Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author I always wanted to meet because she wrote one of my favorite books, Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines. Sarah Aronson was more than happy to hop onto my blog. Here she is, discussing her new book Brand-New Bubbe illustrated by Ariel Landy and published by Charlesbridge.
BUT first- YAY! Sarah is generously giving away a FREE signed copy of her book. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. US only, contest ends Sept 16, 2022.
Please describe the journey to publication for Brand-New Bubbe. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
When my stepson and his wife called us with the news that they were having a baby–our first grandchild–I was (of course) immediately delighted for our family! I was so ready to be a bubbe! But then, a friend asked me if it bothered me that technically the baby and I would not be related! That question bugged me. It made me think about family and what it takes to blend two families into one…and the main ingredient to do that: LOVE! It got me thinking about those first years when my husband and I started dating and bringing our kids together, and how we needed to be patient for them to get to know each other and develop the bonds that make us a family. These are big emotions to write about. But writing about step-parents felt too close to home. So I thought deeper. About the other members of a family. Like bubbes! And how a child might feel at the prospect of getting a new grandparent on top of everything else. In Brand New Bubbe, I strived to let Jillian tell her story. I wanted to show how this child was able to bring her whole family together, with the help of my very favorite thing to make…soup! I tried to tell the story with some humor, too! That always helps! Like soup, family is made with love. And there is no one set recipe!
As for my writing journey, this one was 100% fun.
I loved writing about Jillian and Bubbe. I loved thinking about Jillian’s emotions and salty behavior as she got to know Bubbe. The pivotal revision occurred at an SCBWI conference in Miami! After lecturing about cinematic techniques, I sat in on (editor) Jill Davis’s session on making a picture book dummy. Of course, I’d made dummies before. But this time, it really clicked. I saw where the text was too long. And where it needed more umph. I could see I’d have room for the recipes and resources. After chatting with Yolanda Scott, who was also at that conference, my agent sent the revision to her and she said yes!
Most of my publication stories aren’t this neat. Most take a long time and many many twists. I am still a writer experimenting with genre, voice, and form. And that means a lot of my ideas don’t pan out. (I’m okay with that. The process is the point.) But this one, I have to believe, was meant to be! From the first draft, I felt it! I could hear the voice. Check my website for information on my program, The Family Constellation. Instead of a family tree, how about we honor all the people who bring light into our life. There is more than one way to define family.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
I loved writing this line: “Family is more than blood,” she said. “Give Bubbe a chance.” (And she wasn’t asking.)
But this one is my favorite:
Like soup, family was made with love. And there was always room for more.
What is your writing process, and does it change based on whether you write fiction or nonfiction?
Oh, my process changes all the time. Each project teaches me so much about the craft. But
some things remain consistent:
I believe in NEVER saying no to a good idea. When I catch some inspiration, even if I don’t feel ready or capable of writing it—really ESPECIALLY if I don’t—I go for it. I do not mind failing! Curiosity is my greatest strength.
I do four pomodoros most mornings. The down time between the writing sessions helps me find new connections and ideas as well as focus. I always end my writing day with some notes to myself about where I want to start tomorrow. I journal a lot from all my characters’ voices.
I am also a person who often has a couple of projects going—preferably at different stages. I like to have what I call “a peach sorbet” project—something just for me. No expectations!
When I’m stuck, I go to the journal. Side writing opens up possibilities. It helps me understand my characters, the setting, the connections, the contradictions. It shows me where I need to be braver. I never feel completely ready to tackle a story. I am never sure if I have the skills. If free writing doesn’t help, I doodle. Or draw squares. Or a swirly. Being stuck usually means something gigantic is coming. It is actually quite exhilarating. When I reach, I have the potential to soar.
And of course, I am always reading, learning, listening, watching the world, and asking big questions. That is our job. As writers, we must engage with our world. We must face our fears. Deal with what is happening around us. When we share who we are and what is important to us, our readers will connect with our stories.
Tell us about one of my favorite books, Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines.
Thank you! I LOVE RUBE, too!
From the time I saw the breakfast machine in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I have been fascinated by Rube Goldberg contraptions. I began researching and writing this book after I heard a friend read her picture book biography about Keith Haring. Her message and words got my brain swirling. I asked myself if there was someone I needed to write about—who could help me say what is important to me. And of course, it was Rube! Like me, Rube believed in play. In creativity. He was willing to try lots of stuff. Most people don’t realize that he wasn’t an inventor—he was an artist! When I realized that there wasn’t a picture book biography about him, I started shaking!
I loved learning about him! And now, I love bringing Rube to young readers. You would not believe what some of these young inventors create. Check out the human Rube Goldberg contraption on my website. (It is so much fun making a human contraption that returns a book to the library!) Rube inspires all kinds of creativity—in the arts and the sciences.
It is an honor to write a book about someone you admire. It is even more exciting to tell a story that allows you to say what you believe in your heart. My message is at the end of the book:
Figure out what you want, work as hard as you can, and most of all, have a great time getting there, just like Rube (and me, too)!
Please share your favorite books from 2021/2 that have inspired you.
Some of my favorite books are works in progress written by writers I’ve worked with at The Highlights Foundation. Let me tell you: the magic is there. If you are looking for a great place to learn about craft, GO!!!!
As for published books, you’re going to make me choose? There are too many great ones. I don’t just flipflop as a writer! I flipflop as a reader, too!
Healer and Witch, by Nancy Werlin
Debating Darcy, by Sayantani Dasgupta
Dear Student, by Elly Swartz
Big and Small and In Between, by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Born Behind Bars, by Padma Venkatraman
A Comb of Wishes, by Lisa Stringfellow
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
Knight Owl, written and illustrated by Christopher Denise
See You Someday Soon, by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Suzy Lee
Abuelita and I Make Flan, written and illustrated by Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom
The Shape of Thunder, by Jasmine Warga
Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties, by Kellye Carter Crocker (out this October)
Murder Between Friends, by Candace Fleming
Dancing at the Pity Party, by Tyler Feder
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Eat Dessert First!
Don’t limit your curiosity! Advocate for your imagination. Don’t worry if a project seems too difficult. Instead, REACH! Groan! Stretch! Fall and get back up! You never know what a story will become until you dive in.
Do Not Give Up!
But when you need help, go to your community. Or reach out! We are so lucky to have this big blended family of supportive writers and illustrators.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Easiest Question of all. I am a tiger.
Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published books for kids and teens, such as Beyond Lucky, a young MG series, The Wish List, and Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books), illustrated by Robert Neubecker, which has been included on many state lists. Brand New Bubbe (Charlesbridge) has received excellent reviews, including a star from Shelf Awareness. In 2024, look for a picture book biography of Bella Abzug, called Abzuglutely! (Calkins Creek, Astra Publishing).
When Sarah is not writing or reading (or making great soup or riding her bike), she is talking to readers about creativity, writing, social action, and of course, sparkle power! She loves working with other writers in one of her classes at the amazing Highlights Foundation. Warning: When she gets really excited, she makes funny faces and talks with her hands. Don’t be shocked if she talks about the power of play. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.
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