Friday, August 5, 2011

Interview Friday with Debut Author Tal Yanai

During his formative years, Tal Yanai was not happy with his reality. What he was creating in his life was not in alignment with what he wanted in his heart or what he knew and deeply felt was possible.

As a struggling student, he was considered a troublemaker in school. Then one day, during a bike trip from the kibbutz to the sea, he was asked to take charge and make sure none of the other kids lagged behind. For the first time in his life, at age fifteen, Tal got a taste of what it meant to assume responsibility and be a leader. This one experience planted the seed for his goal to assume a leadership role in his later life. After finishing high school, having been raised on Kibbutz, Einat, Israel, he volunteered to serve as a leader in the Kibbutzim Youth Movement, which focused on principles such as volunteering, mutual help, and giving to one’s community and country.

In tenth grade he was diagnosed with dyslexia, which explained his learning difficulties but it did little to ease his frustration with himself and his everyday struggles. He had no mentors he could confide in or look up to. And no matter how hard his parents tried, his living on a kibbutz meant they had little influence during his teenager years.

At the age of twenty-three, when he moved to the U.S., Tal found solace in a higher power and started on a spiritual path, which has led him to align himself with his soul’s essence and mission.

For two years he worked as an historical analyst at the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg after the filming of Schindler’s List. As part of his job, he listened every day to testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Many were children or teenagers during WWII and their stories greatly influenced Tal’s decision to become involved with educating youth, so he proceeded to get his Teaching Credential in Social Studies.

Bringing two wonderful children into the world gave him a new sense of urgency to share and teach everything he’s learned about God and spirituality. Today, Tal teaches Hebrew and Judaic Studies in Temple Beth Hillel in the San Fernando Valley as he continues his quest to explore the meaning of soul and achieve his full potential as a spiritual teacher.

VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. Tal, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Tal: Raising a family, working and finding time to write is challenging. It is a good idea to set a specific time for writing. For example, early in the morning, after the kids go to bed or few hours on the weekend. If your significant other is supporting you, he or she will be happy to watch the kids so you can enrich your life by writing. Just make sure you find a way to show your gratitude in words and in deeds.  

VS: I tend to break my writing time up. I work on my personal writing and freelance stuff in the mornings for 4 hours and then later at night is when I spend my next 4 hours on SFC stuff. Now, you’re a debut author, but how long have you been writing?

Tal: I started to write Life Is Not a Candy Store in September 2009. Since then I have been writing on my blog and also working on two new books.

VS: Sounds like you’ve been bitten by the writing bug and I know I’ll be looking forward to reading your next books when they are published. So what inspired you to write?

Tal: As a struggling student, I was considered a troublemaker in school. In tenth grade, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which explained my learning difficulties but it did little to ease the frustration I felt. I had no mentors I could confide in or look up to. And no matter how hard my parents tried, growing up on a kibbutz in Israel meant they had little influence during my teenager years. In addition to it, being a secular meant that I was trapped within the limitations of the five senses. 
  
At the age of twenty-three, when I moved to the Los Angeles where I found solace in a higher power and started on a spiritual path, which has led me to align myself with my soul’s essence and mission. Since that time (1993), I wanted to share my story with young people, hoping it will give them the tools necessary to overcome the pain and frustration we all experience.

VS: You truly have an inspiration story. Tal, I don’t know about you, but my writing day is anything but typical. What would you say about yours?

Tal: The subject of God and spirituality is never too far from me, so during the day I find myself thinking about it a lot. And when I have an inspiring image or thought, I write it down. Later, in my “writing time” I develop it farther. This is how I write on my blog, and this is why I recommended in Life Is Not a Candy Store to have with you a special notebook. 

VS: Yes, I have a few notebooks…each for different types of writing. Now sometimes as writers we tend to get very busy with deadlines. My family has a hard time when I’m working around the clock to make sure I met those deadlines. Is your family supportive of your writing?
Tal: Yes, especially my kids. And I let them feel that they are part of the writing process. I share with them ideas and listen to their comments. At times, I will use ideas or images they like over ones I like. I do so because I write for them, I trust their insight and it brings us closer, creating something together.

VS: That’s wonderful since children have the hardest time understanding when a parent needs to work while at home. I know this is your first book, but have you had anything else published?

Tal: No. Life Is Not a Candy Store: It’s the Way to the Candy Store is the first book I published.

VS: That’s amazing and wonderful. Many writers don’t have success like that, but of course, your book is unique. Now can you share with us a little about your current book?

Tal: Life Is Not a Candy Store: It’s the Way to the Candy Store is a spiritual guide for teens. It is an introduction to basic spiritual principles that can help teenagers deal with daily issues they face. Too many fine young people don’t know how to deal with anger and frustration, and they ending up hurting themselves and others close to them. The book gives teens who feel trapped tools to let go of the anger and overcome difficulties. 

VS: I really loved reading your book and hope others reading today will check it out. It’s not only for teens, but adults I feel can learn and reflect on different subjects and stories you share. Okay, being a new writer, what do you enjoy most about writing?

Tal: I am on a journey of rediscovering God and rediscovering myself. When I come across something meaningful, I write about it and share it with the readers. So in a way, my writing is a “journey journal”. This is an exciting journey, and this is what I like most about writing.  I also enjoy the process of taking a “seed”, an idea, and developing it into something bigger, a ripe fruit, ready to be enjoyed by readers. Finally, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing from readers how Life Is Not a Candy Store helped them in their lives.  

VS: I’ve never looked at my writing in this way. I’ll have to try it. So what is the most difficult part of writing?

Tal: I write about issues that are close to my heart so I find writing to be joyful and rewarding. However, writing in a second language bring with it some challenges. It is why for many years I didn’t write at all, telling myself that my English was not good enough. However, after overcoming this psychological barrier, I use my personal experience to tell teens not to let barriers, big or small, to stop them from accomplishing their dreams.

VS: I can understand that. Tal, what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Tal: I forgot in which book I read it, but the advice was to ignore the inner voice telling us, “I’m not good enough. I have nothing to add on the subject. Who is going to read this? Why me?” Instead, have the courage to write and create something new. Think about an ice cream store with many flavors. What you create becomes one more flavor in the store. And this flavor is unique because it is yours.

VS: I really like that. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?

Tal: Yes! But there is a reason for everything. I wanted to be a father so I need to devout time to my family. I need to work to support myself and I want to write. I don’t have to do any of that, but I like all of them to be a part of my life. Love, patience, persistence, and good time management skill will give you the ability to balance your life, and so much more. So as I said before, there is a reason for everything.

VS: I truly believe this too. Now you have any other works in progress. Can you share a little about them?

Tal: Right know I am writing two new books. One is the second in the series of is Life Is Not a Candy Store: It’s the Way to the Candy Store.  If the first one is for teens, this one will be for young adults and will look at ways spirituality can help dealing with issues the YA face.

I am also in the process of writing another book for teens. This one will deal with the subject of happiness and will help teens to find ways of becoming happier.

VS: That is great since so many teens and college age kids feel lost in our fast-paced world. What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Tal: There are few “special categories” in the publishing business. For example, a short book or a book with pictures would be considered a special category book, and publishers don’t like to deal with it, especially not with new authors (I should know, I got over a hundred “no thank you” replays). So try to avoid special categories, and consider the possibility of self-publishing as an alternative.

VS: Yes, self-publishing is becoming more common and eBooks are a great way to go as well. What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?

Tal: The most important ingredient in writing is to write about something that you are passionate about. For example, in Life Is Not a Candy Store, I write about ways of reaching God through love and acts of kindness despite the daily problems we face. This subject is my passion in life. In addition, it is most likely that the subject you write about is not an original one, so try to bring a fresh prospective to it. It is your prospective that makes the book different and unique.  Finally, let your creativity flow, but try to stay clear and concise so not to lose the reader.   

VS: Yes, you must be passionate about your book if you want others to be passionate about it too. Tal, have you received any awards?

Tal: Few months ago, a teacher in my school told me that reading my book saved her marriage because she was able to let go of the resentment she felt towards her husband. Hearing such stories is the only award (and reward) I’m seeking. 

VS: That’s so great and I love how you’re not seeking to be the next New York Best-seller. So many writers focus on this goal and lose track of the important things. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Dad”?

Tal: Your life is the meaning you give it. I made mine to be about my relationship with God. The meaning of my role as a family man, a teacher, and as an author is based, first and foremost, on my relationship with God. This is where I find love, inspiration, courage and perseverance. I hope the book will do well and people will buy it, but the act of creating in partnership with God is much more important to me. Give your life the highest meaning, and you will find nothing but blessing.         

You can find out more about Tal Yanai, his book Life Is Not a Candy Store and his World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/TalYanai.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Tal Yanai and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. Yanai will be checking in throughout the tour and is offering an additional giveaway for those who leave comments throughout the tour.

In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Tal Yanai about his book, writing, life experiences and more.  

The show will be live August 15, 2011 at 2pm EST. You can tune in at the World of Ink Network site at http://www.blogtalkradion.com/worldofinknetwork. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

Book Giveaway!
·         Join the Book Lovers Blog Hop. (One entry)
     ·         Follow the World of Ink Tours and leave a comment per tour blog stop. (must leave a real comment about the author, tour or book. Saying “this is cool” or “I love your book” will not count.) Make sure to include your safe email so we can contact you if you are the winner. Example: vsgrenier AT storiesforchildrenpublishing DOT com. (One bonus entry per blog stop)
·         Ask a question per World of Ink Tour blog stop. (One bonus entry per tour blog stop)






Tal Yanai's Next Stop on his World of Ink Virtual Tour is on August 6th at Mom Perfers on BlogCritics - Author Spotlight  http://blogcritics.org/culture/feature/mom-prefers/




2 comments:

  1. Great interview! How interesting that you lived in a kibbutz. I visited Israel last year and saw a kibbutz. I'm sure it was quite an experience for you!

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  2. What an interesting interview. Thank you for sharing about your life. The book sounds interesting.

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