Our Stories

Exploring the Elements of Fiction and Paths to Publishing

January 7, 2016 by Janet Collier (Faculty and Staff)

What do an ancient Greek mathematician, little green people, and a karate-kicking 12-year-old girl have in common? They’re all in Hypatia Academy, a novel written and published by Esther Goldenberg, alumni JPDS-NC teacher and parent (mother of Ellie, class of 2014). The book is “the story of one girl’s unintended quest to find the source of her own strength.” Before our winter break, Esther came for an author reading and talk with our Fifth and Sixth Graders about the book and about writing. Using the opening pages of the book, she drew out of our students elements of fiction and of good writing with which they were already familiar from their learning here and led them to discover new elements of storytelling, along with helping them think about their own creative writing.

The excitement and interest were palpable, both as the students listened to her read from the book and as Esther engaged them in a conversation about writing. One of her key messages to them was about what “write what you know” really means. With all the excitement among kids these days over fantasy series, it’s an interesting question to think about, and Esther shared with them the ways in which she drew on her own experiences and knowledge to write this fantasy story, despite having no personal experience with little green people, for example. On the other hand, she does know a lot about reciting the digits of pi, thanks to our Pi Day observances here at school and her daughter’s participation in them (you’ll find experiences gleaned from karate PEP in the book, among others, as well). Esther loved the questions our students asked, both because of what she could share with them through her answers and because of the way they made her stop and think. If you want to hear about a couple of those questions and find out other ways that JPDS-NC influenced the book, Esther talks about them on her blog (www.esthergoldenberg.com). Students can go to her blog to read further about the book and ask questions.

Esther also started a publishing company, Three Gems Publishing, to help both children and adults work on their writing and to get their writing published. In particular, she recommends the rewarding experience of children and their parents working on writing a book together. Ellie was her inspiration for some of the episodes and a resource for certain details (such as the digits of pi and karate which figures into a climactic scene in the book). More than that, Ellie was also Esther’s “reader” throughout the process over the many years she worked on the book, helping Esther better understand which elements of the story worked and would appeal to readers like her.

The teacher-turned-author, book coach, and publisher will be teaching a class for adults at JPDS-NC beginning in February. The class is designed to offer guidance to adults who would like to write a book and will cover subjects such as selecting a genre and topic, conquering writer’s block, and the paths to publishing, among other topics. To register or learn more, please contact Esther at Esther@ThreeGemsPublishing.com.