Monday, April 19, 2021

Faygie Holt has been writing for as long as she can remember—newspapers, magazines, blogs and, now, a children’s novel. Her book “The New Girl” is geared to girls in grades two to four and is available for purchase through Jewish bookstores and elsewhere.

Said Holt of her writing journey, “I’ve been working as a writer and editor for many years now, but for a number of years I also worked in education. It was while I was teaching fourth-grade girls that I realized that there was a real lack of Jewish chapter books for this grade level. Many of my students would read novels from Jewish publishers that were for adult readers, and some couldn’t completely understand or relate to the stories they were reading. At around the same time, some of my friends who had daughters around 8 or 9 years old started telling me how they needed more Jewish books for their kids to read. One day, mostly as a challenge to myself, I began writing a few pages of the story that would eventually be ‘The New Girl.’ I brought those pages into the classroom and read them aloud.”

The response from her students? “Amazing,” added Holt. “They kept asking ‘What happens next? When will you read more pages?’” By the end of the year, the rough draft was completed.

After several months of rewrites, revisions and edits, Holt found Menucha Publishers. The agency loved the story and Holt “[is] thrilled they are introducing the [book] to the world.”

This is Holt’s first published novel, though not the first time she has written a full-length fiction book. Her earlier novels, which were unpublished, were all for adult readers. Until she began writing “The New Girl,” she didn’t think she would be able to capture the voice of this age group. She is “beyond thrilled that my first book is not only a children’s book, but a Jewish one as well. I feel like with “The New Girl” I am combining many of the things I am passionate about—reading, writing, Judaism and education.”

Because of her background in education, Holt has writing prompts and discussion guides available for teachers who want to use the novel in their classroom. Some of the lessons are similar to those she used with her students as she was writing the first draft of the book.

Does she plan to start work on another novel anytime soon? Young female readers certainly hope so.

Holt works as the communications director at the Friendship Circle in Livingston, New Jersey, and as a freelance writer/editor for various print media outlets, including the Jewish Link of New Jersey. She has won several awards for her work, including a Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association, a Philadelphia Press Association award and Keystone chapter SPJ award.

By Jill Kirsch