April 14, 2017
We are thrilled to present Ruth Horowitz who is the author of ARE WE STILL FRIENDS and many other books for children.
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Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I am the daughter of a school librarian and a newspaper editor, and I have happily held both those jobs, as well. But while those were my parents’ careers, for me they were day jobs to support what I’ve always felt was my “real” job, which was writing. I took a bunch of creative writing courses in college and tried my hand at adult short stories and a YA novel. Then I got a job as a children’s librarian and became a mother, and found myself immersed in picture books.
One day, while I was taking my baby daughter for a walk, the text of a book called Mommy’s Lap came to me. Lightning struck and the second publisher I sent it to picked it up. I continue to write in a variety of genres, but children’s books – and picture books specifically – is where I’ve had the most publishing success.
Congratulations on your book, ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?What inspired this story?
Thanks! I wrote the first version of this book way back in 1991, when my kids were little and we were living in Vermont. Our family went apple-picking, and I noticed that the orchards sold honey alongside the apples. It was close to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when it’s traditional to eat apples dipped in honey – and also a time for atonement and reconciliation. I thought about how bees and apple trees need each other, and how people need each…and a story was born. Tracy Mack, my editor at Scholastic, recognized the book’s core friendship story, and helped me to highlight that theme.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and fortuitous, or something in between?
All of the above. When I sold my first book right away, without an agent, figured I had it made. But for various reasons, it took nearly eight (8!) years for that first book to be released. Over the next 10 years, I published another four kids’ books, all but two of them with different editors at different publishers – and I wrote a lot of other books that never found publishers. I took time off from kids’ books to work for a newspaper and to write a novel for adults before finding my way back to kid lit. So yes – my road to publication has been both short and fortuitous and long and winding.
What projects are you working on now?
My debut middle-grade novel is currently out on submission. I’m putting the final touches on a couple of new picture books, and at the earliest development stages of a new middle-grade novel.
What is the hardest part about writing picture books?
They’re so short! When I started out, it wasn’t uncommon for a picture book to run to 1000 words. Now the upper limit seems to be around 500 words. I write long and cut. And cut. And cut. It can be painful. But it helps to imagine how the illustrator will fill in the blanks.
What is the easiest?
They’re so short! I love that you can read a picture book all the way through in just a few minutes. It makes it so easy to see the story arc and hear the rhythm of the language, and to figure out how to make work.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Writing is the cake. Publication is the icing.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I am a terrible speller. Vowels are killers.
Where can people find you online?
Ruth Horowitz is the author of six children’s books, including ARE WE STILL FRIENDS (Scholastic, 2017), and CRAB MOON (Candlewick, 2000). She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Hampshire College – where she studied creative writing with John Irving -- worked as a school librarian in Los Angeles, and raised her children in Vermont. She now lives in Rhode Island with her husband.