I grew up in Tacoma, Washington with a family of artists and a gaggle of imaginary friends. During my childhood my brother and I did things like hunt for the Fly King and transport the cat around in a blanket-burrito. While pretending to do my homework, I mostly doodled on a desk blotter, dreamed of having my own Goonies adventure, and sneaked into my parent's office to use the phone since they were still attached to walls back then.
I attended Stadium High School in Tacoma and Lewis & Clark College in Portland. The castle and manor house in these settings only helped to further blur the the already fuzzy delineation I maintained between fantasy and reality. I was fortunate to also spend semesters in Indonesia and Strasbourg, France.
I hunted madly for my purpose on this earth. I discovered it was teaching.
I earned a MAT at Portland State, a nice, normal-looking school. I've been learning from the tiny teachers that fill my elementary school classrooms since 2000.
Over time I grew itchy to create, to make art, to make something. (Besides my own children.) I read a lot of picture books to my students. Some of them bugged me--they weren't that great. I thought, "Hey, that looks easy. I'll do that!" [Illustration note: Hysterical laughter, followed by crying, sobbing. And more hysterical laughter.]
I joined the SCBWI and joined a critique group. In May of 2015, at an SCBWI writing conference, author Richard Peck presented and said of his life, “I had to leave teaching to communicate with the young.” This described my conundrum exactly, and I burst into tears. But life is not quite so simple. I realized that I had to figure out to do both--write and teach. I am working fervently to make that happen.
As a teacher, parent, and human being, I am fascinated with the power of story in our lives. We look to them for beauty, to spark hope, to teach us, to transport us, and to ignite our imaginations.
Currently, I live in Portland, Oregon with my family. When not teaching, I can be found writing and drawing away, madly, in my basement, AKA the Creativity Cave.
-Jefna M. Cohen
email: jefnamc at gmail dot com