Meet Chaya Sara Ben Shachar
We at Torah Temimah Publications are very excited about our upcoming new title, Winners: Best Short Stories, Teen Writing Contest. It’s not just another collection of short stories—it’s a collection of your short stories! Yes, we’ve anthologized seventeen impressive short stories written by Jewish teenage girls from all around the world. They were challenged to come up with their best, and they did just that.
Let’s meet the creator, developer and editor of this unique book—Chaya Sara Ben Shachar.
Q. Hi, Chaya Sara. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing background.
A. I wrote my first book when I was thirteen years old. Though it was never published, the idea that I could actually produce a full-length work stayed with me. Every time I got an exciting idea I would quickly jot it down, often expanding my ideas into a few chapters or even a full-length novel.
When I was nineteen, my first book was accepted for publication by Targum Press! That book became part of a series, and at this point, I’ve published seven books, baruch Hashem. I’ve also written serialized novels for teens and preteens in Binah Bunch, Binyan and The Jewish Press.
Winners will be my eighth book to be published, and I daresay it’s the most exciting book venture I’ve ever been involved in!
Q. How did you come up with the idea to run this contest?
A. I came up with my idea several years back. I remembered all the passion and drive that young, creative people have to bring their words to paper, and I was determined to see my idea through to the finish. The idea sat on the back burner for a while as I got married and had a few children, but I was thrilled when Torah Temimah Publications told me they would like to go ahead with it.
Q. Did the contest go as you had expected?
A. It went even better than expected. I knew there was a lot of talent out there, but I was nervous about how that talent would present itself. The quality of most stories, as well as the willingness of the junior writers to conform to editorial standards, was most impressive to me.
Q. What did you think about the creativity of these teen authors?
A. I was very impressed! Not just by the creativity but by the language that many authors used as well. The stories that I found most captivating were those that not only had a good message but were also written in an engaging fashion. Some authors showed creativity through the language they used to present their stories. I’m sure that many of our “winners” will go far in the writing world.
Q. What themes did these teen authors choose for their stories?
A. There are many. Relationships between friends or family form a big one. There are also a few stories about people rising to a challenge, especially a religious challenge. Appearance is a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) theme in many of the stories, too.
All the stories offer a fresh, new perspective to time-honored themes—we’re talking about young authors, after all!
Q. Do you think their writing is influenced by personal events, contemporary Jewish literature, or general twenty-first century culture?
A. Some stories reflect what teens witness in their daily lives. Others reflect contemporary Jewish literature and general twenty-first century culture, and don’t seem directly connected to the writers’ lives. In general, I think most stories reflect a little bit of everything.
Q. How would you describe working on this project?
A. It was a lot of work but very rewarding. The opportunity to work together with teens and to bring to fruition this dream—which was both theirs and mine—was priceless.
Q. Would you do it again?
A. Only time will tell! If all goes well, I believe I would definitely be interested in doing it again.