I had a chance to meet Tracy Blom and talk about her books last year at WorkbenchCon. At the time she was just publishing a children’s book inspired by Jimmy Diresta as a child called “I Make”, and I thought the idea was adorable. I noticed you can now pick up this delightful little book on Amazon and thought I should reach out to get Tracy’s story, and share this book with our audience.
This is a children’s book, no doubt about that. However, in rare form, it is a children’s book that carries a maker oriented message with a lead character with whom we’re all familiar, Jimmy Diresta. Based loosely on some of Jimmy’s experiences, this book is a delightful collection of pleasant illustration (done by Dahn Tran) , well crafted story, and even some nice crafts to boot.
This section is fantastic, and I think very clearly sets the tone for the whole thing.
The other kids didn’t understand,
Why Jimmy made his toys by hand,
When he could buy them from the store,
Making things just seemed like such a bore
We’ve all heard that comment “why didn’t you just buy it?”, and this book easily sets up the payoff, in a nice package kids can understand. I would highly recommend it.
I did get a chance to talk with Tracy a bit, and she shared some of the history and background to the book.
Why children’s books:
I have always had a passion for writing, and love the idea of being able to impact the lives of others through my words. To date I have published 21 Children’s Books, all of which came to me in dreams (even the I Make book). My books carry common themes of courage, kindess, exploration of the mind, and being the change you want to see in the world. I’ve spoken at schools, libraries, and bookstores about being an author and the power of creativity. I write because it is what brings me the most joy, I compare it to what makers feel like when they work on a new build. It is almost meditative for me, sitting down and creating entire worlds and stories that I can share with others. I’ve never written a book because of trending topics or for money, I’ve always written because it is what brings me the most joy. That message is a big part of what I share with kids when I visit schools; find what it is that you love and go after it.
On the topic of finding what it is you are passionate about, I saw first hand the ripple effect of doing what you love, and how it can inspire others to create.
My husband Zack of ZH Fabrications wasn’t always a full time blacksmith, in fact he was quite misserable working at a bicycle shop and going to school full time. After long days he would come home and we would watch his favorite maker Jimmy DiResta on YouTube. Zack was so inspired by what Jimmy was doing that he started dabbling in blacksmithing, and eventually went to Jimmy’s shop for his first class. Months later Zack started his own business, and now works full time in design and metal fabrication. Seeing how many people have been inspired by the work Jimmy does, I thought maybe he might be interested in inspiring children too. I reached out to Jimmy and asked if he would be open to creating a children’s book encouraging children to create, and of course, he was on board.
How did you work together on this?
Working with Jimmy was really fun. As expected, he’s kind, helpful, insightful and was easy to work with. We set up a few calls to talk about things he actually built throughout his life, including the tee-pee, canoe, and go-kart that you see featured throughout the book. He shared tidbits of his childhood with me, and even sent a few pictures of him as a kid. Jimmy then created hand drawn sketches of potential crafts for the back of the book, including the Popsicle stick workshop, and a model boat. Once the story was written, I sent the illustrator pictures of Jimmy as a kid and had them create a cartoon character that was a hybrid of him as a kid and him as an adult. Once we had the characters drawn, we then created a storyboard of the pictures for each page and watched it all come to life. It was neat sharing the story creation process with Jimmy and showing him how children’s books are made. It is also incredible to see the workshops that children’ are building and posting to instagram! I’ve even had parents send me videos of their children building, chopping wood, and receiving their first tool sets all as a result of reading this book!
Also, this book just received the STEM seal of approval.
What do you have on the horizon?
Recently, with everyone stuck inside, I started doing virtual author visits, virtual story time, and created free coloring pages and crafts that kids can access on my website. I’ve been working on creating crafts to accompany all of my children’s books, and plan on posting a new Lighthouse build to accompany my newest book called The Lighthouse. Later this year I will be attending Maker Central in Birmingham, England and sharing this book I Make with the children in attendance. Also, I plan on doing a few author events at Barnes and Noble featuring this book and hosting a kids craft time.