I’m delighted to introduce D. Dina Friedman. She is the author of two award-winning novels, ESCAPING INTO THE NIGHT, and PLAYING DAD’S SONG. Dina’s well-crafted stories deal with the Holocaust and the tragedy of 9/11. Through her books, young readers are able to view these difficult events with greater understanding and compassion for those who lived through the experiences.
Dina is a true creative spirit – a writer, musician, performer, community activist, and more. I was pleased she was able to take time from her busy touring schedule to talk about her stories.
Your book, ESCAPING INTO THE NIGHT (Simon and Schuster, 2006) deals with the underground encampments during the Holocaust. Why were you drawn to write about this topic?
I was inspired to write about this after I visited the National Museum of the Holocaust in Washington DC and read about Tuvia Bielski, who saved 1200 Jews by setting up these encampments in the forests. Though I’d read a lot about the Holocaust and thought I knew most of the key aspects of Holocaust history, this was a story I had never heard. These encampments encompassed entire communities, and focused on mostly saving Jews who were unable to fight (women, children, elderly, etc.) I was intrigued with learning about how these communities functioned, how people survived in them, and what a child’s experience living here might be like.
PLAYING DAD’S SONG (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2006) is about a different kind of survival. Gus, your main character, is dealing with the loss of his dad after 9/11. What inspired you to write about music and performing as opportunities to help Gus heal?
I’ve always had a strong belief that expressing one’s creative self, whatever that might be, promotes healing. My childhood self was an actress wannabee, and I’ve dabbled in music all my life, starting with piano lessons as a child, teaching myself guitar, playing the chimes in college, and playing in a klezmer band, so I while I believe that throwing yourself into any passion can help you grow and heal, I wanted to write about something I know and love.
Why did you start writing children’s books?
ESCAPING INTO THE NIGHT was my first children’s book. Before that I focused my writing on novels for adults, though I did try a couple of bad picture books. When I contemplated this story, it just seemed right that the book be written for a younger audience, and I felt familiar with the genre, having read an extensive number of YA and middle grade novels to my children (and later, on my own, because I enjoyed them so much.)
What are you working on now?
It depends on how you define “working on.” I’m shopping a book I completed about a boy growing up under McCarthyism whose parents are accused of being Communists; I’m revising a book about a teenager who has to drop out of school to take care of her mentally ill mother; and I’m contemplating a number of other ideas, which I’m beginning to research, as well as write a few rough dribs and drabs.
What is the best thing about being a children’s writer?
I love the audience. I like meeting children at book clubs and schools. I also like meeting other children’s book writers and “talking shop.” I appreciate that no matter how dark they are, most children’s books have a “happyish” ending, and that while angst is there, it doesn’t completely take over.
What is the hardest part about being a writer?
For me, the hardest part about writing is the first draft. Making things up is like pulling teeth, and my first drafts are really bad because I’m the type of writer who can’t figure out where I’m going until I’ve started writing. It’s not efficient, but I can’t do it any other way.
What is your favorite question you have been asked by a reader?
I love it when readers ask me something specific about my books that shows that they really understand and care about my characters.
Do you have hobbies besides writing?
I’m an avid gardener, and right now it’s hard to find time to write because we are still trying to process this year’s tomatoes. I also love to hike, and I walk every day with my dog in the woods by our house. I like cross-country skiing, reading, playing music, and doing comedy improvisation. And I’ve finally cured myself of an addiction to Sudoku puzzles.
Do you have any pets?
I have a dog named Lefty (husky-shepherd) and a cat named Mopsy.
Can you share a few fun facts about you?
The info above pretty much covers it, but here are some lesser known things about me:
I am a baseball fan (currently Red Sox, but I grew up with the Mets in a family where sports was an everyday dinner table conversation topic.)
In my current family (husband, Shel, daughter, Alana -19, and son, Rafael-14) we never talk about baseball. The threads that link our family are music and food.
I cannot drive more than a mile without listening to a book on tape.
I grew up in New York City, and met my husband at a poetry reading in Greenwich Village.
I currently live next door to a dairy farm with over 300 cows.
Dina, it’s been great getting to know you! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. To learn more about Dina, please check out her web site at www.ddinafriedman.com.