Chillicothe grad brings elves to life in books
It does not need to be the night before Christmas for Dorothea "Deedy" (Johnson) Jensen to have visions of things dancing in her head. Unlike the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas," she has elves popping into her mind rather than sugar plums.
Jensen, a 1963 graduate of Chillicothe Township High School, is penning eight stories about some of Santa's elves, called the Izzy Elves. Each story includes color illustrations and they all rhyme. Jensen said she thinks it is easier for her to write a rhyme than prose, possibly because she read a lot of Dr. Seuss as a child. The New Hampshire resident is currently finishing up the third book on "Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf," which she published while she was in town for her 50th class reunion.
Her elf adventure began with "Tizzy the Christmas Shelf Elf," which she wrote in 1991. She actually wrote it under a different name but changed it once it was published as a Kindle book in 2011.
Tizzy accidentally is packed up with the gifts for children, and finds himself not only in a tizzy, but comes face to face with children.
She already was an accomplished author, beginning with collaborating with her friend Catherine Allen. Together, they wrote three romantic comedies under the pen name Catherine Moorhouse. The trilogy of Adriana, Louisa and Dorothea was published in 1983.
After that she wrote "The Riddle of Penncroft Farm," which is a historical novel set during the American Revolution and is used in school classrooms. The book has won numerous awards, and Jensen said she has been paid compliments on the accuracy of portraying the time period.
In 2012, Jensen was working on another historical novel for children, "A Buss from Lafayette," when her older brother, Paul, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She helped take care of him, and found it was difficult to accurately keep writing about that time period.
Instead, she delved into what she calls "elf therapy." She wrote her follow-up story to Tizzy, which was "Blizzy, the Worrywart Elf," at his bedside. After his death in March of this year, she continued with writing Dizzy, which is dedicated to her brother.
An early childhood memory of her family helped shape the events with Dizzy.
Jensen's father, Dr. Hal Johnson, was making an early morning home call on Christmas Day. He returned home around 5 a.m. and thought it would be extra special to turn on the Christmas tree lights for when his children awoke. Unfortunately, he knocked over the Christmas tree, and upon hearing the crash, Jensen sprung into action, thinking it was her big chance to see Santa, she recalled.
Her only a year older brother, Paul, who was in first or second grade, stopped her and her sisters, knowing that there would not be any presents for them if they saw Santa.
"It doesn't happen very often that you get to trap Santa," Jensen said. "I'm not bitter," she said with a chuckle.
Her father was one of Chillicothe's well-known doctors, who just a few weeks ago died at the age of 91. She also dedicated a book to him, saying that he gave her the "leavening of laughter." Her father's relatives all seemed to have a keen sense of humor, she said.
It was both of her family members' death so close together that reminded her of her own mortality and encouraged her to keep writing.
Calling the elves a "haunting" in her brain, she said it only takes her a week or two to write the poem for the book, and she already knows what the stories will be for the other elves: Quizzy, Blizzy, Fizzy, Dizzy, Frizzy and Bizzy. The books are for school-age children and are intended to be read by a parent or grandparent to explain some of the words children may not understand on the text-heavy pages.
The Izzy Elves have their own Twitter account and blog, which provide some of the background information and what's going on in the North Pole. She also has plans possibly to create dolls of the elves. She also has audiobooks made for her stories.
"I was pretending I was reading to children and it made it easy," she said.
Since she has done quite a bit of acting and singing, she found the audiobook sessions to be enjoyable. For more information on how to purchase the written or audio books, they can be found on Amazon.com or her website: www.dorotheajensen.com.
While her other books are published by book companies, she chose to self-publish her elf stories so she could control the illustrations. The boys in the stories are her grandchildren and even their blankies are depicted.
Time will tell if they are like their grandmother, who used to read in a closet as it was the only quiet place she could find in her home as a child. Her mother was a musician.
She was a voracious reader as a child, and went on to major in English literature in college and get a master's degree in secondary education.
As to why reading is important, she referred to what Santa Claus told Tizzy the elf about why reading is important.
Tizzy squawked as he bounced like a ball on the floor.
"I completely forgot; Santa said something more.
He said that a book gives your very thoughts wings,
That carry you off to see wonderful things,
That lift you aloft, throughout time, throughout space
To every era and every place!"