Posted by: Joelle Burnette | December 6, 2011

My first book is published!

I’m so excited to have my first book published on Amazon! I hope you will purchase it and let your friends and family know about it.

My book, “Freedom Doesn’t Just Come Along With A Tree,” is a Hanukkah story about a boy who is the only Jewish child in a classroom adorned with Christmas holiday decorations. His mother brings all the fixings for a Hanukkah party and a fun way for the children to learn about the Jewish holiday.

In this Hanukkah poem that starts as a twist on the classic “Night Before Christmas” poem, the mother is proud of her son who is the catalyst for tolerance and change when he inadvertently teaches his classmates about diversity and how it feels to be singled out. The boy’s classmates learn there are more religions than their own, as well as a diversity of holiday celebrations; each deserving of respect.

My experience with my own children and their classes inspired this story. It’s probably not difficult to figure out, the boy is my son.

Considering I wrote the poem based on what my son did in his class to tell about his heritage, this turned out to be a bit of a family collaboration.

My mom sketching out the menorah. We have many menorahs, but I think this is my favorite because it's the one I grew up with. My parents gave it to us to share with our kids.

Moreover, after I finished the story (about 30 or more times), my mom came over and started working on the illustrations before I worked on them in Photoshop. I also sketched and created some other illustrations. I’m proud of my mom as an artist. I wish I could sketch as quickly as she does, and she wants to write like I do, but that’s why she has paintings in museums and I have stories in the newspaper.

If you purchase the book, you’ll notice I thank Karen Pierce Gonzalez. I’m a firm believer that people enter your life when you need them most. That was the case with Karen.

She and I met through my work at the paper and we became better acquainted each time we saw each other at various events I was covering; you tend to see a lot of the same people at community events. We decided it would be nice to meet for coffee some time and when my birthday rolled around, we met at a nearby coffee house where we fell easily into conversation.

My parents came over for dinner that night and here's my dad sleeping while sitting in his walker and waiting for mom to finish her sketches. My poor dad.

It was a serendipitous moment when she mentioned, one of her businesses is having a small publishing company that has a focus on cultural folklore.

I learned long ago, never be afraid to ask someone to help when it might be the thing that can change your life. “The worst thing they can say, is no,” I always hear my dad’s voice. And he’s right.

“Well, speaking of cultural diversity,” I mentioned to Karen I had written this Hanukkah story a while back when my children were younger. But you can read something only so many times before you can’t distinguish what doesn’t work, especially when you have memorized the words and their rhythm. So, either you walk away from it for a week, a month or more, or you give it to someone else to read.

Of course, finding a reader versus finding someone who will tell you (honestly with no holds barred) what’s wrong with your writing…those are two very different things. A lot of people read my story and were nice about it (that doesn’t help the end product), but in Karen, I finally found an editor who was willing to pick out those little things that had nagged at me for too long.

So, Karen, thank you for providing me that focus I needed to get over that last hurdle. I may be knocking on your door soon with another project…one I’ve been working on for 10 years. Aaaagh!

Book Bonus: My delicious latke recipe is included at the back of this book so you can enjoy your own tasty Hanukkah latkes at home or in your child’s classroom.

The book can be found in Amazon’s Kindle store. Here’s the link I hope you will share with your friends and family:

Looking for a color version? You can also find it at smashwords,, and  later this week, it is expected to be included in the Apple and Google eBook sites. I appreciate your help. I hope you enjoy the book and have a wonderful holiday season!


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