Sandy Wasserman is a teacher, author, wife, mother, and grandma, and lives on Long Island, NY. She has taught for more than 30 years in both Public and Day Schools, working for the most part with Gifted children, who inspire many of her stories. She is delighted to be able to have more time to write for children – an interest she’s had ever since she received her first library card in the Bronx, NY. Sandy loves to travel and explore unusual places. In the future, she hopes to inspire children through other book projects she’s working on. She is a member of SCBWI, LICWI and the LI Association of Jewish Librarians. Sandy stopped by to discuss her new book, The Sun’s Special Blessing.
Tell me a bit about the blessing for the sun.
The blessing for the sun, known as “Birkat haChamah,” is recited every 28 years. The 2009 recitation marks the 206th cycle of the blessing, which celebrates God’s placement of the sun on the 4th day of creation. Therefore, the blessing will always be recited on a Wednesday. Although in modern times we are thankful for the sun’s warmth and for its place in helping us to grow food, the blessing is for God’s creation of the sun, rather than how thankful we are with what the sun provides.
What was your inspiration to write about the blessing?
When the blessing was last recited, in 1981, I was teaching third grade at the Solomon Schechter Day School in Nassau County on Long Island. In preparation for the event, all teachers were asked to prepare a lesson. My idea was to create a ‘time capsule’ with my students. My students and I did this and buried many Jewish and secular items in a wood and metal chest. Many years passed, and I taught Gifted & Talented children in a public school setting. Then, several years ago, after I retired, I had a ‘flashback’ of that event. Perhaps it was more of a realization that 20+ years had passed and the time for the blessing would be coming in just a few years. I had always wanted to take time and try to write for children, but with family and a demanding teaching position, writing seriously was not a priority. NOW, I was retired! No excuses! (Afterword: the 1981 time capsule was located in March of this year and a new one was buried for the 2009 Birkat HaCHamah. It was a most joyous and fulfilling event!)
I was fortunate to work with Yaacov Peterseil at Pitspopany Publishers, and to work with Ann Koffsky, as the illustrator.
How did you become a writer?
I had always wanted to write, and often dashed off ‘letters to the editor’ and enjoyed teaching writing to my students for over 35 years. I ‘became’ a writer by taking the advice I had always stressed with my students: Revise! Revise! Revise! So two years after my retirement, I wish they could have seen me with my many revisions of The Sun’s Special Blessing! I joined a writer’s group, a critique group, took a few courses and attended conferences, such as the annual Jewish Writers’ Conference at the 92nd ST “Y.” in Manhattan. I joined SCBWI and the SSCBWI listserve, and found the writing community to be so supportive and encouraging to a new writer.
What is one fun fact about you?
Hmmm. I have a good sense of humor and look at the humorous side of almost everything. I try not to take myself too seriously and enjoy seeing the fun in everyday life. When my granddaughter, Yael, learned that her Savtah’s book would be published and therefore on “other peoples’ shelves” with her name in the dedication, she was excited. She’s four years old, and frankly, I’m almost at the same level of excitement about this first book; does that make me childlike? As a teacher of gifted students for many years, I usually think ‘out of the box;’ this often makes for funny enounters with friends and family, and hopefully other books.
Sandy, thanks for sharing your knowledge about this special blessing!
To learn more, visit Sandy’s web site at web.mac.com/sfwasserman