Ask any successful kidlit writer how they succeeded, and chances are they’ll tell you about their writing communities. In this reblog, Carol Gordon Ekster shares the many ways she benefits from the yearly 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, one of the most well-respected and supportive online writing communities in the kidlit world. Registration for new 12×12 members opens January 9 and will stay open through February.
Writing came to me at the end of my teaching career…the perfect gift to continue to touch children’s lives and live a meaningful life. What I didn’t realize as I started out was that to stay on this path one basically needed two things – commitment and perseverance.
I came from a career that depended on immediacy, into the world of publishing that required you to have patience and wait, and wait, and wait some more! But I was willing to give it a try and I jumped right in. However, it took some time to get used to not only the waiting, but the rejection.
In the twenty years of writing, I’ve collected well over 2,000 rejections. Yes, you are reading that correctly. I definitely have the perseverance down. I submitted widely until I became agented. And I committed. I joined SCBWI, took workshops, joined critique groups (I’m presently in five of them.) I didn’t join 12 x 12 when I first learned of it, because honestly, I’m self-motivated and didn’t think I needed that push to write, that I initially thought was what 12×12 offered. But I remember when I decided to join. I was at Highlights Foundation for Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple’s Picture Book Boot Camp. This event was for published authors only. On the last day the authors were called for photographs. Someone asked to take a 12 x 12 group picture. Almost everyone there got in the photo. I thought to myself, well if all these successful published picture book authors are in 12 x 12, I want to be there too! Commitment! We need to be committed to our craft, the journey, the community, and the art of the picture book.
What I didn’t realize at the time was all the other benefits of the 12 x 12 group. And I can’t have enough community with so much of my time spent alone with words. I was particularly impressed with the quick responses of helpful writers when I asked a question in the Facebook forum. And it’s so comforting to know that though my journey might be my own, we all have similarities that can help bring each other a sense of calm and understanding when we know we are not alone.
12 x 12 helps us with our commitment to this crazy but roller-coasty-always- shifting life of a #kidlit writer. And my own journey continues to show me how perseverance pays off. Yesterday my sixth book came into the world. I believed in this title. I continued to revise, submit, revise, submit.
Almost one hundred rejections and about ten years after I was inspired to draft this story, TRUCKER KID, Capstone, illustrated by Russ Cox, entered the world Sunday, January 1, 2023. Much changed in this manuscript, including the title. During Covid, I had seen for myself the importance of trucks during this difficult time. I was moved to pull out the manuscript and add in back matter to show how we rely on trucks. I did some tightening, yet again, and this ended up being one of three manuscripts that helped me secure my first agent.
And it came out at the perfect time. It needed one agent, one editor to believe in it like I did. That’s all it takes. And it’s a reminder to trust and believe in the process. Not every book I write, and I’ve written more than 120 at this point, will be published. I’ve learned that. Publishers are looking for books that will sell, fill a need, make the world a better place…and make them money!
TRUCKER KID focuses on Athena, who is proud of her truck-driving father but misunderstood by her classmates for her love of all things trucking. By reading an early review I learned that this book also shows how attitudes can be changed through education. Athena explains about trucking and the other students listen and understand, rather than make fun of her. I hadn’t thought about that layer!
I’m also excited to highlight an often-overlooked career and touch the lives of the 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States and their families. One such family sat next to me in a restaurant 10 years ago and inspired this story. I got in touch with the dad when I first drafted the story and then just before the book came out. Little Athena, who went trucking with her dad, is now 12 years old. He sent me a photo or her and was so excited to know it did become a book. They should be receiving their copy any day now. Imagining them opening the package fills me with those joyous highs of being a children’s author and gratitude for sustaining the needed perseverance and commitment it takes for this undertaking.
Thank you to all in the 12 x 12 community, who continue to nurture us individually and as a group through our writing, disappointments, promoting, and good news. Happy 2023! May it be a good year for everyone, professionally and personally.
Here’s the book trailer for Trucker Kid – a family endeavor put together by my husband with an original song by my brother-in-law:
Find out more about my books and writing life here: https://carolgordonekster.com.
Ready to join 12 x 12 in 2023? New member registration begins January 9. Click here for more info.