Carol Ekster had no intention of writing a book. She already had a wonderful full-time job teaching in the Derry, N.H., school system.
But at the beach one day, "something just came over me," she said.
She had the urge to write and ran to her car where all she could find were some pens and a stack of sticky notes.
"I wrote my first story on Post It notes," she said.
Six years later, Ekster is publishing her first book, A children's book called "Where am I Sleeping Tonight? A Story about Divorce."
"Where am I Sleeping Tonight?" is told from the perspective of Mark, a fourth-grader whose parents are newly divorced. In the story, Mark talks about how the difficulties and confusion of divorce affect him and his younger brother, Evan. For example, at their dad's house, the boys can play video games as much as they want, while the rules at their mom's are a more strict one hour of video games.
The most difficult thing for Mark is when he is at one house and he forgets something at the other. When he is in school he often realizes that in moving from one house to another, he has forgotten his homework — again. Mark's teacher is constantly getting frustrated with him and Mark knows he needs to be better organized in this new situation.
Ekster got the idea for her story after seeing a request for a divorce story by Boulden Publishers on the Web site for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, she said. After sending her story, she received an answer six weeks later.
In the past six years, she has written 20 books, but this is the first to be published, she said. She wanted to write a story that shows divorce affects not just adults, but children as well.
"I wanted to show the pain of divorce," she said.
Ekster is speaking from some experience as a teacher. The character of Mark is loosely based on a student she had several years ago, whose parents were going through a divorce. Like Mark, this student would forget things at his parents' homes. Like the teacher in the story, Ekster would also get frustrated, she said.
In fact, Mark's teacher's catch-phrase "fired, fired, fired" is the same phrase that Ekster tells her students when they forget their homework. She said she wants the students to learn that remembering homework is part of their job as students.
"I've been saying it before Donald Trump," she said.
Ekster keeps a diary of ideas, writing down things that inspire her. She also finds that she writes well on planes; it seems to be easier to focus.
She appreciates feedback on her drafts, whether it be from a publisher or from another writer in a critique group to which she belongs. All her stories, including "Where am I Sleeping Tonight?" have gone through several revisions. Ekster said she has files and files of drafts at her home.
"I watch less TV then other people," she said.
Book writing has been a learning process for her and she said getting a book published is a lesson in patience. She heard back from Boulden Publishers after six weeks, but for some of her other manuscripts it has taken up to a year to hear back from a publisher. Some of her other books are awaiting publication, she said.
Ekster's advice to other aspiring writers is to join a society like the SCBWI, which is where she saw the divorce story request. She also recommends researching publishing companies. She said writers need to know what kind of manuscripts publishers are looking for; otherwise the manuscript will just sit in a pile, unread.
Even after a publisher says yes to a manuscript, it might still be awhile before the author sees his or her book in a bookstore. Ekster had to wait two years before she held the final product of "Where am I Sleeping Tonight?" in her hands.
The illustrations for her book were drawn by Sue Rama. Ekster had a totally different vision of her book originally, but is very happy with the outcome, she said.
"You have to trust the publisher," she said.
To Ekster, publishing "Where am I Sleeping Tonight?" has been both "amazing and heart-wrenching."
Ekster hopes children, especially children from divorced families, will enjoy this story. She also wants kids whose parents are going through a divorce to see that they are not only ones in that situation.
"It's empowering to kids," Ekster said.
"Where am I Sleeping Tonight?" will be available at the Andover Bookstore, Barnes & Nobles and on Amazon.com. Ekster will be signing copies of her book at Barnes & Nobles in Manchester, N.H., on Aug. 21. For more information about Ekster and her book, check out www.carolgordonekster.com.