I just returned from a trip to New York where I took part in an annual Jewish Book Council event for authors of upcoming books. The event ran over three days, and I was in a group of 50 authors, including former Meet the Press anchor David Gregory, on Wednesday evening. The challenge: Give a two minute talk about your book to an audience of 200 to 250. Finish before the emcee holds up a lime-green card “Time’s Up” card with a frowny face.
I won’t give away my whole spiel, but I’ll give you a sampling and fast forward to the kicker for the first part:
I called her the Church Lady. I was 9 years old and the new kid in a tiny Ohio school. This stranger came into my classroom, had us sing “Jesus loves me” and taught us Bible stories. It turned out I was one of the only Jews in the school. I was excused from the religious classes, but the effects of the Church Lady lingered. Kids picked on me as I left class each week: “You don’t believe in Jesus? You’re going to hell.” My school made no attempt to tolerance. … The Church Lady was a motivator for my book, Faith Ed. Even at age 9, I knew schools ought to be teaching children that there are people of many faiths in the world.
In part two, I gave a sense of some of the findings from my reporting around the country to different towns and schools where teachers had gone to great lengths to teach about religion. I also talked about the stories I heard from kids bullied because of their faith.
It was a fun, challenging event, and thankfully, I finished before the frowny face appeared. I spoke with organization leaders from around the country at the reception afterward. Among the cities represented were some of my old haunts: Dallas; Rochester, NY; and Columbus, Ohio. It was great as well to meet authors from around the country and hear their spiels, which ranged widely in topic and approach. One author came out with a guitar and tried to get the audience to join him in Hava Nagila.
Publication Day: If you’re just reading my newsletter for the first time, Faith Ed publishes on August 18, and my first reading will be that evening at 7 p.m. at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.
Pre-order: Faith Ed is available for pre-order anywhere books are sold. (That’s something authors are supposed to say very loudly, but being new at this, I’ve been uncharacteristically reserved on this subject.)
Other Events: As events are confirmed, I’m posting them at this link on my website. Dates to keep in mind besides the Aug. 18 launch:
August 25: 7 p.m. talk at Tewksbury Library, Tewksbury, MA.
Labor Day Weekend: Decatur Books Festival, Decatur, GA.
Sept. 17: 7 p.m. talk & panel discussion/Q&A afterward with interfaith clergy at Cary Library in Lexington, MA. (Stay tuned for final confirmation, but hold the date if this interests you.)
Ah, and the point of doing that two-minute spiel — to land speaking gigs at Jewish book festivals and organizations around the country. I won’t know the results till July, and my hope is to spark interfaith dialogue wherever I speak.
My website, meanwhile, has been going through a design with wonderful assistance from Beacon Press. It’s still in progress, but feel free to check it out here.
Thanks, as always, for reading! Let me know if you’re from out of town and plan to come to my launch. Let me know, too, if you’re a local and plan to attend.