MARQUETTE - The inspiration for her children's book came to Marquette author Carrie Pearson one day while she was in the woods.
"This story came to me one exceptionally cold winter day when I was snowshoeing on the trails by my house," Pearson said in an email. "As I walked across a bridge deep in the woods, I noticed a deer watching me. His head was cocked to the side as if he was trying to figure out what I was. I decided I must look strange to him with my hat, mittens, and many layers of clothing.
"That's when I had the idea of animals wondering how humans stay warm in the winter."
That idea has become the book "A Warm Winter Tail," written by Pearson, illustrated by Christine Wald and published by Sylvan Dell.
Pearson is currently doing book signings, including two in Marquette in the next few weeks.
A native of downstate Hillsdale, Carrie Clevidence Pearson had one older brother growing up.
"Our parents divorced when I was 7," she said. "Most people would think divorce is an unlucky event, but it resulted in me becoming independent and an expert at packing my weekender bag! Every other Friday through Sunday, I would visit my dad where he lived on a lake, or at my grandmother's farm in Jonesville, Mich.
"My childhood was filled with outdoor experiences including riding horses, zipping around on snowmobiles, picking rocks from farm fields, and building forts in the woods," Pearson said. "My mom remarried and when I was 15 and 16, I was blessed with two baby sisters. I did babysit quite a bit which cramped my high school style, but my close relationship with them contributed to my love of children.
"Much later, when I met my husband, Wally Pearson, who grew up in Marquette (and is a very vocal spokesperson for it!), I visited here and instantly felt a strong connection to it. Although we tried out other locations, we couldn't imagine settling anywhere else. We moved to Marquette in 1995 and don't intend to leave."
Pearson remembers her first writing experience quite well.
"My earliest memory of the impact of words was when I was about 5. I 'wrote' notes to my mom, hid them around the house for her to find, and she responded in writing," Pearson recalled. "Even though I spent much of my day with her, this form of communication made me feel special."
During her school days, Pearson received a good response to her fiction and non-fiction writing both, leading to her first career.
"Because I tested out of taking English classes at the University of Michigan (demonstrating I could communicate on the page), I secured a job writing business plans for an investment banking firm - without any business background," she said. "Over the years and in different venues, I wrote many business plans, grants, marketing materials, newsletter articles, and proposals."
After having three daughters - Taylor (now 17), Elle (15), and Sierra (13) - Pearson decided in 2007 to write something outside of the business world.
"My first published pieces were a free verse poem about Nordic ski training in the Superiorland Ski Club newsletter (thank you, Dennis Whitley) and later, a nonfiction article in Michigan History Magazine in September 2010," she said. "I incorporated research from the article into a middle grade historical novel called 'Chasing Home' that I am currently submitting.
"Sylvan Dell Publishing purchased the manuscript for 'A Warm Winter Tail' in May 2011 and I am thrilled to be sharing it now."
A companion manuscript will be released in spring of 2014 and if the reaction to the first book is any indication, Pearson will have another hit on her hands.
"The response has been wonderful. Teachers and librarians like the educational aspects of the book, booksellers praise the amazing illustrations, and parents tell me the richness of the topic - how animals adapt to cold - keeps their children on their laps longer," she said. "My Marquette and Hillsdale communities have completely supported this book (and my writing journey) and I am so grateful."
One thing she's asked all the time is about the book's illustrations and did she do them?
"After I stop giggling because I can barely draw a one-legged stick figure, I answer, 'No and you wouldn't want me to!," Pearson said. "Most people don't understand that unless the writer happens to be a professional children's book illustrator, they do not create the illustrations. For my book, a talented illustrator named Christina Wald was selected by Donna German, an editor with great vision. I couldn't be happier about working with both of them."
Pearson joyfully will continue writing.
"I really can't not write! It's become a part of my life now, like eating or breathing, but I do my best writing while running in the woods," she said. "When let loose, my brain connects dots I never even see while at my computer.
"I highly encourage this method of writing."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.