Throughout her life, Kimmie Fetters always considered writing a hobby. Penning song lyrics and poems since the age of 8, she always knew that writing would somehow play a big role in her future. With childhood dreams of being a professional songwriter, things took an interesting twist 20 years ago, when she worked as a nanny.
Always looking for new activities to keep a 2-year-old girl occupied, Kimmie began to sketch animals eating foods that rhymed with what they were. “I drew a poodle eating noodles, and an antelope eating cantaloupe”, Fetters recalls the day she came up with the idea. “I said it out loud- ‘My Antelope Likes Cantaloupe’- that would be a great name for a children’s book. Someday I WILL write it!”
The concept of this project stuck with Kimmie for 17 years, as she worked on it intermittently. But it wasn’t time wasted, as she wanted to take her time refining the idea and characters and creating a meaningful storyline. She knew she had a lot to learn about the publishing process. She also knew she needed to find an amazing illustrator that could bring her characters to life.
After working through many obstacles, Kimmie’s dream of publishing a children’s book finally became a reality in 2015- “My Antelope Likes Cantaloupe” was born. The first in what will be a series, the story follows Bongo the Antelope through his worldwide travels, as he seeks to find the perfect new place that he can call home. Fetters is very proud of the book, as it features several ‘Easter eggs’ about her life and memories of her Grandparents, Gene and Jean Martz, to whom the book is dedicated.
Creating all the elements of her first book took time and patience. Early on in the process, Fetters had attended two workshops with her favorite writer, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), an author and illustrator of self-help books, several being national best-sellers. Kimmie was inspired to learn that SARK published her first book at age 35.
“It was such a cool experience, meeting and hanging out with her- I remember thinking, if SHE was 35, I know it’s not too late for me!” said Fetters. “She also told me that my book would be more special if I incorporated more of myself and my own life into it.”
Taking her favorite author’s advice, Fetters began naming the characters in her book after relatives, pets (her own dog, Lulu the Shih-Tzu is a main character), and even her own childhood imaginary friend, ‘Mrs. McGree’. “She was a nice, older woman whom I envisioned living in my Grandma’s tiny storage closet”, Kimmie recalls with laughter.
As she forged ahead with the book, the storyline would evolve and undergo several changes over the years. Fetters began to invent backstories of the fun, zaney characters, and created a world where animals and humans live as equals. Their silliness and adventures together seemed to resonate with children. But Fetters also wanted to add educational elements to her story by having it rhyme and by gently incorporating life lessons.
Looking to give her characters personality and a voice, Kimmie found the perfect partner to design the book’s hand-drawn illustrations. Derik, a graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, is an accomplished Graphic Artist. “Derik and I work well together,” says Kimmie.
“I already had a vision in my mind of what these characters looked like. I scribbled stick figures of them, with lots of notes and descriptions, for every single page of the book. Somehow, he took my messy sketches and perfectly captured the essence of who I wanted in these different personas. The details of them in their various actions and activities amazed me, as did the colorful, realistic backgrounds. Derik was instrumental in bringing my characters to life.”
For distribution, Fetters decided to self-publish her book for many reasons. Other local authors highly recommended using local printing consultant, Tom Turner of Seaber Turner Associates. He had walked several of them through the self-publishing process and the final printing of the books. “Tom was an absolute pleasure to work with,” says Kimmie. “He was extremely helpful every step of the way and we are so pleased with the quality of our books!”
Since the book’s release, Fetters has enjoyed presenting at school assemblies and local libraries, encouraging students to have fun with reading, writing, and using their imaginations. She says, “I sometimes use ‘Mad-Libs’ as an activity to get the kids to see how fun the use of adjectives can be. I try to cultivate writing as a safe, positive outlet for them to get out any negative feelings. I urge them to write their stories in journals, so that they’ll always have those memories when they want to re-live them.”
Kimmie also does motivational speeches for youth and Girl Scout troops, inspiring teens to never give up on their dreams, no matter what life may bring their way. She promotes kindness and compassion as key elements to living a happy, fulfilled life and turning dreams into reality.
As for future plans, Kimmie is excited to announce her second book in the ‘Bongo’ series, which will be entitled, “The Funky Monkey Who Was a Junkfood Junkie.” She hopes to have it published in 2019. An actress/singer at community theaters in both Berks and Chester Counties, Fetters also hopes to turn, “My Antelope Likes Cantaloupe” into a short play. She is also currently writing a one-act play for adults, that deals with topics under the umbrella of mental illness- an issue that is very close to her heart.
“My Antelope Likes Cantaloupe” is available at several local stores, including: Junk to Jazz, the GoggleWorks, It’s a Gift, Sweet Ride Ice Cream, the Reading Museum Gift Shop, and Firefly Bookstore of Kutztown. You can also email Kimmie for booking info and/or to order the book online at: friendsofbongo.com