I’ve dabbled in writing for most of my life. In my early years it was primarily short stories and bad poetry. As I grew older, I made attempts at writing novels, but none of them ever stuck.
Then, in 2007, I went to Belize for the first time and ended up staying for seven months. Seven weeks of the journey was spent living alone in the jungle, house sitting for a couple who was out of country. The entire seven months was an amazing adventure, but this time in the jungle was truly remarkable. I kept a detailed journal while there and even posted some of the entries on an on-line blog, probably as a way of feeling connected to people when all I had were trees and books as companions. Not that I’m complaining, they make the BEST companions!
When I returned to the US, I felt I’d had the experience of a lifetime. I wanted to put all my notes into a story as a way to preserve the journey. I’d never been out of the country before and though I had traveled plenty, I hadn’t traveled much on my own. Being out floating around another country with no plans or obligations was the greatest feeling.
It took a long time to sort out the stories. What to put in, what to leave out. Spending all my free time writing for months on end, then dashing the project to the side for another strew of months. Finally in early 2013, five years later, I’d finished the book. After spending so long writing and rereading, I grew frustrated and set the book aside for a couple years. Then in 2015, I picked it back up with fresh eyes. After another thorough round of editing, I finally brought the book to print, almost 8 years after returning from Belize. At that time, I’d already self published 8 kids books and I easily decided to do the same with my newest novel.
In 2012, a few years before “Blessed” went to print, I became inspired to write my first children’s book. I’d never had any interest in writing kid’s books before, but I’ve cared for other people’s children the majority of my life, so I’ve read my fair share. I started thinking about the idea of being a puzzle piece. I’ve never felt like I fit in anywhere. Even when it seemed I should or things appeared to line up. The puzzle piece, me, may fit perfectly into the puzzle, but the colors wouldn’t match or something wouldn’t be quite right. The idea of this out of wack puzzle plagued me for a couple weeks. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Perhaps it was a sign. I decided it would make a cute children’s book and I turned it into a story.
It was a rather arduous process creating a book. I had never done anything like it before and I put together “The Lost Piece” with a lot of cut and paste. I painted the original puzzle pieces that would appear in the story, scanned them into my computer, then printed out multiple copies. I used water colors to paint the background image for each page, adding a little extra here and there with crayons. I then glued the puzzle pieces and words onto the watercolor pages. I was going for a simplistic kindergartner look.
At first I didn’t have any intention of going beyond the hand made pages. But I ended up liking the story more than I thought I would and decided to have it printed professionally. I used Shutterfly and had one copy printed for $30. At the time, I was babysitting for close to twenty families. I read the book to all the kids I cared for. They seemed to really enjoy it and asked me to read it again and again. It also inspired great conversations afterwards. Which was a fantastic added bonus.
I decided I would take the book a step further and see about getting multiple copies printed. Shutterfly was definitely not going to work for that! A friend of mine recommended self-publishing and turned me on to Createspace, which is a side company of Amazon (Now called KDP Select).
I was living in Park City, UT for the summer. The books arrived in the mail the day before I left. I took off on a one month road trip across the country with the plan of landing in Asheville, NC. I passed out a few books along the journey and even managed to sell some copies to a few businesses and fellow travelers.
While visiting The Grand Tetons in Wyoming, I was inspired by a tree I saw. It looked to me like a wise old tree spirit spreading out its branches and welcoming children to come and listen to its tales. I took a picture of it and the memory of the tree stayed with me.
In The Black Hills of South Dakota, at Custer State Park, I sat up on massive pillar rocks and wrote my second kid’s book about a reluctant caterpillar. I found the huge gray pillars inspiring and had a hard time pulling myself away from them. I spent many hours sitting in rock crevices, napping in holes in the stone and climbing about the sacred pillars. Images and stories poured into my mind. I knew I would end up writing a story about this special place, which later became my third published book.
When I got to North Carolina I drew illustrations for the new caterpillar book and put it into print using Createspace as well. I only ended up staying in NC for 2 months before moving to West Virginia, but while I was there I was full of creativity. I felt inspired to create a publishing company. The name Lost Truth Press came to me. The idea being that somewhere along the line as adults we lose our childhood simplicity and creativity. As children we see the beauty in all things. The magic inside the science. Everyone we come across is a friend waiting to be made and we express ourselves freely. Asking questions and making remarks without regard to how others may perceive us. Somewhere in this innocence is true wisdom. A place to return to.
I decided to attach the slogan, “Children’s books for the whole family.” The idea being these books wouldn’t only be for kids, but also the person reading to them. Hopefully some kind of lesson or meaning would seep through to the adult or teenager as well. Or even that these books could be children’s stories for adults. I’ve had many older people purchase these storybooks for themselves or adult friends.
The other idea of “Lost Truth” is how our society as a whole has lost our connection with nature. Remembering the mystical tree in Wyoming, I decided to draw a cartoon image of it for my logo. I felt it was the perfect representation of what I wanted to capture. The idea of nature teaching us. Of listening to the quiet in the forest, the wisdom in the trees, the knowledge in the rocks, the peace in the ocean. To embrace our connection with nature and recognize that we are nature. We are not something separate. To stop thinking and analyzing and start being. To have this tree represent Lost Truth, I felt made the picture clearer. That the tree, with its hidden face and warm smile, was welcoming the children into the forest to sit and be a part of its wisdom. The full banner image of the tree reading a story to the children and animals in the forest depicts this.
While I was still living in North Carolina, inspiration for my next few books materialized. I dreamt one night I’d written my book, “I’m a Platypus” before I ever had. When I awoke, I knew I would create it. I had also recently been inspired to write the book, “Spike Becomes a Daddy.” I made a go at writing both of those stories, but neither one was ready to be written. Instead, it seemed my idea for a story about the large pillar rocks in South Dakota was knocking at the door waiting to be created. As soon as I sat down to write “Ancient Giants of the Black Hills,” the words seemed to just appear on the pages. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever sell any copies of the book. I wrote it in honor of the land, for the land. I wanted it to be a simple book so I made the images black and white. I didn’t feel confident enough in my drawing abilities to truly capture the place and so I decided on photography.
Typically when a story is born in my mind, the way to create the illustrations appears as part of the idea. I knew immediately I would make the images for the platypus book out of fabric. This time, when I set out to write the story, it came much easier. I used old articles of clothing and scrap material to sew a large background scene. Then glued together little pieces of fabric to create the animals in the story, adding a bit of paint for extra detail. I then arranged the animals accordingly on the background scene for each individual page, photographing the different set ups.
When the idea of the seahorse book, “Spike Becomes a Daddy”, came to me, I decided to make the images out of clay in a diorama setting. I covered a large piece of poster board in blue felt, then cut out many different felt animals to stick to the background. These could then be traded out and rearranged for each individual page. I first used wire to sculpt each of the main characters in the story, then covered them in homemade dough and baked them. Afterwards they were painted. I put skewers into the bottom of the animals and stuck them into sculptures I’d made of seaweed as well as Styrofoam blocks. I arranged the felt background and clay animals to suit each page in the story. Photographing the set up to create the individual images. Lastly, I uploaded the photos to Photoshop and erased the skewers and Styrofoam blocks so it would appear as if the animals were swimming.
After writing “Spike Becomes a Daddy,” I felt my books had gotten longer and wordier. I wanted to bring back simplicity. Years prior, while working as a babysitter in Park City, UT, I had written two children’s book as an example to show the kids. I used to do all kinds of art projects with them and wanted to encourage the kids to write stories of their own. I made the books interactive, having some pictures pop out, pull tabs to make pictures slide, doors that opened, wheels that spun, and even scratch and sniff. The idea of all this was to inspire the kids to be excited about creating their own story. I made the examples so they could see different options for how to make their books interactive. The kids were excited and I helped many eager five year olds make their own book. They wrote the story, both in their minds and physically, drew the pictures, and I helped them to create the interactive parts. They were all so proud! One of the books I had created as an example was similar to the book I have published now, “The Earth Keeps Spinning, but Never Gets Dizzy,” which is why it’s dedicated to “all ‘my’ wonderful kids in Park City, UT.”
While living in West Virginia, and traveling to all the beautiful places the state has to offer, I became inspired to write a children’s travel book about the state. Before I was able to get very far with it, I ended up moving to back to Park City. Since I’d already explored the state extensively, I decided to write a children’s travel book about Utah instead. I had really enjoyed making the images for the seahorse book, so I decided to use similar techniques to create the images for this new story as well. Overall, I’m not the best artist when it comes to drawing and painting. I’ve always tried to find ways around this when creating illustrations for my books. For “From Ute to Utah”, I made some of the images out of glued pieces of yarn, some from sand, clay, or a mixture of all three. I later went on to create a book about Wyoming using the same type of illustrations.
“The Booger that Escaped” was inspired by a kid who always asked me why? Why about everything. He used to ask me, why is it windy? And I would tell him “because the wind is blowing.” He would ask, “Why is the wind blowing?” I would tell him, “because it’s windy.” On and on we would go in circles like this. There was a painting in his house of a bunch of children and a teacher standing outside of an old school house. He wanted to know why the kids were outside the school. And when will the kids go back in the school. One time I sneezed and went to get a tissue. He asked me why I was getting one. “A booger is trying to escape from my nose,” I answered. As the words escaped my mouth an idea manifested.
This kid’s favorite stories were in somewhat of a comic book format, so I’d recently been inundated with speech balloons and framed drawings. I decided to write the booger book, as its affectionately called, in this manner, trying my luck at drawing images on the computer using a graphic tablet.
My latest book, “The Trickster”, was inspired by the wind in New Mexico. I felt it was always playing tricks on me. One minute no wind, the next a gust so strong it would pull the clothes from my body. The wind had me so discombobulated one time I ended up leaving my treasured pocket knife behind and losing it. Another time, I was in the trunk of my car looking for something and the wind slammed the lid down just as I was moving my head. It bashed me in the nose, leaving me cut and bleeding. I wrestled with the wind for an hour sometimes trying to set up a tent and often was unable to cook due to the flames of my camp stove being blown around or out. While I was frustrated with this intense wind, I also found it rather amusing. It seemed the wind was a spirit all its own. Instead of a battle, it felt more like a dance. We had a kind of love hate relationship. I wanted to write a story about it. Something simple, with pen and ink images. I ended up drawing the illustrations with a graphic tablet and decided to make the wind blue, the only color in the book, to have it stand out and show life within. I figured the book could also be used as a coloring book, to personalize the story and make it one’s own.
Right now I’m working on a new children’s story. A humorous tale about our education system. I plan to have it done by the end of the year, if not much sooner. I’m also working on a fiction novel of the dystopian variety. If it ever comes to print I’ll be impressed. Writing fiction is not easy and I commend anyone who has ever written a full length novel. I found it difficult enough to write a book depicting true events, but to create an entire world and characters from scratch… its not an easy task.