You’ve probably heard this advice: never write a children’s story with the intent of teaching a lesson. They typically come out preachy. Kids are clever; you can’t fool them into reading a lecture.
But what about writing a story with the intent of easing a child’s pain? Letting them know they’re not alone in their troubles? Carol Ekster does this beautifully in Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?, a humorous and realistic look at life as a child of divorce.
I was a child of divorce. The only books available to me in the early 1980’s were ones written by shrinks, telling kids that we weren’t responsible for the split. Well, DUH! I knew it wasn’t my fault! Whenever I got upset, people told me I wasn’t to blame, something I knew from day one. Nobody understood how I felt, knowing that the two people I loved the most no longer loved each other.
My life changed immediately and dramatically. My stay-at-home mother got a job and I became a latch-key kid, responsible for taking care of my younger brother every day after school. My father moved in with my Nana and we spent every weekend at her house, sleeping in the same room in which our Great Uncle had died. (Creepy!)
Life got frustrating. My belongings were strewn between two houses more than 30 minutes from one another. My dad didn’t know how to cook. My mom didn’t have time for us, between work, the house, and dating. (Creepier!)
Debut author Carol Ekster has filled a need in children’s books: a story for kids adjusting to divorced life, showing real situations and emotions. I wish Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? was around back then to let me know I wasn’t alone in my back-and-forth shuffle.
A niche title like this can be a great way to break into the publishing business. I talked to Carol about her journey to publication…
How long have you been writing?
About 6 years. It just came over me like an outer body experience on a July day at the beach. I went to get a pen and post-its (the only writing material I had) from my car, and started to write my .
[Lesson learned: always carry a notebook with you!]
Is this the first book you wrote?
This was actually the 20th book I wrote, but the first to sell.
[Lesson learned: you get better with every story. Don’t expect the first thing you write to sell.]
Where did you get the idea for the story?
It is loosely based on a former student who had the same schedule as the boys in the story. He touched my heart. I’ve been teaching 35 years and always had compassion for the children whose parents were divorced. I could feel their pain.
[Lesson learned: look for stories in everyday life. They’re all around.]
How many revisions did it go through?
Too many to count!
[Lesson learned: revision is your friend.]
How did you research where to submit it?
I use the “Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market,” but for this story, there was a call for submissions in the SCBWI Bulletin. Boulden Publishing was looking for books on divorce and a few other topics. I sent it out and heard back six weeks later that they were interested in it.
[Lesson learned: wow, that was quick! But Carol had exactly what they wanted! It’s all about finding a perfect match.]
How has your life changed since becoming published?
I’ve had to do book signings and promotion…none of which I ever thought about when I began writing. I was surprised how nervous I was for my first book signing. It takes a lot of time and effort, so I’m not getting as much writing done.
[Lesson learned: marketing and promotion is just as important as writing. Yes, it takes time, but it pays rewards in book sales and a solid platform from which to launch your next title. Check out agent Nadia Cornier’s recent post about her floundering novel and how she’s reinvesting herself in book promotion.]
Thanks to Carol for answering my questions and best wishes with the book. If you have questions for debut author Carol Ekster, please leave a comment!