Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Freebie: Judy Wolfman and The Long Escape

Judy Wolfman has always loved telling stories. When she retired from teaching in 1993, she began pursuing a career as a writer and storyteller. In addition to teaching and running storytelling workshops, Judy is the author of twelve books, several plays and numerous articles, but the last year has been especially busy. Last August marked the release of her first full-length work of fiction for adults, Not My Time, and in April 2014, her latest book, The Long Escape, was released. 

Judy says that she gets bored when she's not writing. "I want to get more thoughts on paper. It’s almost become an obsession with me!"

Here to tell you a bit about her "obsession" is author Judy Wolfman.

Judy, tell us a little bit about The Long Escape.

Twenty-one years ago, Chinese men and women fled China where the one-child law and no democracy prevailed. They wanted freedom!  The trip was long (17,000 miles) and took 120 days. It was arduous, too. The immigrants lived in tight, uncomfortable quarters, with numerous difficulties – diminishing food and water supplies, bathing in salt water, battling hurricanes, to name a few. 

 Eventually they reached America, only to run aground at Rockaway Beach, NY where they had to swim ashore in cold, black water. Ten men drowned, and two went into cardiac arrest on the beach. Responders tried to help the survivors get warm and comfortable. They rounded up the 24 women and sent them to detention centers in and near New Orleans.

The women went to New Orleans?

Yes, and 118 men were bussed to the York County (PA) Prison. No one remained in New York! In York, pro-bono lawyers worked diligently to obtain amnesty for the detainees for almost 4 years. During that time, the detainees created a unique paper art sculpture, which was sold, thus providing money for the artists to have as start-up money when they were freed.

What drew you to this story?

I read newspaper articles, saw the beautiful art work they created, obtained personal stories from various sources, and researched the Snakeheads.


The smugglers who transported them were known as Snakeheads. They offered to bring them to America for several thousand dollars – with $5,000 as a down payment and the rest to be paid back when they were in America.

I'd be afraid there'd be strings attached to that offer. Were there?

Final payments would be expected once they lived and worked in America. The Snakeheads had obtained names of relatives already living in America, so they knew how to track the immigrants down.

You've been very enthusiastic about (illustrator) Brett Greiman's work on this book. How did the two of you connect?

I admired Brett’s artistic talents, and approached him to illustrate the book. He created beautiful illustrations for the book, which definitely enhances it.

Where had you previously seen Brett's work?

Brett did several murals for Olivia’s House, and I attended several of his showings at the art gallery and private events that he ran at various venues. Also, on First Friday in York, he has his art work available. And once I approached him, he showed me several photos of his work at various locations – in and around York, as well as Harrisburg.

Is it typical for an author to bring her own illustrator to a project?

Usually, an author depends on the publisher to provide the illustrator – unless the author is also an illustrator. I felt that with Brett’s artistic skills, a publisher would accept him – and I was right!

You've written both fiction and non-fiction. Your last book, Not My Time, had a non-fiction thread woven in. How do you decide if a story will be fiction or non-fiction? 

My preference is non-fiction – I enjoy obtaining facts by doing research. When I begin the writing process, I usually add some fictional aspects to move the story along – dialogue or maybe a fictional character. but the book is predominately non-fiction. 

How do you decide on your audience?

I try to think of who might appreciate the story, and even learn from it, which takes me into the adult and young adult arena. Children’s books (mostly fictional) are stories I think kids will enjoy reading or hearing.

You've recently begun some new endeavors related to storytelling, haven't you?

Yes. I’ve formed a Reader's Theatre Troupe for the York Little Theatre, and we perform for various groups – at no charge! Just request a donation be made to YLT.
Your last two books were released less than a year apart. What's the secret to writing so quickly?

No secret – just lots of luck in hitting the right publisher! Both were published by the same one – I established a rapport with him. 

I actually started Not My Time in 1999, sent it to many publishers and agents, unsuccessfully. I was almost ready to give up when I saw Black Rose Writing listed in the Writer’s Market book. I had never seen this listing before and decided to give it one more shot. That was it! I queried him for The Long Escape! which he accepted.

Congratulations, Judy, and thanks for visiting!

For more information on Judy's writing and classes, visit her website at

Information about Brett and his art can be found on his website,

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