June 1, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: SOME DADDIES, by Carol Gordon Ekster

Hello readers! Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you an info-packed Birth Stories for Books interview with Carol Gordon Ekster, where we'll learn about the path to publication for her latest book, SOME DADDIES (illustrated by Javiera Maclean Alvarez, Beaming Books, May 2022.) 

Carol contributed a guest post about her book, YOU KNOW WHAT?, back in 2019, and I'm so happy she's able to return to share more of her perspective and experience with us. 

by Carol Gordon Ekster and Javiera Maclean Alvarez

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome back to the blog, Carol. We first met when I hosted you for a guest post back in 2019 to share the Birth Story of your picture book, YOU KNOW WHAT? Since then we’ve chatted on Writers’ Rumpus when you interviewed me during the launch of my potty humor books, and we’ve stayed in touch via social media. It’s great when authors return to the blog for a visit, especially when it’s because they have a new book out! I’m so excited to hear more about the path to publication for your latest title, SOME DADDIES (illustrated by Javiera Maclean Alvarez, Beaming Books, May 2022.) The cover art is so inviting. I immediately wanted to open the book and see what was inside—and I was not disappointed! 

In an earlier interview, you shared that the inspiration for this book came out of a FaceTime conversation with your grandson. I wonder if you could recap some of that again for us here. I’d also like to hear more about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for the book and the first manuscript that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor. 

Carol Gordon Ekster: Thanks for having me, Dawn! Yes, I was FaceTiming with my grandson on 12/17/17, when he was three years old. 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. After drafting it and revising it, and bringing it to three of my critique groups, I thought it ready to send out. (It really wasn't!) I first sent it to an agent about three months later in March and heard the next day. He wrote, "It's very nice and there aren't enough father stories. What else do you have?" I sent a few other manuscripts, but never heard back from him. That's the nature of this business! He wasn't the right agent for me. I sent it to a few other places with limited responses, one agent saying it was too similar to Todd Parr's Daddy book, (which it isn't). 

DP: That is the nature of this business, indeed! 

You’ve mentioned that this book was “hearted" by Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books during a #PBPitch event on Twitter. Twitter pitch events are important opportunities for authors such as myself who are un-agented. Could you share with us the pitch for this book that caught your editor’s eye? 

CGE: On October 25, 2018, there was a #pbpitch event. Here was what I put on Twitter: "SOME DADDIES-a 351-wd concept PB with heart. Some dads gro beards, some tuck u in with a song, some r called Baba, Tatti, etc.Every daddy is different.This is a repeated refrain.The bk opens possibility 4 illus 2 sho differences- looks, ethnicity, family structure, etc. #PBpitch"

Naomi Krueger from Beaming Books "hearted" the pitch. I reread my manuscript and sent it right out. And exactly one year to the day that I first FaceTimed with my grandson, I saw the acceptance on Submittable. Now that's fast in the world of publishing! But because of Covid, it was delayed a year, and came out May 17, 2022. And now my grandson is seven! Making books takes time. And as creatives, we'd be happier if we just let it take the time it takes. I've also realized that this business is very subjective.

Before I got the contract, I received communication from Naomi: "I love this celebration of fathers and all the diverse personalities and attributes that dads can have. I've been looking for a book about dads, and so I'm really excited about your manuscript." So my pitch caught her attention because she was interested in the topic. And when I got my acceptance letter, I knew she was the perfect editor for me. "We are pleased to inform you that Beaming Books would like to acquire “Some Daddies” to be published in a future list season. We love how this book celebrates the diversity of what it can look like to be a dad. This is so important for young kids who are starting to notice other children’s parents and compare them to their own, as well as how they develop their perception of healthy masculinity. This is a joyful book with a serious message—the type of book we would be proud to publish at Beaming Books." It touched on why I wrote the book, so that kids would understand they are not alone. That we all realize at some point that our daddies are not perfect and are in some way different from other daddies, but we love them for who they are. 

Naomi went on maternity leave right after my acceptance, but I started to work on revising and tightening immediately. And then when she came back from her leave, we worked on it more together. She is an amazing editor. It was clear that she had a vision for this manuscript.

DP: What a fantastic backstory, Carol. I "heart" Beaming Books. How wonderful that you had just the right manuscript at just the right time for them! 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? 

CGE: What stands out to me is that I restructured it to have more of an arc, even though it's a concept book. I originally started with my initial idea – "Some daddies have beards." I revised to begin with the dads waking up and we go through their day and bedtime. I also initially had the different names for daddies in different languages, like Baba, Tatti, etc, as I had in my #pbpitch, but Naomi thought it best to leave that out as the book isn’t specifically about other cultures and languages. It’s more about personalities. Which was true! So now I've included that on my website as a follow-up activity. I do activities for each of my books in all modalities. 

And I discovered something humorous when looking through my drafts in response to this question. In the page about what dads drink, I didn't have this in my accepted manuscript, but I added in, "Others drink a bottle of beer." I did this because as a fourth-grade teacher I saw that kids worried about their dads having beers when the local policeman came to our class each year to talk about drugs and alcohol. I wanted to assure children that it is perfectly normal for parents to have beers sometimes…and that they are not alone in their concerns. But before I had even shown this to Naomi, I decided to delete that line. 

DP: What a great find in your draft file and such heartwarming reasoning to go behind it. 

On the flip side, is there anything that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

CGE: Something that stands out that was included in my early drafts and survived the revision process was the sentiment in this page spread, 

"Some daddies share comforting words and cry with you.

Others love making you laugh. 

Some barely hug.

Others hug like bears." 

Interior Image: SOME DADDIES

Naomi was sensitive to children whose fathers are not involved in their lives or who have difficult relationships with their dads. I appreciated her wisdom and guidance to reword the first line to put it in a more positive light than my original wording and then to suggest setting it in a doctor's waiting room after one daddy made a mistake and missed catching his daughter resulting in a playground fall. 

This page was important to me as I think it really shows the different personalities dads can have. My dad was one who barely hugged. And when I was younger that was hard for me. But I learned to accept him and appreciate his many other incredible gifts.  

Interior Image: SOME DADDIES

DP: Oh, these details make me love the book even more, Carol. Thank you for sharing this with us. 

When you compare the path to publication for this book to the paths to publication for some of your other children’s books, what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

CGE: A key difference was that this was acquired faster than my other manuscripts, but still took more than four years from the initial idea to holding the book in my hand. In my journey as an author, that's a quick turnaround. My next book comes out in 2023 and I wrote the first draft in 2013. That's ten years! The similarities are that each book acquisition has been a unique process, but always an exciting and nerve-wracking time. I know that it will really be out in the world so I want to make it my very best work. The pressure is real! I will share a manuscript with others even after it is acquired. And you realize what a group effort it is to make a book. I do not write alone. From the beginning, I get ideas and input from critique buddies, then from an editor, and the illustrator and art director, all who add their magic to make this into the amazing art form that picture books are. 

DP: That is so true! There are so many helpful hands that join together to make a children's book. 

Another magical part of being an author is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. In addition to being a children’s book author, you are a retired teacher who taught 4th grade for 35 years. (Wow!) Based on your wealth of experience working with young learners, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) book events?

CGE: First and foremost be passionate! Kids know when you are not sincere. You have to be vibrant and keep their attention and interest. You need to engage them. I ask the audience questions on a power point presentation and have them raise their hands to let me know which answer they choose. It definitely helps that I was a teacher. I know topics that were covered in my grade level and what teachers want you to focus on. And I love touching on the life lessons of perseverance, responsibility, and hard work. We have the power to touch lives! And I want to give one tip I see happen in auditoriums or smaller book events all the time. When you get questions from the audience, repeat that question. The others may not have heard it and it's hard for listeners to be engaged without knowing what the question was. 

DP: Great tips, Carol!

Taking a stroll through your website and social media feeds, it is clear you are a passionate educator at heart. You’ve said that writing picture books has allowed you a second career and a new way to communicate with children. If there is one overarching message you hope to communicate to children through your body of work, what would that message be? 

CGE: You are not alone! And there is a community of people and books that will help you navigate your way through life. 

DP: What a beautiful message! 

You are a member of multiple critique groups, and you have written over 100 manuscripts, several of which that have now become books. How have you created structure(s) in your life to keep you on track and moving forward despite the increased level of flexibility in your current schedule as compared to when you were a teacher and school bells rang to tell you when it was time for lunch or recess? I’d especially like to hear if there is anything in particular that you bring from your teaching career that helps you be more successful in your role as a children’s book author?

CGE: I have actually specifically NOT created structure in this author life. There was too much of that in my teaching life. Now I usually begin my day with exercise and then move on with the day as my mood dictates. Every day there might be something that moves me to action. An e-mail from a critique buddy with a critique that makes me want to jump into a revision using their notes. I might get a response from an agent or editor that pushes me to make a new submission or rethink one of my manuscripts. I might have an opportunity for promotion, like this interview! I might feel drawn to read one of the picture books in my pile that I've picked up from the library. And something in that book I read just might click on an idea for a new manuscript or a revision. If I have a deadline for something, I put a reminder on my phone or leave myself a note to make sure I take care of all the many facets of a writing life. But this is where I want to be, immersed in this wonderful calling. Too often I hold off on dealing with all the other responsibilities of life, preferring the meditative feel of lining up words in just the right order. 

DP: What a wonderful answer to this question, Carol. I so appreciate the validation for letting the writing life take you where it will take you.  

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

CGE: It takes the time it takes. Be patient! And trust in the process. 

DP: Indeed!

Is there anything else you wanted to share about SOME DADDIES? 

CGE: My husband has helped me make book trailers for all but my first book, which was before I knew about trailers! But for SOME DADDIES, we mentioned the trailer to my creative jewelry-designing musically talented brother-in-law, Ron Rizzo, when we were staying at my sister's house. The next day we heard him strumming on his guitar and whistling. He wrote an original song for the trailer! My husband used that song to organize Javiera's illustrations and I just love the result of this family project. Here's the link

DP: Oh my gosh, Carol! I LOVE this song and book trailer so much! As you may recall, I've added musical elements to several of my picture books, and this song and video of yours is such a GREAT example of how music can add so much enrichment to an already marvelous story. Bravo to all involved!

Shifting gears, do you have anything you’d like to tell us about that you’re currently working on?

CGE: I'm still always working on multiple manuscripts at once and when so moved, go back to older manuscripts that have not yet sold. But I'm very excited about the next upcoming picture book, Trucker Kid, illustrated by Russ Cox, coming out spring 2023 with Capstone. This is one of those manuscripts that I believed in and kept revising and then pulled it out again during Covid because I felt more appreciative than ever of the importance of trucking in our lives. I added an author's note and what might happen within just a few days of trucks stopping service to our mail, groceries, garbage, etc. It made the story more relevant and timely which I believe helped it sell. I recently saw the first cover sketch and it's amazing. This is an exciting time for me, receiving initial sketches and seeing the book come together. I truly feel blessed to have two new books entering the world.

DP: That sounds great, Carol. I look forward to celebrating that new book, too!  

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for SOME DADDIES with us. It's a really lovely book.

CGE: Thank YOU, Dawn! 

Dear readers, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. And share this post with a friend to help get the word out about the book. SOME DADDIES is available everywhere books are borrowed and sold. 


Image Source

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 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 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.  Some Daddies, illustrated by Javiera Maclean Alvarez came out May 2022 with Beaming Books. Trucker Kid, illustrated by Russ Cox comes out spring 2023 with Capstone. When Carol is not in a critique group or at her computer she might be doing yoga or biking. She lives in Andover, Massachusetts with her husband Mark. Find out more at www.carolgordonekster.com 

And connect with her here: https://linktr.ee/carolgordonekster 


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com

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