By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: March 28, 2012
Lynn Friess. Photo credit: Carrie Patterson
“High on a hill just outside Jackson, Wyoming sits a wonderful museum that showcases the premier collection of wildlife art in the United States, the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Lynn Friess wrote Carl to introduce and engage children to the wonders of wildlife art and this amazing facility and resource. A grandmother of ten, this is Lynn’s second children’s book. An avid art collector, she shares this delightful tale with you and her grandchildren.” —http://www.mariposaranchpress.com/
TCBR: At age 70 you started your own publishing company, Mariposa Ranch Press. What or who was it that inspired you to take on this new endeavor?
Lynn Friess: Friends inspired me to do something with the song that I had written my first granddaughter. After being rejected by Marketing at a prominent publishing house because they did not want to publish a children’s western picture book that year, I took ‘the bull by the horns’ and started Mariposa Ranch Press.
You created the character of Carl, an inquisitive chipmunk and the star of your book Carl Discovers Wildlife Artpublished through Mariposa Ranch Press and the first book in a series of four, to introduce children to the joy of reading and, of course, wildlife art. Obviously, chipmunks are adorable little critters found in our surrounding nature, but what was the determining factor behind making a chipmunk be your protagonist?
When I was Chairman of the Board of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, I felt the Museum should have a story to introduce children to wildlife art. Around the Museum lived golden marmots and chipmunks. While walking to the Museum one day, I spied a very brave little chipmunk running up the ramp to the back door of the Museum. The door was propped open. He had such a charming way about his scurrying that I thought…”here is the animal for the book!’After consultation with one of the Founders of the Museum, Bill Kerr, we named him ‘CARL ‘, after Carl Rungius, the ‘Father of North American Wildlife Art”.
Can you tell us about Carl and how he connects children to the topic of wildlife art?
CARL has an interesting story. He loves to read all the time. By reading he finds answers to his questions. His parents are concerned about what he will be when “he grows up.” They’re always giving him books with the hope, that, by reading, he will make a choice of what career he will select. When CARL discovers, on his first visit to the Museum, that he loves wildlife art he immediately sets a goal, works hard to attain it, and becomes a guide for wildlife on wildlife art. Because of John Potter’s marvelous illustrations, CARL connects with the young reader, and creates a desire to know more about wildlife art. [We had one little girl run up to Rungius's Black Bear painting and squeal: "Mommy, Daddy…this is CARL's favorite painting!!" And she then stood in front of the piece and looked it all over.] When I was told this story by Museum Staff, I thought…Mission accomplished.
Wildlife art being a focal topic means that the artwork of your picture book plays an important element. How did you select John Potter, an accomplished landscape and wildlife artist, to be your illustrator?
When the story for the book was approved, the CEO and President of the Museum, and the Curator of Art decided to have a contest. Three fine local artists who could draw both animals and human beings were selected to participate. Dr. Adam Harris, Curator of Art, also presented John Potter, a noted landscape and wildlife artist. Early in his career, John had been a political cartoonist for a newspaper in Montana. It was evident by his drawings and sketches that John would be our fourth person. On the day the sketches arrived, I propped all the entries up in an office for the judges to view. Hands down, it was felt that John Potter had captured the essence and personality of Carl and would do an excellent job.
llustration copyright © by John Potter
You have won a 2012 Mom’s Choice Award for this picture book. What does winning this award mean to you?
Winning the 2012 Mom’s Choice Award for Carl Discovers Wildlife Art has been one of the great joys of my life. The story is delightful and the drawings superb. I worked with a fine printer, who fell in love with this little character. He urged me to publish a book of the best quality that would be passed down to the next generation. Having Mom’s Choice select it as one of the top books for children for 2012 indicates to me that excellence in producing a book with a great message will win awards and become a classic.
Your story carries the solid message that reading is fun and empowering—an important declaration. As the grandmother of eleven children, has your pursuit of publishing books for children sparked a greater love for the written word within your family?
My pursuit of publishing books for children definitely has sparked a greater love for the written word within my family. My four children have always known that their mother loved to read and that books and fine magazines were and are an important part of her life. Having 11 grandchildren, who are my greatest critics for each manuscript, has caused me to pursue good story lines that reveal to children that reading is fun and empowering. All my grandchildren who can read, LOVE to read.
The second book in the “Carl” series, Carl and the Mysterious Nibbler, was released in 2011. When should readers expect to see the next two installments?
The third book, in a series of four about Carl, has been finished. The manuscript is now with the artist, John Potter, to create the illustrations. It is entitled Carl and the Shadow Hill Gang and is about conservation and preservation. The story line is based around a sculpture trail being built around the Museum. Animal habitats are being invaded. The Shadow Hill Gang comes together, under the leadership of Carl, and alerts the human population that things need to change. This third book will be available in September of 2012.
The fourth book will be about Carl and mathematics in art. Based on a program that the Museum taught to first, second and third grades several years ago with great success, it will involve research to present an inviting view of math that exists in the art world for young readers..
Before writing Carl Discovers Wildlife, you wrote the award-winning Western Lullaby. What was the inspiration behind this book?
The inspiration for Western Lullaby was the request from my youngest daughter. She wanted a lullaby for her soon-to–be-born baby. I had written a catchy little song for my first grandson. So I set about to write a soft, gentle song for a baby. Walking early every morning up the butte behind our house and looking out on the beautiful Grand Teton Mountain range outside of Jackson, WY provided a backdrop as I hummed and slowly wrote the words for the song that is dedicated to my first granddaughter!
From concept to completion, can you tell us about the process of publishing your books?
After the concept of Carl was approved, I wrote the story line in Tanzania while on safari. I had the Curator of Education and the Curator of Art at the Museum approve the text. I then participated in the selection of an illustrator and moved on to finding a publisher. I had kept extensive notes on producing Western Lullaby with Verve Marketing in Pennsylvania. I knew I could publish the second book on my own. I selected a publisher, Paragon Press of Salt Lake City. Ken Wayman, the owner, and I worked shoulder to shoulder to select the size, paper, binding and colors for the book. When we went to press I was right there watching what was happening and making sure that the quality, color and presentation was what I had envisioned. It is a great deal of work but the ultimate product and the awards for my first two books indicate that Mariposa Ranch Press is on the right path.
Where are we most likely to find you when you are not writing and publishing books for children?
You are most likely to find me out in nature enjoying the beautiful scenery of Wyoming, or working on the 2 museum Boards I serve on, or doing something with my grandchildren. During the summer we go to our ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming, and entertain family and friends with gorgeous scenery, western lore, trail rides and campfires. The West is a marvelous place, providing lots of inspiration and experiences for this writer who approaches her 72nd birthday with a happy heart!
All the best,
Lynn Estes Friess
For more information, visit: http://www.mariposaranchpress.com/