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

A Woman Walked Into a Picture Book…

After decades of publishing books that have sometimes been called lyrical and important and poetic, I’m about to publish a picture book that my friend Carmen Bernier Grand calls hilarious. Thanks, Carmen. Ironically, this book was born in a brainstorming session where my writer retreat friends and I were making each other laugh—and the idea

Read More »

Ready Set Illustrate

When I fell in love with the dream of an artistic life in children’s books it was through writing picture books. I used to love to draw when I was a kid. I didn’t pursue visual art with the same kind of single-minded determination I applied to the craft of writing fiction and creative nonfiction,

Read More »

2018 dawns full of emotion and the messy glory of life

Mid-January, I was battling both rain and snow (which of course = ice) at Vermont College of Fine Arts and loving doing the picture book workshop at residency with ten students eager to learn about this quirky genre + Liz Garton Scanlon + Ashley Wolff showing us how life looks from the illustrator’s point of

Read More »

A time to write and a time to figure out next steps

After all the fun of creating Ready Set Go Books for Ethiopia in 2017, I reluctantly admit it’s time to think about next steps. In 2016, Stephanie and Troy and Nahosenay and Yacob met with those young illustrators in Ethiopia and read them a few of the simple stories I had written. I was charmed–and

Read More »

It’s fall and that means time to write!

It’s fall! Most of my apples have brown fuzzy centers (since I don’t use any pesticides in my yard) and then every once in a while I cut open one that is beautiful.  Yesterday, traveling birds also stopped by the yard to feast on elderberries. The world is bursting with good things. And then there

Read More »

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Ah. Every author’s dream question! I recently was asked it about my new middle grade novel, Planet Jupiter. Some authors have flippant answers…from the idea fairy. I capture them tumbling under my bed with the dust bunnies. I sometimes point out that a novel has to have interesting and unusual ideas for every scene–and that maybe

Read More »

On Being Grateful to readers

I was thanking my artistic friend Stephanie Schlatter today on the phone for her support of the new Ready Set Go books, and she said something I’ve heard from other people I’ve thanked in the past few weeks–I didn’t do much it was your determination blah blah blah. But here’s the thing… If Stephanie hadn’t

Read More »

Creating books

I’ve published an interesting bunch of 30+ books–fiction, nonfiction, picture books, easy readers, middle grade and young YA novels. I’ve written articles and short stories and magazine pieces and grant proposals and memos. (When I taught Business and Technical Writing at the University of North Dakota, one of my favorite assignments was a memo announcing

Read More »

Travels and the writing life

When I talk to young writers and when I have conversations with MFA students in the Vermont College of Fine Arts program, I like to imagine I can take a bit of the mystery out of words like “inspiration” and “imagination” by pointing to ways that details and scenes in my books have grown out

Read More »

Goodbye Hello

In a great green room there was a telephone… Goodbye, room. It’s a good thing that teenagers are mostly obnoxious because putting up with obnoxious stuff day after day lessens the grief and pain when they move out. It’s a good thing

Read More »

The training wheels of goodbye

I don’t remember the first big goodbye of my life. This is what my dad looked like when he decided it was important for the five of us–my mom and dad, my older sister and baby sister and me–to move

Read More »

For its own shining sake

    When my American Girl editor and I started talking about Lanie and who she was, we set a goal that this character would show girls that we all can make a difference around the world AND in our own back yards. 

Read More »

Jayhawk signing rah rah rah

Jane Kurtz-American Girl Event-8.5×11- FA10[1] *Reading *Book signing *Special activities …says the flyer from the KU Bookstore about a Lanie event I was asked to do on Saturday. 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Jayhawk Ink Kansas Union Level two Saturday,

Read More »

Are you Ethiopian or American?

Every time I spend a few days at home in Lawrence, I miss Jonathan and Hiwot and Ellemae and Noh.  Last month, I got to see them (and Lanie) in their new home.  It was sweet to roast marshmallows on

Read More »

A Lanie moment of astonishing surprise

After my summer travels, the see-saw has tipped, once again, and I’m back to remembering what Lanie discovers: the joys of one’s own back yard.  A Lanie friend sent me this picture of her back yard and wrote,  “We have alot of milkweed. I

Read More »

Loss…is it why we write?

I learned a lot, growing up in Ethiopia, about how loss punctures the heart.  I don’t remember leaving Portland, Oregon, where I was born, but it was my first massive goodbye.  My baby brother (who was born on my three-year-old birthday

Read More »