Sep 07, 2021 7:45 PM

FHSU professor speaks about her children's book at Pratt museum

Posted Sep 07, 2021 7:45 PM
Artist and illustrator Kathleen Kuchar, a professor emerita at Fort Hays State University, speaks at the Vernon Filley Museum in Pratt on Friday. Photo by Jennifer Stultz / Pratt Tribune.
Artist and illustrator Kathleen Kuchar, a professor emerita at Fort Hays State University, speaks at the Vernon Filley Museum in Pratt on Friday. Photo by Jennifer Stultz / Pratt Tribune.

By JENNIFER STULTZ
Pratt Tribune

Friends Joyce Frey and Kathleen Kuchar, author and illustrator of "Millie's Garden," shared how their recently co-created children's book became a reality during the Friday Lunch and Learn workshop last week at the Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt.

"I never planned to write a children's book," Frey said. "I'm a teacher, I write technical, academic books. But I just had to tell the story unfolding in my back yard. That's how Millie's Garden came about. There's not another one out there."

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Frey, who taught for 20 years at Pratt Community College, said she had been watching a rabbit raise babies in her backyard for years in the small town of Macksville, where she lives.

"I have a few plants back there that I enjoy taking care of and watching grow. But I've noticed that every year I grow a batch of baby bunnies out there too," Frey said. "The same rabbit comes back every year, I named her Millie, and I really enjoy watching her from the window."

Frey said the rabbit in her back yard made her aware that, in life, sometimes people take special moments, gifts, for granted.

"I want to talk about nature, animals, children," she said. "Those are the most wonderful gifts any of us could ever have in our lives. Sometimes we just need to slow down a bit and enjoy them. They allow us to see life through a lens that is not all cluttered up with the problems of the world and the anxieties around us. These gifts allow us to use our imagination. We need to enjoy the creative things of life to be whole, happy."

Joyce Frey. Photo by Jennifer Stultz / Pratt Tribune
Joyce Frey. Photo by Jennifer Stultz / Pratt Tribune

Frey said she often talked to her good friend, Kuchar (who lives in Hays, Kansas) by phone, and one day she told her about the rabbits in her backyard. Together, the two friends decided to create a children's book with Frey writing the copy and Kuchar, an artist by trade, creating the illustrations.

"I'm an acrylic painter, not an illustrator, so I had to find people to ask who had done this before," Kuchar said.

Frey and Kuchar explained the process of creating a book, complete with ISBN numbers, copyrights, a Shutterfly proto-type and complete set of framed illustrations, to a crowd of more than 40 at the art museum.

After their presentation, participants could visit while viewing the illustrations, watch Kuchar mix and paint an acrylic picture, purchase "Millie's Garden" books and have them signed by the creators.

"Marketing a book on Amazon is a very difficult process to understand," Frey said. "We found we much prefer to share our story in this way, with real people, who are interested in what we have done."

Of the books sold at the Vernon Filley presentation, a percentage of the price went back to the museum to fund future art projects and exhibitions.

Republished with permission