New Paltz fantasy author Kim Ellis reads latest at Elting Library

Author and illustrator Kim Ellis.

Some retirees take it easy after a long hard career. Not Kim Ellis, a 25-year resident of New Paltz. For 16 years she taught second grade in the Monroe/Woodbury School District, then became certified in Teaching English as a Second Language and then did that for another eight years. “I retired because my daughter Anna [Georges, who at one time wrote for the New Paltz Times as Anna Mazo] was giving birth to my first grandchild in Italy, in 2011,” Ellis recalls.

While “hanging out with her granddaughters” is now listed as one of her hobbies in her official Amazon bio, along with yoga and quilting, Ellis is by no means spending her golden years in a haze of domesticity. Retirement enabled her to take her writing more seriously, and she got involved with the Wallkill Valley Writers’ Workshop and the Hudson Valley Writing Project. In 2015, with author pal Susan Chute, Ellis co-founded the monthly Next Year’s Words reading series at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz.

After publishing short stories in a variety of children’s magazines, including Cricket, High Five Magazine for Children, Stinkwaves and Skipping Stones, and winning First Prize for children’s poetry in Children’s Writer Newsletter in 2014, Ellis saw her first novel, Tangled in Magic, hit the bookstores (and Amazon) this past September. Geared toward “middle grade” readers — third grade through middle school, depending on their reading level, Ellis says — the book is the first in a fantasy adventure series collectively titled The Karakesh Chronicles and projected to run to five volumes. She’s working on the fourth one now, and the second, Guided by Magic, is on track to be released in the fall of 2018. This Friday morning, the author will be reading selections from both of the first two Chronicles at Elting, and you and the young readers in your life are invited.

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It would be more specifically accurate to say “author/illustrator,” because this time around, Ellis did her own art for Guided by Magic. She has nothing but praise for the Canadian illustrator arranged for Tangled in Magic by her “small indie publisher,” Lincoln, Nebraska-based Handerson Publishing, Ltd. But the “vaguely medieval” setting of the stories, and in particular the fact that many scenes in the second volume take place in mines and caves, meant that the author tended to visualize them rendered as woodcuts. “I tend to see things very cinematically,” Ellis says of her writing process. “I see scenes, hear conversations.”

So, with her editors’ encouragement, Kim Ellis took up her mat knife and began carving linocuts depicting what she saw in her mind’s eye. The resulting marriage of story and artwork is, says Ellis, “My dream come true.”

At this week’s presentation at the Elting Library, attendees will not only hear excerpts from Tangled in Magic and Guided by Magic — probably only the first chapter of the not-yet-released volume, as she doesn’t want to “give too much away” — but also watch her demonstrate how to make a linocut. “I’m going to show the audience how I did the pictures,” she says, and talk about the process of how a book becomes reality, from conception to printing. Kids will get some hands-on art experience with rubber stamps that Ellis made, as well. You can take the second-grade teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t…

“Where do the ideas come from? They come from the ether,” the author says. She started writing the prototype story for Tangled in Magic as a treat for her twin godchildren, and the book’s protagonists are a pair of 15-year-old twins who are reunited three years after their family has been destroyed by the schemes of a wicked sorceror. They work together to reclaim their home, with magical assistance from talking beasts, including a hawk and a raven, and some “fairylike” beings called Tinglowers. The books also feature other fantasy-lit staples such as dwarves and, in later volumes, the skinchanging seal-folk who are known as Selkies in northern parts of the British Isles.

The story-and-art workshop begins at 11 a.m. on February 16 in the Children’s Area of the Elting Memorial Library, located at 93 Main Street in New Paltz. (The snow date is Monday, February 19.) Admission is free. For more info, visit https://tangledmagic.blog. Tangled in Magic is available for purchase in hardcover, paperback and e-book formats at www.amazon.com/Tangled-Magic-Kim-Ellis/dp/1941429513/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518469160&sr=1-3.

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