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RHS grad lives her literary dream

Christine Conlin

Rosemount High School graduate Christine Conlin will be able to check one more item off her bucket list this week when she officially launches the children’s book she wrote 12 years ago.

Conlin said writing has been in her blood as far back as she can remember.

“When I was in school, I just always loved English and reading and poetry,” she said. “Even when we were little, we were always at the the library, always getting books. My mom was constantly reading to us. We were making up stories. Reading has always had a big impact on my life.”

Even though the path she followed led her to a career in technology marketing, the University of Minnesota English major still had creative writing on her mind. Twelve years ago, she got the idea to write a children’s book starring her own kids, Sami and Jack, who were 2 and 5 at the time.

Who Sees Your Scrunchy Face? was inspired by memories of her mother saying, “Don’t get ugly with me,” whenever Christine gave her a disatisfied look, which she calls a scrunchy face. She recognized this same scrunchy face on her own kids and wanted to write something that gave kids a fun way to express themselves when things weren’t going their way.

“I’m all about wanting to get kids to read,” Conlin said. “It just opens your kids’ imagination about things. It gives you so many different perspectives on life. It takes you far in life.”

So she wrote the book about the adventures of Jack, an expressive and mostly happy 7-year-old who lets all kinds of people see his scrunchy face when they tell him no. But there is one person who never sees his scrunchy face, and young readers will have to read the story to find out who.

Conlin wrote the book and was pleased with it, but she wasn’t quite sure where to go from there.

“It sat on my shelf for a long time,” she said. “I had trouble visualizing it, and I didn’t have an illustrator.” It wasn’t until a family friend’s daughter offered to illustrate the book for her high school art project that Conlin considered actually trying to get it published.

“She brought it to life for me,” Conlin said. “I thought, ‘This is on my bucket list. I really want to do this. What am I going to do?’”

So, Conlin brought the book to local publisher Beaver’s Pond Press and asked if she could read it aloud to the publisher, rather than hand it over to her, so she could hear the inflection in the story.

Conlin said she was completely taken aback when the publisher told her she didn’t know if she would change a word.

“She told me, ‘It is going to resonate with so many people. It’s a great read-aloud book and it’s just adorable,’” Conlin said.

Over the next 15 months, the two worked together to choose a professional illustrator for the book, give it a front and back cover with mirrors and connect it with a distributor. Conlin said when the first copy of her book arrived in her mailbox, she felt like a kid opening a present on Christmas morning.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’m an author,” Conlin said. “I just can’t even tell you how thrilling it is.”

She looks forward to returning to her hometown of Rosemount to read her book aloud to kindergartners, first and second graders at St. Joseph School the morning of May 4 and seeing their reactions.

Who Sees Your Scrunchy Face? is available for purchase at www.itascabooks.com and www.amazon.com.

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