Saturday, January 6, 2018

In ''ISLAND SOLSTICE,'' a picture book in verse for kids, Susan Jensen draws the thaw of global warming [AN INTERVIEW]

Susan Jensen at home with with cat, Maggie. Well-known on Whidbey for her pet caricatures, Jensen recently wrote two children’s books dealing with the weighty issues of alcoholism and global warming. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Susan Jensen at home with with her house cat, Maggie. Well-known on Whidbey as an artist for her pet caricatures, Jensen recently wrote an illustrated children’s book titled ''ISLAND SOLSTICE'' dealing with the weighty issue global warming. [Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times]

Susan Jensen, 74, draws the thaw of global warming
  • by reporter Patricia Guthrie
  •  January 5, 2018 4:01pm
EXERPT: edited for amplification and clarification [with an INTERVIEW at the bottom of this page, please scroll down.....for interview and more artwork from the book]

The creative flash for her illustrated children's book, “Island Solstice,” came as winter’s dark days approached. In one of those “in the zone” moments many artists experience but can’t explain, a woeful tale of a watery world emerged. A ''cli-fi'' children's picture book was born!

Cli-Fi is a new literary term for novels, movies, poems, stage plays and children's books about global warming issues.

Set to the cadence of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the story tells how sea creatures rejoice because

“the earth will be ours/the sea will be vast/and man will be gone/ from our lives at last.”

One drawing shows a gray whale circling Seattle’s Space Needle that’s sunk into Puget Sound.
Not the usual fluffy fodder for young readers, Jensen admits. But she wants it to be a jumping-off point for discussions about the environment, climate change and conservation.

“As far as I can tell, there’s nothing about global warming for kids,” said Jensen, mother of two adult daughters to whom she dedicates the book, along with “the future of our planet.”

“I didn’t want it to be scary but you can teach children about sea creatures and the future of the earth. It starts that conversation,” she said. “The parents can guide the discussion.”

Set on the evening of the winter solstice, Jensen’s simple quirky pastel drawings show a parade of all sea creatures great and small gathering to listen to Poseidon.

“Now sand soles and limpets/dog winkles and mussels/Oh, sea stars and scallops/And shipworms and oysters/Great fish of the sea/Sharks, halibut, rays/Now gather round, listen/To news of great days!”

“I was told what I do is not ''art by an artist,'',” Jensen recalled. “What that person who said that meant is ‘fine art’ like Norman Rockwell’s is not ‘fine art’, so I thought, ‘Well, I’m in good company.’

“My stuff lends itself to kids so I figured why not write a children’s book?”

Jensen’s hoping the “Island Solstice” book and drawings will appeal to Western Washington University organizers of the April 4-6 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle.
“Island Solstice” costs $10 and 10 percent of sales go toward GreenPeace.

Jensen taught high school English, speech, drama and journalism for 12 years and worked more than two dozen years in Seattle media relations jobs. She moved to Cultus Bay in 2006.
Active in many writers groups, Jensen is a graduate of the University of Iowa.

For years, Jensen cobbled together jobs while raising two daughters. She continues the juggling act today. She converted her downstairs into a weekend retreat for airbnb guests. She refers to the $75 pet caricatures as her “bread and butter.”

Jensen also sells custom pastel landscapes from photographs people send her.

A self-described “happy spirit on a creative rampage,” much of Jensen’s energy and activity stems from an unexpected gift — time.
“I never thought I was going to live this long,” she says. “My mother died at age 62. I never imagined being able to “just write and paint and putter.”

For more information:

“Island Solstice” is written from the perspective of sea creatures rejoicing having the oceans to themselves with ‘no more pollution of garbage and waste.’“Island Solstice” is written from the perspective of sea creatures rejoicing having the oceans to themselves with ‘no more pollution of garbage and waste.’

Twitter hashtag #islandsolstice


DAN BLOOM: ''ISLAND SOLSTICE,'' what's the meaning of the title and is it winter or summer solstice? can you explain more? 

SUSAN  JENSEN: "The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol ("sun") and sistere ("to stand still"), because at the solstices, the Sun's declination "stands still"; that is, the seasonal movement of the Sun's daily path (as seen from Earth) stops at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction. - Wikipedia" In that sense, the word "solstice" in the title Island Solstice means that we have reached our limit before - hopefully - reversing direction. I live on Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle, so we are very much in touch with the changes in our beaches and the pollution of our shores.

QUESTION: You did a very nice newspaper interview in the Whidbey paper. Did you get much local reactions from readers, friends, acquaitances, radio hosts or TV stations after the article appeared?

SUSAN: The interview was just published recently, but I'm already receiving nice comments.

Will do radio or TV interviews about the book later on? Or book signings at local bookstore or library readings?

All of the above. I just self published this in December 2017 through Create Space, but I'm sending it out to children's book publishers this week in the hopes of receiving wider distribution. I will start with booksignings at the three island libraries, then move to Seattle bookstores and libraries to follow up. I have submitted my artwork and the book to two environmental conferences in Seattle and here, and will know by February 1 if I'm accepted. 10 percent of each sale will go to Greenpeace. 

Island Solstice is a gentle introduction to the subject of global warming for the little ones. Most of them have heard about it, so this can open a dialogue between a child and their parent to guide the discussion. Hopefully, my illustrations are fun and fanciful and might serve to ameliorate the scariness of the subject matter while still serving to inform. Also, the sea creatures illustrated can open up other discussions about the wonders of sea life.

Who is your target audience? kids of course, parents, teachers, librarians, anyone else? ages?

All ages and all demographics.

DAN BLOOM: Have you heard of the new literary genre called cli-fi (short for climate fiction like sci-fi for science fiction)? Can i call you book a cli-fi kids book?

SUSAN: Great idea! I'll do my best to promote that genre! 

I just posted Island Solstice on, but I was in a couple of Christmas markets and sold almost 50 copies so far, but since those were in-person copies, there are no reviews yet on Amazon. Here's a link:

ISLAND SOLSTICE is a playful look at the only creatures who would be happy if global warming turned the world to water. Poseidon visits his ocean kingdom to tell them the news!

A short bio:

SUSAN JENSEN has received numerous awards for her work in several genres. This is her first children's picture book, which she has also illustrated.

If you need photos of her illustrations, it's best to take them from her blog, which is a link under her signature below, to get the best quality, but here are some:





''Dear Dan, Please let me know if you need anything else? It's so great to make this connection! Looking forward to exploring the cli-fi Facebook page next. Thank you for contacting me!''

-- Susan Jensen

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