Michele Weber Hurwitz has always dreamed of being a published author. She just wasn’t sure what to write about.
Over time, though, a series of events — including experiences she had in Buffalo Grove, where she has lived for the past 20 years — planted the seed for a novel. Hurwitz went to work on the story, and this month her first book, Calli Be Gold, was published by Random House.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” Hurwitz said. “It’s been coming for so long.”
Her book tells the story of a fifth-grader, Calli Gold, who struggles to find her place in a family that places a high value on achievement. While her two older siblings excel at sports, Calli has yet to find her true talent.
That changes when Calli is paired through a peer mentoring program with a troubled second-grader, whom she begins to help.
“The whole experience kind of reshapes Calli’s view of achievement,” Hurwitz said.
Pursuing a passion, and giving up other activities, is something to which Hurwitz, a mother of three teenagers, can relate. As a child, she said she begged to quit her piano lessons.
“At the same time, my family was very into baseball … and I didn’t share that love for baseball,” she recalled.
Fast-forward to adulthood, where she encountered similar situations with her own children. Rachel, now 18, is a senior at ; Sam, 17, is a junior; and Cassie, 13, is an eighth-grader at .
"In Buffalo Grove, I would watch the intense families [at youth baseball games]. Sometimes it seemed like the parents were more into it than the kids,” she recalled.
When her son asked to quit the team, her story began to take shape.
“It was a defining moment for me,” said Hurwitz, a former journalist. “I was like, ‘I have to let him make this decision.’”
The book, she said, “just came from the heart. It’s something I feel strongly about.”
Its message, she said, is that “It’s OK not to be a superstar. You don’t need to fee like you need to do what your family wants you to do, even if you have to stand up to your family. You can know yourself at 10, 11 years old, and you can know what’s right for you.”
Local readers of Calli Be Gold, which is geared toward children ages 8 to 12, might encounter some familiar scenes in the book.
Calli’s older sister, Becca, is an ice skater. “I kind of did model the rink in the book after ,” Hurwitz said.
And, she said, the fifth-grade teacher shares some qualities of Cheri Brill, who was her daughter Cassie’s teacher at at the time she wrote the book.
“Calli’s teacher is the same warm-hearted kind of teacher that Ms. Brill is,” she said.
Calli herself assisted with the story, Hurwitz said. “She was my first reader. She gave me a lot of help. She’d say, ‘No fifth-grader would say that.’”
Hurwitz said the story took her six or seven months to write. She then found an agent, and it took another year and a half to sell the book to Random House.
The book, which is available in hardcover for $15.99, is sold at Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon. It will be released in paperback in the fall, Hurwitz said.
Since Calli Be Gold hit the shelves on April 5, Hurwitz has been working to promote it. On Tuesday she signed copies at The Book Stall in Winnetka, and she will be at the Printers Row Lit Fest on June 4. She’s also making the rounds at Buffalo Grove schools; last week, she spoke at Aptakisic’s Career Day (see video), and in May she will visit Meridian.
In addition to working on promotions for Calli Be Gold, Hurwitz spends her time writing her next book. She hopes to publish two companion books featuring characters introduced in her debut novel.
Visit Hurwitz’s Web site for more information.