Me, Inside & Out

People often ask me how I—a South African, Scottish Swede—came to speak Spanish. I also get quizzed about being so thin. Both are the result of my LDS mission to Viña del Mar, Chile. Actually, my mom was an enthusiastic student of Spanish, so she spoke broken Spanish to us while we were growing up in San Jose, California (she used to call me Carlos).

If they are physically and mentally healthy, and if they meet the standards of worthiness, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the privilege of serving a volunteer mission when they reach eighteen to twenty something years (also at retirement age). I was healthy, but I’d made some choices that were less than worthy. I remember at 18 going to a room alone and declaring—not to God, but to the devil—that I would qualify to serve a mission no matter what! While my determination was admirable, God knew I could not do it alone. It would be years before I realized that it was Christ’s grace that qualified me.

After submitting an application, having ecclesiastical interviews, medical exams, and my wisdom teeth pulled, it was a thrill to bid my friends and family farewell, get some training, and fly to Santiago, Chile. I LOVED the country, the people, and the language. I got sick almost monthly, and learned what real service was (from the people I had come to serve).

We missionaries saw thousands of people embrace the gospel of Christ and receive the blessings of following God’s plan of happiness. I learned that God’s love is tenacious. I witnessed miracles (especially when I could first understand the fast-speaking people). I gained an appreciation for U.S. freedoms while living under a dictator. I distributed food, helped build a house, and got in-person training from a prophet and apostles. I gained life-long friends with some of the most generous people on earth (we mission associates—gringo and Chileno—still gather whenever we can and marvel at the extraordinary things we were able to be a part of). Mostly, I had a profound and personal assurance that I was doing the most important work on the planet. It’s hard to describe that joy.

What I didn’t realize is that a double course of antibiotics (after having my wisdom teeth pulled) had sent me defenseless into an environment of microbes my body had never known.

At first I only had occasional discomfort once I was home. As the years passed, stomach stress became constant and often painful. Despite visits to Stanford Medical Center and countless other doctors, no one has yet identified or remedied the problem. I soon lost confidence in my ability to control my body. This began to impact my social life. While I’ve dated more women than I can remember or number, each date was first stressful, and eventually became a major effort. Soon, I would return from short dates completely wiped out.

Today my diet is severely restricted—as is my energy. My social life is paltry. I struggle to maintain even a runner’s body weight, and my gut remains inflamed. Please believe that this is not typical for a missionary who gets sick. Most I’ve met have found remedies. (Don’t fear travel, it’s perhaps the best education you’ll ever get—especially if you get away from the big cities.)

Still, I’ve been able to do nearly everything on my bucket list. My Spanish has proven helpful in my work and in countless other spheres. The following isn’t to brag (more to enumerate my blessings) —there’s a point I want to make at the end. In addition to gaining a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a film certificate, I have:

  • Been a commencement speaker for college graduation
  • Taught at a university
  • Sung in rock bands
  • Signed Legislation in D.C. (staffers do it all the time if the rep. is away)
  • Visited 4 continents, 12 countries, and 35 states
  • Created and headed two businesses
  • Volunteered at Stanford University Hospital
  • Helped found a Silicon Valley high-tech organization and handled their PR
  • Published 17 books (many award-winners and Amazon bestsellers)
  • Kayaked in whitewater
  • Lectured to large and small groups
  • Worked for IBM, Intel, and Marriott
  • Piloted a plane (not take-off or landing)
  • Hired hundreds of people
  • Been to an Olympic hockey medals game (my favorite sport to watch)
  • Performed for thousands (even alongside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
  • Water skied, snow skied
  • Been a Spanish interpreter
  • Acted in radio, TV, film
  • Been published in magazines & The U.S. Congressional Record
  • Had my scripts selected in competition (one produced on radio)
  • Repelled on and jumped from high cliffs
  • Been an ecclesiastical leader / served on a high council

My point is this: Even with my illness and the impact it has had on my life (I have yet to have a family of my own), if I had to choose between the experiences from my mission or those in the list above, without hesitation I would keep my treasured missionary service. Some might wonder whether I would do it again—knowing beforehand how it would change my life. I wouldn’t give up those changes for anything. If they called me to serve again today, I’d be the skinniest, weakest, happiest missionary on earth. My passport is still current.

STEM Books Spark Curiosity

stembooksmAstronomy, entomology, awards and wit

 

MIDVALE, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 – Three multicultural books teach astronomy, entomology, zoology (and Spanish) — but kids would never know it from the mysteries, activities and giggles.

Cover contest winner “Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words” is a new picture book fantasy that helps children (ages 2 – 6) cement vocabulary as they describe the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Blink — and they multiply! The e-book version is free this month and includes habitat conservation information for all ages.

“Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story” (also a cover design winner) is a children’s book that accompanies an American Indian child in finding constellations, stars and other heavenly bodies. It exposes children (4 – 8) to the starry skies, Monument Valley, and a little space science. It is available in hard or soft cover — or as an e-book.

“She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos: A Mystery” was named in the top 10 best books of 2011 by “ForeWord Reviews Magazine.” It is an educational activity book about a bi-racial girl who responds to some unusual animal gifts — that happen to be alive — and includes full text and a pronunciation guide in both English and Spanish. Kids (3 and up) or language learners can find and count insects, reptiles, a cat, and a bat. Get in Spanish-only, English-only, or bilingual versions as an e-book or in paperback.

The best-selling author of these nature books, Karl Beckstrand, has 17 multicultural books and more than 45 e-book titles – all family friendly. Beckstrand finds that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) books can entertain while they educate (STEAM books include the arts). Raised in San Jose, Calif., he will present on publishing entertaining literature Tues. Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Weber County Library 2039 W. 4000 South, Roy, Utah and Sat. Nov. 5 from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Viridian Center 8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan, Utah.

Award-winning Premio Publishing & Gozo Books’ STEM books capture attention, create repeat readers and are nationally lauded (ForeWord Reviews, Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews). Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and mixed-race characters. Find them at PremioBooks.com, online and at select retailers.

3 Diverse Spring Books Make Learning Funny

spring booksMIDVALE, Utah, March 25, 2016 – Award-winning author Karl Beckstrand is from San Jose, California. He has 16 multicultural books and more than 40 ebook titles — all of them educational — but kids would never know it from the mysteries, activities, and giggles. Here are three new ones.

“Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words” is a picture book fantasy that helps children cement vocabulary as they describe the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Blink — and they multiply. Blink — and they’re gone! (Stories Without Words series, Ages 2 – 6, 24-page, 8″x 10″, wordless picture book on habitat conservation, ISBN: 978-0692648599)

“The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga” is a witty, pink fest with a counting activity. Zany birds with a zest for life, revel, feast and dance on the shores of a shimmering lake. (Ages 3 – 8, 350 words, 24-page, 8.5″x 8.5″, children’s book, ISBN: 978-1512161786)

“Four Spanish-English Books for Kids – Cuatro libros bilingües para niños” is a set with a pronunciation guide in both languages plus opposites, insects and finding activities. (Ages 2 & up for ESL/ELL/ELA, 8″x 10″, soft cover bilingual book with characters of color, 100 page, about 2,000 words, ISBN: 978-1505672626)

Nationally-lauded (ForeWord Reviews, Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews) these soft cover kid’s books capture attention and create repeat readers. Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race characters–with family values like courage, sharing, and loyalty. Find them online, at PremioBooks.com and select retailers.

Flamingos book cover

The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga

MIDVALE, Utah, Sept. 9, 2015 — The world is pink. Pink with flamingos reveling on an imaginary lake—the creation of award-winning author Karl Beckstrand. Vivid images for the picture book The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga were created by illustrator Ashley Sanborn.

“The story is filled with frenetic flamingos swimming, swooping, and swaying,” Beckstrand said. “I think it will make anyone smile. Kids can count the birds, dances, and foods.”

Quirky birds with a zest for life, revel, and dance on the shores of a shimmering lake. “Pink! Pink birds on a walk, pink flocks in pink socks. Diving, dipping, drinking, dripping, flying, falling, flailing, flipping. Strutting, swaying, swooping, sunning, synchronized swimming—they shimmy. It’s stunning.”

The 24-page, 8.5-inch square soft cover picture book and ebook is for ages 3 – 7 (350 words for preschool to second grade) and has online extras. Beckstrand has 15 multicultural books and more than 40 online titles, many of which feature characters of color. Most end with a twist. His nationally-lauded books can be found at Amazon/Kindle, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/ Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Flipkart, Follett, iBooks, Ingram, Inktera, Kobo, Mackin, OverDrive, Oyster, SCRIBD, txtr, PremioBooks.com and select retailers. ISBN-13: 978-1512161786 (ebook ISBN: 978-1310478215)

Read a Book with No Words

MIDVALE, Utah, Nov. 26, 2014 — Want to help kids cement their vocabulary skills? A new book—without words—can do just that.  Polar Bear Bowler: A Story Without Words is designed to help children create their own narration to engaging, funny images. It is Karl Beckstrand’s eleventh book.

Illustrated by Ashley Sanborn of Lehi, UT, the story is about a Polar Bear that hitches a ride to Antarctica. He’s never seen penguins before; to him they look like something fun to play with. So, the fun begins. The new title has been translated into more than twenty languages.

What would you do if Old MacDonald’s animals ruined your catering business? Ma MacDonald’s response is pretty clever in Beckstrand’s twelfth book: Ma MacDonald Flees the Farm. Activities include finding and naming animals and foods (for ages 3 – 8). The 32-page, soft cover and ebook was  illustrated by Alycia Mark of Providence, UT.

True to its multicultural tradition, Premio Publishing’s books feature learning activities and characters of color. Premio’s mystery and language books, non-fiction, ebooks and app are nationally-lauded, invite family learning and together time, and often end with surprises. Premio is celebrating its tenth year.

Most titles may be found via http://www.PremioBooks.com, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/NOOK, Amazon.com/Kindle, iTunes, Follett/Title Wave, Ingram, Mackin and select booksellers.

Spooky Halloween App & Mystery Books Teach Courage

Scared of the dark? Follow a gusty pup through an interactive Halloween app: Sounds in the House! Finally, an app that reveals what’s behind many, sometimes frightening, creaks and thuds that scare young and old on dark nights. Sounds in the House is a humorous interactive story with text and audio narration in both English and Spanish, a pronunciation guide, a finding activity and–of course–sounds.

Young children and adults will enjoy the jittery puppy, created by illustrator Channing Jones, who takes action and finds he is safe and loved. “It’s about facing fear,” says author Karl Beckstrand. “Once you know what causes those squeaks and bumps, you find there’s seldom cause to be afraid,” he says. Still, it is fun to see what makes a dog—or a person—jump, given the right start.

Not that anyone needs a comprehensive list of what keeps people awake at night, but Beckstrand’s mystery book Why Juan Can’t Sleep chronicles–with hilarity–every possible cause for insomnia. A finalist for a Utah Book Award this year, the newest edition in the Mini-mysteries for Minors series has finding activities and illustrations by Spanish artist Luis Sanz that grab readers and aid comprehension. From wild dreams to noisy neighbors, crazy critters and too much Chinese food, Beckstrand makes sure adults and kids are entertained at Halloween or any bedtime.

Beckstrand’s mysteries feature characters of color and usually end with a twist. They have been lauded by the Horn Book blog, ForeWord Reviews, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. Many are available in English-only, Spanish-only, and bilingual versions–with full text and pronunciation guide in both languages–and as e-books (for ages 4 – 10).

Other mysteries include: She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos, Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras. Sounds in the House may be heard in any home. Ask for the app or mystery books at: Sam Weller, King’s English, Premiobooks.com, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon/Kindle, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, Follett, Ingram,  EBSCO, Qualtiy Books, Premiobooks.com, Custamizabooks.com, Android and iTunes stores and libraries nationwide. The Sounds in the House app is compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android Tablets and phones, Kindle Fire, PC/Windows and Mac.

¿Alguna vez, has oído en tu casa ruidos que te asustan? ¿De dónde vienen esos chirridos y golpes? Te encantará descubrirlo. No hay nada que temer; Sounds in the House – Sonidos en la casa es una aplicación chistoso que explica las causas de esos sonidos espantosos. Este Halloween, aprenda sobre el temor, el valor y la amistad — con un perrito bravo. Un misterio divertido para toda la familia (2 años y arriba), incluye una guía de pronunciación en inglés y español, un actividad de búsqueda, dibujos vividos para ayudar con el vocabulario — y sonidos. La aplicación es compatible con iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android Tablets y telefonos, Kindle Fire, PC/Windows y Mac, y viene gratis con la compra de cualquier libro misterio por Premio (via Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Brodart, Follett Library Resources/BWI Title Wave, Ingram, Barnes & Noble/Nook, EBSCO, Premiobooks.com, Sam Weller’s.) La aplicación puede ser comprado en Custamizabooks.com, Amazon/Kindle, Android y iTunes.

Horse & Dog Adventures in Early California: Short Stories & Poems

MIDVALE, UT, USA – Animal lovers can get a peek at life in rural California in the early twentieth century when animals played a critical role in human survival. Author Ransom Wilcox knows—he lived it.

Wilcox’s family moved to the Sacramento Valley from Canada in 1907. They farmed, tended livestock, and sometimes got by via hunting and fishing. Once, when the hunter became the prey—of a charging wild boar—Wilcox stuck a pole he was carrying into the ground and climbed up!

Wilcox’s stories in, Horse and Dog Adventures in Early California, tell of his great love for a beautiful filly and how he depended on horses in ranching and hunting. He also writes about the devotion of a special dog that saved his life—and how he was later able to return the favor, performing emergency surgery on the injured canine. “Doc” Wilcox, as his friends called him, was a chiropractor by profession, and grateful for his medical training when his rescuer needed help.

Wilcox’s love of animals and the great outdoors is evident in his nature-themed stories and poems (for young and old). They convey courage, devotion, and perseverance with warmth and sincerity.

Also from Premio Publishing: No Offense: Communication Guaranteed Not to Offend by Karl Beckstrand (also from California). In his ninth book, Beckstrand captures with simplicity and wit the essence of non-offensive, politically correct communication. Funny–and free of degrading bits–this is safe, entertaining reading for the whole family. Beckstrand encourages (in a clever way) the expression of important ideas and respectful dialogue—which often lead to serendipitous solutions that neither side would have arrived at without the other. He makes a strong statement about the problems with political correctness—especially unconstitutional limits on free speech. PremioPublishing.com

Originally posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/21/2013 4:48 PM