Today I am excited to share my interview with April Halprin Wayland. I recently had the opportunity to meet April in Southern California. She was so gracious to welcome not only me but my family to her home where we met her dog and tortoise. I’m writing from the road so I will share photos with her poem for Poetry Friday.
Your Reading Life
MsMac: What books are on your night stand?
AHW: I am a very slow reader, but I just read the wonderful non-fiction picture book (an SCBWI 2013 Golden Kite winner) Noah Webster and his Words by Jeri Chase Ferris, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, and two wonderful picture books by Michelle Markel: Brave Girl—Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, illustrated by Amanda Hall. I’m in the middle of the riveting multi-award-winning non-fiction book, Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, and Desperado’s Wife—a memoir, by Amy Friedman.
MsMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?
AHW: In bed!
Your Writing Life
MsMac: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?
AHW: I am much sloppier and not as well-organized as this is going to sound. This is my ideal day; sometimes I nail it and sometimes I don’t:
I drive with my friend, her dog and my dog (Eli) to The Coffee Place Which Shall Not Be Named to say hello to my friendly barristas and order a single shot soy latte with extra, extra, extra foam. Then we drive to the dog park. After the dog park, I will meditate for 30 minutes and take an exercise class. Then I run errands, have lunch, and write my daily poem and send it off to my friend Bruce Balan, who sails around the world with his wife in a trimaran. They’re in Thailand right now.
Then I’ll whack away at emails, critique student picture book manuscripts for my UCLA Writer’s Program class, critique manuscripts for the folks in my critique group, work on a blog post. Finally, I write! I’m excited about a couple picture books now.
MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
AHW: The first draft, until I get to the end, at which point I mutter—I have no idea how to end this! Or—now, that’s a really corny ending.
MsMac: What does your writing space look like?
AHW: I write in our extra bedroom. It looks like a child’s playroom with light pink walls, light blue carpet, and a huge plastic shower curtain printed with a map of the world on it hanging up and dog toys in an open drawer and spilling all over the room.
I write on a stand-up desk which I made by putting a pretty coffee table that I never knew what to do with on top of my desk. I love my desk. I stand on a bosu ball and bounce as I write. It feels very child-like to bounce while I’m downloading something from the internet.
MsMac: You’ll see her writing space on Friday.
MsMac: Please tell us about your new book, New Year at the Pier.
AHW: It’s beautifully illustrated by the most highly awarded illustrator in Canada, Stéphane Jorisch. Stéphane and I have been blown away by the response our book has gotten. It won the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medal as well as other distinctions.
It’s about a young boy named Izzy whose favorite part of Rosh Hashanah is Tashlich, a joyous waterside ceremony in which people apologize for their mistakes of the previous year, cleaning the slate for the new year. But there’s one mistake on Izzy’s “I’m sorry” list he’s finding especially hard to say out loud.
Tashlich (celebrated in my town on September 5th this year) is one of my favorite traditions. We walk to a body of water, sing psalms, and toss pieces of stale bread into the water. Each piece of bread represents something we regret doing in the past year. Because I live near the sea, I get to toss my “mistakes” into the ocean. It’s a way of letting go, of creating a clean slate for the coming year.
I’ve dragged numerous friends to our pier so they can taste the poetry of this ritual, to feel the wind, hear the gulls, experience moments of relief when they tossed each piece of bread. These moments changed me. How could I not share this in a picture book?
MsMac: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
AHW: That we are all human.
And perhaps they will learn how to apologize and how to forgive.
Let this book help you explain to students why some of their Jewish classmates are absent for a few days in the fall…and what they may be doing.
Read it in January to talk about the ways people around the world celebrate the new year.
Use it with younger kids to talk about apologizing to and forgiving their friends and family.
Use it to open a discussion with older kids about the Rwanda Reconciliation.
I’d especially love to hear that you gave this book to someone from whom you’ve been estranged, as a way of starting a conversation, apologizing, and possibly beginning a new relationship.
MsMac: What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?
AHW: Singing folk songs and playing my fiddle with a big circle of musicians, hiking with my hiking friends, walking Eli, being politically active so that our country supports all of us and so that we all support the world, driving my new all-electric car (it’s so exciting and so quiet!), taking care of my elderly relatives and taking long, adventurous bike rides with my best friend who is also my husband. (I know…awwww…sooooo corny!)
MsMac: How has writing poetry informed you as a person?
AHW: I’ve written a poem a day since April 2010, which changed my life; now I believe I really am a writer. Poetry seeps into me and leaks out. This can be very messy.
MsMac: Why is poetry important?
AHW: Because it just is.
Just for Fun
MsMac: Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
MsMac: Coffee or tea?
MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?
AHW: Israeli folk dances!
If you think you are too small to be effective,
you have never been in bed with a mosquito.
~ Betty Reese
Thank you so much for sharing your writing and reading life with us, April.