In truth, I not only coach children's book writers, helping them to discover and tell their good stories well. I also cheer them on 'til they cross the finish line.
What qualifies me to coach children's book writers?
Simply put, I am well acquainted with both writing children's books and today's world of children's book publishing. My award-winning children's titles include pictures books and middle grade fiction.
I also teach “Writing for Children” classes at the University of Chicago's Writer's Studio, the Newberry Library and Ragdale, an artist's residency program in Lake Forest, Illinois. I began my career teaching fifth grade. As the saying goes, “Once a teacher, always a teacher.”
I also work with members of the children's book community to advocate children's books and their creators. I recently concluded my ten-year service on the Board of Advisors of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, an international organization that numbers 22,0000 members. My seventeen-year service as the 900-member Illinois Chapter's Regional Advisor earned me the title Regional Advisor Emeritus.
What exactly do I do when I coach children's book writers?
I work with writers — wherever they are in the writing and publishing process — to help them discover, craft and market their stories. My careful manuscript readings and thoughtfully-worded comments reflect my teaching experience, my publishing experience and my talents and skills. The writer learns not only which story parts work and which parts could work better, but which parts should always work to tell any story well. In a successful picture book, the writer offers up concrete details from which the reader draws Life's Universal Truths. I work hard so my comments do the same, so that from my specific criticisms of a specific manuscript, the writer learns the tenets of writing for children in today's markets. I also work with writers who are eager to respond to editorial requests for revision as well as with writers eager to independently publish their stories and projects.
What are the fees for my Writing Coach services?
My manuscript rates reflect the hours necessary to thoughtfully read and consider a manuscript, then prepare and present in person, at a convenient Chicago location, or via a SKYPE visit or phone consultation, a thoughtful, instructive analysis that enables the writer to successfully move forward. These one-on-one meetings offer invaluable insights to a writer’s story spark, motivation and years on task in his writer’s journey, allowing me the necessary information to best accommodate the writer’s story and the story he’s telling.
For a description of fees, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I also now offer Office Hours, personal consultations in person or via the telephone, to discuss specific manuscript problems, writing issues, marketing possibilities and career issues.
I often work with Writer's Groups, too, facilitating sessions and/or teaching from the members' manuscripts. Fees for such services are negotiated separately.
How should you submit your work?
All manuscripts are to be submitted as hard copy, typed single-sided and double-spaced and in a 12 pt. font.
Please include the manuscript, payment, an 8 ½ x 11 SASE, a 25-word-or-so summary of the plot and a list of manuscript concerns. Turn-around time is usually 4 to 6 weeks.
For the mailing address, query me at: email@example.com.
“It isn't an exaggeration to say that Esther has changed the course of my entire writing career!
I stumbled across Esther's name in a SCBWI catalogue and reached out to pitch some story concepts and rough drafts. In the kindest way possible, she asked if I had anything else up my sleeve, so I sent her an outline for a nonfiction book about heroic cats throughout history. She pounced on that and assured me that nonfiction was definitely the genre I should focus on, and her encouragement inspired me to completely switch gears.
“Is Esther Hershenhorn immensely knowledgeable about the children’s book industry? Absolutely. Is she knowledgeable about plot and character and theme and all that is literary? Absolutely. Can she spot problem areas in your manuscript and give you cogent suggestions on how to improve your story? Absolutely. Does she send you an array of impressive hand-outs you can refer to when she’s not around to answer your questions? Absolutely! But you get something more than all that with Esther: you get someone who cares. She cares about your story and she cares about you, the writer. Esther gives you encouragement when you doubt yourself and your story, empathy when things don’t turn out like you had hoped, and she celebrates with you when things finally turn out right. Should you consider contacting Esther if you need help with your current writing project? Absolutely!!”
“I worked with Esther through SCBWI-Illinois’ Laura Crawford Memorial Mentorship program. From the very first meeting I was blown away by Esther’s zeal, her commitment to the mentorship process, and her human warmth. She read my previous work, got to know me as a person, and very quickly discerned the heart of my story. She is an expert editor, able to see both what a story is missing and what is already working. She guides gently, inspiring rather than proscribing, but at the same time, she presses for real effort, hoping to bring the story into its very best form. This mentorship inspired me, taught me more than I ever could have learned from books or lectures, and resulted in my signing with Rosemary Stimola (of Stimola Literary Studios) and getting a contract with Candlewick Press. I cannot imagine a better literary guide, editor and friend than Esther Hershenhorn.”
“Getting from great idea to published author is a hard slog. For me, the journey would never have happened if it weren’t for Esther. She read my first draft and told me I was a rock star…right before she told me how to redo it all, correctly! And she was so right. Indeed, every bit of advice she’s given me—and there’s been a lot—has been golden. She’s been a genuine and enthusiastic cheerleader, supporter, coach, and advisor. Not only is she a truly lovely person, she knows her stuff. If you’re struggling with next steps, you couldn’t be in better hands than Esther’s.”
“I met Esther over twenty years ago. We used to meet at Lincoln Park Zoo and talk about my manuscripts. Thanks to her advice, I was able to get “Midnight and the Night Watchman” published in Ladybug Magazine. Esther had wanted me to write it as a picture book, but I was so eager to get something into print, that I only took half her advice and wrote it as a short story. Many years later, I rewrote the story as a picture book, Kitten and the Night Watchman, and it’s my debut book. It took me nearly two decades to catch up to Esther. I just finished one of her writing courses at the Newberry Library—the second time I took the course—and she is as boundlessly enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and positive as ever. Esther will encourage you until you succeed.”
"I have a tendency to write in a vacuum because I travel a lot, and no writing group wants a member who rarely shows up. I'm up to twenty books now, and the only other writer I have ever gone to for feedback is Esther. . . and I've gone to her more than once. Why? She's smart, she's honest, and she's sincere. I honestly believe it is not possible for me to want to make my stories better than Esther wants them to be. She cares that much. I give her name to people several times a month. Those who are serious, call her."
“It's important to believe in your work as a writer, and it's also important to have someone understand how personal writing is. Esther and I met once, but our meeting felt like catching up with someone, rather than meeting someone for the first time. I think the reason for this is that Esther came to our review session having digested my manuscript with the goal of helping me understand where my work fit into the larger spectrum of children's books. She wasn't trying to change my story. When I reached out with news of my first contract, Esther was genuinely thrilled for me, and gave me good advice on how to navigate the next steps. Esther is someone who encourages, reinforces, and is generous with her knowledge. It was a pleasure working with her."
“God is so good to bring amazing people into our personal world to help us mount on wings and soar! Just when I was ready to close my story files, tuck my writing tablet between the ‘other’ authors’ books on my bookshelf, and put the cap on my pen, I found Esther’s name through SCBWI. I am very familiar with the Esther story in the Bible. And I love her heroic intervention in God’s plan to save her people. So, I thought, I’ll try one more time. So, I sent my email, after several revisions, of course! I had to make that hook’ statement spark her interest. To my much-needed surprise, I received the most pleasant email back with a welcoming invitation to send her my story! Hallelujah! From that day on, what a joy Esther has been to renew my ambition to WRITE! Her beautiful talent as a coach, teacher, and person is indeed like ‘the wind beneath my wings!’”
“Oh! My gosh! Where do I begin when it comes to Esther? Let me start by saying she is priceless when it comes to editing and brainstorming. I recall the many times I asked her question after question via email or on the phone regarding writing issues I had encountered. She never tired of answering them. Instead, she embraced me and helped me to work through them. Working with Esther has been an absolute pleasure. Her ability to transport you into her world of knowledge and expertise is beyond words. The world of editing is a better place with Esther Hershenhorn leading the way.”
“Esther was undoubtedly the Prime Mover on my writing journey. She literally read three short sample paragraphs of mine and instinctively believed (way before I did) that I was a writer. She spent the next ten years encouraging, inspiring, instructing, motivating, and coaching me to cross the finish line. There were so many times she just refused to let me give up. And now my first Middle Grade Fiction chapter book is getting published. I think she's happier for me than I am. Now, after all this time, I realize what Esther really did for me. She simply gave me permission to be a hero - to write like a hero - to tell my tale of a hero. Thank you, Esther.”
“Esther is an exceptionally talented coach for children's book writers. Known from the Oprah Winfrey Show as 'the girl who buried her dreams,' I knew my fans would want my picture book autobiography to inspire and motivate their children. Except, I had no idea how to write such a story! Not only was Esther reflective and insightful, she helped me bring my grandmother's traditional story-telling style to the book in a way that would resonate. As a first time writer, I stumbled and felt overwhelmed. Esther was generous with her time, she stood strong, cheered me to find my voice and tap into the depth of a story that would entertain and inspire readers to believe in themselves. In a million years I would never have found the courage to write a children's book in a manner my grandmother would have told it!!! Esther truly showed me Tinogona, ‘it is achievable!’”
"Upon hiring Esther to edit Jack’s Tales, I immediately gained an incredible editor, a writing coach, a mentor, an ally, and a publicist wrapped in one awesome package! Not to mention she is fun to work with, a genuinely inspiring person. I feel incredibly lucky to have found her! Esther is my game changer, and I told her that as long as I pursue a career in writing children’s books, I’m not letting her go."
“Esther Hershenhorn is truly an awe-inspiring teacher, coach, and mentor. Esther believes in her students and energizes them to believe in themselves. She has transformed me from a fledgling children’s writer to a published author. Esther encouraged me to continue my journey with endless help and guidance, as she does for all her students. Esther took me through the steps necessary to create a highly-recognized award-winning children’s picture book. Her infinite amount of knowledge in the world of children’s book writing and publishing is unsurmountable. She prepares information for her students that will be used for a lifetime. Esther’s warmth, dedication, and unique energy are qualities that make her a consummate professional. She has a naturally addictive personality that makes her students wanting to come back for more. I would never be in the place I am today if it wasn’t for Esther’s genius in her field.
"Esther Hershenhorn is an absolute treasure and I can't thank her enough for all
her help and advice with writing, publishing and marketing Let's Hear It For
Almigal! Esther's knowledge and experience about every aspect of children's books is
incredible. I originally reached out to Esther for writing guidance and
editing, but not only did she help me create an adorable and engaging story,
she also helped me tremendously in all the steps that followed, including
marketing, school visits and web design.
Esther's encouragement and enthusiasm were invaluable as I tackled something
completely new and overwhelming. I couldn't have done any of this without her
and I look forward to working with Esther on my next Almigal book.
“Esther has been an amazing book coach. She was full of ideas, suggestions and guidance when it came to my picture book manuscript. Everyone needs a team when writing a book and I felt lucky to have Esther on my team. She kept coming up with new ideas and has generously given of her time and expertise to Jake’s Kindergarten Checkup.”
““…I had the great opportunity to work with Esther for a couple sessions. As my coach she was very encouraging with the project overall. She asked great questions and shared very helpful, time-proven information. But most importantly she gentle nudged me to move from just sharing memories to telling a story that would grip the hearts of children and their parents. On December 1st, 2015 my decade old dream came true. I REMEMBER FISHING WITH DAD was released. Since then sales have been great (it is currently being sold at 6 Coscto locations in the Seattle area). More importantly parents have told me that it is a story that grips the heart of their kids And theirs too! I included Esther in the dedication of my book to communicate how thankful I was for her coaching.”
“Esther is a writer’s dream! I took Esther's picture book class at the Newberry Library and enjoyed her so much that I paid for a coaching session. Esther LOVES picture books and embraced my flawed manuscript with open arms. She gave my manuscript a lengthy review and helped make the story better, literally! I took a suggestion she made and wrote it into the manuscript---in my own words of course! Esther gave me confidence in telling "my" story and challenged me (with a huge smile on her face) to make the story more. "Can the stakes be higher? Can you raise the ante?" But she also gave solid publishing advice which, as a novice in all things writing, I gobbled up. She is an expert in the children's market and I feel very blessed to have her on my team!”
“Esther’s critique was pivotal in helping my story THREE LITTLE SHRIMP become a publishable children’s picture book. After Hurricane Katrina I began to write the stories that had been stored away in my mind for years. Before getting THREE LITTLE SHRIMP published, I decided to have it professionally proofread just in case I had missed something grammatically. I found Esther and made arrangements to have my manuscript edited. I just knew she would think the same thing about my story as everyone else did … that it was awesome! When she returned it a few weeks later, I was dumbfounded! My ‘perfect’ story needed work! As I read through the thoughts and suggestions Esther had made, I realized that I had done the right thing by sending it to her. In our conversations, I felt Esther was on my side and that she was truly interested in the success of my story. I never once felt pressure to make changes or additions to any part of the manuscript. I listened to her comments and suggestions, then made the changes I felt necessary.”
"When I first contacted Esther, I wrote, 'Teach me and I will be grateful.' How far she took me in such a short time, teaching me craft and turning my heart toward a deep love for writing picture books. As a Writing Coach, Esther has brought her extraordinary skills and knowledge to each and every one of my projects. She embraces each manuscript as if it were her own. Esther coaches, Esther teaches, Esther inspires, and Esther cares. Esther always, always goes far beyond all expectations. When she says she has her clients in both her HARD DRIVE and her HEART DRIVE, she means it. Esther will continue to be my guiding light as I journey forward in my writing life."
“Esther served as my mentor in the 2009 SCBWI Nevada Mentorship Program and worked with me over a period of six months as I revised a YA novel-in-verse. Esther deftly helped me navigate my own novel. Her keen ability to zero in on the heart of a story is a true gift. Her guidance enabled me to tackle revision in a systematic and effective way. She helped me track the emotional development of my main character, heighten themes, and strengthen my verse writing to better speak to my YA audience. Esther helped me polish my work so that it was agent ready, and I shall always be grateful”.
“Esther is one of a kind! She is a professional, knowledgeable, and incredibly supportive writing coach, as well as an enthusiastic and ever-encouraging mentor. She provided me with such a thorough critique, it was obvious that she had spent a good deal of time with my story, detailing what was working, and making spot-on suggestions for those parts that still needed work. Esther’s critique was pivotal in helping my manuscript become a publishable picture book! When she says that she is in the Hope business, I would definitely agree. But I would also like to add, that my first picture book from Penguin/Putnam is proof that she is in the Success business as well.”.
"If it wasn't for the coaching I received from Esther, I would have never been able to finish my book. She offered me tremendous insight and valuable feedback. Esther helped me shape my vision and I say, 'Thank you, Esther!' "
“Esther Hershenhorn, as a coach, instructor and mentor, is an invaluable resource for writers. From story conception and development to marketing and publishing, her deep knowledge, sage advice and ongoing encouragement help bring a wide range of books to life. As I worked to bring my own middle grade literary fiction to the digital market and highlight the wonder of the new WeJIT technology, Esther was and is a constant source for ideas to get my story into the hands of educators, librarians and readers. Her insight sparks the imagination and effectively bridges the gap between actual writing and the business of selling your book.
“The first time I spoke with Esther, I knew I was in good hands. She is not only a scholar of children’s literature and a successful children’s book author, but an extraordinary teacher. Esther was genuinely excited to discuss my manuscript and provided thorough and thoughtful feedback that dramatically improved the quality of my work. I am extremely grateful to have Esther as my writing coach and I recommend her services without reservation.”
“I first experienced Esther’s magic at a writers’ retreat. I can’t imagine a better ambassador for the world of children’s literature. She is an expert teacher who has a genuine passion for helping writers develop their craft. As a writing coach, Esther has been an invaluable guide, editor, and advocate whose advice and encouragement set me on the right path to getting my first book published. Esther’s contagious enthusiasm and professional wisdom inspires a writing journey as rewarding as the destination.”
“Esther Hershenhorn has a gift. After reading only forty pages
of the middle grade manuscript I'd been writing and rewriting for years,
she not only mined its flaws but also offered impeccable advice for
correcting them. Her ability to find the heart of a story is astonishing.
On top of all that, Esther is kind, generous, and thoughtful in every
sense of the word. So let me rephrase myself. Esther Hershenhorn not
only has a gift, she is a gift to any writer who has the good fortune
to work with her and know her.”
“Allow me to follow the theme of Esther’s website welcome letter – “Lucky ME” to have worked with Esther many times over the course of my writing career. She has so many gifts to share with both new and experienced writers. Her extensive knowledge about the marketplace will help you understand how your story might find a home. She’ll provide a professional manuscript critique, including a thorough assessment of what works well in your story. Importantly, she provides insight as to how you might re-VISION your manuscript, to help you see new possibilities that will improve and enhance your final version. Esther will encourage you and support you with practical advice which will help you reach your goals. If you are on the fence about whether to work with Esther – let me strongly recommend that you don’t miss this opportunity to feel “lucky, too” and work with this amazing writer and coach.
"Esther Hershenhorn knows writing and she knows children's literature. Her
great skill is to help you see that you are not alone and adrift on the sea
of children's books. For any port you want to reach, there are others who
have sailed that route. Esther introduces you to their writing so that you
can focus on the story YOU want to tell, so that you can safely reach port
in your own boat, flying your own colors."
“Esther Hershenhorn is a master teacher – that rare individual who inspires students to work harder than they believe they can, and still leaves them begging for more. She gave me the confidence to believe in my potential as both writer and illustrator. She encouraged me to slow down and revel in learning my new craft, rather than rushing to premature publication attempts; to take the time to be the best that I could be, not just adequate. And she still provides me with reading material and additional resources so I can continue learning on my own. “Without Esther Hershenhorn’s coaching, my journey to this point would have taken years rather than months. Her coaching – always professional, competent, thorough, and exceptionally caring – has been worth every penny I’ve spent investing in my beloved second career! I will continue to use her excellent services because Esther’s knowledge, like good wine, should be sipped, not guzzled.”
“Esther is 100% in the moment with me and demands
the same from me. I have found her to be generous with her time, suggestions
about time management and the writing life, and the nuts and bolts of
the process of getting a book published. Her coaching encourages excellence,
and her support shows me ways to be flexible and to deal with the inevitable
obstacles a writer encounters.”
"If we are lucky enough, most of us are taught early in life to recognize and appreciate our own natural “gifts” and talents and see them in others. I am forever grateful to have witnessed and directly benefited from Esther Hershenhorn’s gifts as a teacher, coach and mentor. Her energy and enthusiasm for the craft of writing and storytelling are authentic, tangible and, most importantly, inspiring. She may never know the full impact and impression she has made on the lives of the writers she has influenced. I only hope that these words offer her a glimpse. Thank you, Esther."
"Esther is a gifted writer and teacher. We went looking for a Manuscript Doctor and found a friend to guide us on our journey.
She never gave up hope and cheered us on around every bend. We cannot thank her enough for all the wisdom and continued support not only in getting the words right,
but in the business end of it too."
“Esther Hershenhorn is what you would want in any editor - the perfect mix between Fairy Godmother and Drill Sergeant. She is nurturing and kind, and was quick to praise the strong points of my manuscript. However, she's also tough and honest with her comments. She pushed me not to be a lazy writer, and demanded that I dig deeper to fully develop every character and scene of my manuscript. She knows what she's doing; anyone looking for editorial assistance would be hard-pressed to find a better writing coach.”
“From our very first meeting in a Starbucks in Chicago,
Esther began to fuel me. She pushed me and worked with me giving me
guidance, homework and space all at the same time for me to think it
all through and soak it all in. She taught me tactics and strategies
building layer upon layer of revision. I could feel the story
improving each step under her direction. Esther believes that
children deserve the very best story and that is exactly what she made
me work for in Nico and Lola. Esther believed in me all while
bringing my writing to a whole new level.”
“I sought out Esther's coaching and editorial services because I wanted to really learn how to write a picture book. I have worked with her on two manuscripts now, and I am amazed at how she manages to live inside my stories so that she can really discern what works and what does not work. A lot of "tough love" goes into her detailed critiques that always begin with "know thy main character." All else flows from that premise. I am so grateful that I found her. She is a gift to any writer looking to turn a manuscript into the very best it can be. Ultimately, that is what will get it published.”
“Esther Hershenhorn is a qualified, caring, nurturer of the written word. She shed new light on my manuscript that led to rewrites that eventually led to a publishing contract. I appreciated her attention to detail as well as her ability to see the Big Picture. She will take your 'baby' and help it grow and develop into something even more beautiful.”
"Esther Hershenhorn came strongly recommended to me by children's author Bonnie Becker. I found Bonnie's high praise borne out IN SPADES. I came to children's book writing from years of making my living as a writer for film and television. I knew nothing about the contemporary children's market. Esther opened a whole new world for me. She is the rarest of gems: someone who can see into the story you are attempting to bring forth, and intuit what you need to do to enhance its telling. She has the gift to lift your spirits and focus on your accomplishments, while also zeroing in on exactly where you need to hone or re-conceptualize your work. I always come away from our consultation sessions feeling inspired, supported, understood, seen, appreciated, and most importantly, with a clear direction for my next draft. Esther does this with consummate confidence, and a great sense of humor. I am filled with gratitude, and continue to rely on Esther's judgment, inspiration, and support as I go forward with new projects and navigate the process of marketing my first two books. She is a true writer's angel!”
"Esther provided patience, clarity, encouragement and experience - all of which I was needing as I tried to fine-tune my first manuscript. Her objective eye gave fresh perspective to my book's message and helped me to gain some of that fresh perspective myself, thus trimming a bit of the fat and staying on point. Esther's energy and zeal is contagious, and after speaking with her I immediately dove straight into some of my revisions. I will definitely be working with her again when the manuscript for the second book in my I Want You to Know series is ready for her wise eyes"
"Esther Hershenhorn is a marvelously inspired and experienced published author, Her keen sense of story and knowledge of young readers have luminously guided my ownwriting and instilled the confidence that I will find a publisher formy series of Brother Linus books. She is encouraging and genuinely positive throughout the writing process. A wise choice!!"
"Esther has become my Fairy Wordmother. She has sprinkled my words and me with her wonderful ‘manuscript magic’ by sharing her knowledge, support and encouragement. And though I have always been a writer, I am now a confident writer. Since working with Esther I have applied for and have been accepted into a writing mentorship and had a very favorable critique at the recent LA SCBWI conference."
"Esther Hershenhorn understands writers because she is a writer herself. As an editor, she has a keen awareness of all the moving parts of a story from the big picture to small details. Boot Camp Babysitter is the first of a series and Esther gave me critical input about laying the groundwork for going forward with the next books. She gently challenged me to refine my story for clarity and continuity. Esther passionately roots for her writers and just as passionately roots for the children who will be reading our work."
“Esther believed in my efforts and connected me to
the two people who would change the course of my pursuit to write a
children’s book. Her coaching led me to tell the story of my family’s
107-year history with food and the great city of Chicago. Esther played
a pivotal role in coaching me to write The Berghoff Family Cookbook and for that I am grateful. What a gift she has been in my life!”
“Esther is a writer, a teacher, and a friend. She embodies the spirit of the consummate writer for children: she is creative, generous, caring, entertaining, talented, and sincere. Esther makes herself available until those who seek her counsel learn how to walk on through. She is a rare commodity; a writer who can teach and a teacher who can write. Anyone who reads her books or attends her presentations will consider her a friend.”
“Esther recognized my vulnerability as a new writer. She was terrifically gentle as she taught me two fundamental —now laughable—points. She said, 'You need to have a story to tell (i.e. a plot) and you need to have active (i.e. speaking) characters.' Of course! To this day, I appreciate that Esther was able to clearly and kindly point me in the right direction.”
“Upon reading your critique, you will immediately realize that Esther digs deep into your story - each word. With this understanding in hand, she then offers a clear list of options for the writer to begin the editing process. Her suggestions/ideas for telling the story always lead back to the original purpose/meaning of the story itself. With Esther Hershenhorn's help, I am more able to shape my final “art“ to the best form it can be. The value-added coaching service comes in the form of her deeply, sincere encouragement - for the story and the writer. This quality is evident throughout her critiquing process and one reason I continue to seek out/rely on her help. She is a professional - timely and reliable. Her service has proved to provide a significant return on my overall writing investment.”
“Working with Esther Hershenhorn is one of the best ways a writer can improve his or her craft. Esther has the unique gift of respecting your voice without imposing her own point of view. Her insightful questions jump start your creative process and her sensitive comments are the catalyst for change. Drawing on her background as teacher, writer, editor, she thoughtfully compiles an adjunct reading list with your specific writing needs in mind. Engaging in a dialogue of ideas with Esther is a truly empowering experience. With unflagging enthusiasm, she encourages one to forge ahead with confidence and focused intention. I strongly believe that hiring Esther Hershenhorn as your Writing Coach could make the difference between getting another ‘good rejection letter’ or your finally nailing it with a contract!”
“Esther is a great editor (or critiquer.) Her comments and valuable insight led me to re-write my story, Whistler's Stump. Without her advice I'm sure I wouldn't have been one of only two U.S. authors on Bloomsbury's first U.S. list.”