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Teacher brings stories to children

Deb Lund is a singer, songwriter, mother, wife, teacher and caring community member. Now she can add the profession of children's book author.

Lund, a Greenbank resident and teacher at the South Whidbey Shared Schooling Co-operative, recently signed contracts with Morehouse Publishing, Harcourt, and Harper Collins.

Getting published was no easy feat, but Lund has proved that with a little heart and effort, anything can happen. The biggest challenge with the four books she is writing for the three publishing companies was the act of sitting down to write.

"I'm just stubborn," she said. "I stalled for a long time, reading and not writing."

The first two books to appear -- interactive prayer books titled "Play and Pray," and "God and Me" -- will be published by Morehouse. Both books are set up for interactions between child and adult, exploring prayer and creating a fun foundation for children. Lund said this is not an easy combination to find in a children's book.

"The collections of poems and prayers happened because a friend said she couldn't find any books of the type that she felt comfortable using with her children," she said.

In spite of the titles and subject matter of the two books, Lund said she doesn't consider herself a Christian writer. She said they are not the "usual" prayer books -- they are playful and positive with a focus on everyday experiences of a child's world.

"Play and Pray" will be published this fall. "God and Me" hits the shelves the following spring.

For Harper Collins, Lund wrote "Waiting for Me," a book that teaches children about the lives of parents waiting for a child to be born. Lund said she wrote "Waiting for Me" with help from her 5-year-old son Kaj. The book will be published in summer 2003.

"We waited for Kaj to be born for a long time," Lund said, "and we're waiting for the book now, too."

The last of Lund's books to be published was inspired by her husband, Karl Olsen, who with his brother, Vern, brought Lund's "Dinosailors" to life in a musical performance at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference earlier this year. Because "Dinosailors" is a singsong tale about dinosaur adventures at sea, it was perfect material for the Olsen brothers, who are members of Whidbey Island's Shifty Sailors singing group. The book, without the Olsens' accompaniment, will be in stores in 2004.

All this kids' stuff was not something Lund planned to get into. Earlier in her writing career, she had what she thought were loftier literature goals.

"I thought I was going to write novels," she said.

But as a teacher and a mother, she said she could see an untapped book market in which she could be a solid seller.

"I knew what was available for children, and I saw their responses for what was already out there, and I decided I had better get my manuscripts ready to send in," she said.

Writing and teaching writing takes up all of Lund's daylight hours. In addition to the 30 or more hours per week she spends writing, she also teaches writing classes to grades 4 through 10 for SSCOOP.

"It is fun to watch students start to think of themselves as writers," Lund said.

The kids are also a good test audience. Lund said she reads the stories she is working on to her students on a regular basis. She even uses her stories in her performances with her singing group, Sing!Chronicity.

Lately, however, writing has been taking a back seat to teaching. Lund is currently working with a group of artists and teachers to start an arts-based school called the Cedar School. The school will focus on the arts and students' individual interests, two things Lund feels are important in early childhood development.

"Cedar School will find ways to let kids know they can be who they want to be," she said. "It will also teach them to think and do for themselves."

The school, which could open as early next year, is planned to teach students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

But even with all this going on, Lund is never far away from children's books. She is starting a Web site, DebLund.com, which will feature "real-life" book reviews in which she gives her opinion as a teacher, parent and author. The site will also include book recommendations.

Though it may seem she has too many irons in the fire, Lund said she works hard at everything she does, whether it is writing, teaching at her specialties in music and library sciences, or singing.

"If I focus on something, I make it happen," she said. "I don't let go of things if I feel there is a way to make a contribution."

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