Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Interview with Children's Author Tal Yanai
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.
A. I was born In Israel forty-three-years ago. As a struggling student, I was considered a troublemaker in school. In tenth grade I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which explained my learning difficulties but it did little to ease my frustration with myself and my everyday struggles. I had no mentors I could confide in or look up to. At the age of twenty-three, when I moved to the U.S., I was inspirited and started on a spiritual path, which has led me to align myself with my soul’s essence and mission.
For two years I worked as an historical analyst at the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg. As part of my job, I listened every day to testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Many were children or teenagers during WWII and their stories greatly influenced my decision to become involved with educating youth, and I proceeded to get a Teaching Credential in Social Studies.
Bringing two wonderful children into the world gave me a new sense of urgency to share and teach everything I learned about God and spirituality. Today, I teach Hebrew and Judaic Studies in Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, CA as I continue my quest to explore the road of life and achieve my full potential as a spiritual teacher. Writing Life Is Not a Candy Store: It’s the Way to the Candy Store (the first in many books to come) was a natural step in this direction.
2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary; tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.
A. I wrote Life Is Not a Candy Store: It’s the Way to the Candy Store as a guide for the road of life for teens. In it I explore different solutions to daily problems teens face. I know well the feeling of living within the limitations of our five senses, and not having real purpose in life. Instead of being frustrated and angry, the book explores alternative ways of dealing with difficult issues such as loss and how to deal with the ego. Life Is Not a Candy Store was written from the heart, and I truly believe it will touch the hearts of many readers. The name of the book and the idea to write it came about as an inspiring idea. First I used it to create a lesson plan for my class. But looking at roads we take in life, including wrong ones, created such an open and passionate discussion among students that I felt I needed to share it with teens wherever they are.
3. What is a typical writing day like for you?
A. The subject of God and spirituality is never too far from me, so during the day I find myself thinking about it a lot. And when I have an inspiring image or thought, I write it down. Later, in my “writing time” I develop it farther. This is how I write on my blog, and this is why I recommended in Life Is Not a Candy Store to have with you a special notebook.
4. What do you enjoy most about writing?
A. I am on a journey of rediscovering God and rediscovering myself. When I come across something meaningful, I write about it and share it with the readers. So in a way, my writing is a “journey journal”. This is an exciting journey, and this is what I like most about writing. I also enjoy the process of taking a “seed”, an idea, and developing it into something bigger, a ripe fruit, ready to be enjoyed by the readers. Finally, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing from readers how Life Is Not a Candy Store helped them in their lives.
5. What is the most difficult part of writing?
A. I write about issues that are close to my heart so I find writing to be joyful and rewarding. However, writing in a second language brings with it some challenges. It is why for many years I didn’t write at all; telling myself that my English was not good enough. However, after overcoming this psychological barrier, I use my personal experience to tell teens not to let barriers, big or small, to stop them from accomplishing their dreams.
6. Why do you like working with children and teens?
A. As struggling student, I had no one who understood my problems and showed me the way out of the vicious cycle of feeling inadequate, acting out then getting into troubles. It took me many years to stop this self distractive cycle, and I couldn’t do it alone. It is my hope and goal in life to show teens alternative ways of looking at life and choosing the right path to walk in.
7. Do you make school visits or do speaking engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.
A. My hope and belief is that Life Is Not a Candy Store will open for me the right doors and I will be asked to talk to students, parent and teachers around the country. For now, I speak with classes in my school. I open with 10-15 minutes of introduction to a topic. Next we have a discussion, whereby the students ask questions or share a personal experience related to our subject. Finally, I make closing remarks during the last 5-10 minutes. Over the years I found that students’ self expression (orally or in written) is more powerful and effective than anything they will hear from me. My role is to cause them to think about an issue, then to guide and provide them with a safe environment for self expression.
8. Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?
A. My website is www.talyanai.com
My blog is Road Signs, talroadsigns.com
9. What are you working on right now?
A. Right know I am writing two new books. One is the second in the series of is Life Is Not a Candy Store: It’s the Way to the Candy Store. If the first one is for teens, this one will be for young adults and will look at ways spirituality can help dealing with issues YA face.
I am also in the process of writing another book for teens. This one will deal with the subject of happiness and will help teens to find ways of becoming happier.
10. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
A. Write, write and write some more. Even if you are not sure when and how you will be able to publish your book, don’t let good ideas you received from the universe to pass by and fade away. Write them down, and one day you will find the way to share your creation with the rest of us.
11. What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?
A. Take a deep breath, things will be okay. Learn to ask the right questions and then to listen. Think big; you are not here at this time to watch another TV show, to have another electronic game or to be the coolest person around. God has much bigger plans for you. Stay open and see where life takes you. And above all, always remember that you are not alone; God is on your side.
12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?
A. We all have problems, and we all have to overcome personal issues. A wise person gives life a meaning, a purpose that will make it all worthwhile. Do not let pain and disappointments run your life. Instead advance your personal relationship with God; it will give your life new meaning which will help you be better in everything you do, and in every relationship you will ever have. This is the secret for a successful and fulfilling life.
Thanks so much for being so honest with our questions. I have enjoyed having you here today. Blessings on the success of the book and your future writing goals.
*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.