Happy Monday! Welcome to the Kid Lit Love blog series where we spread a little love around our small and friendly writing community! Thanks for stopping by. Today, we feature Janie Emaus and her book, LATKES FOR SANTA CLAUS , illustrated by Bryan Langdo, published by Sky Pony Press, distributed by Simon and Schuster.
My new dad and stepbrother celebrate Christmas, so you’re coming to my house for the very first time. And I think you must be REALLY tired of cookies. I’m going to leave you the best Santa treat ever.
Anna is excited that Santa will be visiting her house for the first time, and she wants to leave Santa a treat that blends the holidays her new family celebrates: Christmas and Hanukkah.
She expresses this idea to her stepbrother who insists that Santa doesn’t need anything but his sugar cookies. Anna imagines Santa has to be bored with cookies by now and is determined to find a Jewish recipe that he’ll enjoy. The catch? It has to be something easy for Santa to grab and go.
It can’t be matzo ball soup—soup in a sleigh with galloping reindeer will never do.
It can’t be noodle kugel—imagine that by the handful. What a mess!
And as certain as Anna is that Santa would devour tzimmes, she knows he just doesn’t have the time to sit and enjoy a hearty stew on Christmas Eve.
Anna must figure out the perfect finger food for Santa, not wanting to disappoint him on his very first visit to her house.
In this humorous and endearing picture book, blending both Christmas and Hannukah, a little girl and her stepbrother compete to leave Santa the best treats ever.
Latkes for Santa Claus concludes with Anna and Michael’s winning recipes, ready for children to replicate for Santa in their own kitchens.
Welcome, Janie Emaus!
It is a pleasure to have you as a guest on Kid Lit Love. Thank you for taking the time to do the blog interview. It is a wonderful and unique idea to combine the two holidays into one book as many families truly do blend traditions in a variety of different ways.
Tell us the inspiration for your book
I grew up in a Jewish home. I celebrated my first Christmas after marrying my husband. From then on we always had a Christmas tree and a menorah. When our daughter was old enough to understand that we celebrated both holidays, I wondered if she might be getting confused. So, I looked for books to read to her that showed blended families in a fun way. I know it sounds like a cliché, but not finding one, I decided to write my own.
Every year the women in our family get together to make latkes for our Hanukkah dinner. During one of those afternoon, while the latkes fried in the pan, the title of the book came to me.
That’s the only thing that has stayed the same from day one.
The manuscript went through dozens of revisions, starting off in verse and ending up as it is now with several poems in the body of the story.
I added the recipes at the end of the book, as a way to keep the reader involved long after the story was over. Also to share our family recipe. Our latkes really are the best!
Thanks, Janie. As a person who loves to bake, I love a picture book with a recipe in the back. Teachers will probably use it in their classrooms as well to extend the reading experience.
Path to publication
It took almost two decades to sell this book. During that time, I had several agents and garnered some interest, but not enough.
Then in December 2019, I entered PitMad. For those of you unfamiliar with Pitmad, it is a Twitter event which occurs four times a year. Writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed manuscript, along with the corresponding hashtags to identify the genre of their work. The participating editors and agents make requests by “liking” the tweeted pitch.
I posted my tweet early on a Thursday morning. And then, although I tried not, I checked my phone every few seconds.
My heart raced when I saw the like by Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press. Of course, it didn’t mean she was going to say “yes” to my manuscript. But I had an opening.
I sent my manuscript to Nicole on Saturday. She responded on Monday saying she loved the book. On Tuesday morning she offered me a contract!
I was driving when her email dinged on my phone. I pulled over, read the message and did the happiest dance possible while in the driver seat.
In “editor time” that is quick. In fact, in any time, it’s pretty quick. You could say I was an “overnight success’ which took twenty years to come to fruition.
I love it that a book can still sell after such a long time. It gives me hope for my own writing. Thanks for sharing your story.
Building myself up in the face of rejection
My daughter gave me a photo years ago which says “Perseverance.” I have it on my windowsill and look at it every day. That has been my motto for my entire writing career.
My first rejections came in the mail on various sizes of paper. I have enough of those letters to wallpaper my office walls.
Now they arrive in emails, some only minutes after sending out a submission. Like seriously, is that a bot reading it or has a real person actually read the words born from my soul?
In whatever form, I try not to take any rejection personally. I know that is hard, sometimes impossible. After spending a year or more on a project, it becomes part of my being. And when an agent or editor sends a rejection, it feels like they are tearing off a limb.
But I don’t let it get me down. At least not for very long. And a glass of wine or some ice cream softens the blow.
So, I read over the rejections and take what is beneficial, if anything, from each one. And then move on.
My long writing career has taught me this is a very subjective business. Not everyone is going to like what I write. And throughout the years, I’ve come to learn that I want and that I deserve, an agent or editor who gets me and loves my work.
I stayed with a few of my agents long after our relationship had stalled, much like tolerating a bad marriage. It was easier to stay together, than admit it wasn’t working and put myself back out there.
To quote Erma Bombeck, one of my favorite authors, “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”
Most importantly, I believe in myself. Whether I’m writing an article, a short story, or a novel, I never lose sight of my vision.
As writers, we have to show our true selves to the world.
With determination and perseverance.
Janie, you are an inspiration to writers and you’ve highlighted these virtues: determination and perseverance, which for me are paramount for writers wishing to get published.
AND if you’re love latkes, maybe also you’d love my pancake book as well, which has a recipe in the back too! Check it out… the two books together plus a little chef’s apron would make a great Christmas gift for any child.
Thanks for stopping by Kid Lit Love this week!