An Interview with Beloved Author Yaffa Ganz

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Exciting news for Jewish children (and parents) everywhere!! Many of the beloved Yaffa Ganz titles are being reprinted so that a new generation of kids can enjoy the classics we all grew up on.

In anticipation, we jumped on the opportunity to talk to Yaffa Ganz and learn about her experiences as a writer:

How has the Jewish book industry changed since you started writing?

Like Topsy, it’s grown and grown. There are at least ten Judaica children’s books in 2014  for every one published in 2004!

Tell us about the differences in writing and publishing a book back then versus the current process.  

Writing then and writing now hasn’t changed any but publishing is different. With all the magic new technology, publishing books is cheaper and  easier than ever before. But on the flip side, there’s lots more competition so that fewer copies of each book are sold. Personally, for me as an author, I spend the same amount of time and  do the same amount of work on any given book…although I probably land up making less money!

During your career, you’ve written many children’s titles, a Jewish history series geared toward teens, and many articles/essays for adults. What do you focus on for each audience?

Obviously I focus first of all on the age group I’m writing for. Choice of topic, level of language, head and heart – all have to be appropriate for the  reader. Aside from that, I just begin to work and then plow ahead!

Your writing varies from children’s fiction to Jewish history and Jewish contemporary life. Which do you relate to best?

Whatever I happen to be working on is what I like best! The world is out there waiting to be written about and it’s all very interesting, don’t you think?

What was your aliyah to Israel like?

The day we came was probably the hardest day of my life and the  most blessed. The hardest because fifty years ago, communication was not what it is today and it meant leaving my parents behind; the most blessed because  it was the fulfillment of a Jew’s dreams. Once we arrived, every single day was a privilege and a blessing.

Are any of the characters in the Savta Simcha or Simmy & Mimmy series based on people in your life?

Everything an author writes is based on something that lit his/her imagination. Many of  my characters are undoubtedly somehow, indirectly, subconsciously based on someone I knew, met, saw or heard of. There are probably bits and pieces of all sorts of people in my characters, but they are never purposely based on a specific character.                                          

What made you choose a boy who lives in Australia in Yedidya and the Esrog Tree?

Probably because Australia seemed so very far-away from Israel and therefore a bit mythical! Somehow today, it seems closer. Perhaps because the world has grown so much smaller. Or because today I know so many wonderful people who are from Australia.

Can you tell us a little bit about writing for kids? Do you always have a lesson in mind before?

Never! I don’t write to “teach a lesson”. I write so that Jewish kids will have something fun to read. Of course we want their “fun reading” to be positive and Jewish and wholesome as well.

Which book did you enjoy writing the most? Why?

Sand and Stars – A Jewish Journey Through Time was the hardest because it was the longest and the most serious. But I got a lot of satisfaction from doing A Jewish Factfinder – A bookful of Important Torah Facts and Handy Jewish Information. It’s a very short and concise book – actually a book of lists – and I think it’s a great book for every Jewish kid.  The Adventures of Jeremy Levi and Hello Heddy Levi were lots of fun as was the Mimmy Simmy Series. But the Savta Simcha books probably win the prize for enjoyment, despite the hard work that went into them.

What are you working on now?

Feldheim Publishers is reprinting many of my books which were out of print for several years and we’re busy working on that. Some new ideas are “cooking” but at the moment, I’m mostly thinking about “cleaning” … for Pesach! However I would  like to see more of my books translated into Hebrew for my many grandchildren who don’t speak English.

For information on Yaffa Ganz’s many books, click here.


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