2020 Jewish Book Council Seminar

In these days of not going anywhere, I had a chance to attend and speak at an event I’d never been to before: the Jewish Book Council’s annual Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Seminar, held over Zoom this year. I was part of the Post-Publication Panel, along with Becca Kantor, Susan Kusel (my former Sydney Taylor committee chair!), and Carla Naumberg, moderated by Michal Malen. I was also in the audience for the Authors’ Panel with Natasha Díaz, Eric A. Kimmel, Gail Carson Levine, Lev Rosen, and Melissa Stoller, moderated by Tracy Brown; and the pre-publication panel with Karen Greenberg, Rebecca Kuss, Rebecca Podos, Joni Sussman, and Ariela Rudy Zaltzman, moderated by Neal Porter

Though the seminar was directed at creators of Jewish books, a lot of the discussion could have applied to any creator of books for young people. The authors shared their writing processes and their paths to publication; the pre-publication panel talked about everything from sensitivity readers to marketing; the subject of what’s changed for each aspect of the industry during the pandemic came up often. On our own panel, we talked about what happens to books later in the process: ARCs, F&Gs, and how books reach reviewers and award committees

There was also some discussion more specific to Jewish books, from the eternal question of “what makes a Jewish book?” to wish lists, from members of multiple panels, for what we’d like to see more of in Jewish books. On our panel, Carla and I, and Susan at impassioned length, expressed a wish for — among other things — more books about holidays that aren’t Hanukkah and Passover (we have a lot of holidays!); more moments and people from Jewish history that have nothing to do with the Holocaust (we have a lot of those, too); more contemporary stories; more humor; more graphic novels; and more representation of the many kinds of diversity in the Jewish community. 

It was a lot of fun to be part of the event. Here’s hoping everyone came away (if you can “come away” from an event in your living room) with some good ideas. 

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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Faigie Horowitz

Yes, Shoshana. It was all of that in an atmosphere of community and real caring for the writers and readers of Jewish kidlit.

Posted : Nov 18, 2020 03:19


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