Mar 10, 2014

Get to Know Hannah and Sandy!

Hannah is the star of Kar-Ben's newest Passover title The Littlest Levine. She's frustrated because, as the youngest member of the family, there aren't many things she can do on her own. But as Passover approaches, her grandfather helps her prepare for a very special task that only she can perform!

For a special preview, check out the book trailer!

Sandy Lanton is the author of The Littlest Levine, as well as today's guest blogger! Read below to hear more about her inspiration and her journey of becoming a children's book author:

"Like many writers, I get my inspiration from life experiences. When I was teaching nursery school at the local JCC, part of the Passover curriculum was teaching the four questions to my class of four year olds.  I was amazed at how easily these young children, who couldn’t tie their own shoes, could memorize the four questions and how beautifully they recited them. 

This idea took hold and germinated through the years. With each seder I attended, the impressions grew. As I worked on other stories, this one was always in the back of my mind. With the aid of my critique group and the Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators, (LICWI), the story underwent numerous revisions.  After it was accepted by KarBen, the editors made still more changes until the final version was achieved."

Q and A with author Sandy Lanton

When did you decide to become a writer?
When I was in the fifth grade, I wrote an essay about Theodore Roosevelt.  It was entered in a contest and I won first prize for my school.  I attended a party at Theodore Roosevelt’s townhouse in New York City where I met winners from other schools in the city.  I then wrote an article about the party for the school newspaper.  It was such a thrill to see my words and my name in print.  I was hooked.  I decided that someday I would be a writer.  My father thought that ambition wasn’t practical.  He suggested that I become a teacher and write during the summers.

Where did you study writing?
I enrolled in a children’s writing class with Connie Epstein, a retired editor, at Hofstra University and a two week summer workshop with children’s writer Johanna Hurwitz, along with a screen writing class.  I also attended the Highlights Foundation Summer Workshop at Chautauqua several times, the Vasssar College program in Children’s  Publishing and a private class with Pam Conrad, a great children’s writer.  I attended writing conferences given by the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and  I took author Brian Heinz’s summer writing workshop at Hofstra University.  I’m also a member of a critique group that grew out of Connie Epstein’s class and I’m an active member of the Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators, constantly trying to improve my writing skills.

What other jobs have you had?
I started babysitting when I was 12. My first after school job,  when  I was in high school, was selling school supplies at a local hardware store.  After that, I hung up clothes  at Alexander’s Department Store.  To this day, I won’t leave a mess behind in a fitting room.  I worked as a secretary in high school and college.  After graduation from Queens College, I taught kindergarten and then nursery school, toddler playgroup, Mommy and Me and Mom and Tot Playland.  I always joke that I started in kindergarten and worked my way down.  After I left teaching to become a stage mom and help my husband with his computer business, I started taking writing classes.  Later, I covered school board meetings for the local newspaper, sold books to libraries, and did data entry.

How long have you been writing?
Not counting the fifth grade, I’ve been writing for over thirty years.

How many children’s stories have you written? 
I’ve written over a hundred.  Five of them have been published as books, several others have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

Do you illustrate your own books?
No, I’m not an illustrator.  I’ve taken drawing and painting classes just for fun, but I’m not good enough to illustrate books.  I’d rather concentrate on my writing.

Where do you get your ideas?
As I mentioned earlier, I get most of my ideas from my life and my family.  Sometimes, I get an idea from a newspaper article.

I wrote DADDY’S CHAIR when my cousin died of cancer at the age of 46, leaving three children, ages 15, 12 and 6. Their mother asked me to locate books for them.  I was able to find plenty for the two older children but could get very little for six year old Jonathan.  I was taking a writing class with Pam Conrad, and she helped me with the manuscript. The stories that Aunt Rachel tells are true.  My grandfather owned a grocery store and my cousin Barbara and I played in the back while our mothers worked behind the counter.

LOTS OF LATKES is based on my extended family and LICWI.  Every year at Hanukkah, the family would gather at my Aunt Irene and Uncle George’s house.  We would bring our menorahs and line them up on the dining room table.  My Aunt would make the latkes, and we’d all contribute something to the meal. I always brought the salad.  Every summer, LICWI would have a pot-luck picnic in someone’s back yard, and we’d sign up at the May meeting for what we’d bring in July.  Very often, people would forget what they signed up for or they couldn’t get what they promised, and they’d bring something else.  I thought, WHAT IF everyone brought the same thing?  I set it a long time ago so they couldn’t just go to the local supermarket to get what they needed.

What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a story about bullying that came out of my own experience.  Actually, I shouldn’t say it’s finished, because it isn’t in print yet and an editor may have some useful suggestions.

To purchase The Littlest Levine, visit the Kar-Ben website!

To learn more about Sandy Lanton and her books, visit her website!

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