After writing curriculum guidelines for schools, essays, and short stories Evelyn Krieger decided to take a stab at a novel.
That first attempt, “One is Not a Lonely Number,” was recently named a 2011 Sidney Taylor Honor Book, an award that recognizes high literary standards while authentically portraying Jewish experiences.
Set in a fictional Boston suburb, the story revolves around Talia, an only child of a wealthy Jewish couple who exhibit the grace of Jewish hospitality by inviting guests to stay at their home on a regular basis.
With the arrival of an eccentric ballet dancer named Gabrielle Markus who harbors a secret, Talia’s world turns upside down.
The use of an only child in the story creates room to explore a wide range of feelings, including feelings of loneliness because Krieger said in an observant Jewish community, large families are encouraged.
Krieger herself grew up the oldest of six children in a family of storytellers with a mother who was a writer.
“Maybe occasionally for 30 seconds I wished I was an only child,” Krieger said.
Krieger also chose a ballet dancer as a character, a nod to her many years of ballet instruction and the fact that she still teaches ballet conditioning.
A pivotal part of the plot involves a math competition Talia is in, another pointed choice because Krieger said not many novels contain girl characters who are really good at math.
She said some readers also recognize Talia’s syndrome, synesthesia, woven into the plot, a syndrome where people have mixed up senses.
“For (Talia) numbers are her friends, they have color, are female or male, some are loud or silly and one is lonely,” Krieger said.
While Talia learns a lesson when a white lie costs a friendship when she and her friends strive to solve the ballet dancer’s secret, Krieger said she never knew what that secret was until it revealed itself to her during the 18-month writing process.
“I always had my heart set on fiction,” Krieger said. “I never wrote for kids before.”
Krieger said her daughter, Leah Caras (Larson) who published the book, encouraged her to write a book that would give an inside view into an orthodox Jewish girl’s life but that would be accessible to anyone that wanted to read it.
“This story really unfolded,” Krieger said. “There wasn’t as much fear of rejection because my daughter encouraged me. With rejection kind of out of (the picture), I just had to produce it.”
Winning the award was validation for Krieger because she said writers spend so much time writing, never knowing if they are really good.
“It boosted my confidence,” Krieger said.
Since winning, she has had calls from libraries and book distributors and also hopes to make school visits to give writing workshops to kids.
She will be traveling to Montreal in June to pick up her award and also has speaking engagements scheduled at the Maryland Reading Association in March and the Massachusetts Reading Association in April.
Krieger has lived in Sharon for six years with her husband Brond Larson, daughters Leah, 19, and Audrey, 12, and son Sam, 17.
In addition to all her writing, Krieger works as a reading specialist at the Striar Hebrew Academy and is involved in the homeschooling and Jewish communities.