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Author Interview: ‘Chicago Treasure’ by Rich Green

About the Book:

A new hardcover book of photography, illustrations, poetry, and prose that celebrates inclusion and the boundless creativity of children

Chicago has many treasures. The Magnificent Mile and Wrigley Field, wonderful public art and parks, beautiful bridges and skylines. But the true heart and the real treasure of the city are its children. This book is devoted to Chicago’s children. Come along as they travel to worlds within worlds, becoming storybook characters who follow the Yellow Brick Road, sip tea in Wonderland, tame a tiger, live in a shoe, climb a magic beanstalk to bring home a golden-egg-laying hen, turn a frog into a prince, meet fairies and dragons.

Continue as they step into painted canvases to inhabit scenes from other times and places. After climbing down from those framed worlds, they explore the city, high-fiving the victorious Chicago Bears, joining penguins at the theater, and leaping across State Street Bridge aboard African impalas.

The kids are the story. The book is their adventure. Its door swings open. . .

Everything Goes Media / Lake Claremont Press

Reading Nook readers may use coupon code CTBLOG15 for a 15% discount on their entire order at Everything Goes Media so why not take a look! – www.everythinggoesmedia.com

With twenty-five years of experience and a love for books and small-scale enterprise, knowledgeable authors with passion projects, and connecting with readers, we are an independent book publisher forging our own path within the industry establishment. Our books have an initial print run of 2,000 to 10,000, and often reprint. We specialize in choosing nonfiction books for particular audiences, supporting authors’ goals, public outreach, and creative sales and marketing. Our imprints include Everything Goes Media (business, gift, hobby, and lifestyle books), Lake Claremont Press (Chicago and Chicago history titles), Lake Claremont Press: A Chicago Joint (distribution for nonfiction Chicago books), and S. Woodhouse Books (ideas, history, science, trends, and current events titles).

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author/Illustrator Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I came into writing through my years of working as an illustrator focused on children’s books. I have always been interested in art and drawing, specifically computer graphics, and my style and interests have always been influenced by children’s themes, books and animation. A few years back, I discovered the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and started attending monthly Illustrator Network meetings in the Chicago area. The group and its mentors share a wealth of knowledge on the industry. Along the way, I started to get more and more interested in the idea of writing and illustrating my own stories. I have been working on a few manuscripts and book dummies I am hoping to pitch later this year.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

Usually I do most of my work, both writing and illustrating, from my home office. Instead of having a specific time of day I like to work, I find myself most productive on wintery days when the snow is falling and the world looks so calm and peaceful. Plus, one of the stories I am working on is set in winter, so it helped put me in the right mood. My other favorite time to work is on sunny days with temps in the low 70’s where I can have the window open to get the nice breeze and hear cars, people and animals passing by outside. It makes me feel connected to the community even though at that moment I am alone in my office.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I have learned that both in illustration and storytelling in general the best ideas come from things you know and your own personal experiences. No one can tell those stories better than you, and I think it really connects with the readers much more.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

Since I am generally writing for children’s picture books, I usually have a pretty good sense of where the story is going. You have such a small number of pages and limited number of words, so the key is to focus the story text and fill in the gaps with things unsaid via the illustrations. It is that combination which has me so excited about being both author and illustrator.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

The books I have previously illustrated are by author Amy Logan. Her Girl and Boy With A Cape stories focus on acts of kindness: the idea that a small act of kindness can spread around your neighborhood, town, city, and the world. I really enjoy that positive and inspiring type of story. My latest book, Chicago Treasure by Larry Broutman, John Rabias and me, takes classic storybook, fairytale and nursery rhymes and puts a modern spin on them. The illustrations feature photos of real children as the main characters. Our message is one of access and inclusion for all children, regardless of ability. That is a message I am very proud of, and the response to the book has been wonderful.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Chicago Treasure features real children in the illustrations, so I can say, without a doubt, we have our dream cast for this project already. Each one of these children shine. Many asked if they were going to be stars when they were being photographed by Larry Broutman. Many have since gone on to be featured in TV and newspaper articles about the book, so I would say they are in fact stars!

7: Do you read much and if so, who are your favourite authors?

As an author/illustrator, I think it is pretty much a requirement to read all the time. That may be even more true in the children’s book world, as you need to see what types of stories are being told, what styles of illustration are resonating with art directors and audiences, and so on. I try to make it a weekly routine to head to my local library and check out a handful of children’s books to keep myself informed and inspired.   Being so involved in the SCBWI has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many amazing authors and illustrators. Forming a bond with some of them has really taken my love of their books to a new level. Matthew Cordell is high on that list. I even had the honor of getting a portfolio review by him several years ago, and now he is a Caldecott medal winner for his incredible wordless picture book Wolf in the Snow. Another favorite of mine is Don Tate who has authored and/or illustrated several incredible books and is the kindest, most humble guy. I find that so inspiring.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Two of my fellow SCBWI-Illinois friends, Doug Cenko and Alex Willan, just had new books released. I am anxiously awaiting my copies, so I can check them out. Doug’s book, My Mama is a Mechanic, is a follow up to his wonderful My Papa is a Princess. Alex’s book, Jasper & Ollie, is his debut author/illustrated picture book. It was just released earlier this week. It’s always exciting to see your friends/peers have their breakthroughs.

9: What is your favorite book and why?

I recently read the children’s book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, and I absolutely love it. It is so clever and imaginative. It is a children’s book that is written for the adult reading the book to a child as much as it is for the child. That is my current favorite for sure.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

“Do great work and be great to work with.” I think most of us work really hard at giving our best when it comes to our craft, and that is important. But equally, if not even more important, is to be someone who is also great to work with. That means being upbeat and a positive personality when interacting with others. It means meeting deadlines and making the process go smoothly for all involved in your projects. It is such simple advice but very effective. I share it with everyone, as it’s a small world, and being known as someone that is good to work with will definitely take you places.

One other saying I rely on is “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This is so true in all aspects in life. Sometimes you have to say yes to a concept or project before you even really know how you are going to complete it. Say yes to chances and opportunities, even if they scare you (For many writers and illustrators public speaking comes to mind). Stepping outside your comfort zone is certainly scary at first, but you never know where it will lead and how much it will enrich your life along the way!

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

You can find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/richgreenart, Twitter: @richgreenart and Instagram: @richgreenart or my website www.richgreenart.com

About the Author/Illustrator:

Illustrator Rich Green is a former Disney intern, a computer graphics professional, and the illustrator of several popular children’s books. Although he works mostly digitally, he also enjoys putting pencil to paper and brush to paint. His artworks can be found in regional galleries. Rich lives in Joliet, Illinois, with his faithful dog, Annie.

About the other Author and Illustrator:

Larry Broutman

Since the 1990s, Larry Broutman has traveled the world over to capture the perfect photograph and has found his hometown of Chicago to have a plethora of visual inspiration. Broutman has been interviewed by high-profile television programs, radio shows, newspapers, and art magazines to discuss his critically-acclaimed photography books Chicago Eternal, Chicago Monumental, and Chicago Unleashed. Chicago Monumental has won a Midwest Book Award for best interior design and an IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award in the Great Lakes Nonfiction category.

His photography projects include work with Lincoln Park Zoo, Africa Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Children’s Memorial Hospital Clinic, and The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Broutman was a finalist in Africa Geographic magazine’s Photographer of the Year contest.

Broutman attended MIT where he received his S.B., S.M., and doctorate degree in the field of Materials Engineering and Science in 1963. Specializing in Polymer Engineering and Science and Composite Materials, Broutman has vast experience writing college textbooks, reference books, and technical articles. In fact, he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame.

John Rabias

Teacher and magician John Rabias works in digital illustration and post-production imaging and has taught computer graphics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for over twenty years. When not working on screen, John paints in oil. He lives in Chicago with his Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster.

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Author Interview: ‘The Lost Artist: Love Passion War’ by Eric Houston

About the Book:

A Search for a Famed Illustrator Uncovers a World War II Hero

1934: A 13-year-old Jewish boy escapes Nazi Germany to become the highest decorated WWII Palestinian (future

Israeli) soldier in the British Army.

2010: A top Israeli computer scientist searches for the favorite artist of her youth.

From the rise of the Nazi Party through the formation of the State of Israel, across a sea of time, their worlds collide.


An esteemed researcher at IBM Israel joined a sixty-year search to discover the identity of the illustrator of “the pearl of Israeli children’s literature,” And There Was Evening, a bestseller and timeless classic, now in its 42nd edition. Fred Hausman, the celebrated, but unknown, artist also happened to be the highest decorated WWII Palestinian soldier in the British Army, the only one to earn the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), the highest gallantry award for a non-British citizen in the British Army, making it the most important WWII medal to Israel.

The present and the past meld in The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1) written by Fred Hausman’s son, Eric Hausman-Houston. The Israeli researcher’s quest to find her favorite illustrator serves as a present-day backdrop to tell Fred Hausman’s harrowing story of escaping Nazi Germany at age thirteen and traveling alone to Palestine.

There, he befriended an untamable horse and King Abdullah of Jordan. He joined the Haganah and he helped save illegal Jewish immigrants. The Lost Artist chronicles Hausman’s time in the British Army up until the decisive moment of WWII’s North Africa Campaign, the El Alamein line, 65 miles west of Alexandria, Egypt, July 3, 1942, when the Nazis had won the war but didn’t know it.

Young Hausman’s journey offers personal insight into the history of Palestine and Israel, the rise of the Nazi Party, Zionism, the Holocaust, WWII, and the seeds of our present day Middle East Crisis. The Lost Artist exposes neglected history and government coverups, including British atrocities in Palestine to both Arabs and Jews, why Winston Churchill had to perpetuate the Rommel myth, and how German resistance working at a Berlin radio station gave their lives to stop the Nazis from winning the war.

The Quest for the Medal Continues to this Day

Fred Hausman’s Distinguished Conduct Medal was unlawfully sold to a British lord under false terms. At the end of the book, there is a bonus chapter with information on these seedy misdoings, followed by documentation of Eric Hausman-Houston’s correspondence with Scotland Yard, the British Ministry of Defense, DNW Auction House, and billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, who is currently in possession of the stolen medal.

Part History, Part Mystery

 

Review:

The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1)

“A page-turner! Revealing important insight into little-known history of pre-state Palestine and World War II, this fascinating journey of a remarkable man is a rip-roaring story from beginning to end. I recommend it to everyone.”
Rabbi Mark S. Golub, JBS TV, jbstv.org

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

In the early 80’s, I was offered a Julliard scholarship by Abbey Simon and was signed by Global Records, who changed my name from Hausman to Houston. The producers of my first album, Beethoven Sonatas: Moonlight Pathetique Appassionata, won the Grammy that year. I did over a hundred concerts to promote my second album, Tonight and Forever. Being responsible for all my travel, I went into serious debt. Life as a D-list concert pianist was sort of a nightmare. Since I couldn’t afford to play, I planned to just sit out my four-year contract. I then wrote my first play, Playing with Fire, which was picked up by Earl Graham of the Graham Agency and optioned for Off-Broadway by Lois Deutchman, and I never went back to the piano.

My second play, Sweet Deliverance, received some great reviews from regional productions and was the last play optioned by legendary Broadway producer, Alexander Cohen. When Alex suddenly died, it was held up in two-year contracts. Gerry Cohen, the brilliant TV director, then produced and directed my next play, Becoming Adele, which had won the Key West Theater Festival Award. He did an amazing job. It got rave reviews in LA and was optioned by Warner Bros. Television.

I then worked in Hollywood for a bit, but my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. In order to move back to New York City to be closer to family, I began ghostwriting. The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1) is the first book I’ve written in my own voice and name, which was the hardest writing I’d ever done. It felt like the absence of a voice. But I got used to it, and it really helped me get over that hurdle.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

A quiet place in the afternoon with no internet.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

They always seem to come when I’m not looking. One of my biggest surprises was when I received an email from Einat Amitay saying, “You may not know this, but your father is very famous in Israel.” At first, I thought it was a scam, but as I read on she talked about a children’s book that my father had illustrated, And There Was Evening (Vayehi Erev, ויהי ער). I knew the book because my father had brought it back from his one trip to Israel in the early 90’s. In early 1948, he had turned in the illustrations right before leaving Palestine/Israel for New York City and never gave it any more thought.

When he showed me the book, he said in disbelief, “It’s a miracle. The book was actually published, and this one little bookstore I happened to walk into somehow got the leftover copies from the 1950’s printing.”

I told Einat that during our first Skype conversation. She laughed, saying, “He could’ve walked into any bookstore and found it. It’s everywhere.” It never crossed his mind that the book could have had more than one printing, much less become a bestseller and timeless classic, now in its 42nd edition, referred to as “the pearl of Israeli children’s literature.” After a sixty-year ongoing search for the artist, Einat, while dying of breast cancer, had joined the mission and, against all odds, finally solved the mystery.

I knew my father had a remarkable story, but I felt too far removed to write it. Besides what he told me, what did I know about the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, Palestine before the State of Israel, WW II’s North African Campaign, the No. 2 Commando, etc.? But the story was now too much for me to resist.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I always like to have an idea of the three acts, beginning, middle and end, before I start writing, but that’s just a rough blueprint. The characters tend to take over. I wouldn’t want to make them do anything false just to move the story in a certain direction. Since my father’s story is a memoir, it was just a matter of realizing it. His story is incredible enough. I didn’t want to alter any of the facts.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I love great novels and biographies, such as Dr. Zhivago and The Agony and the Ecstasy (even with its inaccuracies). They pull me into the history, pushing me to find out more. I felt that my father’s story had that potential, and there was nothing else quite like it.

The history of Israel is important to me. It’s a part of my father story. But the Middle East crisis affects us all. I was hoping that the reader could experience this important history through his remarkable journey. Perhaps most of all, I wanted to write a book that I would love to read.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

In my opinion, the actor to play my father hasn’t been born yet. In truth, it would just be very strange for me to watch an actor playing my father.

However, for the part of Einat Amitay, any of these actors would be terrific:

Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Hilary Swank, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts, Rebecca Hall, Keira Knightley, Cate Blanchett, Marion Cortillard, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Adams… to name a few.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I rarely go anywhere without a book. The authors that had the most influence on me early on were probably Jane Austen, John le Carré, Daphne du Maurier, Graham Greene and Moss Hart, to name a few. Two I’ve recently discovered are Dov Zeller and Lara Lillibridge.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Commando: Winning WW2 Behind Enemy Lines by James Owen and Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, about the sinking of the great American battle ship. I also recently had the chance to read two wonderful new writers: Dov Zeller’s The Right Thing To Do At The Time and Book of Hats and Lara Lillibridge’s Girlish.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

It’s amazing that Pride and Prejudice was written over 200 years ago. There are so many reasons why it’s a timeless masterpiece; perfect three-act structure (not coined until 1979 by Syd Field), compelling drama with characters you care about in unfair situations, brilliant dialogue that is always true to the characters, and, of course, her timeless sense of humor that flows so naturally from the characters.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Write shitty. Trying to write brilliantly can be paralyzing. Keep the bar low. Take the pressure off. Write shitty, and if you’re good, you’ll work at it until it’s done. So write shitty, and you’re sure to succeed.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/erichausman.houston

Extract:

From the pages of The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1)

2009

Amidst all of this chaos, bombs, killing, starvation, there were artists creating children’s books. Did they even consider themselves artists? At the time, there was no Hebrew word for “illustrator.” They were just people who drew. She wondered how someone could even publish and distribute children’s books as if there were no war going on. And There Was Evening has no death. It is innocent and very humane, as were all Israeli children’s books of that time. They seemed to have understood that terrifying witches, giants, and monsters had no place for children in need of relief from the nightmare.

1934

A few weeks after Fritz’s thirteenth birthday, he left the protection of his loving family in Germany to make the long trip alone to Palestine, not knowing when or if he would ever return. On the day of his arrival, the ‘Disturbances’ broke out as Arab revolutionaries attacked several buses transporting Jews. The Haganah (Underground Jewish paramilitary) retaliated while the controlling British tried to maintain order with an iron fist. At the Ben Shemen Youth Village, Fritz’s destination, teachers hid with children in shelters as Arab snipers shot at the school. The bus driver assured Fritz, “Not to worry. This happens. Welcome to the Promised Land.” Fritz showed no emotion. Having experienced the rise of the Nazi party, he was accustomed to living under constant threat.

1936

The car signaled by flashing its lights three times. Haim signaled back with his flashlight. He then jumped on Amon and galloped to them. With only a crescent moon for guidance, Haim could just make out a darkly dressed woman and boy with a suitcase standing in the path. He pulled on the reigns of the harness whispering, “Whoa!” The boy and woman looked terrified as Amon came to a halt practically on top of them.

Without taking the time to comment on the horse, the woman whispered anxiously in Hebrew, “Do you speak Polish?”

“No,” Haim whispered back as he dismounted.

The woman continued, “You won’t understand each other then, but no matter. The less spoken the better. He has eaten but will need food in the morning. His cousin will pick him up here tomorrow at 10:00 am.”

Haim asked apprehensively, “In daylight?”

The woman nodded, “It is less suspicious for a woman and boy to travel then. She will have another boy’s papers in case they are stopped. We had no choice but to travel tonight as the British have begun searching homes along the coast.” Haim could just make out the silhouettes of other yolim in the car.

On the main road, he spotted the lights of a British patrol heading their way. To keep Amon quiet, he covered his eyes with a cloth while stroking his neck. The woman put an anxious arm around the boy’s shoulder as the lights of the patrol neared the path. If the patrol spotted the car, Haim was ready to put the boy on Amon and gallop off with him.

They held their breaths as the patrol slowly passed. Exhaling with relief, the woman determinedly whispered, “When you see his cousin, you will ask her if she is lost. She will say that she is looking for her little brother who has run away. Do not turn him over unless she says that. Do you understand?”

Haim nodded. As she turned to leave, Haim asked, “Can he ride a horse?” The woman asked the boy in Polish. The boy shook his head “no.” Haim shrugged, “It may be a good time to learn.”

The woman translated, and the boy looked up at Amon terrified. The woman advised, “He made it this far. Please don’t kill him now.”

1939

“Not returning to Germany means losing everything. That was made clear when we received papers for this trip. And there are three good German families waiting like vultures to take over our home.”

Though Fritz had been determined not to fight, having listened quietly, he now asked, “So, you would die for a house?”

Julius snapped back, “Or we die of starvation in Italy, Palestine, America or God knows where! You think Germans are the only ones to hate Jews?! If we leave Germany now, we have nothing!”

Fritz argued, “You won’t starve! There are six thousand Swiss francs sitting in a bank account in Geneva! Take it and save yourselves!”

Julius was adamant. “That money is yours! It is your future! I will die before touching that!”

Fritz yelled back, “No, you and mother will die! I don’t need it. In Palestine, we share. If you don’t take it, I’ll give it away!”

Hearing that, Julius exploded, “Give it away? Give it away?! You will do no such thing! You are a child! I am your father! I am responsible for this family! You will do as I say! End of discussion!”

Fritz, seething, was silenced by Lotte’s glare as she shook her head at him. Julius, regaining his composure, attempted to lift the dark cloud engulfing the room. “Please. Things are not so dire. There are over half a million Jews in Germany. The Nazis cannot kill half a million Jews. And if it is any consolation, I promise, should things get any worse, mother and I will leave.”

Calming down, Fritz respectfully asked, “Have you considered the job on the Rothschild Estate in Palestine? Arabs and Jews live peacefully together there, so you’ll have no trouble with insurgents.”

Julius scoffed, “Communists! I should work the rest of my life for nothing, and then what?!”

Fritz assured, “You’ll be taken care of. And if you don’t like it, you can go back to Germany. View it as a holiday until all this passes over.”

Julius sardonically stated, “The Nazis have promised a thousand-year Reich. That is quite some holiday.”

1942

Shells exploded around them as they fired their guns, discharging ear-piercing missiles back towards the enemy troops. When the barrage quieted down, they moved forward, surprised to receive no response from the enemy.

Making their way up to the wide, circular rim of the depression, there was still no shellfire. Believing to have the German troops in retreat, the plan was to cross the depression to go after them. But topping the rim and entering into the cauldron, the sky suddenly exploded.

Rommel, predicting their every move, had earlier fired the first barrage and quickly withdrew his forces beyond the depression’s far rim, causing the retaliating British shells to land on empty ground. Now ready and waiting, Rommel lured the British into a trap.

About the Author:

The Lost Artist author Eric Hausman-Houston has been a concert pianist, playwright, and ghostwriter.

As a concert pianist in the 1980s, Eric Hausman-Houston was offered a Julliard scholarship by Abbey Simon. He was signed by Global Records, who changed his name from Hausman to Houston. His first album, Beethoven Sonatas: Moonlight Pathetique Appassionata, received critical acclaim and won the Grammy for Best Producers. To promote his second album, Tonight and Forever, a collection of popular classical piano pieces, Houston went on a one hundred concert tour.

Responsible for all travel expenses, he went into debt. Planning to sit out his four-year contract, Houston wrote his first play, Playing with Fire. Playing with Fire was picked up by Earl Graham of the Graham Agency and optioned for Off-Broadway by Lois Deutchman, producer of Oil City Symphony. Houston never returned to the piano.

Houston’s play, Becoming Adele, the recipient of the Key West Theater Festival Award, was produced and directed by Gerry Cohen at the Court Theatre in Los Angeles, produced Off-Broadway by the Gotham Stage Company with director Victor Maog, and optioned by Warner Bros. Television. His play, Sweet Deliverance, was given an extended run at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles, and was the last play optioned by legendary Broadway producer, Alexander Cohen. Edward B. Morgan of Washington County News called Sweet Deliverance “the funniest play to come out of the Barter Theatre.”

After having worked as a ghostwriter, The Lost Artist marks Houston’s first book written in his own voice and name.

All proceeds from The Lost Artist will go to reuniting Fred Hausman’s Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), and other medals stolen from within the British Ministry of Defense, with their rightful owners. The Hausman medals will then be donated to an orphanage in Israel so that they may sell the Hausman medals to a museum.

Join in the journey of an incredible young man and the determined woman who would not give up her search for him.

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