Author Interview: Howard Eisenberg

Today, I’d like to share with you an interview that I was recently able to do with the author Howard Eisenberg.  He has written several books, TV scripts, newspaper and magazine articles, and more.  He’s definitely a career writer, and at age 87, he has no signs of slowing down any time soon!

He’s recently published a trio of Guess Who children’s books, perfect for preschoolers and families to enjoy together.  They use cute rhymes and a sweet little guessing game to challenge preschoolers and allow them to have a fun time reading.

guess who zoo howard eisenberg guess who farm howard eisenberg guess who neighborhood howard eisenberg

Author Interview With Howard Eisenberg

Howard Eisenberg Mr. Eisenberg, thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you!  Your new “Guess Who” series looks like a great way for preschoolers to simultaneously enjoy a fun rhyming riddle and also proudly show off their knowledge.  I know that these books have been a long time in the making, and I’m sure you’re excited to get them out there in the hands of families to enjoy for years to come.

Advice to Budding Authors

Do you have any advice for budding young authors that hope to write children’s books of their own one day?
You probably know already how hard it is to sell a children’s book to a publisher — unless it’s a publisher who asks you to pay for the publishing. (And that’s not so terrible if you can afford it, have lots of friends who’ll buy your book, and are savvy about on-line marketing.)  Very few publishers will look at a manuscript unless it comes via a literary agent whom they trust to screen submissions for them.

But before you sell a book, you have to write it. I’m what might be called a professional writer. (I’ve been doing it for 60 years — magazines, books, radio, TV, whatever.) But when I decided to move forward toward publishing with some children’s book ideas I had, I signed up for a class in writing for children’s books — and I learned a lot. Not just from the instructor who sells her own books regularly, but from classmates who, like me, submitted their manuscripts each week and were able to give extremely helpful written and oral suggestions and advise at how to improve my manuscripts. Community colleges often have classes like these. I’d say, “Enroll!”

Then, when your MS is picture-book-perfect, go to the nearest good book store and look at books on how to market  children’s books. (I have two on my shelf — like “Writer’s and Illustrator’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishers and Agents.”) After that, if at first you don’t succeed, follow Dr. Seuss’ example (I think he was rejected for 30 or 40 publishers), try, try again. And in the meantime, try to arrange readings at schools in your area to gauge interest in what you’ve written. After all, readers have to love it or you’re just spinning your wheels.

I finally decided to self-publish (indie-publish is the more respectable term) my three Guess Who Books, doing all three at once (it didn’t come cheap) from Mascot Books in Virginia, in hopes of creating a tidal wave instead of just a ripple. (Some good stuff has happened, but I’m waiting for the waters to rise.)

Sources of Inspiration and Energy

Where do you find inspiration for new writing projects and how do you manage your time and keep the momentum going to get it completed?
My problem has never been finding ideas, but rather writing all the ideas I’ve already got and the ones that keep coming. I’ve been a magazine free-lance writer and I’ve written six adult and three children’s books. But I’ve got six projects I’m currently working on (I float from one to another) including a musical, a screenplay, a book of toddler poems, a one-man show based on a baseball book, etc, etc. I saddle up my dreams and let them run. And I work at them every day, heading to my iMac full of energy and enthusiasm. I was born in1926, so you do the math. I love writing and I never want to stop. (Well, I know I’ll be stopped by a Higher Power one of these years, but ’til then…)

Family Books

I love that your whole family is involved with writing.  It seems like you all have found a way to express yourselves in a way that really resonates with people.
Are there any particular articles, books, or other works that have stood out to you as the most special to you?
Well, I have to admit that my amazing late wife, Arlene, and daughter, Heidi, are the family champs in terms of visibility and success with their “What to  Expect” books. And my son, the family intellectual, has written two seminal books: “The Ecology of Eden” and “The  Recording Angel” (a social history of the phonograph record). But my personal favorites are “Night Calls: The Personal Journey of an OB/GYN,” which I wrote with my doctor brother, and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cooperstown,” a memoir I wrote with a hilarious story-telling ex-pitcher for the Red Sox, the Yankees, and a bunch of other teams, the late Mickey McDermott.  About the only place you’d find them is on Amazon or Barnes&Noble.com. They’re the two books I’m proudest of — or to put that grammatically, the books of which I’m proudest.

Kid Books in the Works

Do you have any more books for kids in the works?
 If my Guess Who Books catch on  (your readers  can help me and see what they’re like by going to guesswhozoo.com), I have enough poems for two more Guess Who Zoo books plus a Guess Who Heroes, Guess What Country, and many more.  And I’m about to publish a book for parents and grandparents to be probably titled, “Lovable Rascals: A Treasury of Toddler Poems.” Poems like:
FAMILY FRIES
And now a message for parents
The easiest way to gain weight
Is to have a couple of toddlers
And eat what they leave on their plate.
Thank you again so much for taking the time to speak with me!  I am really impressed with the love and thought put into these books, and can’t wait to tell others more about them so they can get in on the fun, too.
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Here is the full press release for Mr. Eisenberg’s new book series.  I hope you check it out!  I can’t wait to read a copy for myself.

INTERACTIVE RHYMING CHILDREN’S BOOK SERIES DEBUTS

Guess Who Books by Veteran Author Howard Eisenberg (Guess Who ZooGuess Who Farm, and Guess Who Neighborhood) Were Inspired By His Best-Selling Author Wife

Miami, Florida – June 25, 2014 – The first Guess Who Zoo poems that author Howard Eisenberg wrote weren’t meant to become a book. They were simply amusing post card poems penned at 30,000 feet to entertain his grandchildren (and himself) in 1989 while accompanying his wife, Arlene, on a What to Expect book tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Now, published 25 years later by Mascot Books, Guess Who Zoo has been released simultaneously with the more recently-written Guess Who Farm and Guess Who Neighborhood in a new interactive series “in hopes,” smiles Eisenberg, “of creating a tidal wave instead of a ripple.”

Eisenberg’s previous six books were for adults. This trio, accidentally born on that overseas flight, are designed for children 3-6 as “fun that educates” — encouraging vocabulary building and reading and writing skills as well as introductions to science, social studies, and the arts. The books begin with charming rhymed stories followed by whimsical interactive poems with clues in every line and the last word – usually the animal’s name – left blank. Two of the books are augmented by a fascinating-facts section entitled If Animals Could Talk.

In Guess Who Zoo, Monkey steals the keys from a napping Zookeeper and releases all the animals. The book expands a Guess Who Zoo CD that won a Parent’s Choice Award and a Parenting Magazine Pick. In Guess Who Farm, Young Mac (Old MacDonald’s son) longs for a farm of his own, but when a trailer load of animals arrives they refuse to leave the truck until he guess their names. Young Mac, a terrible guesser, implores young readers to help him start his farm.  In Guess Who Neighborhood, the fun begins for two totally bored children when their house-hunting parents discover a unique neighborhood in which the kids get to guess a Snowman, a Playground, a Nanny, and even a Skunk.

A Sample From the Guess Who Zoo:

MY COAT IS BRIGHT AND SPECKLED

MY FAVORITE LUNCH IS LEAVES

I DAINTILY NIBBLE DOWN BELOW

OR HIGH ON THE TALLEST TREES.

MY NECK IS AS LONG AS A LIGHT POLE

IT MAKES LITTLE CHILDREN LAUGH

WHEN I STRETCH IT OUT TO LICK YOUR HAND

YOU’LL KNOW I’M THE _________.

Of the six books Eisenberg has written, four were in collaboration with his wife, Arlene, who also co-wrote What To Expect When You’re Expecting with their daughter Heidi Murkoff.  Since Arlene’s passing, Heidi has carried the book forward to some 700 weeks on the NY Times Best-Seller List.

All three Guess Who Books are dedicated to Arlene (still Howard’s muse) “who loved reading poetry to our children and grandchildren – and always paused to let them guess the rhymes.”

Next on Eisenberg’s agenda is Good Grief! What’s Next? A book of playfully charming short poems about toddlers for parents and grandparents. Arlene introduced them when Howard read them at her lectures with, “If you’re going to have a toddler, you need a sense of humor.” That book will be published in 2014.  Eisenberg is working on: a musical entitled The Million Dollar Bet, a screenplay entitled Jungle Ball,” a one-man show entitled The Phenom, based on one of his books.

“With all these writing projects,” says Howard, “I sometimes feel like a one-armed juggler. But I’d hate to drop any of them. I’m having too much fun.” At 87 years of age, Eisenberg is still going strong.

About Jennifer Land

Jenn lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and 5 children. The family likes to eat healthy and try new recipes. Jenn homeschools all of the kids. She is heavily involved with local bloggers and is slightly addicted to social media.

Comments

  1. What a great interview! I love his advice for people who want to write books themselves!
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