A little insight into my life, and how I came to be a graphic designer, author and public speaker…
I am born in Münster, Germany, in July 1974 to German parents. My name is Elke Dossler.
Kindergarten, Here I Come!
First day of nursery at the Kindergarten St. Mauritz in Münster, Germany.
I'm a Big Girl Now!
First day of primary school at the Mauritzschule in Münster, Germany.
I'm a Big Sister!
My lovely sister Silke is born. I am sooooo excited!!!
School’s Out - Forever!
I graduate from the Johann-Conrad-Schlaun Gymnasium (high school) in Münster with the German Abitur (A-Levels) – Abi ‘93!
New York, N.Y.!
I move to New York City the same year, where I work full-time as an Au Pair. At the weekends I help out as ‘monitor assistant’ in the life drawing classes I attend at the Art Students League of N.Y.
I move to the UK to do a Foundation Course in Art & Design at Newcastle College, and meet Martin, my future husband.
First Class BA (Hons) Degree
I graduate from the Glasgow School of Art with a First Class Honours Degree in Visual Communication/Graphic Design.
The same year, I win one of the prestigious Yellow Pencils in the world-famous D&AD (British Design & Art Direction) Student Awards.
Home Sweet Home...
Martin and I buy our first home together – in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The World of Self-Employment...
After working as a designer for creative agencies Navy Blue and Crombie Anderson in Edinburgh, and doing several placements across the UK and the US, including the world-famous agency Ogilvy & Mather in New York, I set up my own business: ‘one shoop – serious fun with design’ – a play on words: ‘two feet, one foot – two sheep, one shoop!’.
Playlab Distribution, a new design initiative brought about by the creators of Playlounge and Toy2R, run the ‘Design-A-Qee 2004’ competition – ‘qees’ being highly collectable keychain toys. My ‘Bug’ Qee design is one of twenty entries that make it into a special UK limited edition production.
Martin and I get married exactly 9 1/2 years after we started dating. My new name is Elke Barber.
Our son is born, making us a happy little family of three.
Our daughter is born, making us an even happier little family of four. Life seems pretty perfect…
Martin suffers a heart attack while away on a ‘boys only’ holiday with our three-year old son. Alex manages to get help, but Martin dies inside the ambulance. He is 34. Without warning, I am a young widow and a single mum to two grieving children under four. I never get to say goodbye to my husband. I am in total shock.
"Is Daddy Coming Back In a Minute?"
“How many more sleeps until I have to die, Mummy?”
“Who will look after me when you die, Mummy?”
Alex bombards me with constant questions. When I can’t find a picture book to explain ‘death’ to very young children, I vow to write my own.
My Chapter Two...
I meet John and become step mum to five gorgeous girls. I am starting to believe that life might just turn out okay after all.
Our First Book Is Coming Together...
Having been turned down by all of the publishers I approached with my manuscript for “Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? – explaining death to very young children in words they can understand”, I decide to try and self-publish. I commission the talented Anna Jarvis to do the illustrations.
Spreading Daddy's Ashes...
Alex, Olivia and I spread Martin’s ashes. Despite my initial unease, it turns out to be a really positive experience. I am glad I had the courage to involve the children.
John and I buy our first family home together – in Gorebridge, Midlothian.
Life is good.
I find a lump in my left breast, and am diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. Alex and Olivia are now six and three… I undergo chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiotherapy, and will need to be on hormone treatment for many years to come. I am eternally grateful that I found the cancer while it’s still treatable. In between hospital appointments, I continue working on our book. The page that starts “Who will look after me when you die Mummy?” sends shivers down my spine. It had never really occurred to me that I might not be here for my daughter’s first day of school…
Photo by Jon Savage – jonsavagephotography.com
Thank You Amazing, Wonderful, Gorgeous Crowdfunders!
I had money put aside to pay for the illustrations and the print run of “Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?”, but when chemotherapy makes me too ill to function, John takes all of his holidays, then unpaid leave, then, unable to give his work the return date they demand, he quits his job to look after me and the kids. We used the money I had put aside for day-to-day living. Determined to make the book happen still, I decide to try and crowdfund the amount I need to pay for the illustrations and the print run. I am absolutely blown away by the amazing support I receive, and my belief in human kindness is more than restored. Thank you all so, so much – not just for the financial support, but also for all of your messages, your little – and big! – acts of kindness, spreading the word and all the presents you sent throughout my chemo. It means the absolute world, and helped me keep going more than you will ever know. I love you all!
Narcolepsy / Cataplexy
After years of trying to get to the bottom of Alex’s excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and his extremely disturbed nighttimes, a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) finally confirms that he has narcolepsy / cataplexy – an extremely rare neurological condition, which is currently incurable and affects every minute of every day of his life – and ours…
In layman’s terms this means that he will never be able to stay awake all day, he will never be able to sleep through the night, he suffers from severe nightmares as well as sleep paralysis, he will need medication day and night, and scheduled naps – including at school – forever, and every time he laughs or thinks of something funny his muscles stop working and he collapses to the ground. He is seven.
Our First Book Is Here!
The first print run of “Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?” is delivered to our house. We are so excited! I send out lots of copies as part of the crowdfunding rewards and am overwhelmed by people’s positive reactions. I cry. A lot. 2012 has been very eventful and very emotional…
John and I get married, and I change my name to Elke Thompson. We celebrate with family and friends and it is just the best day!
Photo by McQ Photography, Edinburgh
I am so excited to have been invited to speak at TEDxMünster 2014 – ‘Understanding the World’, where I talk about how our book came into being, the importance of being honest with children, teaching emotional resilience, and following your dreams.
Our Second Book!
With a little help of some crowdfunding – thaaank you all! – I self-publish our second book: “What Happened to Daddy’s Body? – Explaining what happens after death in words very young children can understand”, illustrated once again by the talented Anna Jarvis. This book talks about cremation, burials, spreading the ashes, and living after loss.
CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Award Nomination!
“Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?” is nominated for the prestigious CILIP Carnegie Medal for an outstanding book for children and young people and the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. I am soooooo excited!
"Is Daddy Coming Back In a Minute?" in German!
I self-publish “Is Daddy Coming Back In a Minute?” in German. It is called “Kommt Papa gleich wieder?”; translated from the original by the lovely Astrid Eckstein. I did consider translating it myself, but in the end decided against it, as I had neither been living in Germany, nor been around very young German children for over twenty years, and wanted to make sure that the essence of their language and customs was captured perfectly.
Live on German TV...
I am interviewed on the German Talkshow “Unter Uns – Geschichten aus dem Leben” to talk about “Kommt Papa gleich wieder?” (the German version of “Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?”), and the events leading up to writing the book. It gets aired on mdr – Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk.
I Find a UK Publisher!
Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) take on both our books: “Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?” (ISBN 978-1-78592-106-3) and “What Happened to Daddy’s Body?” (ISBN 978-1-78592-107-0). I am soooooo excited!
They are available to buy on www.jkp.com, priced at £10.99 each.
The German publisher “Mabuse-Verlag” takes on “Kommt Papa gleich wieder?” (the German version of “Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?”) – ISBN 978-3-86321-429-6. This is fab news!
It is available to buy on www.mabuse-verlag.de, priced at EUR 12.95.
I am now officially a British Citizen! I feel super emotional, and couldn’t be prouder.
The last decade has been eventful. My life has changed, and so have I. I decide to rebrand in order to showcase everything I do and feel passionate about in one place. This place…
Goodbye oneshoop, hello elkethompson.com! I am super excited!