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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Leen

BEHIND THE SCENES: Critters Who Care

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Back in May of 2021, Austin and I had just taken a month-long road trip, weaving and skiing our way through MT, WA, WY, CO, UT, and AZ. After settling in Arizona, Austin approached me and proceeded to hand me a poem he wrote on a piece of paper and asked me to paint a picture for it. He had always told me that he enjoyed poetry, but he had never shown me any of this work. I read over the poem, and I wasn't sure whether if I could depict not only what was being said in the poems, but also capture Austin's personality and big heart.

Despite these worries, I pulled out my watercolors and gave it a shot- and Austin fell in love with what he saw. One painting quickly turned into two, and two turned into three, and, eventually, Austin told me that we should create a poetry book. This idea terrified me. I wasn't wildly confident in my painting abilities, nor did I know anything about publishing and selling a book. But Austin encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and to be the best version of myself; and on a balcony of a condo in Arizona, I painted one of his poems every day for nearly a month. Side by side he wrote poems and I painted. Creating the book quickly became therapeutic for both of us- it was a way for both of us to remind ourselves how much good there still is in the world. It helped us to return to the innocence we once felt as kids.

Creating Critters Who Care was so much more than getting a book published and on a shelf. It was a way for the two of us to spend time with each other, to learn about each other's hearts. I look back so fondly on that period of time. It was a time of growth and self-improvement and it was a time to reflect on how we want to live life and what we value.

Pictured below is an afternoon of painting, writing poetry, and eating cucumber sandwiches on the balcony in Arizona, all captured on 35mm film.

After finishing the poetry and paintings, the book moved to the back burner for a period of time. We were back on the road and on our way back to Montana. I was in the midst of taking 16 credit hours of summer classes and Austin began working for the Forest Service. Soon after settling back in Montana, a forest fire broke out right off the backside of the property in the national forest. It was an extremely stressful summer as the fire lasted for over a month and grew to be over 8,000 acres.

We picked back up the book in late July. Austin began grouping poems he wrote together and creating the manuscript while I scanned in the paintings and created the cover. Up until this point, we had kept the book a secret from everyone, including our parents. However, we needed someone to look over our book. We finally revealed our book to Austin's parents and they were thrilled.

On the back of each painting, I wrote each poem that went along with it. Austin suggested I handwrite all of the poems for the book. This was a huge task as I was still in school, so I figured out a way to turn my handwriting into a font, which is what you see throughout the book and this website. We thought that including my handwriting made the book more personal.

At this point, the book was nearly finished, but we needed a title. We sat on a name for a few days, and eventually, we landed on the name Critters Who Care. The book was filled with uplifting poems accompanied by paintings depicting animals and nature. It felt fitting for the message we wanted to portray through our art.

We got our first copies of Critters Who Care on August 12, 2021, at my parent's house in Washington. Pictured below captures the day we received the first copies.

Both Austin and I want to thank you for your love and support throughout this journey of creating our first-ever poetry book. Learn more about our book here. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of our book, find it on Amazon Prime.

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