AUTHOR: Carol Gordon Ekster
Please tell us about yourself.
I taught 4th grade for 35 years and was a passionate educator. I read picture books to my class daily to support every subject in the curriculum, and I ran writing workshops a few times a week for my students but I never thought I’d become a picture book author. About 12 years ago the need to write my first book snuck into my life like a welcome surprise party. Since writing came to me late in life, I dove into it like a competitive swimmer. Presently I’m submitting close to fifty different manuscripts to publishers.
Please tell us your latest news.
My newest book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, should be out early 2015 with Pauline Books and Media. I recently found out my illustrator is Mary Rojas. I can’t wait to see the first sketches. And I recently found out some exciting news for another manuscript. It’s in the acquisition process now so I can’t give any further information as yet. But each new positive correspondence about another of my manuscripts fills me with such hope and joy.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Now that I’m retired, I write and promote my books full time. I start each day with an aerobic class and then yoga and then I’m ready to sit and hopefully be creative! I do not have an exact schedule. After teaching for so many years, I enjoy a looser life. I write when I like and try not to overbook marketing events so that I don’t get stressed out. But it works out that most of my time is dedicated to some aspect of this wonderful second career.
When and why did you begin writing?
It was the July 4th weekend almost twelve years ago. I was at the beach. I felt I had to walk to the car in the parking lot to get post-its and a pen. It felt somewhat unreal, like an outer body experience. I needed to start writing down a picture book about the first day of school. I suppose I was already worried about going back in August! I had never wanted to write before then. I found it difficult! Though when I think back, I did write poetry when the mood struck, even before college.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I am an educator first and foremost. I wanted to teach since I was in first grade. My stories come from the heart of a teacher. My first story was called Jenny’s First Day Jitters. It has never been published, and probably will never be, and I’m okay with that. I was a newbie and have learned much about the craft since that first story.
What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Reading about writing, or just reading! I also belong to four critique groups, so I keep busy with that and have many peer critiques to do.
What are your thoughts about promotion?
If I’m not writing or reading, I’m working on promotion. It’s a part of becoming an author. You must make people aware of your work. There are so many books! And I once read that you could compare it to making a gourmet feast and then not inviting anyone to share it with you. If you write a book, it is necessary to promote it.
Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
I connected with each publisher because of SCBWI, an organization that is essential to children’s writers. My first book contract was the result of a call for submissions in the SCBWI Bulletin. The second book contract came because of a call for submissions on the SCBWI discussion boards. And the third contract happened because of a connection in an SCBWI critique group I’m in. Another member was published with Pauline Books and Media. She was asked to write a book about forgiveness. I went home wondering if my book on gratitude would be a fit with that publisher. I sent it in…and they acquired it. It’s all about targeting your submissions.
What do you plan for the future?
I plan to continue writing and having more books published. I want to improve my craft and hopefully touch many lives through my books.
How can we find you? Website: www.carolgordonekster.com
Blog: Carol is part of a group blog: www.writersrumpus.com
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
I promote both of my books, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008 and Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room, Character Publishing, 2011. When there’s an opportunity that comes up for an event or on social media, I talk about the book that fits. For an example, if on Twitter there was a discussion about shared custody I would mention my divorce book. If there’s a place, whether Facebook or Pinterest, that discusses organization, I might bring up the messy room book, which has a parents’ guide for raising organized kids in the back of the book. I already have a Pinterest board entitled “Gratitude” to get ready to pin the first sketches of the new book coming out in 2015, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, which encourages a nightly routine of saying what you’re grateful for. And I reach out to be at book events and fairs. I just finished my first Skype visit with kindergartners after the teacher saw my listing with World Read Aloud Day.
What genre do you write in and why?
I write picture books. I love how in a quick read you can address a concern or teach a skill, model beautiful language, have the perfect vehicle to begin discussion of an issue, inspire others and touch lives. You can read them to the very young and even older elementary students love to be read to.
What influences your writing?
Having worked with children for so many years, I am very aware of certain issues I saw that needed to be addressed. And I want to address those subjects using strong verbs and words that will draw in readers. I got my Masters’ degree in reading and language and that has always been a focus for me when I taught. Now I can bring that passion for reading and writing into my books.
What other types of writing have you done?
In addition to the published books mentioned above, I wrote an article called "The Library is the Perfect Place". It was bought by LibrarySparks magazine for its web resources in 2010. I had envisioned it as a picture book that librarians would use to start the year off teaching proper library behavior in a fun way. But sometimes you have to adjust your goals, and be grateful you can share your work in a different way. I also have written a collection of poems about the ocean, and some other random poems. Those I rarely submit, though one poem was selected for an on-line magazine. You can read it here: http://www.hauntedwaterspress.com/From_the_Depths/Entries/2012/2/11_Beach_Observationby_Carol_Ekster.html
Why did you choose to write a children’s book?
Writing seems to have chosen me! It’s another wonderful way to communicate with children.
What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
In all my books, I hope children will learn empathy, feel better after they read it, be motivated to read more and maybe even write, learn a skill, or be inspired to be the best they can be.
Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Writing for children is not easy. I recently did this interview that was geared to answering questions about writing for children. Here’s the link to the video: https://vimeo.com/87577029
And I also want to mention that in picture books, you need to leave room for the illustrator. The publisher picks the illustrator. You have to take that leap of faith that the illustrations will enhance the written word adding a whole new unexpected layer and be a perfect match for that story. I’ve been very lucky so far.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Yoga and aerobic exercise is a daily practice for me. I enjoy cooking healthy foods, especially while listening to music. I have music in the background when I write as well. I also love to vacation and visit my family who live in different states. But even when I’m away from home, I can bring my laptop and work on my writing. And whenever the weather permits, I fit in a ride on my bike.
What seven words would you use to describe yourself? I threw in an eighth for good luck!
Dedicated, passionate, determined, caring, optimistic, impatient, life-long-learner, hard working.
AUTHOR: Carol Gordon Ekster
BOOK TITLE: Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce
GENRE: picture book/easy reader
PUBLISHER: Boulden Publisher
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Sleeping-Tonight-Story-Divorce/dp/1878076302/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353203574&sr=1-1&keywords=where+am+i+sleeping+tonight+a+story+of+divorce
a brief synopsis: In this story of shared custody, Mark and Evan's lives have changed and their schedules have been scrambled after their parents' divorce. Read this sweet story to see how they become more responsible and learn to accept their situation. Children who read this will feel hope and know they are not alone. It is most appropriate for elementary school students ages six through ten.
AUTHOR: Carol Gordon Ekster
BOOK TITLE: Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room
GENRE: picture book
PUBLISHER: Character Publishing
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Sleuth-Messy-Carol-Ekster/dp/0983935513/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336219350&sr=1-1
a brief synopsis: Ruth needs to find something. But when she searches her very messy room she gets distracted again and again by the wonderful items she finds within her mess. Will she find what she needs in time to have cookies with her friend, Zack? A parents' guide to raising organized kids is included in the book along with a healthy recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This book is geared for four through nine year olds.
You can find activities to do with each of the above books on Carol’s website at www.carolgordonekster.com