Friend Friday

I love this weekly opportunity to celebrate my fellow book creators’ new work. Sometimes I know the friend I’m hosting well; sometimes, we’re friends in the making. Though I’ve never met Carol Ekster, I’m glad to begin our acquaintance here!

Carol's professional photo for books

Carol Ekster

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the change it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou

This quote struck a chord with me because, as an author, many of my manuscripts have been revised and completely changed from their original form. Some barely resemble the story they started out as.

My newest release, the picture book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, illustrated by Mary Rojas, published by Pauline Books and Media, 2015, is my biggest transformation to date.

Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You was the tenth manuscript I wrote, only about a year after I started my life as a writer, at the age of 50! I woke up from a dream repeating the Jewish bedtime prayer, the Shema, (“Before I sleep it’s time to pray to thank you God for this good day…”) and visualized it as a simple sweet bedtime book. I jotted a note on paper I keep next to my bed for when an idea nudges me awake and I don’t want to lose it by morning. I began a draft shortly after that. It included the entire prayer. I got a good first response from a Jewish publisher, but they had just acquired another similar book. I sent it to a few more Jewish publishers, but received rejections. It took me a few years to change it to a secular book, just focusing on a bedtime routine of gratitude for all children. I started sending it out to nonreligious publishers. Four years after I started writing it, I got a request from a new local publisher for a rewrite:

“The concept of a child reflecting on what they are thankful for before they fall asleep is a beautiful one and I personally feel the world would be a much better place if everyone did this.  Though this is not an offer for publication, I was wondering if you’d be interested in working a bit on the manuscript and sending it to me again for another look?”

She believed in the story! It was the best possible rejection. This publisher gave me some great suggestions, and absolutely helped to improve the manuscript.  I waited a month before resending it, not wanting to rush my revision. She asked me if I’d keep it exclusive with them as they decided on their list. She gave me a time frame. It was only another couple of months. I had waited years at this point. Of course, when I heard they were passing, I was crushed. But everything for a good reason, I always say. That publisher is no longer in business.

Almost six years later, a critique buddy, Nicole Lataif, brought in a story of forgiveness to our group. She was working on it for Pauline Books and Media. As I left that night, I thought about how a publisher interested in a book on forgiveness might want a book about gratitude. Well, yes, it happened that this publisher was a Catholic press, but I sent out the e-mail submission on April 6, 2013. It took almost five months to go through the acquisitions process. When I got the e-mail on August 20th telling me they wanted to acquire it, I cried. Happy tears, of course! It had been a long road. But then I began to worry. What would the edits look like? Did they know I was Jewish? Would I be able to share this religious book in public schools and Skype visits? The edits went back and forth. I had the most wonderful of editors, a sister, who got back to me almost immediately with changes, concerns, and questions. When I saw the pdf of the completed book, emotion pulsed through my veins. The illustrations were spectacular, the colors warm and wonderful. It most certainly could be shared with people of all faiths.

I am truly grateful for the transformation this story went through. My experience with Pauline Books and Media, as well as the responses to the book, have been so positive. After eight months it went into its second printing!

And in honor of World Gratitude day coming up on September 21st, I celebrate my perseverance and flexibility with thankfulness. Since the book has released and I’ve worked on marketing and promotion by exploring websites and blogs about gratitude, I have learned more about the power of gratitude and how it can change lives in so many wonderful ways.

“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful; It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

This has influenced me to add to my own nightly routine of gratitude, working at being grateful throughout the day as well.

Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You would not be here without all the bending, rewriting, and adapting it took to bring this gift of gratitude into the world. And for that I am grateful!

Front Cover - Before I Sleep copy

Carol Gordon Ekster’s first published children’s book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, was inspired by one special former student who lived the schedule described in the book. It was an Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. Her second book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, was picked up by Character Publishing, for their first list, and came out December 2011. It was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval in 2012. Her newest picture book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You with Pauline Books and Media released January 1, 2015. Her first e-book, Hip Hopping Books, came out spring 2015 as part of a digital library with Schoolwide, Inc. Carol retired after teaching 4th grade for 35 years. She starts her day exercising and doing yoga, then works on her writing and book promotion. She is grateful that her writing gives her another way to communicate with children.