An Idea For The Ages
- What inspired me you write the book? The first book, about Brooklyn's lost synagogues, came about because I had exhibited 22 photographs of these buildings, at the Brooklyn Historical Society. This was in 2006-2007. The publisher had a good response from the Brooklyn book, so I had proposed a Manhattan/Bronx book; he asked me to split this into 2 books. I added on the Queens synagogues with the Bronx. I consider a "lost synagogue" to be a building that once housed a Jewish congregation, but they have since moved out and something else occupies the building now. Typically it is a church, but some are now schools, day care centers, medical facilities, private residences, even stores, bars, an art gallery! The topic is very interesting to me: it combines my interests in religion, urban history, architecture, demographics, photography.
- What was challenging to you in termss of book PR? The challenges to promoting my book are primarily because I am not famous! I have to make just about every connection from scratch. The publisher knows a few avenues but not many. I have done most of the contacting of publications, speaking engagements, etc. There are plenty of people who have either ignored me or said that my topic would not interest their audience. I have had to be resourceful and plug away. It is a learning experience, and I have to keep a thick skin. Local publications have been somewhat more receptive and I am grateful to every single publication or group that has helped me along the way.
- What do you love about being a published author? Even when I was in elementary school I wanted to be a writer. I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade and I was trying to write novels... I have found that it is easier to interest people in non-fiction topics. I found this niche topic, and there are people out there who are interested in learning more about it. I do feel that I have gotten more respect, for being published. It is also very gratifying to know that people are enjoying my books, spreading the word about them, the like. These 2 books are not my only published works; I have had articles, essays and letters published in various publications since the mid-1980s.
- How has the book been received thus far? The reception has mostly been positive, although a few people told me bluntly that the topic and the photos depressed them! There is a Yiddish word "Shanda"-- like a terrible shame, a horror. A few people have said something like "It's such a shanda that these synagogues became churches, etc." But my feeling has been that we can't stop Jews from moving out of their old neighborhoods, and the buildings they have departed from are looked upon as real estate. Someone buys it up and uses it. I might as well document what is left so that we won't forget these buildings! Many of them still retain their Jewish symbols, Hebrew words, stained glass designs, etc.
- What advice would you give to a struggling writer? If you have a non-fiction topic that interests you greatly, do research on it, immerse yourself in it for a while. Then go on a search engine and see if there are any books about your topic. If you notice that there is a certain angle about the topic that has NOT been covered, or only covered fitfully, then you may have an opening for your book! Then search for possible publishers. Write up a proposal, read and re-read it. Then send it out. See what kind of reception you get. If you work with a small publisher, don't expect to become wealthy overnight. And be prepared to do a lot of press work, speaking engagements, etc. It is not only about the research and writing. You have to...hustle!