Interview with Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m a freelance writer and educator based in Philadelphia. I am so pleased to share the release of The Little Gate Crasher, a memoir of my truly extraordinary Great Uncle, Mace Bugen. My other recent books include The Creative Jewish Wedding Book and The Kitchen Classroom. I’m a featured blogger for WHYY Philly Parenting and I write for and edit The New Normal: Blogging Disability. I’m now blogging on Medium, too.
I’m a mom of two great kids who are now 15 and 12 and have been married to my husband Fred for 17 years. Our family is complete with our beautiful 6-year-old yellow lab, Hank.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
My latest book The Little Gate Crasher, a memoir of my truly extraordinary Great Uncle, Mace Bugen.
My Grandmother Minerva, my Great-Uncle Mace’s older sister, was a wonderful storyteller and told me many stories about her childhood as I was growing up—she had grown up in a completely different circumstance, as a daughter of immigrants who had recently come to America and who worked hard in their grocery store to make a living. It was the Great depression and every penny counted. My Grandma shared many stories about her brother Mace and how impressed she was by his ability to not pity himself for being a dwarf and to not think less of himself—even though others teased or jeered at him.
When my Grandmother died, Mace’s photo album with his amazing celebrity photos was passed down to my Mom. My family and I would look at it and marvel as the unique history Mace created of pop culture from the mid-40s to the mid-70s—he had “celebrity selfies” with Ella Fitzgerald, Joe DiMaggio, Nixon, Ali—all of the famous athletes, politicians and entertainers of the era.
As I looked at the photos, I thought of Mace’s story and wondered not only how did he manage to get these photos considering his limited mobility—but why? What did these photos mean to him and what we can learn from there?
A great story emerged—of a confidant man given a significant challenge who viewed himself as no less than anyone else, despite the message that society continually gave him.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
See above—my book is a memoir
How do you pick your characters names?
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
For “The Little Gate-Crasher,” I began with a research process.
During my Great-Uncle’s life, he was interviewed by a number of journalists and featured in different newspapers and magazines—because he was such a unique and interesting person. My grandmother kept a file with all of those articles and we saved that file when she died—so a great amount of research was quite literally handed to me. I loved that I got to hear about Mace’s life from his perspective through those interviews.
Once I had read through everything, I started to outline Mace’s life story in a linear fashion, highlighting the major events that happened. I was blessed to have an amazing editor Mike Sager who read my first couple of chapters and gave me feedback and direction. We decided to start with an exciting opening story—the moment when Mace was a teenager left home and took a bus across the country by himself to see a professional fight. The rest of the book really flowed once I found the opening story!
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
It’s a hard question—but right now I am really drawn to contemporary writers who share their lives with strength, humor, passion and vulnerability, including:
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It would have to be Anne Lamott and I would ask her to talk about courage and the writing process. She inspires me with the depth of vulnerability, faith, pain and humor in her writing.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I was a voracious reader. I grew up in a small town and in the 1980s and there weren’t a whole lot of different options for entertainment. It was a big sports town and I wasn’t (and am not) into sports. Reading was an escape—and also stimulated my imagination. I was always making up stories in my head and with the encouragement of a great third grade teacher, I started putting them down on paper.
When did you start to write?
My third grade teacher gave us a writing assignment and she recognized that I had some ability! She gave me time in class to continue to write stories. That belief in me at a young age gave me the confidence to keep writing. I’ve studied and written poetry and playwrighting and later came to nonfiction and memoir. This is my groove!
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I think I have too much respect for a writer’s craft to want to change a book ending!
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I don’t have a book that I wish I’d written—but I am dreaming of what books I’ll write in the years ahead.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I would invite Laura from The Little House books and take her to beautiful hotel restaurant.
What are you working on right now?
I’m leading lots of fun discussions about “The Little Gate-Crasher”—it’s free for your book group and I can Skype or Facetime anywhere in the world! I love hearing what readers have to say. I’ve recently started blogging on Medium—come check it out! I’m working on several children’s books that I’m excited about.
Do you have a new release due?
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Blast out my news on social media!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I love to hear from readers! I’m on twitter at @gabkaplanmayer and you can also reach me via my web site: http://www.gabriellekaplanmayer.com
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Gabrielle 🙂
The Little Gate-Crasher
Mace Bugen might have been an achondroplastic dwarf, 43 inches tall with an average size head and torso set on small, twisted legs—but that didn’t mean he was an idiot or a pushover. In truth, he was smarter than most; over the years, he learned to effectively turn what society in those days called a handicap into a powerful tool he could use to his advantage.
“Then at some point I figured it out: I gotta do something special to let ’em know I’m me.”
In The Little Gate Crasher: The Life And Photos Of Mace Bugen, I remember my amazing great-Uncle Mace Bugen through his journey as a first-generation Jewish-American kid in working class Philipsburg, NJ to becoming the first celebrity selfie-artist—way ahead of his time.
Featuring vintage photos of Mace with his exploits, The Little Gate Crasher captures three decades of American pop culture, seen through the unique lens of Mace and his gate-crashing exploits.
Underneath his antics, we meet a complex man who continually defies others expectations and meets life on his own terms. Mace becomes a successful businessman and devoted son to his aging parents. But in his gate-crashing antics, we best get to see Mace’s unique combination of guile, cunning and sense of entitlement, which he used to engineer photos of himself with some of the biggest celebrities of his day. If people were going to stare at him all of his life, he would give them something to see.
The Little Gate Crasher features over 50 vintage photos of Mace with celebrities, athletes and politicians, including Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Muhammed Ali, Richard Nixon, Jane Russel, Joe DiMaggio and more.
Amazon US –
Amazon UK –
Author Bio –
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is an experienced educator, author and speaker. At Jewish Learning Venture, she works as Director of Whole Community Inclusion and leads disability awareness programs for the Philadelphia Jewish community. Her most recent book The Little Gate Crasher, a memoir of her Great-Uncle, who overcame society’s prejudices about dwarfism to lead a remarkable life, was one of the national book selections for 2017 Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month. Gabby writes for and edits The New York Jewish Week’s The New Normal: Blogging Disability and is also a featured Philly parenting blogger for WHYY’s newsworks. Gabby holds a B.F.A. in theatre and creative writing from Emerson College and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Social Media Links –
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