I am thrilled to welcome Carol Gordon Ekster to The Backstory today. I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Carol at many an SCBWI Monday Mingle and she has been a huge supporter of this blog since early on. I am so happy to be able to feature her and her latest picture book, SOME DADDIES (Beaming Books, 2022) with illustrations by Javiera Maclean Alvarez. Keep reading to learn all about her inspiration and for a chance at winning a manuscript critique from Carol.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind SOME DADDIES.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
SOME DADDIES is a concept picture book that celebrates the incredible diversity of modern fathers. The inclusive cast of characters--including a two-dad family, a single dad, and a stay-at-home dad--highlights the bond between daddy and child as they play, learn, comfort, and laugh their way through everyday life. This ode to fatherhood will give readers new appreciation for how their fathers and father-figures shine in their own unique ways. The illustrator, Javiera Maclean Alvarez, designed a "windows-to-the-world cover", which is so perfect for this book that shares the diversity of what it can look like to be a dad.
What a great concept and important message to share with young children. The diversity and overall message portrayed through the idea that all daddies can be different teaches a perfect lesson in acceptance.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
On 12/17/17 my husband and I were FaceTiming with my grandson, 3 ½ at the time. He noticed my husband had just shaved, and said his daddy shaved too, but his daddy had a beard…so he’s going to have a beard when he gets older because he’s going to be a daddy. I said…"Some daddies have beards…” I paused, my writing brain igniting, and wrote that down as a title. I typed up a draft soon after that and shared it with three of my critique groups. After finding its structure and revising, I simplified the title to Some Daddies.
I love how your writing brain immediately recognized the spark of inspiration in this simple conversation with your grandson. I also love that you knew to stop and write it down.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now SOME DADDIES? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
Yes, I had to get a draft down soon after I wrote the title. Sometimes a title goes into a list with Storystorm ideas from the previous year. But when a story calls to me, I start its own document. With the help of my critique buddies, I was able to find a consistent structure for this and less than a year later, I pitched it on a Twitter #pbpitch. Naomi Krueger from Beaming Books hearted my pitch and exactly one year to the day of writing down that title, I saw on Submittable that Beaming Books was interested. Now in the world of book making, this is fast. But because of Covid, the book was delayed a year. But I have other stories, like my third book, BEFORE I SLEEP:I SAY THANK YOU, illustrated by Mary Rojas, Pauline Books and Media, that took twelve years before I held it in my hands. So I am extremely grateful for how this manuscript developed.
SOME DADDIES is dedicated to my personality-plus grandson and amazing dad (who knew about the deal but passed away before he got to see the book.) It will be out May 17, 2022, in time for Father’s Day. But you can pre-order it now! https://www.beamingbooks.com/store/product/9781506460567/Some-Daddies
Wow, Carol, that is such a quick timeline for SOME DADDIES. It just goes to show how some ideas can totally grab hold of us and demand to be written immediately. I also appreciate the role that a pitch party played in the publication of SOME DADDIES. It is a great reminder that there is no one way to get published and that it is always worth exploring all of your opportunities.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
Ideas often come to me when I’m relaxed, like during sleep (I have notepaper and a pen next to my bed), or in yoga or when I’m exercising. But I see and hear titles and ideas everywhere I look when I’m open to those ideas...in newspaper stories, lectures, sermons, conversations, nature, etc. I started writing late in life and seem to be making up for lost time.
It definitely seems like you have a knack for seizing inspiration. I agree with you too, about these ideas coming to us when we are relaxed. I think it is in these small moments of quiet, which can be so hard to find, that our creativity is able to break through and be heard above all the responsibilities and have tos of day-to-day life.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
Too many to list! I love to read books about writing, but also I’m inspired by all types of artists and their journeys. I’ve read many craft books, but I also read an incredible number of picture books, ones that just come out, and others that I’ve heard about in webinars or because they’ve won awards. The librarians at my local library know me well. Reading picture books to my fourth graders on a daily basis is what I believe started me on this journey of writing. And now they have a huge impact on my writing. I know how I want to write because of some other amazing authors. I gravitate toward lyrical and beautifully written stories with heart. I never expected to write. This second career came to me as a gift.
Being immersed in picture books is a fabulous way to identify what we like and don't like and can be a great help with finding our voice.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
My workspace is everywhere! I use a laptop and love to sit in my three season room, or when weather permits, on my deck outside. I have resource books close by and other books in my study upstairs. I’ve started to use a notebook to paginate the piece I’m working on as well as make rough sketches to see if I find any faults in the pacing or plot.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Persevere. If you want it badly enough, you’ll have to work for it. Join critique groups. (I’m in five!) Work on your craft. Write often. Read often. Take classes to learn more and connect with other creatives. I think you need to feel passion for what you’re doing because it is a tough business with a lot of disappointments and rejection, but so much joy. Hang in there for the joy. For me writing is meditative and as a retired teacher of 35 years, this now fills my life with purpose and meaning.
So much great advice! Thank you, Carol. I love that you mention being passionate. You are exactly right, that it is this passion that will help writers persevere down the long road to publication until they find those moments of well-deserved joy.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Yes! I recently signed a contract for another picture book coming out in 2023. I can share more when it’s announced in Publishers’ Weekly. Even though I first wrote this manuscript eight years ago, I’ve always believed in it. It’s gone through lots of revisions and it’s gotten many rejections. But it only took one yes and the right editor.
Good for you for sticking with this piece and recognizing its' merit even when others didn't. So much of this industry comes down to timing and perseverance as you mentioned earlier. I am glad you found the right editor to connect with your story. I look forward to hearing more about it!
Where can people connect more with you?
Here’s my Linktree that will connect you to everything Carol Gordon Ekster!
Readers be sure to connect with Carol on social media so you don't miss out on any of her writing news. And don't forget to preorder SOME DADDIES (Beaming Books, 2021) with illustrations by Javiera Maclean Alvarez.
Carol, it was a pleasure having you on the blog today and I am looking forward to the release of SOME DADDIES. In the meantime, I hope you continue to be inspired and keep creating.
Carol is generously offering a picture book manuscript critique to one lucky winner.
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Like our FB page and comment on this week's post.
4. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT CAROL GORDAN EKSTER
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. She is the author of Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?(A Story of Divorce), Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room, which received the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval, and Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You which won 3rd place in the children’s category of the Catholic Press Association Book Awards and was also a finalist for the ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards 2016. Her newest picture book, You Know What?, came out first in Dutch (Mama, Wist Je Dat?), December 2016 with Clavis Books. 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 the New England region, 2018. The Korean language edition came out 2019 and Arabic and Chinese editions are in process. A new picture book, Some Daddies, with Beaming Books, is coming spring 2022. With a "windows-to-the-world cover", this book shares the diversity of what it can look like to be a dad. (This title is now available for pre-order! https://bit.ly/3zQG5J2 ) And her first piece in Highlights Magazine will be in December 2021's publication. Carol is a member of 12x12, SCBWI, and is in five critique groups.
When Carol is not working on her writing she might be doing yoga or biking. She lives in Andover, Massachusetts with her husband Mark.
Find out more at www.carolgordonekster.com
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.