Release Date: October 1, 2011
Age Range: 5 and up
Ernestine Buckmeister has a very busy life, maybe a bit too busy. The nice boy from next door, Hugo, always asks Ernestine if she comes over to play after school. But the answer is always no. Because Ernestine’s after school life is filled up to the fullest to live to the fullest, every day of the week she has another important activity planned: sculpting, water ballet,knitting, tuba lessons, yodeling, karate and yoga. Her busy parents are very busy themselves, so Nanny O’ Dear keeps Ernestine company in between everything and makes sure she stays on schedule. One day, Ernestine’s parents notice that she looks pale and tired, and Ernestine is becoming unhappy when she sees Hugo happily playing outside and enjoying his free time, will she gets the chance to get out of her busy schedule and play like everyone else?
The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is a hilarious picture book about an overscheduled girl. Ernestine has the most absurd after school life you can imagine, but never time to do the things she actually wants, her parents think it is best for her to do as much as possible educational en engaging activities, not keeping in mind that Ernestine can be tired after school or just wants to play ball with Hugo. An important message for all the parents in the real word who overschedule their children’s after school life these days. All of Ernestine’s teachers have a name that suits with the activity they teach: Tuba lessons by Mister Oompah, Yoga by Guru Prakash Pretzel and karate with grand master HiYa. The book is illustrated beautiful by Suzanne Beaky. I think every reader, young and old, will fall in love with this colorful book!
Confession time…when my daughter was younger, I wasn’t too wildly different from Ernestine’s mother, Mrs. Buckmeister. My daughter was way over-scheduled for her age and she ultimately dropped out of her African drumming class at the age 4 because she was too exhausted. Fortunately for me, I found this trend of over-scheduling our kids to be quite funny and I channeled this theme into writing “The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister”. I added in a heaping teaspoon of wackiness, and the book was conceived. Of course it took only another ten years for the book to make it into publication!
What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the book to life?
Great question, Marjolein! One of the biggest, and most interesting challenges, for the book was to make sure that through the revision process I remained true to the book’s theme – which is the power of play – while still ensuring that the adult characters in the book were portrayed as sympathetic. It would have been easy to portray Ernestine’s parents as stereotypical aloof high-achievers – but I wanted Ernestine’s parents to reflect many of today’s parents: parents who want the best for their kids but, like myself, get caught up in the rigors of today’s fast-paced lifestyle and sometimes forget that the best thing we can do for our children is just to let them be themselves…and play!
What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the significant highlights along the way?
Admittedly it was a long timeline from spark to publication! I wrote the book almost ten years ago and it went through many rounds of critiques and revisions before I started showing it to editors. In fact, I have at least 63 drafts of the book in my PC! Fortunately, though, I have a wonderfully supportive and talented critique group that kept me motivated and kept me revising!
A year or two after I wrote the book I attended an SCBWI conference in the UK and signed up for a one-on-one critique with an editor. The editor I was paired with was from a large publishing house and she was very encouraging. In fact, she loved the book and asked if I’d be willing to work on a revision and submit it to her again. I didn’t have to think twice about that! I worked with this editor on “Ernestine” for almost a year and eventually the book went to the “Acquisition Committee” but was ultimately rejected. That was a huge disappointment but I valued the chance to go through the editorial revision process.
In the two years that followed, the book was plucked out of the slush pile of two additional large publishing houses – more revision, more acquisition meetings, and more rejection. But I knew it was just a matter of finding the right publisher and, along the way, “Ernestine” was getting stronger and stronger.
From my publishing research, I had heard wonderful things about Flashlight Press – a boutique publishing house. The book made it’s way to the editor’s desk where it sat for over a year. Eventually, the editor contacted me about working on revisions, and over a year later, she sent me THE E-MAIL! The one that offered me a contract! Since then, my amazing editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, and her partners at Flashlight Press have been my own dream team. They took my vision for the story and improved upon it in ways that I hadn’t imagined. And Suzanne Beaky, “Ernestine’s” illustrator, brought the story to life with such skill, warmth and whimsy (and the book was a tremendous challenge to illustrate!). I couldn’t have landed at a better publishing house.
While it took about 10-years to get a picture book contract, during those years I wrote fiction and non-fiction for children’s magazines and continued to write oodles of other picture books.
What was the book you most loved as a child? And which are your favorite books and authors now?
It’s so hard to come up with just one book! I loved the Madeleine books (Ludwig Bemelmans), Eloise (Kay Thompson) and any book with a ballerina in it!
Today, I continue to read picture books for fun and inspiration. I’m a big fan of Mo Willems, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Lisa Wheeler, Julia Donaldson,, Oliver Jeffers, Tammi Sauer…I could go on!
If you could meet a fictional character in real life, who would it be and why?
Mary Poppins! Because anyone who says “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun” sounds like a person I’d like to hang out with. Plus, I love her style!
What do you do beside writing?
Even when I’m not writing at my computer I think I‘m always writing in my head! But I do manage to find time to also work as a public information consultant for United Nations-affiliated organizations. And when I’m not working for money, I love traveling, taking photos, playing tennis, puttering around with pottery, reading and loosing myself on Pinterest – my latest guilty pleasure. (Note to Marjolein’s readers…come join me on Pinterest. Lots of book-related and other goodies among my boards!) And I also love being Mom to my 14-year-old daughter, Maja and wife to my husband, Jan!
What is your next writing project?
So glad you asked! Next year I have two more children’s picture books coming out– “Hold That Thought, Milton!” (illustrated by the amazingly talented Ross Collins) and “The Perfect Yellow Rose” (stunningly illustrated by Alison Jay). Both of these books are with London-based publishing house, Gullane. It will be a real thrill to share these two new books with readers!
Visit Linda's website at www.lindalodding.com