the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Barbara Krasner and Liesl’s Ocean Rescue!

Posted by Tami Brown on Mon, Dec 01, 2014 @ 06:12 AM

Today we welcome Barbara Krasner back to The LaunchPad for the launch of her SECOND picture book biography this year, Liesl’s Ocean Rescue! Barbara is a member of the winter '06 class (affectionately known these days as "The Class With No Name")

liesl frontSmall Liesl’s Ocean Rescue, by noted children’s author Barbara Krasner, recounts the story of Liesl Joseph, a 10-year-old girl aboard the ill-fated MS St. Louis. On May 13, 1939, together with her parents and nearly 1,000 other Jewish refugees, she left Hamburg on the German luxury liner, attempting to seek temporary asylum in Cuba.

Great to see you back at The LaunchPad Barbara, and congratulations on your second new picture book this year. What was the spark that ignited this book?

I grew up hearing about the Jewish refugees on a ship that the United States would not accept. When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a book about its survivors, Refuge Denied, my interest was once again piqued. I contacted one of the authors of the book and he shared with me a list of survivors in my local area. Within a few months, I interviewed seven survivors at their homes in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area and one by phone in Florida. One of these was Liesl Joseph Loeb, whose father had been head of the ship’s passenger committee.

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

To keep the book at picture book length, I started the story when Liesl and her parents board the ship in Hamburg. But my publisher wanted to start at the defining moment: Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Liesl’s father was arrested like thousands of other men across Germany. My publisher was right, of course.

liesl  14 (3)

Tell us about your writing community.

I’ve been writing historical fiction and non-fiction with members of the Carolyn P. Yoder Retreats since 2005 or so. We’ve gotten to know each other’s work so well, strengths and weaknesses alike. Because we all pretty much write the same genre, I don’t have to hear suggestions that make no sense for nonfiction that I get in local writers groups. We focus on the narrative arc, emotion, and clarity.

What authors do you love for their sentences? Plot? Character?

I wish I could write like Neal Bascomb in The Nazi Hunters (Scholastic/Arthur Levine, 2013) and Steve Sheinkin in Bomb (Roaring Brook Press, 2012). They make nonfiction real page-turners. And they have their ways to weave in multiple viewpoints in a way that doesn’t confuse young readers.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My advisors were Jane Resh Thomas, Liza Ketchum, Ellen Levine, and Marion Dane Bauer. For some reason, I only worked on nonfiction, in picture book format, with Liza, while I waited for her to read the middle grade novel I’d written with Jane. Still, the fictional techniques I learned apply to writing nonfiction. There still has to be characterization, setting, imagery, plot.

What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

I knew you should take the opportunity to experiment with different kinds of writing, but I didn’t realize just how true that was. I wish I’d written more nonfiction for all grade levels.

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It's great to have you back, Barbara-- and best of luck with your next release, either fiction or nonfiction! We'll be on the look out!

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is published by Gihon River Press and hits bookstores today. You can read more about Barbara and her both of her books at 

Find out more about Liesl and her incredible journey here and watch the trailer for Barbara's book here 




Topics: nonfiction, 2014 release, picture book, Barbara Krasner, picture book biography

Barbara Krasner and GOLDIE TAKES A STAND!

Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, Sep 04, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

Welcome Barbara Krasner and Goldie Takes A Stand! Like me, Barbara is a member of the class of January '06 (Go class with no name!)  She teaches creative writing and children's lit at William Paterson University. Although she's written hundreds of articles for children's magazines, and has published about local history and genealogy, this is her first full length book for children. Congratulations Barbara and welcome to The Launch Pad!

Goldie Takes a Stand (2)Even at the age of nine, little Golda Meir was known for being a leader. As the president of the American Young Sisters Society, she organizes her friends to raise money to buy textbooks for immigrant classmates. A glimpse at the early life of Israel’s first female prime minister, who was born in Russia and grew up in Milwaukee, this story is based on a true episode in the early life of Golda Meir.

What was the spark that ignited this book? 

The spark that ignited this book happened between two Highlights Foundation retreats, I needed something to read. I was heading to Rhode Island and the annual reading of the Moses Seixas and George Washington letters of religious tolerance at Touro Synagogue in Newport. I thumbed the books on the shelves in the farmhouse and came across Golda Meir's autobiography. In my flea-bitten motel that night in Narragansett, I read about Golda's efforts to raise money to buy schoolbooks for her classmates. I knew I had my story. Her voice was so strong, I made the decision to use first person. 

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why? 

The most difficult element to change during the revision process with the editor was cutting Golda's sister and her father from the narrative. But that was okay, because my manuscript was way too long.

What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you? 

Here is the nugget of craft advice that I've found especially helpful: You have to have the courage to admit what's not working in your manuscript. You don't really need other people to tell you. (You just hope no one else notices!)

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack? 

I do not write in silence. I tend to write with the television tuned into contemporary jazz - no words.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

Attending VCFA affected my writing life in the following way: I came into the program as a lion and left with my tail wagging as a lamb. I didn't write for a full year after graduation. I continued to volunteer my services to the annual Jewish Children's Book Writers & Illustrators annual conference, though, and that kept me connected. Eventually, I began to write again--a complete revision of a historical novel I put under the bed before entering VCFA, which I'm shopping around at the moment.

Bkrasnerkhait p 210 exp

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student? 

The advice I would give to a prospective VCFA student is the following: Come in ready to roll up your sleeves and set your current works-in-progress aside. This is your time to experiment. I never for a moment thought my first children's book would be a picture book. But during my second semester, while my adviser read my novel-in-progress, that's what I wrote.

You can find out more about Barbara and her books at  or her blog  

Goldie Takes a Stand! Golda Meir's First Crusade was published by Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. It's available now at a bookstore near you.

Topics: nonfiction, 2014 release, picture book, Lerner Publishing Group, Barbara Krasner, picture book biography, Kar-Ben

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