Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW): Evelyn Christensen

This month is a special treat. January is a long month (even though it seems to be going by so fast), and on this blog, a long month equals not one, but TWO Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW) features for the month! Whoo hoo!

For our second WSW of this month, I am happy to highlight the achievements of:

Evelyn Christensen

Evelyn Christensen

“Don’t give up!”

Evelyn has devoted her life to helping others through her writing. She has authored/co-authored over 42 educational puzzle books, and also writes for children’s magazines. I had the opportunity to learn more about Evelyn and her craft as she answered some of my questions below.

Q: Why do you write?

Evelyn InchimalsA: I write educational puzzle books, and the primary reason I write is because I love to create resources to make learning fun for all ages. I was a teacher by profession, but even more important, I’m a teacher at heart.  I have a doctorate in math education, and my career plan, after being home for ten years when my children were little, was to teach math methods to prospective teachers at the college level. My teaching experience had been at the high school level. Since I was going to be telling elementary teachers how to teach, I felt it was important to have some experience at that level. I thought I’d do that for just a couple of years, but I fell in love with the little ones and stuck with that age for the rest of my teaching career.

My first elementary teaching was at a Montessori school, and I think that really influenced the direction my writing career took. In a Montessori school the primary channel for teaching is the materials, rather than the teacher.  With wonderful examples all around me, both the traditional Montessori materials and those created by the team of teachers I joined, I also became adept at creating engaging, effective materials for the classroom. I loved using my creativity to come up with new ideas for helping students to learn.  On vacations, riding on trips, or at family reunions, I always had materials along to color, cut, or paste, because creating materials was such a passion for me.

A natural next step for me was to share my materials with other teachers and parents, and that’s how I got into writing for publication.

 

Q: Tell me about your new book that’s just been released.

 

KYpuzzlesA: My newest book, Kentucky Puzzles: Bluegrass Brainteasers for Ages 6 to 106, is from The History Press.  I’ve had 42 books published and this is one of my favorites. I’m especially excited to see it make its debut, because it took me 9 years to find a publisher for it. So if you’re having trouble finding the right home for a book you love, please don’t give up on it.

I particularly like this book because of the variety in it. Puzzles range from easy to complex, and every page has a different kind of puzzle, each based on some aspect of Kentucky’s history, geography, or culture. It’s great for individual enjoyment, family fun, classroom challenges, and cooperative group problem-solving—a delightful gift for puzzle lovers you might know who have lived in Kentucky or had a connection to it.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about your career, and how do you address it?

A: Finding publishers for my manuscripts is the most challenging part of my career. I address it by spending lots of time researching potential markets. I network, I’m active on Verla Kay’s writer chat board, I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), CBI Clubhouse, and Working Writers Club, I subscribe to newsletters like ICL’s free Children’s Writers eNews, and I belong to two local writers’ groups.  I long ago decided that helping other writers by sharing the results of my research with them was a good thing to do, so I have on my website both a list of Educational Markets for Children’s Writers (http://evelynchristensen.com/markets.html) and a list of magazines at my Writing for Children’s Magazines ezine (http://evelynchristensen.com/mags.html ).

Q: What is your personal motto or mantra?

A: “My God shall supply all your need.” (Philippians 4:19)  I’ve had the opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness in keeping this promise in a fresh way in recent months, when I lost much of my vision due to an antibiotic that caused optic nerve damage. I faced the very real possibility of no longer being able to continue my writing career. God would still have supplied my needs if that had been the case, but I’m thankful to him that I’ve been regaining my vision these past weeks.

Q: What inspires you? 

A:

●   Children inspire me. I love children, and creating materials that will help them learn and, at the same time, will be fun for them, brings me great joy!

●   Games and puzzles inspire me.  I grew up in a family with five siblings before the days of internet, computers, and even much television.  We played oodles of games and challenged each other with all kinds of puzzles.  That laid the foundation for me of thinking in terms of puzzles, and, of course, being a math major helped, because doing math is very much like solving a puzzle.

Evelyn Addition

●   Customers inspire me. Nothing is more special to me as an author than having someone say, “My kid loved your book!” Two of my upcoming books are actually the direct result of customer inspiration. A customer emailed me saying her family loved my Addition Adventures and Subtraction Secrets, and wanted to know if I’d done a book on double-digit addition and subtraction. The resulting two books, Double-Digit Decoders: Addition and Double-Digit Decoders: Subtraction, are being published by MindWare this summer.

●   God inspires me.  I can’t tell you how often ideas come to me that truly seem to be gifts straight from God.  Being creative makes me feel especially close to God. I think that’s because I believe in a Creator God, who made us in his image, so when I’m creating, I’m expressing some of that image of himself he’s put within me.

 

Evelyn, thank you for sharing your passion for making learning fun!
For more information about Evelyn and her work, visit: www.evelynchristensen.com

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

This is your chance to win your own copy of one of Evelyn’s books (your choice of one of the three books shown below). All you have to do is leave a comment below (before Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 at 11PM CST) and you will be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced on Monday, February 3, 2014. *Drawing limited to United States residents only.*

KYpuzzles

Kentucky Puzzles:Bluegrass Brainteasers for Ages 6 to 106

Coin Clue PuzzlesCoin-Clue Puzzles (for grades 3 & up)

Tactic TwistersTactic Twisters Level B (for grades 9 & up)

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59 thoughts on “Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW): Evelyn Christensen

  1. Betsy Jennings Powell

    What a wonderful and inspiring interview! Evelyn was a college classmate of mine and it is so exciting to learn how her life’s twin vocations of teaching and writing have evolved. Many blessings on your dedication to children of all ages, Evelyn!

  2. Mary Louise

    What a well-done interview with insightful questions. I know Evelyn and still learned a lot about what inspires her to create wonderful puzzle books for children to experience the fun of discovery as well as math facts!

    1. Glad to have you! It was great to learn about you and your work, and the passion you have for helping others. We all have to learn, and it might as well be fun while we’re doing so! 🙂 Thanks!

  3. I have recently become a fan of Evelyn’s! I homeschool my children and am adding my 5 year old to the mix next year. I teach her a little here at home now and she attends a preschool program 3 days a week. I had been looking for great educational toys to assister her learning foundational math and language concepts and discovered her Inchimals… They are now a favorite in our house even with my older boys! I’m excited to build up a collection of her workbooks as well 🙂 Thanks for posting this interview. I’m reviewing the inchimals this week or next and will link to it 🙂

    1. Wow! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for my work with us here, Elizabeth. I’m so glad your kids are enjoying the Inchimals. As I said in the interview, hearing that kind of feedback brings joy to my heart.

  4. Cathie Brown

    I’ve had the chance to co-author with Evelyn on a couple of literature based books and I have a new respect for the challenges of writing for publication. She is very patient and creative in working out solutions to inevitable problems with publishers/printing.
    Also, my grandchildren have had the fun of experiencing math through her puzzle books. Several of them love making up their own math challenges. I attribute their math love to their great aunt Evelyn, either through osmosis or genetics, or both!

    1. Hugs to you, Co-author! I’m so glad I got to work with you on those two literature-based resource books. You did a terrific job of coming up with all those wonderful discussion questions/writing prompts. As for your grandkids, they’re terrific! I love ’em.

  5. Ev is a expert designer of puzzles. Her books are popular with kids, teachers, and parents. These books make learning fun, even for kids that don’t like math. They learn without realizing they’re learning. Thanks,Ev, for another great book.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Nancy! I’m especially honored to have such encouraging comments from someone as accomplished in writing as yourself. Your many books, both fiction and nonfiction, are wonderful additions to children’s literature.

  6. What a great interview – it’s wonderful to learn about how Evelyn’s passions for teaching, writing, and math have led her to publish in a unique niche! BTW, her Writing for Children’s Magazines E-zine is also great!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Melissa, and for your recommendation of my ezine. I enjoyed so much getting to read your own interview here on Latrisha’s blog a while back and was delighted to be the winner of your pb about safety. It was very well-done. I gave it as Christmas gift to a niece and nephew.

  7. JonathanB

    Really interesting interview. I especially thought Evelyn’s comments about being inspired by customers was helpful. And I loved reading about her personal mantra.

    1. I really appreciate your stopping by, Jonathan, and for your sharing your thoughts. Regarding customer’s feedback, you probably especially know, in your field, what a difference a few simple words can make to someone.

  8. Thank you so much for posting this interview. Evelyn’s evolution as a writer and educator, and her successful persistence are inspiring. I am very glad that Evelyn enjoys helping others. I can personally attest that her generous help extends beyond the readers of her writings to fledgeling writers. She is responsible for my membership in a wonderful writer’s group that provides encouragement and valuable critique, and for my first contribution to the world of children’s educational materials. Many thanks Evelyn! I look forward to solving the Kentucky Puzzles. Judith

  9. Karen L

    Hi Ev–New puzzle book looks terrific. Love the cover. Can hardly wait to see inside! You are such an inspiration to the rest of us!! Take care & God bless, Karen L

  10. I, too, found the interview very inspiring, and I loved Evelyn’s personal mantra. If so inclined, I know the children in my neighborhood would love working through either the Kentucky Puzzles or the Coin-Clue Puzzles. (The third one would be suitable for one high school student who lives behind me.) I think Evelyn definitely found her calling in life, and she obviously does it so well.

  11. Ross McCainy Brown

    An informative and helpful interview. Thank you, Latrisha. I love to have educational activities to do in the car as we travel as a family. A few months ago we were playing an alphabet game of foreign country names as the miles sped along. Some of my grandchildren actually did better at this than I. Still, it was a lot of fun. I want a copy of your KY puzzle book for my car to share with all ages as we ride along. I will gladly trade video screens and DVD’s for something more engaging and entertaining. Knowing you and sharing in your success is a joy to me and a feather in my cap. Congratulations, Evelyn.

    1. Aww…what generous compliments, Ross! Thank you! I feel the same way about you. And I agree that you have sharp grandkids! I doubt I’d be able to compete successfully against them in your travel game either.

  12. Betty Sloop

    What a treat to get to read your interview, Latrisha — and to read Evelyn’s answers. I appreciated getting to learn some of the specifics of Evelyn’s journey — and perspective — as an author. I retired from teaching some time ago but I am so glad that Evelyn was publishing puzzle books before I retired because my students really enjoyed her Clip Clue Puzzles and Coin Clue Puzzles. The students were inspired to try creating puzzles of their own and Evelyn’s publications provided such a good model for them to follow — clear directions, challenging clues, opportunities for divergent thinking and on and on. I also found her puzzle books and games great gifts for both children and teachers! One of my granddaughters was born in Kentucky but now lives in Alabama. I want to be sure to get the new Kentucky puzzle book for her so she can appreciate her heritage. I look forward of more of Evelyn’s creative endeavors.

  13. John Brown

    I really enjoyed reading about Evelyn’s creative process, her inspirations, and some of the challenges she has faced and overcome. Thank you for sharing!

  14. The PUZZLE to me is that someone so beautiful is also so smart, and that someone so smart is also so patient with the rest of us. I am in a writer’s group with Evelyn, and every suggestion she makes is both helpful and kind.

    1. Martha, I wish I had the words to tell you how special you are to me, how much I admire you as an author, and how much I appreciate your coming here to Latrisha’s blog to share in the celebration of my new book. If I were as good a writer as you, I might have those words. 🙂

  15. Ev, I hadn’t realize you’d been a math teacher first! I always enjoyed teaching math, though I’m not that great at it (I don’t have a ton of patience, I fear). Teaching writing is definitely more my thing, but I do love working with kiddos on math (both those ahead and those behind). I love that you’ve turned your own love for math into these cool books 🙂

    1. I hadn’t realized you’d been a math teacher either, Robin! I think it’s really cool that you have the talents for teaching both writing and math. Often, people have one or the other, with their right or left brains taking dominance. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  16. Liz Block

    I’ve always loved Evelyn’s puzzle books. She is amazingly talented. I enjoyed reading about her background and her passion for learning. Thanks!

  17. Audrey McLaughlin

    This was a wonderful interview with a wonderful writer! Ev shares so generously and freely with the writing community. She gives of herself and doesn’t ask for anything in return. This new book of puzzles sounds like it contains challenging, fun activities…my favorite kind. Again, thanks to Ev for all she does for all of us!

    1. Hugs to you, Audrey. I really appreciate your kind words. I’ve found the children’s writing community to be a wonderfully giving, sharing, and supportive group of people all the way around. I feel blessed to be a part of it.

  18. Anne

    I have always enjoyed your creativity, Evelyn! From poems to puzzles to math manipulatives and more, they are always so well done. I was so impressed (but not surprised) to read in this interview about the efforts you make to help other writers navigate the publishing world. I’m excited about your new Bluegrass Brainteasers book; I’m sure it will be another hit!

  19. That was a wonderful interview!!! Very inspiring. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ev and will treasure that time together, seeing the space where she comes up with her ideas and putting them on paper/computer. She’s very talented and I’d love to win any of her books to share with kids at school. So please put my name in the hat!

  20. Ev, I was happy to learn more of your backstory! How you ended up in elementary education reminds me of the not-so-old saying: Life is what happens to us when we’re making other plans!

  21. mirkabreen

    In addition to being a gem of a writer/educator, Ev is also modest. She did not share the fact of this interview and I managed to miss it. Glad someone pointed it out, better late than never.

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