Cover Reveal of my first book! Pre-orders too! Happy day!

LOOK! It’s going to be a real book!

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Happy happy day! Excited to share the cover of my first picture book, THE ELEPHANTS' GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK! Isn't it gorgeous?! And yellow just happens to be my favorite color. Yay for Gladys's beautiful art—thank you Gladys and thank you Sourcebooks Kids, I LOVE IT!

And look at this! Even though it comes out April 1, 2020, you can already pre-order it!

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Thanks to everyone who already has ordered a copy! Hope you enjoy it!

Mischief Managed

Long time no blog! Realized I’ve been posting bloggish things lately on Instagram while forgetting that I could add similar things on my happy little blog here. I’d like to be better about giving both attention so I thought I’d add some highlights from my last few months to catch up a bit. That and I have about a million works-in-progress I’m excited about. I can’t keep up with my own ideas which is a good problem I guess. Here are some sneak peeks from one of my favorite pieces I’ve been working on.

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What I said about this project on Instagram is still true: sometimes overly well-behaved little kids grow up to write books full of all the mischief they never allowed themselves to partake in when they were busy being young painful perfectionists.

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Hope you’ve been up to happy mischief too!

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A wonderfully messy thing to do

My friend stopped by to pick something up and caught a picture of me in my studio in messy collage focus mode this morning. Working on some art revisions for a WIP. I love stepping back and noticing the clutter and chaos around both me and my tunnel vision. Maybe lots of creative play looks like clutter and chaos. That’s my happy thought for the morning.

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More art with kids: Class Collaboration Collages

It’s been a happy discovery of the last few years to learn that I have a quiet super power in helping kids love and make art. What a happy super power! For this today I am grateful.

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These two collages are class collaborative projects I made with kids. The first collage is made from radial designs created by the 1st-3rd graders who I regularly taught art to this past fall (I went back last month to make this piece with them for their school’s auction). The second collage is made from geometric designs created by 4th-6th graders at the same school (I team taught with their regular art teacher for this project).

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I love how each kid’s personality comes out a bit in their individual contribution and how all the pieces come together into a colorful and lively finished whole. I love how pulling the pieces together felt a little like pulling the kids together into creative play. But most of all I just love making art with kids.

The Story Of My Grandfather Who Immigrated to America with a Mangled Hand

One of my favorite family stories involves one of my great grandfathers who immigrated from Sweden with a mangled hand and landed on Ellis island in the early 1900s. People with deformities had a hard time passing inspection at Ellis Island. They were usually detained for extra scrutiny when they arrived but often they were also sent back to their countries of origin.

Although my great-grandfather had lost most of his fingers on his dominant hand in a farming accident in Sweden, he still had most of his thumb and a large pinky stump that consisted of what remained of his other fingers sewn together. He got by fairly well because he could still grab and hold on to things on account of still having his thumb and another finger (of sorts) to make a clasping motion.

And that is how he also managed to hold his hat the day he went through inspection on Ellis Island. So no one noticed his deformity—his hat covered it. He passed inspection without a hitch. After he was through and outside waiting for the boat that would help him travel onward into America where he'd become a hard-working farmer, he sat next to another Swede and they got to talking. The other Swede was surprised my grandfather had made it through with his hand (by this time his hat was back on his head since he was outside). My grandfather hadn't understood about the inspections.

And he was mortified. He could not accept that he might have tricked his way into America. So can you guess what he did?

The Great Hall on Ellis Island as it looks now.

The Great Hall on Ellis Island as it looks now.

He went back into inspection. He wanted to be legit. He was honest to a fault. At least that's how the story goes.

The officials who'd already processed him waved him away like a pesky fly. And so he became an American.

I thought of this story as I read all the history and walked the great hall of Ellis Island last month when I was in NYC for an SCBWI conference. And also as I walked under Lady Liberty and her torch the same day I visited Ellis Island. Mine isn't the only family with immigrant tales of honesty and a will to do hard work for a better life.

I also thought of modern-day immigrants and how they likely share similar stories to my own with different details from a newer time. I'd be willing to bet there are a lot of common threads at heart.

NOTE: I originally posted this story on facebook, this is mostly a repeat of that post. Also I've since learned from my aunt that my Grandfather did end up having to pay a fine. I wonder if I'm missing any more of the story?

Making art with kids

I've said it before on my blog: sometimes when you are busy with the very things that are interesting to blog about, you are too busy to bother blogging. So I've had a full last few months! I have a few posts I'd like to put up soon but how about I start with sharing this collage I made with kids because it's close to my heart.

The last couple years I've been teaching art to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders at a local Montessori school here in Bellingham, once a week for a few months a year. A few days ago I finished glueing together this paper quilt made from collage squares all the kids made. I've been a bit of an accidental art teacher but honestly it's become one of my favorite and most rewarding things that I do. I'm so grateful that I get to make art regularly with kids (at least during the months I'm teaching). This piece is for the school's fund-raising auction. I'm pretty psyched at how it turned out. But mostly I like that each square makes me think of each kid who made it and that makes me smile.

2016 SCBWI MOST PROMISING PICTURE BOOK AWARD!

It's an all caps kind of day here in Kjersten's studio —HIP HIP HOORAY!

Why?

Because my manuscript HOW TO BUILD A ROCKETSHIP IN 10 EASY STEPS is the official winner of the 2016 Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Most Promising Picture Book Award! HAPPY DANCE! HAPPY DANCE! Maybe just this once I can even get away with TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!

Attending SCBWI events over the many years I've been a member has been like unofficial graduate-level training, only with friends and sometimes cookies.

Thank you to the editor who nominated me and to all who were involved in choosing this piece for recognition. I'm honored and excited to receive this award and I can't wait to get going on the dummy for this piece. This boost means the world to me. Thank you for everything SCBWI!

Here's a screen shot from SCBWI's announcement:

Saving the screen shot for posterity.  Also so whenever I feel discouraged I can look back and take this as a nudge to keep going.

Saving the screen shot for posterity.  Also so whenever I feel discouraged I can look back and take this as a nudge to keep going.

Pictures from The Last Bookstore in LA

I had a FABULOUS time at the recent SCBWI conference in L.A. I loved the new location, I took away great thoughts for my work, I got to see muppets in action (!) and I was nominated for the Sue Alexander award.

I've been busy busy busy fixing some work. Sometimes I need a break from the Internet when I'm hard at work/play (am I the only one that feels like the Internet can be an echo chamber?). But I felt like it was long past time I at least posted these pics

Isn't this bookstore amazing? Their art section was my favorite. Although they had a stellar comics section too.

Cheers to a playful and promising summer's last few weeks.

Back on the bike!

I posted this on facebook but thought I'd post here too.

Starry Starry Ride...

This week I'm celebrating the magic of getting back in the saddle after a setback. I cut this collage out before

my bike crash

last summer. Needless to say, I had no desire to finish it after my crash.

But this past week I decided to follow through. I glued it to mark the week I finally got the courage to get back on my bike (a little over a week ago now).

Cheers to getting up and trying again after a crash.

Meditative drawing

I posted this on Facebook but thought it might be nice to post here too

:

A combination of too much chai yesterday afternoon paired with anxiety from reading way too much about the Paris attacks before bedtime left me wide awake in the middle of the night last night. 

Usually if this happens I get up and write in my journal or read a book or do some yoga and I can manage to go to sleep again. 

I don't often draw when I wake in the night because my inner critic rages at the midnight hour (unless I've stayed up in a manic obsession over a specific project). But I've been teaching art this fall and I showed the kids I teach how to draw Indian Rangolis a few weeks ago. Turns out Indian Rangolis are pretty therapeutic to draw when my brain is in overdrive. 

It felt like a quiet rebellion to use my anxiety as an excuse to focus on beauty for beauty's sake while I cozied up to the stove in my studio. Here are my prayers for Paris and the world, drawn mostly in the anxious hours of the early morning, myself like so many: striving in the face of fear to turn toward the light. 

I'l

l add that I've had a lot of requests for coloring sheets.

Good idea. The

se aren't great pictures because they are just s

napped with the scanner app on my phone but I'll put some up so

on for anyone i

nterested.

Screen time gives way to a happy something else

Do you ever feel like the NOW around you is way too full of screen time? I gave up nearly all television years ago. Not because I didn't enjoy it exactly. Just because I realized I enjoyed so many other things so much more. I guess I've had a bit of a wake-up call recently with another sort of screen. You know the one. You are looking at it now if you are reading this.

But the internet is sooooo darn useful.

So I won't give it up. I haven't disappeared. But. I do have a very good reason to have stepped away a bit and to be so absent recently from posting on my blog.

Here's why:

His name is Lars Archie. He was born on August 5.

(Ahem. Like I said, I know I'm late to post).

He likes to be held in his Mommy's lap (while she reads actual dead-tree books). He doesn't like the car and usually cries like crazy when he's in it. He seems to like being outside and I like being outside with him. His big brother makes him happy. When I play the ukulele for him, he coos along with me as though he's singing. When his daddy burps him, he belches like an old man. His smile can make one melt.

Sometimes being a mommy to a newborn is also super super painfully hard and tiring. But maybe because I've been here before I know that the hardest stuff doesn't last long.

And neither does the super sweet precious little-tiny-baby stuff.

So posting may stay a bit spotty for a bit. But pretty soon baby will have to share me with the outside world more. Pretty soon I'll have a bit of childcare and the siren song of my art and studio will nudge me into sharing with the world more regularly again.

But meanwhile I'll relish this very lovely moment.

Battling the inner critic with deadlines

I've had a hard time ignoring the inner critic this past year for some reason. It sucks. 

But I suppose it's part of the territory sometime or another if you are any sort of artist. 

Lately this has been my balm:
Giving myself firm (and crazy) deadlines.
Then diving forward and drawing like a mad-woman to meet the deadlines.

The result?
Despite the inner critic still paying me lots of visits, I've been going through sketch books fast enough that I've abandoned them in favor of reams of paper. 
I've been trying my best to just keep drawing. Just keep working. Making stuff and ignoring the voice that says it sucks or no one will ever care. 

And the deadlines feel like permission to do so. Because something has to be made to meet those deadlines. What I'm saying is deadlines allow me to feel the fear and plunge forward anyway.

And I have to say, the plunge is nice. It feels good to shove Ms. Perfectionist's noise aside in favor of listening to Ms. Get-Something-Done. And to be honest I mostly think it it feels good because I love drawing. I love drawing even when I don't know if I like my drawings very much. I want permission to draw even if my drawings aren't perfect. This is (I think) why it works for me.


Right now I'm making myself get a bunch of new work done before a conference. I also have that beautiful deadline called my "due date" (as in for my current pregnancy), which is certainly a motivator. 

Now if only I could harness this same idea with submissions... That's something I'm going to have to try (that perfectionist can be pretty brutal when it comes to submissions).

What helps you when your inner critic is hounding you?

Necessary things

  "Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas." -Henry Ford
 What if we all took a minute to ponder what feeds our enthusiasm for our own work...
Go ahead. Do it.

Now ponder what kills it? What leaves us feeling half-there when we show up and sometimes drains us to show up at all?

Consider it.

And what about those things that do both?

Like parenthood.

Or striving to be the best.

Critique comes to mind.

How do we embrace the lovely tension of wonderful things that both feed us and drain us?

These are things I delight in and wrestle with as I approach my own artistic work. They haunt me and heal me. They usually feed my enthusiasm but sometimes they dull it.

They also all seem completely necessary to my life.

 What about yours?

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

 I love heart photos. The above picture I took in Chang Mai, Thailand. The below picture I took here in Bellingham, Washington when I was home visiting while living abroad.

 And the below screen shot is from a link my hubby sent me this morning to his Strava page where he tracks his bike routes via GPS watch. This was the unconventional route he took to work and sent to me.

Isn't he sweet?

 How about, while I'm anyway posting a valentine's mash-up, I also post some pictures of my other (littler) valentine making cards for his class.

 Oscar wanted to make a rocket-ship valentine this year "with hearts coming out of the bottom instead of flames."

I drew the rocket for him. He cut out the hearts. I sewed the hearts. He made the heart stickers and put them on the front. 

I wonder which one of us had more fun?

I heart crafty projects with my son.

One more Heart note. If you are unfamiliar with the site

Boy Sees Hearts

, maybe today's the day you should check it out. Eric Telchin posts lots of pictures of Hearts he finds EVERYWHERE. I've heard he has a

cool photo book

out too. Hmm... I feel a valentine's day trip to the bookstore coming on.

Have a great day!