2 Chandler authors to attend KJZZ event SanTan Sun News

2 Chandler authors to attend KJZZ event

2 Chandler authors to attend KJZZ event
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By COLLEEN SPARKS
Managing Editor

Two Chandler award-winning authors will mingle and share their books at the KJZZ Arizona StoryFest & Authors Showcase on June 1 in Mesa.

Kathy Peach, who wrote children’s book, “The Tiniest Tumbleweed,” and Eileen Pieczonka, who wrote children’s books: “Blueberry Bear” and “Blueberry Bear A Furry Friends Tale,” will take part in the authors showcase at Mesa Convention Center, 263 N. Center St. The storyfest and authors showcase will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The public can meet Arizona writers and buy their books at the family-friendly event that will also include interactive stories, games and crafts.

Peach and Pieczonka are excited to participate in the gathering of authors and storytelling.

“I’m looking forward to being there, to sharing the story and helping touch as many lives as I can,” Peach said.

Her book, which Story Monsters LLC published, is about friendship, hope and encouragement with its two main characters being a small tumbleweed and baby sparrow. The little tumbleweed and tiny sparrow have physical limitations and fear they will not be able to do things their larger brothers and sisters do, including making seeds and flying. However, the Mother Tumbleweed character in Peach’s book says, “Perhaps not, but you will be as big and strong as YOU will be, and that is just fine, just fine indeed.”

“I’m an animated reader and I bring puppets and tumbleweeds and we have a good time,” Peach said.

She brings a puppet of the tiny sparrow in her book and tumbleweeds when she reads her book to the public.

Peach said she has not written other books yet but has “two more in my heart.” She was inspired to write the children’s book after witnessing a tumbleweed exploding as she drove on Val Vista Drive in 2010 and wondered about the life of a young boy in her Sunday school class. Peach wrote her book as her required honors project while she was attending Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, where she was earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a dual certification in early childhood special education.

“The Tiniest Tumbleweed” is a story written based on proven psychological theories related to developing positive self-efficacy ideas in children, she said. Peach’s own journey into writing could also inspire any adults and children. The teacher of preschoolers at Heart Cry Church previously worked in the banking industry for more than two decades. Peach had also worked at Ford Motor Credit Company in Nashville, Tennessee, for 11 years. She was born in Nashville, and as an adult said she fell in love with education while teaching data entry clerks how to do their jobs and writing the material she taught them.

Peach and her husband moved to Chandler in 2009, after they had frequently visited their daughter, Amanda Mason, who lived in Ahwatukee back then. Then at age 54, Peach enrolled at Chandler-Gilbert Community College to study early childhood education. After she earned her associate’s degree in early childhood education at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, she transferred to ASU.

The idea for the plot of “The Tiniest Tumbleweed” came after Peach ran over a tumbleweed on Val Vista Drive in Chandler. It was the first time she had seen a tumbleweed before and it exploded in front of her, which amused her and made her wonder about the purpose of tumbleweeds. Later when she was teaching Sunday school at a Chandler church, she started thinking about one of her students, a boy about 2 years old, who was very small. Peach thought life might be a little hard for him and she pondered what it would be like for a tumbleweed growing up.

“The Tiniest Tumbleweed” was chosen by the Book Publicists of Southern California for the 2017 IRWIN Award for Best Inspirational Children’s Book. People can buy the book at Sibley’s West: The Chandler and Arizona Gift Shop at 72 S. San Marcos Place, as well as on Amazon.com and at several local museums. It is also being sold at Barnes & Noble stores at the Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler and San Tan Village in Gilbert.

Peach works at Sibley’s as an assistant to the owners and enjoys the camaraderie with other Arizona authors.

“We’re like a small family,” she said. “We go to the same festivals and we support each other’s work.”

 Pieczonka, a Chandler resident for 19 years, also got her inspiration for her books close to home and is also eager to spend time with other authors at the June 1 festival.

“I know there’s gonna be a lot of high energy in that place with all the authors and they’re having a story stage and also an authors’ showcase,” she said. “I am one of the authors at the authors’ showcase reading my book. I’m really excited about that, also nervous about it.”

Pieczonka, who is originally from Chicago, said her late dog, Jamie inspired her to step out of her comfort zone. The dog in her books is modeled after Jamie, who loved blueberries. Pieczonka nicknamed Jamie “Bear” when she adopted her.

“I thought, what a great title for a children’s book,” she said.

Pieczonka would take Jamie, who was a certified therapy dog, to libraries in Gilbert and Mesa, where children through teenagers and sometimes even adults would hang out and read books near Jamie through the Paws2Read program.

“She was just a great dog and I thought it would be perfect for her because she was just so laidback,” Pieczonka said. “I loved doing it. Kids would read to her because animals, they don’t pass judgment and they were very comfortable (with) the therapy dogs. I was more of just the handler. If they needed help with any words, we would help. We’d just let them read at their own pace.”

She had worked in document control for a semiconductor company for almost 18 years and previously as a graphic designer for several years in Chicago. Pieczonka had earned an associate’s degree in photo offset from a college in Illinois and had never thought of herself as a writer.

She said it took her about a year to write her first book and she found a great editor, Naomi C. Rose, in Sedona, to edit her writing.

“I did all the research myself and then because of being the therapy team at the library I would hear a lot of children’s book stories,” Pieczonka said. “I was just learning all on my own. I was just all over the place. I was very descriptive, which then my editor’s like, ‘When you have pictures you don’t need all of the descriptive words.’”

She said “Blueberry Bear” and “Blueberry Bear A Furry Friends Tale,” which she self-published through her Blueberry Tales publishing company, are “fun read out loud” books.

The main character, Blueberry Bear is rambunctious and rolls in a blueberry field, making her fur turn blue.

“She just loves getting into mischief,” Pieczonka said. “In the beginning, she’s sleeping in the barn and there’s a total mess in the barn. The farmer yells at her. She takes off to her secret hiding hole to go into a blueberry field and starts rolling in the blueberry field. She bumps into a beehive, which aggravates the bees, chasing her back to the farm and she’s getting the farm all messed up, turning everything blue.”

“Blueberry Bear,” which came out in 2016, has a life lesson in it.

“The message I give is more for adults, to where everybody’s in so much of a rush,” Pieczonka said. “You need to enjoy life and have fun. She’s a rambunctious puppy that just wants to have fun, just a free-spirited puppy.”

Her work has gotten recognition including “Blueberry Bear” being named a finalist for three awards including the 2018 The Wishing Shelf Book Awards in the pre-school picture books category. That book also won third place for the 2016 Arizona Authors Association Literary Contest.

Pieczonka now has two dogs: Kong and Suki and she would like to get them both certified as therapy dogs. Suki has been to some of her book signings.

To learn more about Pieczonka and the “Blueberry Bear” series, visit blueberrybeartales.com and for more information about Peach and her book, visit tiniesttumbleweed.com. For details on the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest & Authors Showcase, visit storyfest.kjzz.org.

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