New-Year-at-the-PierGet to know April…

April Halprin Wayland is a farmer turned folk musician turned author and poet. Her picture book, NEW YEAR AT THE PIER—A Rosh Hashanah Story, won the Sydney Taylor Gold Medal for the best Jewish Children’s Picture Book of the Year, awarded by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

April’s work has been called “dazzling”, “honest, heartfelt, poignant”, and “utterly fresh and winning”.  Her critically acclaimed novel in poems, GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING, her picture books, and her poetry have garnered numerous awards including the Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor Award for Children’s Poetry, the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, and MommyCare’s Book of the Year.

She’s been an instructor in UCLA Extension’s Writers Program for over a decade and teaches workshops in schools all over the world.  She lives near the beach in Southern California. Every year April takes the Poem-A-Day Challenge for National Poetry Month. Read her daily poems. For more information, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What is your favorite quote?

Only ONE? Oh, my! Here’s one of my favorites: “You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint paradise, then in you go.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

It reminds me that I can make choices that create a red life or a pin-striped life or a turquoise life.  I really can.

What advice would you give to new writers?

1) Once you’ve worked at your craft, once you’ve published that first book, stay in the chair.  I love to teach and I think I got up from my desk and began doing school visits and teaching too soon…my published work began to dry up because I didn’t sit in that chair.  Build a body of work first, get out in the world second.

2) Get a dog.  My dog makes sure I have perspective (it’s just a book!), that I go outside for some fresh air and exercise, and that I have someone I can read my work to who always loves it.

What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?

My violin.  I took classical lessons and was in orchestras from third grade until I was a senior in high school.  In college I switched to folk music and I’ve been fiddling ever since.  Just with friends, just for fun.  My violin has opened doors, bandaged my heart after Sept. 11th, and brought music into our home.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?

I’m in a marvelous critique group—a few students of poet Myra Cohn Livingston who have been together for eons.  And though we call ourselves The Poetry Circle, we write across the spectrum: poetry, picture books, YA and adult novels; one of our members is also an illustrator.

Also, I write a poem a day and send it to my best friend, author Bruce Balan, who sails around the world in a trimaran.  Every night he makes dinner.  After dinner, when his wife is washing the dishes, he reads her my poem and together they critique it.  I am very lucky to have friends like them.

The work is done. How do you recharge?

THE DOG PARK with my dog!  Yee-haw!