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

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

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.


Dandelion was actually the second house chicken I have raised. Was she smarter than your average chicken, or was it due to being raised in the house? I don’t know, but she was one clever chick. Same with Buttercup, they were both just lovable, real-life characters. They loved attention, even sought it out. You couldn’t help but notice them when visiting the farm. Anyone who ever met them fell in love, just like me.


The biggest thing that I have learned from them while writing their story is that I am one lucky gal. I really am. What a life. If you have a special connection with an animal—whether it is a dog, cat, horse, parakeet, goldfish, duck, or chicken—count yourself lucky. Life is good, take joy in the simple things.

Kim Carr, Buttercup and Dandelion as Babies. Such a joy to be a part of their lives. I love the illustration filter I used on my photos. It brings out the color of the images and helps add to my story.


EG: Aside from the terrific close-ups of the lead characters, we get a real glimpse into the life on a hobby farm and what it’s like to live with so many animals. The pages introduce many animal characters (I love Zak!). Are you planning to spin off stories about more of your animal family?


KC: Absolutely! Dandelion was just my first. It was hard to make that initial step, but now the ball is rolling. Funny that you should mention Zak. He is such a ham, but he has a great story, along with his mom, Lucy, his sister, Marilyn, and his other nine siblings. That is the next book in my series from Around the Farm, a story about my dogs and how Lucy came to be at Hybrid Hollow Farm. The outpouring of love and support from friends and family is an amazing story that demands to be a book. I will be working on it this summer and fall, along with continuous work on my heritage breed book.


Other book plans in my head are stories about my bottle-fed calf, Patty Ann, my pain in the neck goats Billy Bob and Buford . . . I have many stories to pull from that I think will be entertaining, educational, and probably tickle the ole funny bone. I’d also like to do a book of just random stories from around the farm. I’m feeling much more confident now about putting my life in book form.


Kim Carr, Marilyn and Lucy on the Floor. Zak on the Couch.


EG: All of the images of your mother throughout the book make me smile. You’ve talked a lot about her in another piece for Flapper Press, and she is a vital part of the story. What would she think of this book?


KC: Undoubtedly, my mom would be ecstatic. She wasn’t the type to do cartwheels and backflips, but she always had my back 110%. She worked tirelessly behind the scenes helping me achieve my dreams and goals. I can’t tell you how much work she put into helping me keep my work and inventory organized, helping me make handmade cards, matting prints, and helping me get ready for art shows. I so wish she was still here to celebrate the publishing of Dandelion.


My mom was a key player in Dandelion's and Buttercup's survival. She’s the one who tended to them when I was away at art shows. In fact, she took care of all the critters here, cows and all. She actually took two of the photos in the book: the one of me at my desk and the one in the bio. My mom is as much a part of this book as everything else here around the farm. I can only remember my mom telling me no, or that I shouldn’t do something, twice in my life. Funny enough, both of those times I learned that I should have listened to my mom. She led by example, and I know she would be very proud that I am living my dreams.


Kim Carr, Illustration from the Dandelion Book of My Mom, Jo, and Great Nephew, Brycen.

EG: As someone who self-published a few years ago, I know the challenge of getting a printed book out into the marketplace. Can you share a little bit about the choices you made for printing and publishing? What was the most challenging part of creating the book?


KC: The biggest fear for me was just the unknown. Putting a book together and getting it published was completely out of my wheelhouse. I had no knowledge of anything at all and no idea where to start.


A year or so before COVID hit and shut down the world, I was doing an art show in Wildwood. A lady, Pam Wilson, stopped in my booth, as she really liked my photography. We got to chatting, and I told her about the heritage breed photo project I was working on, and she said I need to do a book. I excitedly told her that was the big plan. As it turns out, she was exactly who I needed to meet at that time in my life. She was working some with Cathy Davis of Creative Publishing Partners at the time. She gave me a business card and told me to give Cathy a call. Being someone who believes we never know unless we try, I gave Cathy a call. We met up in person, and I really liked her. I grew less fearful of the whole publishing thing but was still wavering and afraid to make that leap.


Fortunately, enough folks out there believe in me, and I kept hearing over and over again, “Kim, you need to write a book.” So, with the passing of my mom, I got the slap in the face, you never know how long we have on this Earth, don’t wait to do what you want to do. I worked with Cathy, her husband, Jack, and their assistant Julie at Creative Publishing Partners in St. Louis, Missouri. They helped me with all the technical stuff of getting a book out there into the world. They handled setting me up on Amazon and Ingram Spark, getting my ISBN numbers, and all the nitty gritty stuff. Once again, behind the scenes work that was beyond my scope. With all the work they did, it allowed me to establish my own publishing company, Hybrid Hollow Production. I have my books printed on demand through KDP, which is the publishing arm of Amazon. This allowed me to sell books through my website and to have books on hand for upcoming speaking engagements. While my name is on the cover, the book really was a group effort. I’m so very lucky to have such wonderful people in my corner.


EG: Dandelion is a Hybrid Hollow Production. Tell me more about Hybrid Hollow and what we can expect from future projects?


KC: Hybrid Hollow was born over thirty years ago. I had a mule named Davy Crockett. Since mules are a cross between a horse and a donkey, it makes them a hybrid. They can’t be registered like purebreds, but they can be registered with the mule and donkey society. I needed a farm name to register my mule, so we could accumulate points by participating in events (parades, school visits, and such). Crockett and I earned enough points that he was inducted into the Mule and Donkey Society’s Hall of Fame in 1996. You needed a farm name to register, so my friend and I came up with Hybrid Hollow. I started using the name Hybrid Hollow Production when making family calendars for Christmas. Then, when I first started out trying to make a living with my photography in 2010, I used Hybrid Hollow Production as my company name, knowing that someday I would expand on this somehow. Over the years as I became more and more focused on photography, I started working under the name Kim Carr Photography. Now that I am branching out into making a serious go of publishing, I was ready to run with Hybrid Hollow Production. I will publish all my books under that name, with fond memories of the humble beginning that has led me here.


Fun to think back on how it all started. I know my mom would be smiling about this, too. At this point, I know I have several more books in me, but I have no idea what else that may lead to. The sky is the limit, and I try to never look a gift horse, or gift mule, in the mouth. If a door opens, I like to see what’s on the other side.


Kim Carr, Me and Crockett Waiting for a Parade to Start. (1996)

This is the beginning of Hybrid Hollow Farm and Hybrid Hollow Production.


EG: Thanks for interview, Kim. We’re wishing you all the luck in the world for Dandelion: My House Chicken and for what is to come!


KC: I greatly appreciate you, Elizabeth, and all the opportunities you have shared with me through Flapper Press. That was a life-changing day for me, when I first met you at an art show. You never know what good lies ahead if you are only willing to take that step forward. Thank YOU.


 

Kim Carr is a photographer and mid-Missouri hobby farmer who has combined her love for the country life with that of natural-light photography. Her work reflects my commitment to sustainable agriculture and the humane treatment of all animals. To learn more about Kim, read her interview with Elizabeth Gracen here.


To purchase Kim's photography, visit her website.


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