Without Esther Hershenhorn, I wouldn't be where I am today in the world of publishing children's books. "And exactly where are you?" you're probably asking. You're right, I haven't actually published anything. Yet. But publishing children's books is quite a journey, and with Esther's help I now have my bags packed with all the right gear, a reliable road map, a tank full of gas, and several trusty and loyal travel-buddies.
In the summer of 2010 I enrolled in a children's book writing course. Driving there the first night, I was surprised to find the address was residential, and even more surprised to find that the class was held in the coach-house apartment of the "instructor," who had me sit on her couch, pulling her toddler daughter's squeaky toys out from under my bum, while she told me various topics to write about and watched me write in silence. Creepy, right? And yes, I was the only student, though the instructor assured me my classmates were "sick" or "out of town this week." That was NOT Esther's course.
Flash forward to the following summer. Undeterred by the seeming scam of my previous course, I signed up for Esther Hershenhorn's children's book writing workshop at the Newberry Library--much more reliable. (If you are a fellow Chicagoan, check out their fabulous writing workshops here.) Week by week, the clouds of ignorance parted and the warming rays of Esther's knowledge shone down, shedding light on the world of children's books. It was much more than just a writing workshop. All the students submitted works ranging from picture book to YA, and we critiqued and encouraged each other. But more importantly, Esther gently guided us into this new world, emphasizing the importance of networking and the writing community. I'd always thought of writing as an independent thing; a solo endeavor. Esther quickly turned my thinking upside-down, and by the time I finished her course I was a member of both SCBWI and a critique group...and I've never looked back. Before Esther, I had no idea how much I didn't know about writing and publishing children's books. But using the momentum she gave me, I now know what people are talking about when I attend conferences. I know what PB, MG, and YA stand for. I know what querying is, what typical word counts are, and the usual amount of rejection letters before publication (hovering in the hundreds).
As a result of Esther's course, I now meet monthly with a talented, knowledgeable, and ever-expanding group of writers who have helped shape me as an author, as well as my works themselves. And like our mama bear, Esther still checks in on us from time to time and is a constant supporter of our writing.
If you'd like a little bit of this Esther-y goodness in your life, you're in luck! Come to Prairie Writer's Day 2014, where she is on the panel. Get tips on her blog, Teaching Authors. Hire her as a one-on-one writing coach, or find a class she is teaching, by visiting her website.
Thanks again, Esther!