Children's author Trish Carpenter shares her ideas with Claire Gittleman's art class Wednesday at The Lowell Whiteman School. The students in the class are illustrating Carpenter's latest children's book.

Photo by John F. Russell

Children's author Trish Carpenter shares her ideas with Claire Gittleman's art class Wednesday at The Lowell Whiteman School. The students in the class are illustrating Carpenter's latest children's book.

Author enlists artistic help from Steamboat students

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From having a pet sheep called Bambi to naming the magpies that land on the deck, you could say Trish Carpenter loves and is inspired by animals in every aspect of her life, especially writing.

Carpenter began writing in second grade in the form of journals, stories and poetry, and as she went on to be a school principal, she was able to continue that love. Today, Carpenter has followed her passion for kids and literature and has written five children’s books, three of which already have been independently published.

Carpenter was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, and as a result, she has required service dogs for several years, and she has always gotten them from an animal shelter. Each of Carpenter’s stories is about someone with a disability and a service dog and is inspired by her own experiences.

Another common thread between Carpenter’s books can be found in the illustrations — they are all illustrated by kids of varying ages. Carpenter contacted The Lowell Whiteman School's Head of School Meg Morse with the task of illustrating her book. Morse jumped at the opportunity to participate in something “beyond the Lowell Whiteman campus,” and extended the offer to art teacher Claire Gittleman.

“It really was serendipitous timing,” Gittleman said. “We were in between projects. What could be better than one that would get us involved in the community, and eventually even published?”

Five students ages 14 to 18 were presented with the opportunity.

“Students can capture the magic of the story in the picture,” Carpenter said.

Paula Cooper, Eloise Borden, Leo Lin, Myron Zhang and Merry Ma have been collaborating, sketching and painting in Gittleman’s class at least twice per week.

“Every time I think I’m finished, I look back and find something else I want to add to the picture,” Borden said.

The group will be finished with their canvases no later than June. Of course, all of the paintings from the students are unique, but Carpenter said, “It doesn’t matter that the pictures don’t entirely match. They capture the essence of the character, and that’s the most important and interesting thing about the whole process.”

Although the majority of Carpenter’s work has been in poetry and children’s books, she also is in the process of writing an adult book about a woman living in Boston, titled “You’ll Never Believe This.” In addition, she is working on a story about a school bully.

Carpenter constantly comes up with new ideas for books inspired by anything and everything, such as the magpies sitting on her deck that she so fondly names.

Carpenter loves the whole process of publishing and collaborating with students and teachers to create a final piece of work. With an endless stream of ideas and inspiration for future stories, Carpenter plans to continue writing stories and poetry and will continue to seek out the help of students’ artistic work.

Marley Loomis, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, is working as an intern at the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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