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Ann Gonzales self-published her book, "Beloved and the Pepper Tree," which teaches children how to deal with challenging situations. Courtesy photo
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Local author uses books, arts to help children learn coping mechanisms

CARLSBAD — In times of high stress and anxiety, one local author helps kids through reading and art.

Ann Gonzales, 59, of Carlsbad has been using her virtual tools to help kids through life challenges. In 2018, she self-published her book “Beloved and the Pepper Tree,” which chronicles a little girl and her friendship with a tree.

In the story, the family moves but the young girl, Beloved, can’t take the tree. However, the tree helps Beloved cope with leaving her friends.

It’s a metaphor, Gonzales said, on how to face hardships.

“It parallels being a mother and going through these experiences with kids,” she added. “It’s got a message for adults as well as children. Concretely … it helps children move or face other challenges.”

Gonzales said a second book will center on how Beloved copes in her new town. She completed it in one day, although it won’t be released until her more aggressive marketing campaign for the first book is settled.

In addition to her writing, Gonzales is a certified expressive arts facilitator, working with people to overcome grief, resistance, letting go, or other challenges through art. Art gives people a tool to express themselves in a constructive and creative manner, she said.

Her workshops use art materials, guided prompts, paint, collage and other mediums to help sufferers of trauma, abuse and grief give “voice” to emotions, dealing with struggles otherwise not expressed and helping them discover what their images are saying.

Her work has ranged from sober living homes, Wounded Warriors and Camp Pendleton, to name a few.

“They transform a problem or an emotion into some kind of a solution,” Gonzales said. “We’ll talk a little bit about the topic and then I have an art project designed to explore whatever is going on.”

One of her go-to projects is having her clients paint the inside and outside of a mask. The exercise, she said, allows her clients to see the difference between the two paintings, which re-create how a person feels on the inside versus how they project themselves on the outside.

“There’s usually a striking difference with the front and inside of the mask,” Gonzales said. “We’ll talk about that and how to make their inner and outer worlds a little more matching.”