Writing religious children’s books is a very niche market, but one a lot of writers would like to break into. Our latest interviewee, Joy Wieder, has been writing within this market for a long time now, and she officially has her FIRST picture book debuting in 2020!
If you’ve ever wanted to find a home for your story in the religious market, check out this interview!
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Full Interview with Joy Wieder on her Latest Picture Book:
1. Your new book, The Passover Mouse, debuts in January. Tell us a little bit about the book.
The Passover Mouse is a rollicking, funny, and ultimately inspiring story that weaves together the themes of community, kindness, charity, and forgiveness.
In this charming Passover story, a little mouse disrupts a town’s preparations for the holiday when it steals a piece of leavened bread–or chometz–just as all the houses have been swept clean in time for the holiday. On the morning before the start of Passover, all the villagers have swept their homes clean of leavened bread, in keeping with the traditions of the holiday. Suddenly, a small mouse steals a piece of bread and tears through the town, spoiling everyone’s hard work.
But just when it seems as if the townsfolk will never be ready for their Seder, the little mouse’s actions unwittingly bring everyone together, to work as a group to save the holiday.
2. Where did your idea come from to write this story?
It is an original tale based on the Talmud, a collection of Jewish laws with commentaries by ancient rabbis. I stumbled across the passage of Talmud while doing research for another book I was writing set in ancient Jerusalem called The Secret Tunnel.
In the tractate discussing all the laws and rituals of Passover, I read a discussion by the rabbis about the possibility of a mouse bringing bread into a house that had already been searched for chometz. They wondered if the house would have to be searched again and came up with several scenarios – what if a mouse with a piece of bread went into a house, but a different mouse came out of the house carrying a piece of bread? Is the second mouse is carrying the same piece of bread or a different piece?
The rabbis went around and around the issue, but in the end, they never made a decision. I was in shock! How could the rabbis take so much time to discuss an issue and then leave the question unanswered? I knew I had to come up with an answer and finally solve the ancient conundrum.
3. Is this your first children’s book?
I’ve had several early chapter books and educational books published, but this is my first picture book ☺
4. Congratulations! What other kinds of books have you published?
I’ve published several Jewish books for children, including a book on Shabbat and two historical fiction chapter books – one about my family in Warsaw, Poland during WWI and one about an ancient tunnel in Jerusalem called Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
5. You’ve been in the children’s book realm for a while now. How have children’s books changed since you first started writing?
I’ve noticed that the word count for picture books has gotten shorter and shorter over time. When I pulled out my old manuscript for The Passover Mouse, I had to cut about 200 words to make it fit the current market.
I first wrote the story in 2002 and it won an award for unpublished Jewish stories in 2004, but it didn’t find a home at that time. It wasn’t until it won an honorable mention in the SCBWI/PJ Library Jewish Stories Award in 2018 that it got traction, and now it will be published in 2020 – that’s 18 years in the making!
6. For someone wanting to make a long career in children’s literature like you, what would you say would be your best advice for them?
Patience and persistence! It takes a thick skin to weather all the rejection and to continue writing and submitting – but keep at it! Sometimes it just takes time for the right story to find the right fit. I’d say that The Passover Mouse is a story whose time has come.
7. What’s your favorite part of writing for children?
Writing for children is my creative outlet. It allows me to tell my stories to an audience who is open to imagination, learning, and growing.
And for the Jewish stories, it allows me to continue a tradition that I learned from my parents and what they learned from their parents. It is a commandment in Judaism to “teach them diligently to your children” and I feel that I’m fulfilling that commandment through my books.
8. What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your publishing journey?
It’s been difficult finding the right audience. Some of my stories have been too religious for mainstream publishers while some are not religious enough for Jewish publishers. I give credit to PJ Library for invigorating the Jewish children’s book market and creating a demand for quality Jewish children’s books that didn’t exist before.
9. Your writing tends to have a religious slant. What’s your best advice for someone hoping to write a religious children’s book?
Find a subject that hasn’t been covered before and present it in a way that is relevant and interesting for children. A friend commented to me that I have a way of bringing ancient texts to life for children.
10. And finally, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received that has helped with your writing?
There are so many pearls of wisdom, such as don’t talk down to children; don’t be didactic; the rule of three; or the child must solve his or her own problem. But as my editor said, the main thing that an author must do is be a good storyteller. It’s all about the story!
Thank you so much to Joy Wieder for sharing her publishing journey with us! If you’d like to learn more about her and The Passover Mouse, visit her website here.
And for more author interviews, check out these around the blog:
- How to Find Your Voice with Elisa Boxer
- Self Publishing Your Kid’s Book with Darcy Pattison
- Being Patient & Persistent with Brian Gehrlein
- Hugs for New Picture Book Author Amy Nielander