ABOUT KAREN COOMBS

  • On Karen’s bulletin board is a quote from Emerson: “May the work that you do be the play that you love.” It’s a perfect statement of the way she feels about writing for children-at times, it seems more like play than like work. She is an award-winning author of eight published books for children and young adults and a long-time member of SCBWI.

    Although born in Wisconsin, Karen grew up in the Northern Alberta town of Grande Prairie, where the Aurora Borealis flickered and shimmered across the night sky. The winters were long and cold, so cold her nostrils stuck together when she breathed too deeply, so cold her legs turned blue if she were foolish enough to go outside without warm stockings or pants, so cold she could hear the ice on the slough snapping and popping as she lay in bed at night. Winter days were short. It was dark when she left for school in the morning and dark when she came home. No matter how cold, she ice skated and played hockey, often by moonlight. When she was older, Karen curled, her favorite winter sport. She wishes curling had been an Olympic sport when she was younger, because she would have loved to try out for the Olympic team.

    In the summer, the sun rose very early and darkness didn’t arrive until nearly midnight. Days seemed endless, wonderful for a child who loved to wander the countryside, either on foot or by horseback. And both the long nights of winter and the long days of summer were perfect for a child addicted to reading.

    After graduating from high school in Grande Prairie, Karen attended the University of Alberta, first in Calgary and later in Edmonton. She taught first grade for a few years, then studied journalism at the University of Utah. There, a class in writing for children unearthed her passion.

    Some of Karen’s published books touch on things that worry her or worry children, such as the bully in Beating Bully O’Brien or the animals being used in medical research in Saving Casey. In other books she tells readers about the world around them, such as in Flush! Treating Wastewater, or about the world as it was before they were born, as in Sarah On Her Own. At times Karen simply wants to make a reader chuckle (Samantha Gill, Belly Dancer). She also likes to write about people she admires. Jackie Robinson, Baseball’s Civil Rights Legend tells the story of the courageous man who dared to make a difference. Woody Guthrie, America’s Folksinger tells of the talented, tormented man who gave America his creative gifts despite suffering a debilitating illness. Children of the Dust Days describes the lives of the young people who faced a world of poverty, dust, and famine.

    Someday Karen will write about growing up in Northern Alberta. Those memories are simmering inside, waiting to come to an irresistible boil.