Author and illustrator net themselves a book

By Lynn Porter

Illustrator Kirk Werner's first published print book ``Gumfounded'' is the result of a close collaboration with author Sherry Garr.

A former Mercer Island resident, Werner spent almost three months creating the art for the fanciful tale of Tia, a girl who steps on gum someone spit out. A heap of litter then attaches itself to Tia's shoes in this morality yarn for children.

Werner's whimsical, cartoon-ish illustrations delighted Garr, who raves about them, as does Werner about Garr's story. In fact, the two have become fast friends because of their work on the book.

This summer they hope to meet each other.

Werner, 42, of Duvall and Garr, 45, of St. George, Utah, have never been face-to-face.

They produced ``Gumfounded'' the 21st century way: by working together in cyberspace -- via e-mail and attachments -- and also on the telephone.

``We probably talked on the phone at least twice a day and shared constant back-and-forth e-mails,'' said Werner, a married father of two. ``We really developed quite an intimate friendship during the process.''

Here's how it worked. Werner drew rough sketches in pencil, scanned them into his computer and then sent them to Garr's computer for her consideration. Once they were approved, he outlined the sketches with a black line using a computer program and then colored them in using the same software. He e-mailed the completed illustrations to Garr in attachments.

Werner also used a computer program to lay out the book. He sent the final version of ``Gumfounded'' to a Seattle-area company, which proofed it and prepared it to be sent electronically to a printer in Asia, which was used as cost-saving measure.

Werner, in fact, got the job illustrating ``Gumfounded'' through the Net. Garr's daughter, Marcie, 23, noticed his portfolio on an online marketplace where creative professionals seek work and recommended him to her mother.

But Garr, who had paid to have the book fully illustrated twice and partially illustrated once with disappointing results was leery and unsure about collaborating -- in cyberspace no less -- with someone she hadn't met.

So Werner e-mailed Garr his picture and some background information.

``When he said he was an Eagle Scout, I thought `this is an honest, trustworthy young man,'' said Garr.

``Gumfounded'' is self-published by Garr and therefore not yet available in most bookstores, except for Island Books, which has it because of Werner's Island connection, and a St. George venue. She's yet to market it, but sold between 200 and 300 copies advertised at, she said.

Garr was inspired to write the book, she said, after she and her then-4-year-old daughter, Tia, saw ``a ton'' of trash along a road, and ``I just thought I have got to teach her about not littering.''

The tale follows Tia as her walk to school becomes exponentially worse with each step. All sorts of trash - cans, paper, a fish bone and even a tire - sticks to her shoes.

Alas, Tia is late, but proves herself a good negotiator, saying:

``Teacher, don't be mad at me. Just make a brand new rule. Tell the children `NEVER LITTER.'''

And, in the end, the students sort the litter so it can be recycled.

It is Garr's first self-published fiction work (she previously published a math learning book for children). But the married stay-at-home mom to seven children had previously written stories and songs as a hobby. She said Werner's simple and silly illustrations complemented her writing wonderfully.

``Gumfounded'' is the first print book for Werner, a freelance illustrator who has done art for short online educational books as part of bigger software packages. The Mercer Island High School and Washington State University, Pullman, graduate has almost finished illustrations for another Garr-written environmental book, ``Bob Frog Sick of Smog,'' and will illustrate her conservation-minded ``Is Bob Frog a Water Hog?''

Garr is about to sign a contract with a firm that will publish ``Gumfounded,'' in Japan where recycling is big, she said.

So well, in fact, has Garr's and Werner's online collaboration turned out that the now-friends intend to meet together with their families in St. George in June.

``It wouldn't have happened without the Internet,'' said Garr.

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