I'm kicking off a brand new shiny week with another fun author interview. This time I chatted with a delightful multi-published author of kid's books who shares her journey and wisdom!
Check it out...
Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for thirty-five years. Now retired, Carol is grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children. Her third book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, won 3rd place in the children’s category of the Catholic Press Association Book Awards and was a finalist for the ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards 2016. Her newest picture book, You Know What? came out first in Dutch. The English version released September 2017 and was a CLEL Bell Picture Book Awards Nominee for Talk (2018) and a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award in New England, 2018. The Korean translation edition came out in 2019 and Arabic and Chinese editions are in process. A new picture book, Some Daddies, is coming out spring 2022 with Beaming Books. When Carol Gordon Ekster is not thinking about writing or teaching, she does yoga, biking, is involved in critique groups and working on her books.
Find out more at www.carolgordonekster.com
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Who are you and what do you write?
I am Carol Gordon Ekster – first and foremost an educator. That’s all I ever wanted to be when I was growing up. I played school often with friends and cousins and was always the teacher! When I go after something – I’m all in. So it was with education. I taught 4th grade for 35 years and put my heart and soul into making learning fun and trying to pass on my values of putting in the time to do your best work possible. I got my masters’ degree in reading and language and the many workshops and courses I took post degree, all seemed to have something to do with picture books and children’s literature. I even took a half year paid sabbatical to look at how other teachers used writing workshops in their classroom. When I came back the following year, I incorporated individual writing meetings – like critique sessions, into my language arts program. Each child left my class with a book of their writing from the year…something I know families cherished. Reading so many picture books throughout the year to support all aspects of my curriculum, as well as helping children write, prepared me for writing picture books. My background also helps me create follow-up activities for my books as well as know how to interact with children in readings or school visits. Though becoming a children’s author was completely unexpected, as I found writing challenging, it came as a gift and at the perfect time, towards the end of my teaching career. And now my passion has shifted to writing. I am truly grateful for this new way to communicate with children and this needed purpose in my life.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
The summer after I turned 50, I was sitting on the beach one day and out of the clear blue, I left my seat to walk to the parking lot to get post-its and a pen from my car. I wrote my first picture book that day. It seriously felt like I had no control in this action. Writing happened to me. I never looked back and dug into the writing life. That first manuscript was didactic, too long, read more like a magazine article, and would never sell. I joined SCBWI (society of children’s book writers and illustrators) and a critique group, and the stories kept coming. The 20th manuscript I wrote was the first one to sell. Six years after that day on the beach, I held my first published book in my hand.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Since this was an unexpected addition to my life, it has been truly miraculous the way it has all transpired. I am grateful for the experience. However, it is so opposite in so many ways from being a teacher. In teaching, everything needs to be immediate. If you don’t correct misconceptions or incorrect ways of doing math problems immediately, serious misunderstandings can develop. I marked every paper and test the same day I collected them. In the publishing business it is a very slow process. My newest book, SOME DADDIES, coming out with Beaming Books in spring 2022, was accepted in December 2018. (It was recently pushed back another year because of covid) Nothing is immediate in publishing! My third book, BEFORE I SLEEP: I SAY THANK YOU, 2015, (now in its third printing) took ten years from the time I wrote it (with many revisions in between) to hold the book in my hand. Also, in teaching, even though I was a strict teacher, there was a feeling of love, respect, and family within the walls of our room. In publishing, I experience so much rejection. I have recently sent out my 108th manuscript. I have close to 2,000 rejections in these 17 years that I have submitted. Only five of those manuscripts became books, one became an e-book, two became magazine articles, and my first Highlights Magazine sale this past December will hopefully be on the pages of the December 2021 edition. The odds are not good. Then reviews come out, and there will always be some disappointing ones. Let’s just say it’s the rare review that could make me feel that same touchy feely warmth as an appreciative note from a parent or student. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Of course, those highs help to balance the lows. I was thrilled when I learned that my most recent picture book, YOU KNOW WHAT? was a CLEL Bell Picture Book Awards Nominee for Talk (2018) and a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award in New England, 2018. And I felt joy when the publisher e-mailed to tell me that there would be Arabic, Korean, and Chinese translations. My journey has been a roller coaster ride. But every author’s journey is different. I originally thought when I wrote my first manuscript that day, that of course it would be published. Ha! Little did I know about the business. And as far as this very difficult time of covid-19, I continue to write. My writing routine hasn’t changed that much. I have Zoom critique meetings and so many on-line offerings of webinars and craft chats through SCBWI, Highlights Foundation, and 12x12. Staying connected to the #kidlit writing community and being inspired by this giving and talented group has helped to keep me on track.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
As I hinted to above, the waiting is hard. That’s partly my hyper personality, partly the nature of this business. The rejections are not fun either. I’ve come close to a few other manuscripts being sold and an almost-signing with an agent...but now? I am agented!!! I'm thrilled to announce that I am represented by the terrific #kidlit supporter, Kaitlyn Sanchez from Olswanger Literary LLC. I think one thing you can absolutely count on in this business is that there will be ups and downs.
What has been most enjoyable? I’m so grateful to have this gift of a second career. I’m always busy with my writing. I work on multiple stories at once. I’m revising, submitting, or waiting to see what each day brings. Some days I get to see sketches for my upcoming book. Some days I work on an interview, like this one! I’m also in five critique groups, some in person, some on-line, and I love going to meet-ups and chatting with like-minded #kidlit loving folks. But what a bonus it is that I can make my own schedule…no longer bound by a bell ringing multiple times a day to tell me when it’s lunch, recess, etc. And when I do a Skype or Zoom visit, or an in-person event, it is the joy of connecting with those kids that keeps me going through all the waiting and rejections.
Would you go back and change anything?
Maybe I’d be more patient. Sometimes I’ve sent out a manuscript before it was really ready. I think though, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. You have to love your own journey and believe in the process. Okay…maybe I wouldn’t have minded selling more copies of each title or winning important awards!
Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time?
I’d like to have an agent with five more books coming out into the world. Winning an award or two would be amazing!
Ten more books! A book a year sounds wonderful.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Be patient with yourself but do your homework. Read as much as you can in the genre you’re writing. Join a group of writers. Work hard! You want your best stories out there to touch lives.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? Ketchup
Night or Day? Day
Inside or Outside? Outside
Dogs or Cats? Dogs! (I’m allergic to cats and a cat shredded my wedding veil on the day of my wedding. I really am not still holding a grudge. It’s been 45 years!)
Twitter or Facebook? Twitter!
e-book or Paperback? Paperback
Sun or Rain? Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? Keyboard
Comedy or Drama? Comedy – so wonderful to laugh!
Chips or Chocolate? Chocolate!
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!