The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books
author • speaker • teacher • volunteer

The joys and agonies of bookmaking

Early in 2016, my sister Caroline Kurtz and I took a group of artists to Maji, Ethiopia, the place where she and I spent long, magical days making up and acting out stories–and where I learned to read. When we returned to Addis Ababa, we tried our hand at a bookmaking workshop–the first time I

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Where are the parents?

Some time ago, my brother Christopher Kurtz and I wrote a picture book together about a boy in Ethiopia who had become Chris’s friend during the years when Chris was teaching in the Bethel Girls’ School.  Only a Pigeon was praised for giving kids a rare look at life in an African city–no wonder, because Chris

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Blogging for Ethiopia Reads

I’ve written a few blog posts to share the new bookmaking project with Ethiopia Reads supporters.  The second one just went up today: http://www.ethiopiareads.org/blog-date/2016/3/7/stories Meanwhile, as I describe where the inspiration came from for these new stories, I am blown away by the powerful example of how Stephanie Schlatter as a painter gets similar flashes

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Don’t leave home without it…

A team, I mean. Too many things go wrong on the road. People get sick or turn out to have needs or expectations that we were barely able to articulate ahead of time. Obstacles wave their tentacles until you can hardly think.  Even unexpected opportunities–like waterfalls–knock the day’s plans askew–let alone the day in Maji

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Holding pinkies around the globe

I know to my bones how important it is to be humble and playful as we dance up to the cultural divide and stare over.  Respectful curiosity goes a long way. Calmness goes a long way.  Hubris is a good thing to leave behind. The community of third culture kids is deep and wide with

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Stories circle the globe

http://www.ethiopiareads.org/ethiopian-odyssey-ii  I’m super jazzed to talk with my Vermont College of the Fine Arts students about how to think about the progression of a tale. I’m also super jazzed to see what this artistic collaboration can bring to some very simple, easy-to-read stories that can be used by Ethiopian educators, especially after they’re translated into

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And another simple story for Ethiopia

Our challenge to ourselves–a third grader, a fifth grader and me–was to think of American sayings or proverbs or idioms that we could turn into simple, easy-to-read stories.  These will be translated into various local languages. And of course part of the collection, ultimately, will be stories made from Ethiopian sayings or proverbs or idioms,

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Hiding under the bed

When Jon Klassen gave his Caldecott speech at ALA this summer, he talked about the astonishment and, oh, maybe even terror he feels when he sees his books in a bookstore or anywhere else out in the world.  Wait!  How

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The next breath

Why, we wonder, do bad things happen to good people?  We don’t ask why good things happen to good people.  But in a world with so much sorrow and aching, don’t good things amaze, too? One of those good things

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Author Power

It’s tough times for writers of children’s books. All of the things that hit education and libraries in the United States also hit children’s books.  And families live busy, distracted lives–sometimes too busy to read; sometimes too busy to visit

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Sorrow and what we do with it

It was a super busy week–the ending of the semester for Vermont College of the Fine Arts students and faculty.  I don’t know where my brain was when I drew up the semester’s schedule.  Oh wait.  As I wrote to

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