Joy Fate and Hal Dresner

Joy Fate and her husband, Hal Dresner, are the authors of the children's book, "The Amazing Menorah of Mazeltown," a Hanukkah story that offers even more than the authors originally intended. The couple say the book not only reflects the delight they take in life with each other and in Ashland, but it also showed them what an ideal partnership they have.

Noting their 30-year age difference, Joy said the couple's collaboration on the book was ideally balanced.

"We are a good team. For as unconventional as our relationship may appear, there is a balance that is unprecedented, said Joy. "We work beautifully together."

This self-described unconventionality helps boosts their individual and collective strengths in the creative process, in service to their community and in raising their 8-year-old daughter. The Dresners spoke with the Daily Tidings about their book, community service, and the joys of parenting.

DT: Talk about your book, "The Amazing Menorah of Mazeltown."

Hal: It actually came to us through the illustrator. He had an idea to do a book about a Menorah, and he suggested us to the publisher to write it. At the start, we didn't quite know what were were going to do, but we got caught up in the idea of light. Hanukkah is the festival of lights. We got caught up in the idea of the possibilities of light: lighthearted, light-footed, lightheaded. We explored one of those possibilities in each day of Hanukkah and how it changes the people in this town who are living in the shadow of a mountain and are very depressed. What we didn't realize at the time was that inadvertently we'd written sort of a self-help book. The way the people get themselves out of depression is the way the people in this book behave. They dance, they pray, they rely on humor, and they connect with each other. That's what brings light and all its possibilities to the town.

DT: What motivated you to collaborate on this book?

Joy: Hal motivated me. He is a writer, but his writing is usually on the sophisticated side. This children's book is a completely different kind of thing. I have a young daughter, and I have a good eye for editing and creativity. It became more of a collaborative effort. He'd write a portion of it, then give it to me and I'd reshape it into something more that children would get. He's a great writer.

Hal: And she's a great editor.

DT: Do you plan to write any more books in the future?

Hal: We're hoping to at least do a sequel to "Mazeltown." We have an idea that we're floating to the publisher right now.

Joy: Whatever we write, we'll do it together. I'd love to write a story, or rather have Hal write the story and me shape it, about an older guy who falls in love with this younger woman who has a child and they get married. And they work on the challenges. This is our life story, and I think it would make for a sweet and funny book.

Hal: [laughs] Science fiction. No one would believe it.

DT: Is this your first book?

Joy: This is my first book.

Hal: I started off as a novelist. My first book was called "The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books." It was based on a man, not unlike me, who wrote dirty books for a living. The book got reviewed by Newsweek, and they called the character a Jack Lemmon-type character. Jack Lemmon's producer saw the review, showed it to Jack Lemmon who liked it, and they called me. I went and talked to them and I pitched them an idea that eventually became the movie, "The April Fools," with Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve. It was embarrassingly easy, and I couldn't duplicate that if I wanted to. It was just the stars were perfectly aligned. Now, you'd need to get a manager, who'd get you an agent, who'd send something to a producer, who'd send it to a director, who'd send it to a star, who'd send it back to the studio and then they would decide if they wanted it. It could take up to two years. This happened in a weekend.

DT: Talk about being a Hollywood screenwriter.

Hal: The best-known movie I worked on was "Cool Hand Luke."

Joy: Don't be shy.

Hal: I wrote for "M.A.S.H.," the "Eiger Sanction," with Clint Eastwood, "Zorro the Gay Blade," with George Hamilton, and I wrote a lot of low-budget movies of various genres: horror films, creature films. It's a business of opportunity. Once you get in, you get to know the people and they like and trust you. Everyone would rather work with people they know, which makes it great for the people in the know, but not so great for the people outside. So there is a lot of socializing that needs to be done.

DT: Did you continue writing after moving to Ashland?

Hal: While here, I got very involved in doing service charity work. I was with Mediation Works for about 10 years, and I made some industrial films for Legal Aid and the Southern Oregon Arts Society.

Joy: He is so bighearted. He finds a lot of fulfillment in service.

Hal: We both do. That's the advantage of a small town. You see the effects of your work right away. Now, I do a food run for Food and Friends and that's terrific. The people couldn't be sweeter. And Joy has been active with the food bank.

Joy: I was on the board of directors for the food bank and the representative for Havurah. This community is fabulous and there are so many opportunities out there, including giving back to my daughter's school and the Havurah. There are millions of opportunities to make a difference and it really isn't that hard to do. There is very little turnaround time in what you give out and seeing how it comes back to you. I'm a firm believer in you get what you give. I believe we should give a lot of good.

DT: Tell us about something you've done that makes you proud.

Joy: My daughter Grace. Being her mother makes me incredibly proud. She is the best thing I ever did, without a doubt and I love being a mother. You have a baby and it just changes who you are and how you look at the world.

Hal: I also have a daughter. She's 40 years old and I didn't realize it until now, that she is doing the same things I've done. She is a stand-up comic involved in the addiction community. So it's self-expression and service. We never talked about this, the two of us and I don't know if I was a role model, maybe for the comedy, but that's where she has found herself and it's terrific.

DT: Talk about someone who inspires you.

Joy: Grace is really my inspiration for just about everything I do. I can look at her face every single morning when she wakes up, with the little bed-head going on, and it just makes everything right.

Hal: And she gave us a joke for our book.

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