Always Follow Your Dreams!
 
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My Journey

I had always considered myself a closet writer until I finally published.  This is my journey!

 

As a child, I remember listening to my father’s stories.  He was an amazing raconteur and could bring me right into his stories.  I could see the characters and would be transported to the locations and engage in the plots.   As I grew older, I was always writing.  I used it as a sort of escapism…writing poetry to deal with teenage “stuff”, studying journalism and creative writing in college. 

 

I grew up in a small, rural town in Northern Michigan.  I was an honor student and an athlete.  I graduated high school with 25 people…the same 25 I had started kindergarten with!   It was such a small world that all I really wanted was to be a number and to see if I could succeed on a bigger scale.  I went to Michigan State University (population 45,000…I was student #1076311).  I started as a journalism major, but somewhere along the line I switched to advertising as someone told me that I’d never make any money in journalism.  Graduating from MSU in 1991, I lived in Detroit working for a system software company as their sales manager for five years.  Advertising turned into sales.  I was content and thought I was living up to my high school label as “Most Likely To Succeed.”

 

Then in 1995, my father died, and my life turned upside down.  It made me stop and look around at some of my choices and take stock of what was really important.  My path took many new turns.  I traded in security for the unknown, broke up with a longtime boyfriend (who my mom and dad couldn’t stand), moved from Michigan to Boston, changed careers from sales to marketing, moved in with a childhood friend and her family.  This was the point when I began to realize that climbing the corporate ladder wasn’t the end goal.  Although I continued to do it for the next 15 years, I found myself pulling out the pen and paper more and more.  I published a book of poetry, An Inside Look…, wrote for a small-town, New Hampshire newspaper, and even formed a business around editing and writing!  However, the need to survive and put food on the table always brought me back to the corporate world!  In 2000, I moved to London with my husband and worked at The Economist for 3 years.  All the while, plugging along and “succeeding” but never feeling really fulfilled. 

 

After having two beautiful boys, true happiness began to shine in my life and the stories and words started to flow.  I realized that my dad had given me his gift of gab.  The stories my dad told were of Keeno and Ernest.  Unfortunately, he never wrote them down before he passed away. My memory recalled the characters perfectly, but not the adventures.  When my first son was born, I started making up my own stories around Keeno and Ernest, and he loved them!  I added a moral to each story (which I’m sure my dad’s never had…his were ALL action/adventure!) that tied in with things my boys were dealing with at the time.

 

One day, my son asked me to come to his preschool one day to share one of the stories with his class.  The kids loved it!  His teacher came to me after and suggested that I try to publish.  She said the content was great and could be used as a teaching too.  Although I was thrilled to hear this, I wasn’t ready yet.  I did, however, continue to go into my boy’s schools and tell the stories.  We would do teaching activities around the stories, and some of the kids were even inspired to write their own stories.  After each visit, the teachers would urge me to publish.  I found this so rewarding that after years of telling stories to my boys, their friends, and their classmates, that I decided to take the plunge into publishing and share them with the world.  My initial goal was to leave a legacy for my sons, and I have done that.  They are very proud of me!  Now that I am a couple of years into this adventure, I would very much like to see my books in the hands of all children.  I would also like to publish at least one more book in the series…stay tuned!

 

My absolute favorite part about being a children’s book author is reading to the children!  The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest is a series that targets children of all ages.  I’ve read to preschoolers through 5th graders and even read at a nursing home.  My claim to fame is that I’ve read to over 3,500 children and haven’t lost one yet! 

 

There are currently two books in the series, “The Banana Tree” and “The Diamond Mine.”  These heartwarming stories tell the tale of two best friends navigating the adventures of life in the jungle.   Keeno, a mischievous monkey, seems to always go against the advise of his best friend, a wise, young elephant named Ernest, only to find himself in trouble.  Follow the adventures as Keeno ends up in great danger and relies on Ernest to rescue him.  In the end, Keeno learns a lot about friendship and also some very valuable life lessons.

 

Both The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest ~ The Banana Tree and The Diamond Mine has been named a Mom’s Choice Awards® Silver Recipient in family-friendly media, products and services!

 

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest ~ The Banana Tree has been award the “This Book Rocks! StoryTime Jam” award for best picture book from StoryTime by Design, Inc.

 

My tagline that I always sign off with is “Always Follow Your Dreams!”  Sometimes it takes time to figure out what those may be, and that’s okay as long as you strive toward them everyday.  I truly feel that I am living my dream!

 

I hope you enjoyed reading my journey…I am loving living it!


You can see some of my favorite things at Pinterest by clicking on the link below!

Who is the illustrator?
I wish I could draw, but stick figures are about the extent of my artistic abilities.  Thankfully, I didn't have to go far to find an unbelievable artist and illustrator.  Here's the story - my son's kindergarten teacher invited me to tell my story of Keeno and Ernest (no book published at that point) and she said, "if you ever need someone to do the drawings, my good friend is an artist!"  Bingo!  Enter the talented Joanna Lundeen...now Gallant!  Congratulations, Joanna!


Joanna was born in Canandaigua, NY. She graduated from Gordon College in Wenham, MA with BA in Visual Arts. Thanks to the encouragement of family and close friends, she embarked on her first ever illustration of a children's book.  I think she did a great job!  I can't thank her enough for her skill, care and dedication to making The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest ~ The Banana Tree come to life!


Please feel free to contact Joanna at jlundeen25@gmail.com!  I'm sure she'd love to hear from you.