Archive for August, 2010

The Art of Beginning… Again. Renewel:

Monday, August 30th, 2010

This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.

One night, staring bleary-eyed at Facebook, I came upon a quote:

“A man’s work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

The quote was uncredited, so I didn’t know I was reading Camus at first. I just thought my brother Henry was being even more eloquent than usual.  But regardless, I stared at the line, and felt a kind of tingle.  Because for me, the quote describes so perfectly what life truly is. A series of familiar beginnings, through which we are allowed to redefine and revise our world, and in doing so, redefine and revise ourselves.

Through which we learn the lessons we have been learning all along.

This process can feel frustrating at times, as though we’re perpetually banging our heads against the same wall. Coming back to the beginning of the same maze again and again.  But the thing is, we come back to the beginning changed each time.  If we are present enough to see the difference.

Life is art. Art is life.  As writer, I revise with words. But just as easily, I could be a gardener, a chef, a friend, a watcher—revisiting a garden, an eggplant, a conversation, a streetscape through a window.  In any medium, there is something to be gained from a new angle, a new approach.

My father, who loved math and numbers, became an engineer because he had a family to support. Then in his fifties, he reimagined himself, went back to school, and became an economist. Poof! A new life.  Numbers counted through a different lens.

My mother, who had me when she was still pretty much a kid herself, wasn’t able to travel, so instead she read her way across Europe.  Novels and poems gave her the world she craved.  Now, at sixty, she takes French classes on the weekends and spends her summers overseas.  But really, every year of her life she has been traveling in one way or another.

You can see my parents’ paths as early compromises if you want to, see them as misspent youth.  Or you can view those decades as early incarnations.  Chapters waiting to be revised.   Promises of adventures to come

So I take this as my definition of renewal—this hunt for the next version. Renewal  not as the chance to start with a blank slate, which is what I thought this season was about as a kid.  But renewal as a chance to see and do the same things again, differently.   To approach, as I find them, my heart-opening images, and to translate them each time with new eyes.    So that I may be  changed by my experience of revisiting, and by every moment in time.


Sunday, August 29th, 2010

This week, the Georgia Center for the Book announced the very first list of “25 books  young Georgians should read.” And guess what?  ANY WHICH WALL was on the list!

I’m hugely honored of course, and it was super fun to get together with a great group of writers for the reception.  But perhaps the best part of the experience for me was that for the first time, standing in a room full of friends, I really did feel like an actual “Georgia writer.”

For the last 6 years I’ve expended a lot of energy thinking about whether my family was going to stay in Atlanta, or move (likely back to the Midwest or the Mid Atlantic).  All along, it felt a little odd to become too involved locally if I was  going to uproot the minute I got settled.

But then, this spring, we bought a new house, and moved into a neighborhood that makes us really happy, and my husband found a new job that he really likes. And for the first time– Atlanta fit us.  In a way that felt fully sustainable.  Each week, for the last few months, as I’ve wandered around the Farmer’s Market, or grabbed a bite to eat near my house, I have felt like I’m right where I should be.  Funny.

So in a way, the reception he other night felt like a physical celebration of that for me.  It felt like I was graduating to being a Georgian or something.  I looked around at so many friends and thought to myself–why would I leave this world of writers, of friends?

Lately, it feels like there’s a rising tide here. I meet more and more writers in Atlanta.  In the oddest places. And though Atlanta can be a hard place to build a community–because it is just so big and sprawly and decentralized–it does seem like something is happening.  Folks I met when I moved here, who were struggling to publish, are suddenly selling books. Old writer-friends from elsewhere are suddenly relocating to Atlanta.  And people like me who were planning to leave are staying.  Then, between organizations like the Georgia Center for the Book and the Decatur Book Festival and a crop of new booktores, it feels like we have a structure too, a support system.

So here I am, an Atlanta writer, waiting to see what’s going to happen next. And thankful to be part of it all!

Thanks to the Georgia Center for the Book, and to Joe Davich and Bill Starr for all their hard work and vision.  Thanks to Elizabeth Dulemba for being a tireless advocate for children’s literature.  And thanks to the other writers who make Georgia someplace I want to call home.

Hillel: The Job of Being Jewish…

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Today I explain Baxter’s dedication, over at the JBC Blog!

“Jerry isn’t my husband or my father or my esteemed ex-writing-professor. Jerry Sorokin is the director of Hillel at the University of Iowa. For one short year of my life he was my boss, at the job I only took because I was tired of waiting tables, and because I needed healthcare. It was a year that changed my life in many ways.”

Baxter’s Birthday Bits…

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

  1. And yes, it’s about a pig. Who wants to be kosher. But really, it’s about what’s at the heart of Judaism – what matters, what doesn’t, and who is welcome at our tables and in our homes. (Beliefnet/Homeshuling)
  2. We are thrilled that this influential voice is providing a message of inclusion in her writing that will resonate with today’s diverse Jewish families. (Jewish Outreach Institute)
  3. When I talk about how I came to write books for children, I often leave out an important part of the story—the miserable failures. There were (and continue to be) many of them. But in particular, there were many failed attempts to write Jewish picture books for intermarried families. (Jewish Books Council/ My Jewish Learning)
  4. (Humor + heart + Judaism – overkill + some terrific illustrations + meaning + humor. Did I mention humor?) (Madelyn Rosenberg)
  5. I recommend Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher for the home library, as well as for inclusive school, church, and temple libraries.  Although the concepts are related to Jewish traditions, it is not overtly religious; I consider it to be an excellent multicultural picture book. (She is Too Fond of Books)
  6. Mazel tov, Laurel. I’m looking forward to reading “Baxter” with my daughters. Perhaps they could help with a sequel called “Baxter: The Pig Who Lost His Mezuzah”? (In the Mix)
  7. For someone like me who grew up in a small southern town with no synagogue nor Jewish community presence, Baxter was a great educator as I read and re-read his story last evening (Rasco from RIF)


Monday, August 23rd, 2010


I’m so so so proud of you. I can’t believe you actually exist.

Come to think of it… you look kind of surprised too!

Baxter’s Birthday Week!!!

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

In honor of BAXTER…

I’m guest blogging this week, for the awesome folks at My Jewish Learning/ The Jewish Books Council.  Today I’m talking about how Baxter came to be, and a bit about the books that didn’t come to be.  Check it out!

Five days to BAXTER…

Thursday, August 19th, 2010




Friday, August 13th, 2010


The official announcement:

BAXTER, THE PIG WHO WANTED TO BE KOSHER author Laurel Snyder’s WALK TO THE WIDE SKY, a lyrical retelling of the Book of Exodus, to Emily Seife at Schwartz & Wade, by Tina Wexler at ICM (World).

This picture book has had its own long long  walk… it began forever ago, as a poem.  A poem I wrote (Sadly, I no longer have a copy)  in Tennessee for a political poetry class I took with Earl Braggs, and which I performed with a group of other readers, (in a round, if you can believe that) at Barking Legs Theater.

A few years later, I tried again to write about the plagues, in grad school, while studying with Marvin Bell. That go-around the poems was  published in the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, and a revised version was reprinted at Poets Against the War.

This version is very different. It’s pretty dark, but  not bleak I don’t think.  Not despairing. It’s forward-looking, Egypt seen through the eyes of a young boy.  The difference between the two version is, I think, a difference of  seven years, and motherhood.

I can’t wait to see art!


Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I have been too busy/nuts to sit down and really think about this fall. I have been avoiding any rational consideration of the fact that the calendar is finite.  LALALALALALALALALALALA!

But now it is hitting me that what I am about  to attempt  (in some cases with my kids in tow) is INSANE.  Here’s my schedule:

August 28-29 Suwanee Book Festival (Metro Atlanta)
September 3-5 Decatur Book Festival (Atlanta)
September 11 Lititz Kidlit Festival (Lititz, PA)
September 25 Midtown Festival of the Arts (Atlanta)
October 5-8 school visit (Pikesville, MD)
October 17, Jewish Books Council Event (DC)
October 22, Square Books Jr (Oxford, MS)
October 23 Lemuria Books (Jackson, MS)
October 31 Jewish Books Council Event (Denver, CO)
November 7 Jewish Books Council Event #1 (Detroit)
November 7 Jewish Books Council Event #2 (Detroit)
November 11 Jewish Books Council Event (Milwaukee)
November 14 Jewish Books Council Event (Atlanta)
November 19 Jewish Books Council Event (Virginia Beach)
November 19 Jewish Books Council Event (Bridgewater NJ)
November 21 Jewish Books Council Event (Louisville, KY)
December 6 Jewish Books Council Event (St Louis, MO)

The truly spectacular  day is November 19, when I somehow manage to be in Both Virginia and New Jersey.

A prediction:  by the time this is over I will have either gained or lost at least ten pounds. Yeesh!

A request: if you live in (or near) one of these places, come visit me. We can eat pizza in my hotel room or fall asleep on the lobby bar. Since that’s about all I’ll be good for.

School Library Journal!!!

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Reviews are coming in for BAXTER, and he is delighted!

PreS-Gr 2–Baxter desperately wants to experience Shabbat dinner, the special Friday-night meal that ushers in the Jewish day of rest. He wants to see for himself how “the candles gleam and glow and dance while our sweetest voices lift in song.” When he learns that pork is a forbidden food according to Jewish law, he stuffs his face with kosher pickles and raisin challah, hoping to become kosher. He even tries, unsuccessfully, to become a cow. Finally, an encounter with a kind rabbi sets him straight. She explains that while he’s not kosher to eat, never will be, and really wouldn’t want to be, everyone is welcome at Shabbat dinner. Baxter enjoys a marvelous evening with the rabbi, pigging out on kugel, a Jewish casserole dish, and realizing that it is much better to be a guest than an item on the menu. The delightfully expressive and comical pen-and-ink illustrations are digitally enhanced with photographs of storefronts, deli counters, pickle jars, and traditional Jewish foods. While animals celebrating Shabbat isn’t new–think Sylvia A. Rouss’s Sammy Spider’s First Shabbat (1998), Diane Rauchwerger’s Dinosaur on Shabbat (2006), and Jacqueline Jules’s Once Upon a Shabbos (1999, all Kar-Ben)–the idea of a pig wanting to become kosher will entertain children and the adults reading to them, especially those familiar with Jewish traditions.Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL