Rabbi Jamie Korngold, the Senior Rabbi at Adventure Rabbi: Synagogue Without Walls, is also an author of children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. We sat down with her to ask a few questions.
Q: You’ve just had two new books published, Seder in the Desert and Sadie’s Lag Ba’Omer Mystery. That makes seven published books. Mazel tov. How does that feel?
A: It’s affirming. Having a congregation in Boulder enables me to reach a certain circle of people. But writing books enables me to widen that circle.
Q: It sounds like you reach widely! Your children’s books alone have sold over 100,000 copies.
A: Yes, when we passed 100,000 sales, I was surprised and very grateful. When you add in my adult non-fiction and ebooks, it closes in on 200,000. I have trouble wrapping my head around that number!
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: From different places. Some of my stories have nuggets of true stories from my own childhood, such as Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast. When I was kid I frequently “played” Judaism with my stuffed animals. Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah is based on something that happened to me when I was in nursery school. Sadie’s Big Mountain is based on a Midrash I love.
Sometimes my publisher or my literary agent ask me to write on a certain subject. I wrote my Lag Ba’Omer book on a dare. My editor told me that she had been trying for 20 years to publish a good Lag Ba’Omer book and couldn’t find one. So, I wrote one.
Q: Seder in the Desert is different than your other children’s books. Where did that come from?
A: Right, the others are all part of a series. Seder in the Desert is based on the Passover retreat we [The Adventure Rabbi Program] run in Moab every year. Its a beautiful photo essay. What happened was that my publisher saw photos of the event and asked my husband, Jeff Finkelstein and I to do this book together.
Q: Did you always want to be an author?
A: I always dreamed of being an author, but I never thought I could be. I’ve always held authors in such high esteem. Being one seemed impossible.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I have another Sadie book coming out in June. It’s about a kiddo who is nervous about going off to camp for the first time.
In 2015 I have a children’s book coming out about dementia. You know, what do you say to your kids when Grandma starts to forget. I was trying to find a good Jewish book to read to my children about dementia and couldn’t find one so I wrote one. My books heroines are brave and creative and this book is no exception.
Q: How did you find your illustrator Julie Fortenberry?
A: Actually, the publisher finds the illustrator. I feel very fortunate that Julie and I work so well together. She lives in North Carolina and we have a very unique bond of friendship. Last summer her daughter Annie was living in Boulder doing a college internship. She hung out some with my daughters and one day I walked in and Annie and my daughter Ori were snuggled up on the couch reading their mom’s books together. It was so special…..
Q: And if we want to read the books, where do we get them? Or hear you read them?
A: You can pick them up at Boulder Bookstore, KarBen (www.KarBen.com), or at your favorite online store. I’ll be doing a reading from Seder in the Desert on Sunday April 6, 2014 at the Boulder Bookstore at 11 am.
Q: Is there a theme that unites all your books, your children’s and adult books?
A: I’d say the theme that unites them is, “Make Judaism you own.” All my books have an element of this in them. Oh, and “Don’t wake up your parents when they are sleeping.”
What are your questions for Rabbi Jamie? Comment below!