Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Brunch with Cynthia Levinson



Watch Out for Flying Kids is the book I couldn’t write. I was so convinced—and kept telling my editor, Kathy Landwehr—that I couldn’t write it, she sent me a copy of this:

Text© 2007 by Watty Piper. Illustrations© 2007 by Loren Long. (Philomel)
How did I know it was impossible to write this book? Here are a few of the reasons:
  •  There are nine—9!—main “characters,” all of them real-life teenagers.
  • They speak three different languages—English, Hebrew, and Arabic. And not all of them speak English, the only language I know.
  • They live in two different countries—Israel and America—in way different time zones.
  • They’re experts in subjects I knew nothing about—diabolo, firestaff, the difference between rockets and missiles, the tensions in Ferguson.
  • Almost all of the information in this nonfiction book had to come from personal interviews because there were practically no secondary sources.
  • Did I mention that they’re teenagers, with much better things to do than talk with a nosy writer?
So, how did I finally write Watch Out for Flying Kids?
  • I spent weeks in St.Louis and in Israel with families in the Jewish town of Karmiel and the Arab village, Deiral-Asad.
  • I conducted over 120 hours of interviews, figuring out ways to communicate through translators over Skype, Facebook, telephone, text messaging....
  • I spent three straight months working here:
(The clown nose on my monitor kept me company the whole time.)
Given these complications, why did I persist?
Each one of the nine—twoIsraeli Arabs and two Jews plus threewhite kids and two black kids in St. Louis—tell fascinating true stories about overcoming personal, physical, and political obstacles. Iking Bateman, for instance, faced off against gang members. ShaiBen Yosef faced being teased. In the process, all of them became professional-level performers with CircusHarmony (in action here) and the Galilee Circus (in action here).

Most of all, I kept on because of what these young people taught me:
  • “There’s a universal language between humans, and it’s not necessarily through speech.” (AlexGabliani)
  • “I learned how to rely on myself and believe in me.” (HalaAsadi)
  • “Arabs and Jewish people can be together. There’s nothing impossible.” (HlaAsadi)
  • “Circus is not about competition.” (Shai Ben Yosef)
  • “Without boxes, borders or boundaries, I built dreams.” (Iking Bateman) 


Click here for more information about circus and how Cynthia wrote this book.

18 comments:

  1. This post is exactly what I needed to read today, Cynthia, as I'm feeling daunted by my own project. Can't wait to read your latest!

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. I hope the Flying Kids will help undaunt you!

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  2. Looks great! For upper elementary audience? Brave you to try the mini-tramp and globe and then to post the videos online!

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    1. Yep, Diane, upper elementary through middle school. It wasn't so brave to try the tricks but posting the videos online was definitely fool hardy!

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  3. This is a terrific post. Really helpful. Thanks, Cynthia, for sharing your frustrations and process.

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    1. We all have frustrations and might as well own up to them.

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  4. This books sounds stupefyingly fantastic, Cynthia. It's gonna fly off the shelves with 'the greatest of ease!' Can't wait to read it, and after I do, I am sure I will give it FIVE CLOWN NOSES! Congrats.
    -- Eve in CT (emcatarevas@sbcglobal.net)

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  5. Fabulous topic, Cynthia! You've written another bridge to peace

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  7. Can't wait to read your book - and share it with my Jewish circus performing daughter who has overcome being relentlessly bullied!

    Joan in MA (joanmail@comcast.net)

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    1. I deeply sorry to hear that your daughter has been bullied.

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  8. A friend told me about this book. I can't wait to read it.

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  9. I look forward to read and sharing with my 7 year old granddaughter, Eden!

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    1. I hope you have a good time reading it together.

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