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Interview with "Dandelion: My House Chicken" Author Kim Carr

By Elizabeth Gracen:

I met Kim Carr one very hot summer day in Columbia, MO, at an outdoor art fair in the park. Black-and-white photography will always draw me in like a magnet, so I quickly made my way to her booth, where gorgeous black-and-white photos of farm animals and alpacas with delightfully funny expressions on their furry faces hung on the walls. I introduced myself, bought some photos, and invited Kim to write for Flapper Press. Lucky for us, over the years, Kim's Around the Farm series has graced our pages and offered a warm, insightful look into her life on a hobby farm. When she told me that she was publishing her first book, I couldn't wait to see what she had created.

Dandelion: My House Chicken is a splendid, heartwarming read and a feast for the eyes. The colorful, sweet story takes us right into the center of Kim's home and farm—chock full of beautiful animals. Simply put, it is a wonderful book that you can order here.

I reached out to Kim to ask her all about her lovely house chicken named Dandelion and a friendly duck named Buttercup!


Elizabeth Gracen: Kim, first of all, congrats on a fabulous new book. It is so vibrant and fun. Dandelion and Buttercup need their own TV series! Please tell our readers how the book came about and what your hopes are for the release.

Kim Carr: Sounds cliché, but dreams really do come true. Still pinching myself that I have an actual, real book!! What I love most of all is that it is a true story about my house chicken, Dandelion, and her best friend, Buttercup. It is a look into my everyday life here on the farm. Everyone has obstacles placed in their life; we have to learn to go through them, over them, or around them, and that’s what I did when I found myself with a baby chick and baby duck in need of care. I made the best of that challenge and came out a better person because of it.

There are so many challenges here on the farm, but with them come opportunity, a chance to share my story. A reality TV show would be a hoot, but I am a bit of a hermit. In fifth grade, we had a writing assignment about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote a wonderful story about wanting to be a hermit. I had it all planned out. The teacher gave me back my paper with a big red X on the first page. She told me that wasn’t a career, and I needed to write about being a veterinarian because I loved animals. I might have been little, but I knew I had no desire to be a veterinarian; I’m afraid of needles and pain, especially for animals. So, I failed the assignment. While I’m not a full-fledged hermit, I do appreciate the lifestyle that comes with the farm, being an artist, and an author. All allow for a quieter lifestyle. Not sure TV star is in my wheelhouse, though I’m sure the animals wouldn’t mind at all.

Kim Carr, Dandelion & Zak, illustration for Dandelion: My House Chicken

As for my hopes, I just want to get Dandelion: My House Chicken into the hands of as many readers as possible, of ALL AGES. I love the blend of information that I share while telling my story: it is educational and a fun read. I really love sharing what I know with others. The book is an excellent platform to share my everyday life with others who don’t get to share their house with a chicken. If I can help give someone a little insight into farm life, then I am a happy gal. I learned so much spending time on my grandparents’ farm. It was so much fun, I didn’t even realize all that I was learning in the process. What I learned on the farm as a kid has followed me all my life. I hope the same for Dandelion’s audience. You never know, maybe some day one of my readers might be on a major network, trivia game show. They might get a question like, “How many times a day does a chicken poop?” Then they can hit their buzzer and say, “I know THIS! I learned it in a book I read about a house chicken.”

EG: You are a terrific photographer of animals and life on the farm. However, the images in Dandelion have a playful, hybrid approach—illustration over photographic image. How did you decide on this particular look? Did you do the artwork yourself? If so, can you share some of your process?

KC: I started writing stories as a kid and got my first camera at the age of ten. I guess it was destiny that the two would eventually come together. For Dandelion, initially I was going to work with an artist to illustrate the book. I really admired her work and liked the idea of collaborating with another artist; but it never sat right in my head, since I am an artist, a photographer myself. I felt my photos would bring my story to life. The issue was my images of Dandelion were everyday snapshots that I had taken for fun, nothing too serious. The images meant something to me and told Dandelion’s story, but they needed some flare to really work in my book to bring the story to life. I was struggling to find a solution when my friends Barb and John in California reached out to me. They had been working with me from the git-go on the book project. I bounced things off of them constantly, they did my editing, and helped redirect me when needed. I'd played around with illustration programs in the past, because I’ve really wanted to create coloring books with my photography. Unfortunately, I never found anything that worked like I wanted it too; however, Barb and John found a program that fit beautifully in turning my photos into illustrations. It was a HUGE weight off my shoulders, because I could still use my photos for the book but give them an illustrated feel. I can’t even tell you how much I love the look. My images really pop in the book and just make it a FUN, engaging read for folks of all ages.

EG: The images have a warm, summertime glow—really electric, primary colors. When we first met, I was drawn to your black-and-white photography, but I think your use of color in the book really brings out the storyteller in you and perfectly illustrates the magical charm of this story from your ongoing Around the Farm series. Talk to me about color versus black and white and why you decided to go with a full-blast color palette for this book.

KC: That’s a great question because I am known for my black-and-white photography of farm animals. I have been working on a photo series featuring heritage breed farm animals for about five or six years now. Many of these breeds are in danger of extinction, which comes as a surprise to folks. We hear about elephants and tigers being endangered, but hardly anyone thinks about livestock and poultry being endangered.

Kim Carr, Alice, an Arapawa Island Goat. This breed of goat is critically in danger of extinction.

Through my photo project, I hope to raise awareness of livestock and poultry that are endangered.

For me, the black-and-white images for my heritage breeds really make you focus on the subject—no fluff, no distractions—plus, these are breeds of animals that are disappearing off the face of the Earth. Black and white helps cut through the clutter for the work that I am doing on this project. My goal is to publish these images and the farmers’ stories in the next year or two. Who knows, it might just be the first book in a heritage breed series. There’s a lot of potential for future books.

"Cayuga Ducks, Endangered Status: Watch"—from Kim Carr's Heritage Breed photo project

But while the black-and white-photography makes perfect sense to me when it comes to my heritage breeds, full color for my Around the Farm book series sets this project in another realm. Kids love my photography because they love animals, so I get a lot of kids in my booth at art shows; which is great, because kids are so inquisitive and are wonderful listeners, they are interested in the topic. They are so smart, and it gives me great hope there are caring souls out there that will make a difference.

Kim Carr, Buttercup as a Baby. Photo illustration—Dandelion: My House Chicken.

As for my Dandelion book, I think the bright colors will attract the young reader and allow me to connect with them in a way I haven’t done before. I feel the black and white versus the color brings a clear distinction between my two projects, yet there is a cohesiveness through my style that bridges my work together through familiarity with my work and my stories. I think it is a fun way for my audiences to recognize the differences between my heritage breed project and my farm stories yet still feel the connection, as it is one voice.

As a natural-light photographer, I never thought to alter my images. I’ve had folks ask me why I didn’t remove a fence or add clouds to the sky. I photograph it as it is. Using the illustration program for the book is a big leap for me. The nice things is, the photos are still exactly as I shot them, they just have a painterly feel now.

EG: Let’s talk about the stars of the book: Dandelion, the house chicken, and Buttercup, the duck. How would you describe their personalities? What have you learned about them from writing this book?

KC: Oh, my gosh . . . Dandelion and Buttercup both have personality PLUS!! It always strikes me as funny, but not funny, when someone says that chickens are dumb animals. First off, I’ve never met a dumb animal, and I have been around a lot of animals. Maybe some are not as smart as others, but I find all animals extremely interesting and fascinating to spend time with and watch. My first pet chicken was when I was about twelve on my grandparents’ farm. They had a red hen with one white feather, so I named her White Feather. She would sit on my shoulder and we would share a plum or apple together in the orchard. So I have always had a fondness for chickens.