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Author to visit Waupaca

Public presentation at library

By Angie Landsverk

Jarrett J. Krosoczka was a third grader when an author visited his school and said two words to him as he walked past his desk.

“Nice cat,” Jack Gantos said after noticing Krosoczka’s work.

Krosoczka had drawn the character from one of the author’s “Rotten Ralph” books.

All these years later, Krosoczka remembers how those words made him feel that day.

“I do indeed remember how confident that made me feel,” he said. “And I think of that every time that a student rushes up to me to share their artwork or writing.”

Krosoczka has loved to draw since he was a preschooler, and many encouraged him to use his gift.

At age 23, he became a published author.

“Good Night, Monkey Boy” was his first book.

Krosoczka now has more than 30 published books, including picture books and graphic novels.

His latest one is “Hey, Kiddo.”

The young adult graphic memoir was a finalist in the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

In it, Krosoczka shares his story about growing up with a mother who was addicted to drugs and being raised by his grandparents, Joe and Shirley Krosoczka.

“I started thinking about writing my story when I was first published in 2001,” he said. “But it wasn’t until my TED Talk went viral in 2013 that I started giving this book more serious thought.”

In October 2012, Krosoczka did that TED talk.

“In that presentation, I shared some about my mother’s addiction to heroin,” he said. “And from there on out, I would meet young people across the country who were living with similar sets of circumstances. So there was this switch where I went from thinking this was a book that I’d like to write to being a book that I needed to write.”

One of the themes in Krosoczka’s story is his mother’s love for him.

The two of them shared the gift of drawing.

She battled her addiction for close to 50 years, and died of a heroin overdose in 2017.

Krosoczka was revising the text for “Hey, Kiddo” when she passed away.

His mother knew he was writing the memoir and hoped their story would help others on similar paths.

He said it was therapeutic to write and illustrate the book, but also “incredibly difficult at times.”

On Monday, Feb. 4, Krosoczka is visiting Waupaca to give multiple presentations to Waupaca students.

His public presentation is at 6:30 p.m. that day, in the Waupaca Area Public Library’s lower-level meeting rooms.

“Being an author is like being an actor — you’re inhabiting the souls of the characters on your pages,” he said. “So getting to have a stage with an audience filled with young readers is such a gift.”

In his school presentations, Krosoczka shares artwork he made throughout his maturation as an artist.

“It begins with preschool crayon drawings and transitions to cartoon drawings drawn in elementary school,” Krosoczka said. “It demystifies my origins as an author. I also share my creative process so that the students see that these books take time and several drafts.”

His grandfather taught him to work hard.

“The work ethic that Joe instilled in me is still there, and I am always working on a book project,” he said. “As a self-employed writer and artist, you need to be relentless, and make sure you’re working hard to keep everything afloat for the family.”

Krosoczka and his wife Gina have three children: ages 10, 7 and 2.

“Joe and Shirl are definitely still with me, and I so wish that they could know my children,” he said.

Krosoczka plans to continue telling stories with words and pictures.

“Sometimes they will be for the youngest readers, some for the middle readers and some for teens and adults,” he said. “I feel so fortunate that I get to rely on my imagination for my vocation.”

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