What it takes to write a book

Getting my first novel published just over a year ago is undoubtedly the thing I’m most grateful for. That it wasn’t hard to find a publisher for it and that I found a wonderful illustrator to do the cover art also were part of that mix.

However, the work leading up to it was hard and long.

I started writing the novel in 2010 at a UCLA four-day workshop called How to Write Your First Novel. I decided to take that class to get away from the frustrations of trying to get my memoir published. I was querying like mad but nothing was working, so a change in pace was necessary. I already had an idea – taken from the life story my aunt wrote not long before she died. She wrote about a young man – actually a teacher – who took her to school plays and concerts when she was a senior in high school. When her brother – actually my father – found out he wasn’t Jewish, he made his family move to Chicago from their small town in mid Illinois so that she could find a nice Jewish man to marry.

Since she wrote about him with such detail – what he looked like, how he dressed, and that she even remembered his name – so many years later made me think she really must have loved that teacher.  I immediately decided to write a book that would end up with her marrying her true love rather than the Milquetoast man she married. Though dating a teacher might not have been a no-no in those olden days, in my book I turned him into a college student who directed the senior high school class play.

The people in the workshop thought it was a good idea so I started. However, almost immediately I sold my memoir to a publisher and had to spend the next months revising it and getting it ready for publication. The novel went on hold at that point. In fact it went on hold a lot for the first few years because of all the marketing obligations of a newly published memoir. Finally when I could really spend time on it, I took it through another more advanced novel writing class at UCLA, a revision class, three groups of outside Beta readers, two editors, and my last reader, my husband, who of course found more things I needed to change. Nine years and ten revisions since the start of that first UCLA workshop, it was ready to see the light of day.

Papa’s Shoes: A Polish shoemaker and his family settle in small-town America, my historical novel that takes place in the early 1900s was published on April 25, 2019.

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