A Celebration of Color: Oil Pastel Portraits by Susan E. Brooks will be on display at the Open Community Arts Center from July 2 – July 27, with the closing reception on July 27 from 6-9pm. The show is comprised of 16 oil pastel portraits completed within the past two years, including the very recent works created for the “KRM We Create” events for the World Refugee week Festival in June. Ten of the 16 artworks are available for purchase. Come out and see the work, and if you would like to meet me there, let me know!
It was one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken. We were traveling through Burkina Faso during our missionary days, and the poverty was overwhelming. I found myself, once again, the spoiled, picky, American girl who had trouble eating what the locals would have been thrilled to have. One time at a restaurant, flies were swarming so thickly upon our plates of chicken and french fries that the only way we could eat was to cover our plates completely with napkins, pulling a fry or a piece of chicken out from under it the best we could. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
Speaking of flies, the donkey that I painted above had flies crawling all over his eyes that were swollen shut. They looked like two slits– they must have been infected. I had to use my artistic skills to open his eyes and make him look healthy and happy. The boy also was not as healthy and glowing as I painted him to be. The truth is that I had to change the sad realities of this boy’s life in order to create a beautiful painting that people would want to see. I’m not sure what to do with that, and I am ashamed to complain about flies on my fries when so many in that country had so little to eat.
How do we respond to the stark contrasts and overwhelming misery that exist in our world? How can we help? Guilt and shame are not the answer. The answer is probably different for each one of us. If only painting away the infections and the hunger would make them disappear. I don’t know how to fix our broken world, but I do see people helping, one person at a time. Thank you, all of you who are loving, serving, and helping, one person at a time. God sees you.
When God invented grandchildren, He outdid himself — forgive me, but all of you grandparents know what I mean. I couldn’t be more crazy about mine! They have changed my life forever, as a matter of fact, because I wanted to write books for them. After writing books for them, I was able to get a paid writing job for a local children’s book publisher. One good thing led to another, and I have my amazing grandchildren to thank.
In recent years especially, I have felt almost a burning desire to write–about my life, about my thoughts, about funny and interesting things that happen at my job, about the goodness of God, about experiences with internationals–stories slap me in the face nearly everyday and demand to be written! Writing for me is a wonderful way to really savor your life, to be able to live the fun parts over and over again, and even to invent some fun in your mind if you’re running a little short.
In the summer of 2014, I was inspired to write and illustrate a children’s book for my granddaughter. That was way more work than I ever imagined, but I also found that something intuitive or imaginative happened when I started to write: the story took a direction I never thought of in the beginning, ideas sprang out of nowhere, and the creative process, a mystery to me, made writing that book, Ariel, Princess of the Forest, an adventure.
I figured out how to publish it with an online company called lulu.com. Presenting the book to my granddaughter and her parents and seeing her giggle about the illustrations of her favorite stuffed animal going wild, was about as good as life gets for a grandmother.
Once I started for one grandchild, I was committed. Apparently my children think I need to keep busy, because they’ve since added two more grandchildren to the count, for a grand total of six children’s books due so far!
The next summer I created a book for my grandson, Joshua’s Journey: The Secret of the Chameleon, loosely based on an experience our family had in Mozambique. After going through the grueling work of self-publishing again, I decided that it would be nice to find a publisher.
One thing led to another, and thanks to a sweet friend pushing me to go to a writer’s meeting, I made some connections with a local publisher. The publisher wasn’t ready to republish my books, but she was impressed with them, and decided to hire me to write for her children’s book series!
I have just completed my first book for Baxter’s Corner publishing company! Baxter’s Corner’s goal is to create books that will teach healthy values. They hired me to write about one of their characters, Ellema the elephant. Ellema and the Big Rig will be published early next year. Baxter’s Corner already has an established illustrator for the series, Mary Ellen Stottmann, so I was hired only for the writing. I appreciated working with the “Chief Pencil,” author and editor Linda Baker. By the time my third and final draft was accepted, I was relieved, happy, and ready to do my victory dance! I was paid to write! A dream come true! God is so good!