Kristina Tollefson (she/her) is a self-advocate from Marshall, Minnesota who shared her experiences as a writer with The Arc Minnesota in a question (Q) and answer (A) style interview.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the art that you create and how you got started?
A: Well, how I started getting writing was just for something to do. I’ve written – well first thing I wrote was a book for school – a project we did for school. It was about my fish. And then I wrote a book for 4H called “The Search”– kind of based on hide-and-seek. And then I wrote about sharing and I used sock puppets – that was also a 4H project. I’ve been writing a story since my oldest nephew was born in 2005. I added characters after another niece and nephew were born. Leif, Tryg, and Arya. Arya’s character got hit by a comet – that’s how she got her powers. The other two were hit by lightning. In the story we have evil robots, we have aliens, there’s music in each story – from classic rock, to eighties music, to pop. I always end it with an end-of-the-world party – it’s the end of the book and my favorite part to write. We had three weddings in the last chapter – eventually we’ll add new characters in the story. We are on page 31 in this story!
I’ve written a couple of plays – one was about cooking and one was about friends. I’ve created puppet shows. My best friend is blind and Brailled her part – and then I got a Braille version of The Search. I still have the puppets – even though they’re not in the best shape anymore! They’ve lost a lot of cotton. I do change up their voices a little bit too. I volunteer at the YMCA and worked at daycares so I’ve done puppet shows there. I write Harry Potter fan fiction too.
Q: What inspires and motivates you to create?
A: Just my imagination – just something to do. It’s a lot of fun writing the story for my nieces and nephews. I always try to watch a story when I’m watching TV – I try to do something when I’m watching TV.
Q: Does your art tell a story about yourself? What is that story?
A: Yeah – kind of! I always end the stories with, “This is the end of the story for now, I’d like to say a couple thank you’s to a couple people. The first is to the music – eighties pop and tv theme songs. The second is my mom and dad – especially my dad and the love of music. The third one goes to the tv show Supernatural – especially season 4 and 5 – for the end of the world chapter. The last goes to my brother and sister-in-law – without those three kids these stories wouldn’t happen.”
The kids have a lot of fun reading the stories. And I have a lot of fun writing and reading the stories too. And then I share the upcoming themes. It’s been a lot of fun to write the weddings! I go on baby-naming websites and I have baby-naming books to come up with names of characters. I was an eighties baby – I was born in 1981, so we have some eighties themes. I also go to this writing thing at the library on Wednesdays to meet fellow writers – I’ve been doing that for a couple years. It’s been going on at the library for 30 years or so.
Q: What are you most proud of as an artist?
The story for my nieces and nephews and writing the “sharing” puppet show. And the writing the story about The Search. The story I’m writing now is rated G and PG – there’s little bit of romance – but it’s not rated NC-17 like my Harry Potter fan fiction! Because this story is really written for children too. It’s more sweet and simple. Picking out the music for the wedding parts was really fun. I write in what the music is too. “The Last Party” by Mika will be for the end-of-the-world party chapter. When Ariya finds out she is pregnant, the song is “Circle of Life” by Elton John. I find a song and think “Yes! This song will totally work for this chapter.” I shared the Spirit theme song from Spirit for chapter 34 for the story I’ve been writing – when one of my nephews finds out he’s going to have kids. And we bring characters back from earlier parts of the book. I get names from the songs too like Sara by Jefferson Starship and Lola by The Kinks. My pen name ended up being Kiss M. Tollefson because it was supposed to be Kris but my computer wrote it wrong!
I always print in color ink – and certain chapters are certain colors, and the interlude is a different color, and the end-of-the-world party chapter is in its own color and font through the end.
Q: Have there been any challenges you have had to overcome as an artist?
A: My hands get tired after a while – but that’s due to my cerebral palsy – it mostly affects my hands and my feet. My hands get tired if I write for a long time. So, I shake my hands out when I’m typing or writing. Sometimes I number the chapters wrong, so then it’s just okay there are more than I thought there would be. I always proofread it at the end.
Q: Is there a relationship between your art making and community. If so, could you tell us about this?
A: Yeah – I enjoyed doing presentations for the puppet shows. I’ve met new people from writing – I say “hi” to people at the library and have a met a few people from that. One of the librarians before (they are retired now) had told me about it. And then I got to meet other people that write.
Q: Why is creating art important?
A: It shows your imagination – it’s just an outlet to write down your thoughts. I have a really good imagination – I started making stories as a kid. I love my imagination. I would make stories with stuffed animals, and Barbies, and horses.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start creating?
A: Just write what your favorite genre is – write what your thoughts are. If you’re having a bad day, it’s just fun to write something down. I always get a kick reading my stories out loud when I get a chance. I always laugh! There’s this one chapter – it’s one of my favorites – when Leif finds out he’s going to be a father. He actually runs away and goes to a bar and Joe the bartender gives him advice. And then another character is so excited to become a father! But my nephews have totally different personalities – so things might happen in different ways.
Check out some of Kristina’s song picks for some of the story chapters!
“Circle of Life” by Elton John