Sanibel author self-publishes first children’s book
Karen Kirk Richards’ life as an author didn’t begin with her new book, “Lovey, the Piano Cat.” It started with her first book, “How to be an Advocate for the ADD/ADHD Child,” one she wrote in 1992 to help struggling parents, teachers and coaches with cognitive and behavioral interventions for children that work.
“It was written with a huge purpose in mind,” said the Sanibel author whose son struggled with learning issues stemmed from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
As a mother, Karen felt powerless to help her son, Kevin, succeed in school. She devoured books as big as a New York phone directory to find answers. She begged, bribed and even drove him to military school ¬- only to turn around and drive him home again.
“During that drive I realized he wasn’t a ‘behavior problem,'” she wrote in the preface of the book. “He wanted to succeed. Something was keeping him from it.”
Her feelings of fear, anxiety and defeat turned into an obsession to not only help her bright son find success, but to also help teachers understand their attention deficit students so they could have a chance at success. Even though she had well researched the topic, one school administrator told her she was “just a mother.”
Although Karen had earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the School of Journalism at University of Kansas, she was dismissed as an expert on the subject of behavioral issues. To gain credibility for her cause with teachers and others, Karen returned to college and earned a master’s degree in psychology.
She parlayed her mind-boggling research on how to reach and teach children suffering from attention deficit into a well-respected, easy-to-understand guide for educators and parents. Over time Karen became co-founder and director of programs of the ADD/ADHD Education Resource Association in Kansas. She also served as president of Classroom Consultants.
However, her son Kevin provided material for more than just one book. His unusual patience with an untrusting feline is the basis for “Lovey, the Piano Cat.” A true story of a terrified, bedraggled cat and a six-year-old boy (named Kevin), this is Karen’s first children’s book.
“In retrospect, it’s amazing it happened,” said Karen, who self-published this latest work written in poem form. “It was perseverance on (Kevin’s) behalf.”
Karen taught private piano lessons in Kansas, her home state, for more than 25 years. When Lovey, a 25-pound white and gray Persian cat, became part of the household, he would greet Karen’s piano students and help transform a stressful situation into one of comfort and fun.
“That was his legacy,” said Karen of the late Lovey. “He gave back love he found it hard to trust in – gave it back in spades.”
Bright illustrations by Bruce Kiel accompany the story about learning lessons of patience, trust and love. Kiel resides in DePere, Wis., with his wife Nancy. The former public safety officer is described as an “outsider artist who has long enjoyed various artistic endeavors.” He and Karen first met through Nancy’s parents who live on Sanibel.
“He is a remarkable illustrator,” noted Karen.
Kiel is also the illustrator for Karen’s next book “There is a Secret on Sanibel, and Captiva, too.” Arriving around the Thanksgiving holiday, this book celebrates the author’s love affair with wildlife on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Written in a whimsical style, readers will come to understand and appreciate the unique efforts of islanders to live in harmony with varied and abundant wildlife.
“This is my tribute to the islands,” said Karen about her next book venture. “I feel lucky to (live on Sanibel).”
“Lovey, the Piano Cat” is now available at Sanibel and Captiva book and specialty shops, as well as Karen’s web site www.SanibelCatPublishing.com. Additionally, the book has recently become part of Sanibel Public Library’s Reading for Others summer program. Children pick a book to read and that same book is donated to the Childrens Hospital of Southwest Florida.
“We are grateful Karen was inspired to participate with us,” said SPL youth librarian Barb Dunkel. “It’s a wonderful addition to the program.”
Karen donated 20 Lovey books to the library’s summer program and said she felt like it was the right thing to do.
“It’s been fun,” she said of writing Lovey. “It’s been a real labor of love.”