight to the effects of thermals, or so-called "elevators of the sky" on birds' flight paths and migratory habits.

One of Leshem's main goals has been to increase awareness of bird conservation and protection, as well as to save human lives. The success of his work has depended on cooperation from neighboring countries and now several countries in the region are in the early stages of building a regional warning system to alert each other of bird migrations and possible problems for aircraft.

The Man Who Flies with Birds is a wonderful book to share with children. Illustrated throughout with photographs as well as scientific illustrations, its complex information is accessible and easy to read. It's a fascinating, informative story of one man's work to make the skies a little safer and children will learn a little science along with a good message about caring for nature.

Nonfiction Monday is a moving meme headquartered at Picture Book of the Day and hosted this week at Charlotte's Library.