Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Happy Birthday Bubble Wrap Girl!

Celebrating the Two Year Publication of Bubble Wrap Girl!

Publication Date: June 2, 2017


Izzy Magee gets bumps and bruises when she does the things she likes--chasing her brother, dancing in the kitchen, and riding her bike. Getting hurt is a hang-up for Izzy, so one day she decides to cover herself in bubble wrap. Her plan works like a charm…until the bubble wrap gets in the way of doing the things she likes. Eventually, Izzy realizes that getting hurt is part of life--and she isn't going to let it get in the way of having fun!

About the Author

Kari van Wakeren is a wife, mom, Lutheran pastor, and author of the children’s book, Bubble Wrap Girl, as well as several articles published in Definitive Woman, Living Lutheran and Gather.  
Kari enjoys sharing the message that we all have what it takes within us to do hard and great things with audiences of all ages. She lives in central Minnesota with her family and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Luther Seminary.  

About the Illustrator:

Little CA Nobens, the shortest kid in her kindergarten class, shot up like a weed in first grade.  She didn't know where her head or her knees or her elbows began or ended, until she was the tallest girl in eighth grade.  She was always clonking her noggin or stubbing her toe or rapping her wrist or bonking some bone on something.  She could have used miles and miles of bubble wrap!  Not having any, she just tried to sit still and draw pictures a lot.

Tour Schedule

May 15
The Picture Book Review- Book review and Giveaway

May 23
Sara's Pop Op Blog- Review by Darcy Bell Myers and Giveaway

May 27
Kidbits- Review and Giveaway

June 1
KidsBookshelf- Author Interview and Giveaway

June 15
Living in a World of Book Quotes- Author Interview and Giveaway

Friday, January 18, 2019

Small (Big!) Successes

When I first met with the marketing director at Beaver's Pond Press way back before I even had copies of my book in hand (and in their boxes), I took lots of notes on all the helpful information she shared about creating a marketing plan and using social media and things like that.  She recommended things like do something related to the book for 10 minutes each day...create a press kit...make a bookmark to use as my business card.

Some of these recommendations I followed right away.  Others- like spending 10 minutes a day doing something to increase sales- just haven't panned out.  But because selling and marketing a book is much harder for me than writing one was, I often go back to the notes I took during this meeting.  Since then, I have also taken several workshops related to marketing and talked to other authors about what they have done to publicize their books.  One of the things that has been affirmed again and again is that doing this solo is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time.

Perhaps that is why the piece of advice that has had the most lasting impression was, "Let your small successes be your big successes."  And today, I am celebrating one of my biggest successes so far.  This week, I was able to pay off the loan I had taken out to cover my printing and final editing fees, and that is a pretty awesome feeling.

When we made the commitment to go ahead with publishing Bubble Wrap Girl, I knew it was a commitment of additional time, energy, and money, but at the same time, I don't think I could have guessed quite how much.  It's like adding a side job on top of an already full schedule with the disadvantage being that if I don't have time to set up signings, write posts, or spread the word, the books don't sell.  And I need the books to sell in order to get to the point where I could possibly hire someone to help me.

Because of this reality, there have been many times when I have felt caught up in an ongoing catch-22.  Yet I have pushed on, knowing that one way or the other, I had a monthly payment to make.  I have hustled over the past year to find other avenues to write (for pay) and ways to promote my books that weren't just reaching out to my inner circle again and again. 

I put together and taught a community education class for people who have interest in writing a book themselves in order to share some of what I have learned.  I made a school visit free of charge to hopefully get a few copies sold.  And I am so grateful for friends and family who bought a copy of BWG as a Christmas gift.  On their own, none of these things made a huge dent in paying off my loan, but together they did, and that's how the small successes added up to a bigger one.

To celebrate paying off my loan, I didn't do anything particularly fancy, though my husband did bring home flowers.  In fact, in many ways, it was a day like any other.  Yet now that the pressure of having a monthly loan payment is no longer there, I feel a renewed excitement for what the coming year might bring.  A huge weight has been lifted, and in its place I now feel a sense of anticipation for what could be.  And to some extent, that is what I have been celebrating most this week.

Because in a way, now I get to focus on what I am most passionate about, and that is sharing the message of Bubble Wrap Girl with as many people as possible.  It's the message that we all have what it takes within us to do hard and great things, to bounce back when times are tough, and to overcome obstacles in our lives.  Though this message of resilience is packaged as a children's book, this is a message for- and one that resonates with- people of all ages.  When people read Bubble Wrap Girl, I want them to walk away feeling inspired and empowered.

Even though I paid off my loan, I still have 500 copies in print to sell and the dream of getting picked up by a royalty publishing house is still there.  Yet today I am focusing on this moment of success, and so again, I want to say thank you to all of you who have supported me on this journey.  Thank you to all of you who have bought a copy of the book for yourself or given one or many to loved ones.  By doing so, you have helped me to pass on this message to others, and for that I am grateful, because I believe it is one we all need to hear.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Power of Yet

Toward the end of October, I had the opportunity to attend the ITEM (Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota) Fall Conference as one of their guest authors. This was another new experience for me, and I really enjoyed being a part of this conference.

As a guest author, I was a part of one of the Elementary Author Panels, where we answered questions for a small group of attendees interested in learning more about us and the books we have written.  Many of the authors seated at the table with me had numerous books they have written and have been to many conferences like this one.

In situations like these, I always feel a bit like a fish out of water, but I try to focus on the fact that I am there to learn and experience new things.  Whenever I can remember this, I'm reminded of how I am living the story of Bubble Wrap Girl, time and time again. 

The message of my book is so closely related to the message of having a growth mindset, which is the belief that we can always learn and grow, even from mistakes.  The message of Bubble Wrap Girl is that we have what it takes within us to do hard and great things.  It's a message of grit and resilience, encouraging the reader to not let the fear of getting hurt be what defines the choices they make and the life they live.  And truly, having a growth mindset like this is a way of life.

Although this may seem like something only adults can understand, I've found the opposite.  This is something kids get, even as preschoolers.  They inherently know "the power of yet," as my second grader calls it, even if they can't exactly put it into words.  I absolutely love seeing the eyes of the students I visit light up when I relate the story of Bubble Wrap Girl to their own lives.  They know what it's like to get hurt, but they also know how amazing it feels to do something you didn't think you could do. 

It's that spark in the kids' eye, and the fact that I am passionate about sharing this message with kids and adults alike that keeps me going.  My heart's desire is to inspire others, old and young, to be better than they might have thought they could be, to put their gifts to use for good, and to know they are a part of something much bigger than themselves.

Though at times it might seem like I am making a small dent in this goal with just a couple of sales or school visits here and there, I keep trying to do my part, trusting that by putting this message out into the world whenever I can, God will work through it in ways I cannot see.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I Love School Visits!

I love school visits and would love to visit your school and meet your students!  I offer programs that are tailored to various age-groups and am willing to work with you to set a price that works for your school.  For schools outside of Minnesota, I am willing to do a Skype visit!

What's Included in a Visit?

I send a copy of Bubble Wrap Girl to each school I visit ahead of time so that teachers or library staff can begin to share it with students prior to my visit.  I also provide a book order form to send home with students the day of my visit so those who would like to purchase a signed copy of the book can do so.  I then arrange to get those books back to the school in a timely manner.

I am willing to work with each school to figure out the best time-frame and topic for my presentation, but the two presentations below give you an idea of what I can share with your students.

From Pencil to Publishing

For elementary-aged students, I share about the process of writing a book and getting it published.  My presentation includes a PowerPoint and connects with what the kids are doing in class, including brainstorming an idea, adding details to their story, editing, proofreading, and more!  As I read Bubble Wrap Girl, students of all ages are captivated by the great illustrations and seeing the story come to life.  Questions and real-life experiences help kids engage with the presentation right away and meeting a "real" author gets them excited about writing. 
Bubble Wrap Girl's message of resilience and that we all have what it takes within us to do hard and great things connects with students and encourages those in the audience to shine their light, stand up for what is right, and believe in themselves.

Storytime and Sharing

For preschool-aged audiences, I read Bubble Wrap Girl while engaging the students with questions and ways the story relates to them and their experiences.  My love for kids helps me connect with this age group and our time together is a lot of fun.

About Bubble Wrap Girl

Bubble Wrap Girl is a book for kids of all ages that celebrates resilience and the courage to try new things.  Inspired by the author's daughter, main character Izzy Magee wraps herself up in bubble wrap to avoid getting hurt.  Her plan works like a charm...until the bubble wrap gets in the way of doing things she likes to do.  Eventually Izzy realizes that occasionally getting hurt is a part of life and that she isn't going to let it get in the way of having fun!  Bubble Wrap Girl was nominated for a 2018 NEMBA award.

About Me

I am a wife, mom, Lutheran pastor and author.  In addition to Bubble Wrap Girl, I have published several articles in Definitive Woman and Gather magazines.  I am passionate about sharing the message that we all have what it takes within us to do hard and great things.  I live in Central Minnesota with my family and am a graduate of UM-Duluth and Luther Seminary.


"If you are looking for an inspiring children's book that teaches growth mindset, resiliency and inner greatness, you have found your book!  In Bubble Wrap Girl, Izzy Magee warms your heart as she learns the power and joy of having the courage to try new things.  As a whole class read-aloud or a bedtime story, van Wakeren's Bubble Wrap Girl teaches us all to take that leap of faith and persevere."  - Patty Wiitanen, Alexandria Public Schools, Alexandria, MN

"Bubble Wrap Girl is a delightful new children's book with a wonderful message for people of all ages."  -Cheri Weaver, Winona Public Schools, Winona, MN

 "Engaging, different, and fun, Bubble Wrap Girl packages its uncommon message with an unexpected twist that kids and their parents will relish."  -Diane Donovan, Petaluma, CA

Friday, June 15, 2018

Five Things I’ve Learned about Self-Publishing and the Book Industry

I’ve learned a great deal since publishing my children’s book, Bubble Wrap Girl.  At first, my learning was about the publishing process.  Once I chose a publisher, I learned about the specifics of what goes into making a book.  And then, after my book went to press and the boxes were in my trunk, I’ve learned a great deal about how to market, publicize, and sell it.
I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned, each step of the way.  I am also grateful that my learning has been able to be put to use to help others who have similar questions that I did.  One of the things I never thought to expect after publishing a book is how I would be a resource to others in this way. It’s been fun to meet other people who are interested in publishing or writing a book and being able to pass on some helpful hints there way.
With that in mind, I’ve written a series of blog posts related to this very thing.  Today's post is a few things I have learned about self-publishing and the book industry as a whole.
Perhaps the biggest thing I've learned is that traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be.  Last month I went to my first book award celebration and was seated next to a man who has been writing books for twenty years.  He was a former middle school teacher and had found his niche: writing books that related to Minnesota History, which is part of the public school curriculum for sixth grade.  

When I asked him how he got his start, he said an agent had contacted him, saying she had read his book and was interested in representing him.  I could be wrong, but I think this is what every person who writes a book dreams of. Yet what I have learned is that it doesn’t really happen this way any longer.  Instead, it is a writer’s job to seek out an agent by writing query letters and making contacts.

Though it is not impossible to get an agent this way, it is a time-consuming and lengthy process.  The downside is that you don’t know how long it will take to find one, and after you find one, you don’t necessarily know how much you will make on your book.  The alternative is to self-publish.
Although self-publishing might not seem as legitimate as having an agent contact you out of the blue, I have come to realize differently.  Self-publishing is just as valid of a way to make your book a reality, and there are even some benefits.  

The biggest benefit of self-publishing is that you to have much more control and input throughout the process than traditional publishing typically does.  For instance, I had a particular vision in mind of what I wanted the illustrations in my book to look like.  Had I pursued traditional publishing, I would not have had much, if any, say in who the illustrator was or what the illustrations looked like.  In addition, the editor could have made changes to my manuscript that I might not have learned about until seeing the book in print.

Once I got to the point of pursuing self-publishing, I learned there are many ways to self-publish.  Some traditional publishers have self-published divisions.  There are also several print-on-demand options through various web outlets.  I chose to use a brick and mortar publishing company that had published lots of children’s books and that connections to illustrators.  I valued the fact that I could meet with my editor and illustrator in person and that there was a team of people at the company who could guide me through the publishing and printing process.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Why I Wrote a "Secular" Book

Since I'm a Lutheran pastor, people are sometimes surprised that I didn't write a "Christian" book when I set out to write Bubble Wrap Girl.  For me, the choice was very intentional, and to put it simply, I did not want to limit the potential for any child to not hear this book's message, simply because it was labeled in a certain way.

Bubble Wrap Girl is about not letting setbacks or fear hold us back from discovering all that life has to offer and chasing our dreams.  It's about remember who we are deep down, and I want all kids-regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what their situation is at home, to know that they have what it takes within them to do hard- and great- things.

Of course, it's my faith that informs this belief.  At night, when I kiss my kids goodnight, I mark them with the sign of the cross on their forehead and remind them, "God made you special and loves you very much."  This is something I want them to know and lean on as they continue to through life. 

I believe God made each of us unique, with inner-strength and worth, and that God gave each of us gifts to use for good.  But regardless of their faith upbringing, I also want other kids to hear this message one way or another.

Not long ago, I preached a sermon on our identity as a child of God.  This is the name we receive through baptism and the promises we receive through baptism are what allow us to go forward confidently in life, knowing that no matter what happens, God is there and God's love will abide.

When talking to parents who want to have their child baptized, I often tell them that baptism is not "fire insurance," in case something bad happens to us.  Rather baptism is "life insurance," because the reality is that bad things will happen.  Yet the promise of baptism is that we are not alone and God will see us through.

Though I didn't use overt God language in Bubble Wrap Girl, this is the message that propelled me to write the book and the message that I hope kids learn as they read it.  And it's my hope that this is a message that they will remember and that will sustain them as they face things like mean girls, put downs, being cut from a team, moving to a new school or feeling like they don't fit in. 

To me, Bubble Wrap Girl is a book that celebrates resilience and the inner-worth that is inside each one of us.  Somehow in life, I got this message, and I am grateful for that.  However, I also wish it was one that I had embraced more confidently earlier on so that I wouldn't have spent so much time and energy in my younger years trying to be someone other than who God made me to be. 

So as you read this- and if you read Bubble Wrap Girl- I hope you are reminded that you are a child of God.  God made you special and loves you very much.  And whether it feels like it or not, you have what it takes within you to do hard- and great- things.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alumna Inspires with Meaningful Children’s Book

November 13, 2017

Kari van Wakeren shares her experience as a UMD alumna and children’s book author. Bubble Wrap Girl inspires all children!
Kari van Wakeren graduated from UMD in 2004 with a major in Teaching Social Studies and a minor in Coaching. Today, Kari is a pastor at a church in Alexandria Minnesota and now is also the author of a new children’s book, Bubble Wrap Girl.
“I”ve always loved literature, and I’ve wanted to write a book for a very long time,” she recalls. Once the spark appeared for Bubble Wrap Girl, it did not take too long to write. It did, though, take her some time to believe in the story enough, with a little push from her husband, to take the steps to publish her work. van Wakeren eventually self-published the book. “It was a big task and investment, but publishing my book brought the message to life,” she says.
For van Wakeren, writing and publishing Bubble Wrap Girl had a deeper meaning. She is extremely passionate about the story because the message is something that she believes in wholeheartedly. “Life has plenty of setbacks and that there are people who put others down. I want kids everywhere to hear the truth that they have – inside of them – the ability to do difficult and great things,” van Wakeren says. The message of the book is simple but can be applied to everyday resiliency.
van Wakeren says storytelling is a huge part of her work as a pastor because stories are what bring people together. “Storytelling is one of the best ways to learn about who we are and about the world we live in. When we are a part of someone else’s story, we then feel more kindness, empathy, and compassion towards that person,” she explains.

“Those are traits that our world could use a lot more of. As human beings, we spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people, including adults who can be terribly nasty to each other when there is a feeling of fear or insecurity there.” This is something that saddens van Wakeren because she believes we are all in this together, we all need each other, and we can always learn things from one another.
van Wakeren came back to UMD and read her book at the Chester Park Preschool. “It was wonderful to join in with the preschoolers for circle time and hear them greet each other in Chinese,” van Wakeren said. 

After she finished her story, the teacher encouraged the students to connect with the message. Each student made bubble wrap creations and shared the “story” behind their work with the class.
van Wakeren loved every minute of being back on campus. It brought back all the great times she had as a student and of the relationships built. “It was fun to see all of the improvements that have happened since I was in school, like the dining center. As well as the developments that are in progress, such as the up and coming chemistry building being built.” 

Another thing that made it great for her was being able to experience it with her daughter, Esme. “I enjoyed seeing the school through my daughter's eyes, and I can imagine her as a student there – in the very far future.”
Being back at UMD brought forth many memories. She said it was hard for her to pick her favorite, but top on her list was playing on the tennis team, playing flute with the Lutheran Campus Ministry, working at Lester Park Floral, and going to hockey games with her roommate, Jeanne. 

“The thing I loved most about UMD, though, was when I could step out my door and be in nature. I enjoyed hiking at Chester Park, Lester River, Jay Cooke State Park, and all the great spots along the North Shore,” van Wakeren says. It is what keeps bringing her back to Duluth, and whenever she has the time to visit, she wonders when she can come back again.
As for being an alumna of UMD, van Wakeren encourages people not to hesitate to reach out to Mollie Nelson of the UMD Alumni Staff. “Start a conversation about something you are interested in or passionate about. I could never have imagined the possibilities and experiences that have come from that first conversation with Mollie,” she says.
“I feel truly grateful for the time back on campus and enjoyed spending giving back, even in a small way. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share something so close to my heart.”
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