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Charles City native to present her children’s book at CC Library

  • Kelly Kehret Johnson, a 2000 Charles City High School graduate, recently published her first book, a children's paperback titled "Building Bubbles, Fun, Fun, Fun!" Photo submitted

  • Kelly Kehret Johnson (left) shows some of the artwork that one of her students, Brooklyn Nanthanorath, illustrated for Johnson's children's book "Building Bubbles, Fun, Fun, Fun!" Photo submitted

By Kelly Terpstra, kterpstra@charlescitypress.com

Kelly Kehret Johnson commutes to work every morning for her job as a sixth-grade art teacher in the Southeast Polk School District just outside the Des Moines suburb of Altoona.

The 40-minute ride from her home in Nevada to Pleasant Hill is more than just a route that takes her to a classroom full of students – it’s an outlet for her creative energy.

“My inspiration comes to me because it’s the only time I’m alone,” said Johnson.

The time spent behind the wheel allows her to brainstorm and come up with new and exciting life endeavors that may soon be on the horizon.

“I’ve got all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas,” she said.

The 2000 Charles City High School graduate has already met one goal on her to-do list – publish a book.

“I’ve got dozens and dozens of ideas. I tuck ‘em away. Being a teacher and mom, it’s been slow going to actually get one made,” said Johnson.

Johnson will present and read her first published work – a children’s book titled “Building Bubbles, Fun, Fun, Fun!” – in her hometown of Charles City this evening (Tuesday).

Johnson’s book follows an innovative little boy as he challenges himself to see objects in a place other than the clouds in the sky. The paperback also educates youth on the meaning of words with vocabulary definitions dispersed throughout.

Johnson will hold a meet-and-greet scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Charles City Public Library during Tuck-In Tuesday, a storytime geared for kids.

“She’s going to read the book, answer questions and sign books. So there will be books for sale,” said CC Library Youth Director Stacey Leerhoff.

Johnson will also hold a presentation of the book at the Rockford Public Library today at 3 p.m.

Johnson said she self-published her first book through Ingram Spark, a web-based publishing platform. She also received a big helping hand from Brooklyn Nanthanorath, one of her sixth-grade students who created all the artwork and illustrations for her first book.

“I wrote it. Then I hired her this winter to illustrate it. I gave her kind of some guidelines I wanted on each page but then she drew the pictures,” said Johnson.

Johnson has two other books that she has finished writing. She just needs to complete the illustrations for each book, which she plans on doing herself.

“I’ve got three done. I want to illustrate them, too, because I enjoy art. Because of time, those are slow going,” said Johnson. One book that is awaiting artwork may be published in another year or two.

“It’s more motivational than fun. It’s got a message to it,” said Johnson.

Time is precious for the mother of two who married her high school sweetheart, Brian Johnson, a 2001 Charles City High School grad. Their children are 8-year-old son Jace and 5-year-old daughter Amri.

Her busy schedule allows her only one weekend a month to work on her book projects.

“I get like five hours a month,” she said.

Johnson first caught the book writing bug in 2003 while attending a children’s literature class in a lecture hall at Iowa State University. She said she remembers the class vividly.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to do that,’” she said.

Johnson taught ESL (English as a second language) classes for 12 years before taking over her art class last year.

“I have always loved teaching vocabulary. Teaching English learners, that’s a big thing for them. So in this “Building Bubbles” book, there’s 17 little like inset bubbles that have definitions for the big words that I use,” said Johnson.

Writing books is just one area of her life that she is passionate about. Johnson has several other undertakings that also occupy her time while she isn’t parenting or teaching.

She said she is into working out and is a bit of a health nut as well.

“I’m into weightlifting and eating healthier and feeling my best,” said Johnson.

For the last four years Johnson has done web work for businesses and written a fitness blog. She also said she has a plan to open up a pet boarding business.

When Johnson comes up with an idea, she’ll email that thought to herself and tuck it away for use at a later date. It’s a way of keeping track of the things she wants to create or undertake.

“I have over 100 like emailed to myself that I pull out every once in awhile and just kind of add to,” she said.

Johnson’s dream is to write full time.

“I always say I want to earn my way out of teaching,” said Johnson.

What does the future currently hold for Johnson?

“This summer I’m actually getting my hypnotherapy degree,” she said.

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