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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Passion for Picture Books - Evelyn Christensen, Interview

This week, I have the pleasure to introduce Evelyn Christensen who is an award winning author and puzzle creator extraordinaire.  Ev is another long-term Pens and Brushes member.  As a member she provides us with a keen eye for detail and grammar.  She always has great suggestions for potential publishers.  Ev's website has the most comprehensive  information on educational publishing a writer can find.
Evelyn's Educational Market Information  

Ev, what drew you in to writing picture books for children?

I write picture books because I love little children.  When I started out my teaching career I first taught high school math. I then got my doctorate and planned to teach math methods to pre-service teachers, but I thought it would be good to have some elementary school experience before I tried to tell  prospective elementary teachers how to teach.  I ended up falling in love with teaching the little ones, and that’s what I did the rest of my teaching career.  Having three little ones of my own also helped. Reading to children and helping them discover the joy of learning to read themselves are two of the most rewarding things I know.  Writing picture books has become, for me, one more part of that enchanting world of children’s books.
The art part of picture books just adds to the attraction for me.  I’ve always loved art—took a couple of studio courses in college and a couple of art history courses.  I don’t consider myself a professional artist, but I did do the illustrations (just simple line drawings) for three of my published puzzle books.

In writing your manuscripts, what area do you get the most satisfaction in developing and exploring? 

I enjoy developing and exploring character most.  Because picture books are so limited in word count, much of that developing and exploring may never show up in the final text, but my characters are very real to me.

Is there an area you find challenging?

I have the most difficulty in developing story arc and plot.  I have a tendency to write manuscripts that are ‘listy.’  A lot of picture books by other authors, which I like, are also listy, so I don’t personally see a problem with that kind of book, but I’ve heard lots of negative remarks about listy manuscripts from editors and agents.  It’s an area of my writing that I’m working on and trying to improve.

If you could choose one pb author to spend a day with, who would that be and what would you want to receive from your time with them? 

I’ve thought long and hard about my response to this question.  I know you’re expecting me to choose someone famous, but I’m going to be perfectly honest and admit that I would be intimidated to spend a day with someone famous I didn’t already have a personal relationship with.  If I could choose just one pb author to spend the day with, I would choose my very dear friend Mirka Breen.  Mirka is a wonderful writer, and I love her pb stories.  She and I have known each other for four and a half years and been through a lot together, but it’s all been by email; we’ve never met.  So I would love to spend the day with her.  The experience would bring me great joy and inspiration, because Mirka is that kind of person, and I would feel free to pick her very knowledgeable brain about any aspects of pb writing and subbing which I haven’t already bugged her about.

Ev, what is your favorite picture book to read and why do you never tire of the book?

I can’t choose ‘ a favorite’ when it comes to books, any more than I can choose a favorite when it comes to children, but I’ll tell you one of my favorites, as an adult, to read aloud to children.  This will seem very unoriginal, but I truly have always delighted in reading The Cat in the Hat.  I read it so many times to my own children that I practically had it memorized.  It is simply fun to read!  The flow of the language, the rhyming, the rhythm, plus the delightful juxtaposition of the serious-minded fish with the radically fun Cat—it is all a superbly delightful way to entertain a child.

Thank you Ev for joining me on my blog post, Passion for Picture Books.  I appreciate your support in my life and my writing.  Your gentleness in pointing out subtleties or being gently frank with me when I am traveling in my creative head always bring me back down to earth.  I count on you.  You are the grounding for Pens and Brushes.

Ev loves writing picture books, but she also loves creating resources to make learning fun for kids.  Forty-one of her educational puzzle books have been published, with total sales of over 350,000.  Since many of those book sales have been to teachers for use in classrooms, Ev feels good about the number of children whose lives have been touched by her books.

Her Inchimals, a write-on/wipe-off math book with accompanying animal number rods, has won a Teachers’ Choice Award, a NAPPA Gold, and a Creative Child Award.  Aba-Conundrums, Ev’s puzzle book based on the abacus, has won a Parents’ Choice Award and a Creative Child Award.  Her most recent book, published in 2011, is Coin Clues: Making Change, a set of puzzles that give children practice with money and logic.

Ev currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband Ralph, and enjoys doing volunteer work in her church and community.  Some of the things that make her smile are waterfalls, wildflowers, fireworks, rainbows, puzzles, and children.  She’s especially excited about the recent arrival of her first grandbaby! 

You can find Evelyn's books and more information about her at:


Mirka Breen said...

I was going to make a comment about how wonderful Evelyn Christensen is, and what a joy it is to read her contemplation on writing picture books, when I got to her answer that famous authors intimidate her, and she'd rather spend the day with me than with a famous author. Let’s say it's a mutual admiration society.

And one day I hope we do spend the day. Maybe before we're both famous authors. Can’t wait that long.

John Brown said...

I have always been impressed by Evelyn’s creativity, cleverness, and sense of humor. We’ve enjoyed many of her books, and my wife who is a 5th grade teacher has used several of them effectively in her classroom. So glad to see Evelyn highlighted on this blog . . . thank you! Diane - our daughter and her husband live in Grand Junction also - what a gorgeous part of Colorado!

Liz Block said...

I agree! Evelyn is wonderful!! I'm totally impressed by her and her books and many other achievements. Proud to know her and call her family.

Ross Brown said...

What fun to find out goodies about my sister on the Web in this blog interview. Appreciation for siblings and for their accomplishments is rarely expressed as openly and avidly as it ought by older brothers. Nevertheless, Evelyn, you are indeed precious to me. A beautiful combination of creativity and selfless caring, and I thank God for your presence in my life. Thank you, Diane, for sharing.
Brother Ross

Tina Cho said...

A wonderful interview, Ev and Diane! I like finding out more about my writing friends!

Evelyn said...

Thank you, Diane, for hosting this interview. And thanks to all of you for your very kind comments! Hugs, Ev

Marilyn Brown said...

Ev is so wonderful. It has been a privilege to know her all these years and to call her "sister" as I am married to her oldest brother. From her earliest poetry and stories to the wonderfully creative puzzle books and game creations that she has come up with in more recent years - they are all excellent and fun! Nice interview, too! Thanks, Diane.

NaterTater said...

My boys and I have enjoyed some of Dr. Christensen's puzzle books and the Inchimals game. We're looking forward to seeing her picture books! By the way, Diane, very nice photo of the mountains. I presume you had quite a climb up there to get such a great shot.

Diane Kress Hower said...

Thank you everyone for all the great comments. Ev is a treasure.
The blog photo NaterTater pointed out is taken from the rim of the Colorado National Monument in my extended backyard. Today, we are lucky enough to have is preserved as a National treasure and easily accessed by a road. John Otto, the founder had to use his own two feet! This shot was published in the 2012 CNM calendar.

Anonymous said...

Our kids love love the books and puzzles. Inchimals was fun over the Christmas break with our 3 year olds--Grandpop got creative and they loved it.

Mike and Sarah

Anne Payne said...

I have always been so impressed with Evelyn's creativity and the poems and stories that she has written as well as they puzzles and games that she has developed! I gave Inchimals sets to my children's teachers this Christmas, and both classrooms have been enjoying exploring these neat and engaging activities. I loved reading your thoughtful interview of my wonderful aunt! Thank you for sharing this!

Ellen said...

Ev is one of my favorite people too! She's extremely generous to other writers. She chooses topics to write about that have depth as well as kid appeal. And she makes her own individual Christmas cards.

Diane Kress Hower said...

Sorry Marilyn for missing the comment. I appreciate your visit to my blog and sharing of Ev's interview :)