CAROL GORDON EKSTER: It is always the most amazing time in a writer’s life when that first book gets sold. You wait for the contract, and in the case of picture books, you cross your fingers you will get an illustrator who will bring an added dimension to your story. Then you wait to hold the book in your hands. It is such an exciting time. What we often don’t think about is that despite our gratitude for this lottery-like win, our minds go to all those manuscripts we have circulating about. Will another get sold? Will I have a second book?
Kirsti Call’s first book, THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL came out with Character Publishing in October, 2013. Since then she hasn’t sat around waiting to be contacted by another publisher or agent. She not only continues to write and submit, but she remains very present and active in the writing community. She does everything right!
Kirsti, first tell us how you slipped into the writing life while having a family therapy practice and about your journey to publication.
KIRSTI CALL: About 5 years ago, I was working only one night a week as a marriage and family therapist. I knew something was missing in my very full life. So in January, when my 5th child was 6 months old, I thought about how I was spending my time and made goals for the new year. Writing is something that I’ve always loved and I realized that I hadn’t written in years. So I started writing some of the stories that I told my children at night. In fact The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall is a story that I told my kids at Home Depot when they were bored of waiting for our kitchen cabinets to be ordered. I joined the Andover (Massachusetts) Critique Group in February of 2011, and that’s where I met you, Carol, and everyone else in the Writers’ Rumpus group. Thanks to you, I learned about Character Publishing and they eventually published the second story I brought to the critique group.
CGE: I know so few writers who take as many workshops, go to as many conferences, and who write blogs or are as involved in the #kidlit community as you are. Can you share the ways you stay involved and work on your growth as a writer?
KC: I love being involved in the writing community! This is my fourth year participating in the 12×12 Challenge which keeps me writing a new picture book manuscript every month. (And for anyone who writes picture books, I highly recommend joining the 12×12 community. Now is the time to register!) I also contribute monthly to The Children’s Book Academy and of course, Writers’ Rumpus. I just finished judging YA fiction for the CYBILS award. I run an on-line picture book critique group (Bookmakers) and have several other critique partners that I swap manuscripts with. The most exciting project I’m working on right now is Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) which happens in March. Carrie Charley Brown and I have an incredible line up of author-educators who contribute their time and expertise with posts about specific picture books that we can use as Mentor Texts in our writing. The goal is to read 5 picture books a day and 105 books by the end of March! Reading stellar books definitely improves our ability to write stellar books! Registration is February 15th, so if you want a month of free education, check it out, here!
I adore on-line classes and conferences. I’ve taken Making Picture Book Magic, courses from Children’s Book Academy, Just Write for Kids: Picture Books, and Kidlit Summer School. I’ve been to the NE-SCWBI, NY-SCBWI and NJ-SCBWI conferences in the last 2 years. But the most phenomenal conference experience I’ve ever had was Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp!
Staying involved in the kidlit community not only helps me improve my writing skills, but it also helps me connect with others who understand the writing and publishing journey. I’ve found an incredible support group in the kidlit friends that I’ve made over the past 5 years!
CGE: What are the highs and lows for you as you stay on this path of being a children’s author?
KC: Rejections are hard and I get them often. But sometimes I get personalized rejections which can make me surprisingly happy! The best part of being an author is school visits. There’s nothing better than having a child say they love your book or that you’re their favorite author.
CGE: What does the future hold for Kirsti Call?
KC: Just the process of writing brings me joy. Whether I sell many more books or none, if I’m writing, I know that I’m succeeding. And who knows? Maybe I’ll sell another book or two in the process!
Thank you for interviewing me, Carol! You’ve been a great mentor and friend over the past 5 years.
CGE: Aww! Thank you, Kirsti! And if anyone would like to connect with Kirsti, you can do so here:
And the winner of the book giveaway from December, for BEFORE I SLEEP: I SAY THANK YOU, is Rosi Hollinbeck! Thanks for sharing the inspirational quote by Stephen King, “What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” And gratitude goes to the wonderful publisher, Pauline Books and Media, for their donation.