It Only Took a Mere Two Decades to Become an Overnight Success

Guest Post by Janie Emaus

Here we are on the Eve of Christmas Eve and the 6th night of Hanukkah. Our menorah candles are burning bright. The Christmas lights twinkle. Cookies are cooling. And latkes sizzle in the pan.

I love it when both holidays overlap as they do in my book, Latkes for Santa Claus.

In this story, Anna is trying to find the perfect Jewish food for Santa to introduce him to her traditions. She starts by sending a text.

And then she sets out to find Santa that perfect treat. Of course, her new stepbrother is sure Santa just wants cookies.

What follows is a friendly cook-off, with Anna agreeing some foods just can’t be eaten while on a sleigh.

The story ends with the realization that doing something with your sibling is better than doing it alone. And as an added bonus the book concludes with a “secret” to die for: our family latke recipe.

When I got the idea for Latkes for Santa Claus, there was no social media. I wasn’t a grandmother yet. And my hair wasn’t white. Let alone pink!

The only thing that has stayed the same since inception is the title. I came up with it during one of our annual latke-making parties, where the women in our family gather to fry latkes, drink tequila, gossip, and solve the world’s problems.  

Whatever your traditional foods – tamales, dumplings, lasagna, borsch – the best memories involve their preparation.  When families gather in the kitchen, magic happens. And for me it was the birth of Latkes for Santa Claus

From contract to bookshelf, it was approximately nine months. From idea to sale, it was over two decades. Quite a long gestation period!

Having been raised Jewish, I never celebrated Christmas until I met my husband.  He never celebrated Hanukkah until he met me.  When our daughter was young, we lit the menorah for eight nights, decorated a Christmas tree, sang carols, ate lots of latkes, left cookies for Santa, and opened an exorbitant number of presents.

I began to wonder how our daughter was feeling. Was she confused? Did she understand we were a blended family?

Like any good mother, I looked for books that showed families celebrating both holidays and couldn’t find any. At least not anything fun.

So, like any good writer, I decided to write my own.  And because books like this weren’t on the market, I just knew publishers would love my book. Well, there weren’t any books like this because publishers didn’t want any! At least, not yet. 

But I didn’t give up. My motto has always been PERSEVERANCE. And I kept at it. Year after year after year.

Jump forward to December 2019.

In addition to a daughter celebrating both holidays, I now had grandchildren celebrating both holidays. And helping to fry latkes!

On Dec 5th, I participated in #Pitmad. For those of you unfamiliar with this event, you tweet your pitch and compulsively check for “likes” every few minutes. If an agent or editor likes your pitch, you can send them a query.

I sent my tweet and waited. Yes! A like! My heart pounded. My fingers shook. It was from a car warranty place. A few minutes later, I received another like. This time, from an anti-aging company. These companies obviously did not know the #Pitmad rules or the fragility of my heart.

Finally, near the end of the day, Nicole Frail at Sky Pony liked my pitch. On Saturday, December 7th, I sent her my query letter with the complete manuscript. On Tuesday, she offered me a contract.

It was successful enough that Sky Pony bought a second book, Easter Eggs and Matzo Balls.

I’m excited that Latkes for Santa Claus is on the shelves again this year, bringing the blended family experience into the homes of children around the world.

I wish you a very joyous holiday season, full of laughter and love.

Oh, and one last thing. I heard from a very reliable source that Santa Claus loves his latkes with both apple sauce and sour cream!

I love to hear from readers, writers, foodies, and elves.  You can find me here:

9 comments

  1. Janie, as another decade-plus writer still hopefully subbing, I love your overnight success story! And what a delightful book, with so many layers and so much that is important for children and adults to consider. I look forward to reading it, along with your (yay!) sequel. Happy holidays to you and your family.

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  2. What a great story. Thanks for giving me an inspirational boost. I am moving in on 12 years trying to get traditionally published and I will keep at it. Have a fabulous holiday Janie and I wish you continued success on your writing journey.

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  3. What an inspiring journey to publication! As someone who has also been trying to crack that next step for over a decade thank you for your post and Congratulations on both books! Happy Holidays!

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