Inspiration can strike from anywhere, even a tree stump

Connie Kittleson Tollefson created her children’s book titled “Papa Gnomes’s Magical Mirror Tree Stump Home” in the fall of 2018. Inspired by a lovely tree stump she plans to make into a reading spot, she found her muse in the old, happy gnome posed beside her. Shyanne Belzer/MDN

When someone wants to create art, whether it be a written piece of work, painted, chiselled, or sung, inspiration can strike from anything, anywhere and anytime. For Connie Kittleson Tollefson of Surrey, her inspiration and muse came from the stump of a large tree across from a Surrey school and a magical gnome.

The story of “Papa Gnome’s Magical Mirror Tree Stump Home” began to form in Tollefson’s head after she and her husband began to work on the stump and follows an old Gnome known as Papa Gnome. Wishing to follow his dreams, Papa Gnome decides to leave his home and travel somewhere new.

“It’s an adorable story for the imagination,” said Tollefson.

The story works to teach a variety of lessons for young readers such following your dreams, that while we may not all look alike, we can come together and to not be afraid of change or something different.

Tollefson began writing the book in the end of August in 2018, finishing it by October. She paired with local artist Roxi Mathis, who has experience illustrating children’s books, and had it published. The experience, she said, was amazing and the book turned out beautiful.

“I’d always had the dream of being a writer, but I just didn’t know what I was going to do until I saw this tree stump,” Tollefson explained.

As soon as her inspiration hit, she knew what she had to do. She scoured the internet for the perfect gnome to be the center of her story, purchasing him and naming him Papa. She set him near where she wrote and the words just came out.

“It all just came into place,” she said.

Tollefson grew up on a farm in a large family of 11 children. Her mother was a teacher and Tollefson followed in her footsteps, working as a paraprofessional teaching children with disabilities and then as a preschool teacher. She and her husband also owned and operated Tollefson’s Classic Woodworks before retiring.

After her mom passed away in 2010. Tollefson received an inheritance which she saved and used to create “Papa Gnome’s” story.

She was always a strong reader and always read to her children and grandchildren, so making a children’s book just seemed right.

While creating the book, she told only a handful of people. She wanted the new novel to be a surprise for most of her friends and family and didn’t want to tell them until the book was in her hand.

Once the book was published, she called her children who lived a distance away to tell them.

“They were all blown away. My family was so excited and loved it,” she explained. “I took one of my kids and their family out to dinner to show them and it was amazing to see their expressions. It was priceless and a memory that I’ll cherish.”

She hopes that when children read “Papa Gnome’s Magical Mirror Tree Stump Home” or have it read to them, they will feel the happiness she feels and be able to imagine who they want to be and where they will want to go as they get older.

One goal of Tollefson’s related to her new book is to take it to children in hospitals around the state alongside some gnome fleece blankets made by a friend of hers to read the book to them.

Tollefson’s book is available at a variety of places online including amazon.com and booktopia.com. “Papa Gnome’s Magical Mirror Tree Stump Home” is also available in Minot at Barnes & Noble, Main Street Books and both the Minot Public Library and the Ward County Public Library.

Tollefson will be doing two different book signing events in March. The first will take place on Saturday at Main Street Books starting at 1 p.m. The second will be March 23 at Barnes & Noble at 1 p.m.