So Linda invited me to write a post about Passover. But this is a blog about writing and publishing, and why should this post be different from all other posts?
The central ritual of Passover is the Seder, and the basic point of the Seder is to tell a story. And one of the reasons the Seder has lasted so long and remains so popular is that it does its job really well – so well, in fact, that you don’t have to be Jewish to learn something about storytelling from the way the Seder works.
- Engage the senses. The Seder is a multisensory experience. We see the flames of the candles. We hear stories and songs. We smell the delicious food. We taste – and how – the bitter, the sweet the salty. We feel the brittle matzo breaking, the warm water when we wash our hands, the cool night air when we open the door to welcome Elijah, the soft pillow at our back. Good storytelling engages the reader’s senses to pull her into the action.
- Engage the mind. The Seder starts with questions and moves on to answers that present new questions, and encourages discussion and debate. Good storytelling leaves room for the reader to think for himself. The best stories leave the reader still thinking.
- Encourage empathy. While the Seder tells the Exodus story, it explicitly acknowledges the all-too-numerous stories of oppressed people through the centuries and across the world. Good storytelling helps us see other’s stories as our own.
- Entertain. For all their seriousness, Seders are essentially fun. They include wine, silly songs, and a game of hide and seek – and that’s just what’s in the “official” program. Good storytelling entertains.
I could go on all night, but I can tell you’re getting hungry, so I’ll stop at four. Four children, four questions, four cups of wine – four is a good number for Passover. Happy Passover, and happy storytelling!
Ruth Horowitz writes for both children and adults. She is the author of six children’s books, including ARE WE STILL FRIENDS (Scholastic, 2017) illustrated by Blanca Gomez. Horowitz’s book CRAB MOON (Candlewick, 2000 & 2004), was listed as one of the 10 best children’s books of 2000 by the New York Times and was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children. Find her online at ruthhorowitz.com, givinguptheghost.com, and @RuthHorowitz.