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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The swirl of travel

As my Vermont College semester winds to a close, two new adventures loom in my imagination: the January residency, where I will be leading a workshop focusing on picture books, and a trip to Ethiopia where I will be leading–am

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Whew!

Teacher strike averted. So, so glad that people like my bro–who takes time to sing with his third graders and fills their brains with good books AND has built a donkey for an Ethiopia Reads Bring a Book Buy a

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Crowdfunding, teamwork and beating the blues

As 2013 draws to an end, I’ve had the crowdfunding blues a bit. I’ve joined the crowdfunding team in the past year or so, but only as a contributor.  Here and there, I’ve pitched a few pennies toward projects launched

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Gratitude Attitude

The ancient Egyptians believed in the magic of the written word–so a cartouche (that rope symbol) around the the hieroglyphs that spell out the name of a king or queen is there as protection from evil-doers who might mess with that name

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Crawling out from under the bed now

I never intended to crawl under the bed and stay there. Yes, it’s scary and hard and unnerving to take pieces of your innards and put them out for everyone to see.  But I’ve survived a lot of scary things

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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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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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Following the Big Duck

My dad did not love school. He did not love reading (or at least not until my mom had hold of him for many years :>)  He had a curious mind, though, and a way of grabbing hold of baffling ideas

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One thing

Do one thing. It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?  In The Oregonian article I was reading while keeping my mom company this morning, the one thing was to ditch harmful chemicals used to clean toilet bowls and, instead, sprinkle baking

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