Latkes for Santa Claus, isn’t that a great title for a children’s book? I’m so excited to interview the author, Janie Emaus, as she launches her debut picture book this week. Janie and I became friends through email, and now we are virtual friends through social media. I was impressed by her writing career and pleased to learn more about her through our interview.
Barb: Tell us a little bit about yourself and include a tidbit of information not many people know about you.
Janie: As a little girl I would read the paper to my sister and incorporate her name into the article. Her laughter and delight in hearing herself mentioned gave me such pleasure and a boost of confidence. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I started making up stories about all my friends and eventually moved on to short stories and poetry.
In fact, most people don’t know I had aspirations of becoming a Poet Laureate. Although, I did publish several poems in college anthologies and chapbooks, I realized that life as poet might be glamorous and romantic but it wouldn’t earn enough to buy my family dinner, let alone coffee and muffins.
Throughout my writing career, I’ve had several agents, some good, some no better than that watered down cup of coffee I bought after selling my first poem. I learned that no agent is better than a bad one. And I stayed with several long after the romance had left the building.
I write in several genres, with humor being the common thread. We need to laugh, especially in today’s world. To quote Erma Bombeck, one of my favorite authors, “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”
Latkes for Santa Claus
Barb: You are going to be launching your first children’s picture book called Latkes for Santa Claus on October 13, 2020. Congratulations! Tell us about your journey in writing this book
Janie: Having been raised Jewish, I celebrated my first Christmas after marrying my husband. When our daughter was born, I looked for books to read to her about families that embraced both holidays. Not finding anything, I decided to write my own.
And of course, because I knew there was a need for this story, it would sell easy peasy. How wrong I was!
It took decades for this story to find a home. The only thing which has remained the same is the title.
It started off in verse. I had an agent at that time and she sent it to various publishers. No one needed another holiday book.
I put it away for a few months and then began rewriting. The revision process continued for many years, off and on. When I got stuck, I would put Latkes aside and work on my women’s fiction novel or a short story.
Last year I worked with an accomplished picture book author and revised yet again. And again.
In December 2019, I entered #Pitmad. For those not familiar with this event, it takes place four times a year on Twitter. Writers tweet a 280-character pitch along with hashtags designating the genre of the project. Agents and editors make requests by liking the tweeted pitch.
I tweeted my pitch on a Thursday morning and Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press liked it that afternoon. I sent her the manuscript on Saturday. On Monday, she emailed that she “loved the story.” And on Tuesday, she offered me a contract!
Before hiring an illustrator, Nicole wanted to know my vision for the story. A few weeks later Bryan Langdo accepted an offer to do the illustrations.
And then it finally sunk in. My story, the one I loved and slaved over, was really going to be a book!
These are Latkes. Yum!
Mercury in Retro Love
Barb: According to your website, you are a very busy lady, having published a young adult novel as well as produced several educational videos. You’ve also written short stories for anthologies, books, and magazines. Tell us about these writing endeavors.
Janie: My young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love, was originally published by a small press which went out of business. The rights reverted back to me and I self-published it in order to keep the book out in the world. Four times a year, during Mercury in Retrograde, I’ll run freebie on this book in order to get readers’ attention.
As for the anthologies, I regularly attend conferences, follow editors and agents on Twitter and belong to several writing related Facebook groups. Through these avenues, I learn about anthologies looking for submissions. And I’ve come to know several great editors who will reach out to me when they are looking for material for their websites or magazines.
Barb: If writing books and articles doesn’t keep you busy enough, you’re even a blogger. Tell us about your blog.
Janie: I have a blog called The Boomerrants, geared toward Baby Boomers. In the past I wrote many pieces about life Then vs life Now.
Currently, I’m blogging on Medium where I write about everything. Sometimes, I think I should focus on one topic, but my imagination won’t listen to logic. Although, everything usually is humorous.
For me, blogging is often a jumping off point for a short story or novel. When I feel blocked on a particular scene or idea, I find that writing short pieces stimulates my mind and opens the door for all those words waiting to fly out and breathe.
In addition, with blogging there is that instant gratification of reaching an audience without having to wait months or years for publication.
Barb: Do you have any advice for someone who is starting out as a new author?
Janie: My number one advice is write what you love. I know the tendency is to write for the market, for the trend at the moment. But remember, by the time you finish your manuscript, something else will be the new “thing.”
Join a critique group of like-minded writers. I was in a critique group for over twenty years. Our weekly meetings kept me motivated. Listen to your critique partners’ advice, but don’t lose sight of your vision.
Also, join organizations geared toward your genre. I’m a member of SCBWI, WFWA, and RWA. All three have been invaluable to my success.
And attend conferences. At these events, you will meet editor and agents who are eager to read submissions from attendees.
But most important, don’t give up!
Barb: Tell us what you do in your spare time.
Janie: Spare time? What is that? No, seriously, I love to walk, swim and read. Walking helps me plot my stories as well as keeping me in shape. Sitting in front a computer is good for the mind, but not so much for an aging butt!
Working on Now
Barb: Tell us what you are working on now.
Janie: I’m always working on more than one project at a time. I’m currently working on a sequel to Latkes for Santa Claus and the first book in time travel series, The Time Traveling Matchmaker, which I sold to Wild Rose Press. And then of course, my blogging.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog!
Barb: It was my pleasure.
There’s hope, #writingcommunity, you really can be found by editors and agents during #PitMad, so keep pitching.
Books for Sale
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