I’m Mary Carpenter, the author of PONIES IN THE PARK. When I moved here with my daughter seven years ago, she was in third grade. Her class was learning about local Spokane history. We loved exploring Spokane and often spent hours in Riverfront Park. We wandered through the park, read signs about the park’s history and enjoyed many magical carousel rides. Often we created fictional stories about the park and the magical adventures that would occur. Story ideas would swirl around in my brain, and I would hold tight to these ideas and later jot them down on paper.
Below is a photo of one creative mind map (a detailing of ideas) that I used to help document my thoughts before beginning writing. I jotted down various story ideas for an adventure set in Riverfront Park. These ideas included possible characters and topics, and then I drew dotted lines to ideas that could involve an adventure. When contemplating the history behind Riverfront Park and how it became a park, I thought about the beautiful art in the Park, who made it, and why. I remembered the magical make-believe stories I created with my daughter…and that is how the idea for Ponies in the Park came about.
It was important to find a talented illustrator, who could draw horses and scenes from the park. Illustrations would be a crucial part in bringing my story to life and making this project a success. I hoped to find someone who shared my love for Spokane Riverfront Park and would partner with me on this creative journey.
After looking at many portfolios and websites, I finally found Mary Pat Kanaley’s name on a writer and illustrator website and looked through her portfolio at www.marypatkanaley.com. There was a picture of a little girl with a cat, who looked just like the little girl I had imagined. When Mary Pat and I got together, we immediately clicked. After talking for hours, I watched watching her draw, and I knew she was exactly the illustrator I wanted.
The painting of the girl on the horse was the one that Mary Pat created. It was the style and look that I wanted. We decided to team up and apply for a Spokane Arts Grant Award, so we could create this children's picture book. The grant would allow us funding to create, publish and have copies printed to donate to school libraries and teachers. This would provide a creative way for teachers to teach about the local art and history of Spokane Riverfront Park. Our hard work paid off when we were awarded the SAGA grant.
We have spent hours exploring Riverfront Park, looking, discussing, observing and taking a ton of pictures. One of the first things we changed was switching the golden puppy (pictured above) to a black puppy because I had just purchased a black miniature schnauzer. This way Mary Pat would have a real dog to use as reference, when she was drawing the puppy in various poses. I took some photos, and she created some sketches of my new pup. Mary Pat showed me these sketches, and we both agreed this new character would work for the story.
Ultimately, we discussed how the story would begin and how to create a “hook” that would draw in readers. Join us next time as we begin with our “sloppy copy” (the first draft) of the story and watch as we refine and plan layout of the book, which will allow Mary Pat work on some thumbnail sketches.