Aug 27, 2013

A Guest Post from "What a Way to Start a New Year!" Author Jacqueline Jules

Beginning the New Year in a new city isn't easy, and it definitely isn't starting out very well for Dina and her family! But when they're welcomed by warm and generous hosts in their new community it becomes a very happy New Year for all!

In today's guest blog post, author Jacqueline Jules tells us a little bit about the inspiration for her new Rosh Hashanah book, What a Way to Start a New Year!:

"I grew up in a small town in southern Virginia. There was only one synagogue in the surrounding area with a community of around 100 families. New faces didn’t walk through the door without being noticed, especially by my father. He made a point of introducing himself and making sure any newcomers had plans for holiday dinner. When Daddy brought new friends home unexpectedly, Momma would smile and set an extra place. My mom was an excellent cook, known for her homemade apple pies and tender brisket. We made many wonderful new friends at our holiday table.

As a child, watching my parents observe the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim—welcoming guests—I never imagined that I would one day move to a new community at the High Holidays myself. My first Rosh Hashanah as a newlywed was spent with generous hosts in Pittsburgh who realized a young couple would prefer brisket and honey cake in a warm home, rather than a motel efficiency. In my adult life, I have moved several times to new cities. Each time, visiting a synagogue, where I heard familiar tunes and prayers, helped me to adjust to new surroundings.  

In What a Way to Start a New Year, Dina and Harry fear that moving will ruin their Rosh Hashanah holiday. They want to go back to Greenville. “In Greenville we had friends,” Dina says. “In Greenville we didn’t get lost on the way to the grocery store.” But their plans are ruined by car troubles and the family returns to packing boxes and leftover pizza. “No brisket? No honey cake?” the kids complain. “What a way to start a new year!” Happily, Dad suggests that the family attends services at a nearby synagogue, where new friends welcome them just as my parents welcomed newcomers many years ago." 
For a sneak peak at What a Way to Start a New Year! check out the book trailer!
Q & A with Jacqueline Jules
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
My favorite book was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I adored the idea of little people under the floorboards swiping all the things I could never find. I still think there must be little people in my house, borrowing all the items I can't locate when I need them.
What's your favorite line from a book?
"Maybe, if you aren't unhappy sometimes, you don't know how to be happy." - from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Why did you want to become an author?
I became an author because I love to play with words. Words give us the means to communicate with others. We speak them, we write them, and we read them. My love of words began with my love of reading. As a child, I sat for hours - sometimes in the crook of an apple tree, sometimes in an easy chair - lost in absorbing mysteries, fantasies, biographies, and realistic or historical fiction. I didn't have much preference, and still don't for a particular genre. I am just an enthusiastic fan of a good story with compelling characters.
Do you have any advice for future authors?
Remember that it takes a very long time to become skilled at any art form. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers says it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to excel at something. I totally agree. I've been practicing my craft for over 30 years, and it still takes many revisions before I get a story right. Writing is hard work. You need to have the patience and persistence to write and re-write.
How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
I hope children will empathize with the difficulties of feeling comfortable in a new place. I hope it will motivate them to reach out to newcomers.
What are some fun facts about you?
I love the color purple. My bedroom, my winter coat, and too many of my clothes and earring are purple. I also love puppets and have a huge collection of them. I love to sing for fun, especially at story time.
Anything else you would like to share with readers?
READ! READ! READ! Nothing expends your world and your mind like reading.
Jacqueline Jules is an award-winning author and poet. Her many children's books include The Hardest Word (National Jewish Book Award finalist), Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners Sarah Laughs and Benjamin and the Silver Goblet, the Ziz adventure series, and Once Upon a Shabbos. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and enjoys walking, reading, singing, and attending the theater. To learn more about her, please visit

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