PICTURE BOOK TRAILER PREMIERE & THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY by Carol Gordon Ekster
Maybe it sounds crazy, but I do some of my best writing on planes. Perhaps it’s the tight space or the lack of distraction….but I find focus in the cramp quarters. Usually, I use flight time to revise….work on each sentence to tighten, refine, improve. But in August of 2014, my grandson was born. We were flying out from Boston to New Mexico to meet him for the first time. I was hyped, psyched, emotional. I was surprised I could get any writing done at all! And then in the seat in front of me, I heard a little boy say to his parents, “Ya know what?” I immediately opened a new word document and my fingers began typing as if they had a mind of their own. I brainstormed a list of actions and their consequences. My husband saw what I was doing and we had some fun with this. (Though I couldn’t use most of those ideas.) And though I hate to share my early drafts, (They’re not quite up to snuff) I’ll let you see one part, so you can understand where I was going.
Ya know what?
When I spin too fast on a ride at the amusement park…
I throw up everything. But I feel much better!
I did not have time to plan or think about that story much while I diapered and cuddled this incredible new love in my life. But my process has always been that my work takes place at the keyboard and my fingers do the talking, which is odd compared to my 35 years as an elementary school teacher where I planned weeks ahead. So on the plane trip home I was surprised by the story that developed. It became a little boy procrastinating his bedtime by asking his mom repeatedly, “You know what?”
This was the 60th story that I had written in these past 15 years that I have been writing. And I have collected 1300 plus rejections. Each of my previous manuscripts that were contracted by publishers have received no less than 13 rejections. But this new one? It all happened pretty quickly…that is for the world of publishing. I shared it with two critique groups. Revised a bit. Sent it out and got a fast turn around with a lovely rejection. I used what that editor said about the story to send it out to the next submission, the international publisher, Clavis Books. I heard about them when they were holding a picture book contest. I entered with a different manuscript, and though I didn’t win, I became familiar with their beautiful books and sweet mission. So I submitted this new manuscript, Ya Know What? and in only about six weeks, I got that wonderful jump-for-joy acceptance e-mail.
I won’t give the details of the time it took to actually get the contract in the mail or to learn who would be illustrating…because as much as I’m aware of the slow publishing process…I am tainted by my life as a teacher where everything felt immediate. Let’s just say that my grandson was almost two and a half before I held the Dutch version (Mama, Wist Je Dat?) in my hands. He’ll be three when the English version, You Know What?, hits the shelves this September. And if you come across the Fall 2017 Clavis catalog, you’ll notice the title is still listed as Ya Know What?. Clavis approached me with concerns about the original title, and I agreed with their suggestion to change it. But the catalog had already gone to print.
This is a new type of picture book for me. Transitioning from a long-time teacher to an author has been a melding of skills for me. Most of the books I have written have messages…to have hope after divorce, to be organized, to be grateful. Most of my books could serve as mentor texts for a myriad of literary terms and writing tips. But this one? This mostly brings the joy of a shared reading with it…and maybe a few other things. And when the art director wanted me to think about changing the final page to the previous spread, I couldn’t do it. I knew that last page invited readers to imagine what the open ended “You know what?” might mean, what Oliver, the main character, might say next. I had already designed the sheet to go with it so that children could write and draw their own final page as a follow-up activity. I will forever be a teacher at heart. When I started writing fifteen years ago, I became a better teacher. And I believe my teaching experiences have made me a better writer…a better person, actually!
What group better to share the premier of my book trailer with for You Know What?, than with my literature-loving #kidlit-appreciating Nerdy Book Club. Oh, and I wrote this post on a plane…to visit my grandson, of course!
When Carol Gordon Ekster is not thinking about writing or teaching, she does yoga, biking, participates in critique groups, and works on her own books. She is grateful that her writing gives her another way to communicate with children. Find out more at www.carolgordonekster.com. And connect with her on Twitter @cekster and Goodreads.