By Jill Templeton and Nicole Veenstra
“Then with a hippity, a hoppity, and a slippery-flip-floppity, a small brown bunny appeared right next to Annabelle’s boots,” reads page six of senior Kellie Marshall’s first children’s book.
Marshall, a fine arts major, has been working on Annabelle and Wilbur since the spring of her sophomore year. Although primarily interested in the illustrative aspect, she is confident in both her drawing and writing abilities and hopes they will continue to develop as she goes on in her career.
“It is the first story I have ever written, but I wrote it with an eye on the future,” Marshall said.
Annabelle and Wilbur is a children’s short story centered on the relationship between a young girl and a rabbit. When they first meet, Annabelle is very shy and nervous around Wilbur, a small animal with a big sense of adventure. However, through the course of the story the two learn to trust each other and Wilbur helps Annabelle come out of her shell.
Marshall said she took inspiration from her own childhood when creating the character of Annabelle.
“As a somewhat introverted person myself, I knew that the basis of my book would be overcoming shyness and opening oneself to adventure,” she said. “Annabelle is a reflection of me and Wilbur is a reflection of the stuffed bunny I had.”
Marshall added that her passion for illustration came from a favorite childhood pastime.
“My grandfather and I would spend hours drawing cartoons, comic-like strips and creating little sketches with speech bubbles,” she said. “After my grandfather passed, I decided to pursue illustration more seriously.”
Dr. Harry Naar, a professor of fine arts, has been Marshall’s adviser and mentor throughout the entirety of the project.
“I was really excited because I’m really open to students coming up with ideas and pursuing those ideas,” Naar said. “If I can be of any help in that regard, that becomes a really important position for me to take. She has worked really hard on it, and it’s an original idea with original imagery. Basically the role I played was more in terms of questioning her, advising her and making suggestions here and there, but for the most part it’s totally her idea.”
Marshall said she is thankful for the help and encouragement that Naar provided throughout the creation of the book and during her education at Rider.
“He was the one who originally encouraged me to pursue what I thought was then a very naïve idea,” she said.
What she once thought of as a pipe dream is now nearly complete. Marshall hopes to put the finishing touches on the book before the end of May and submit it to various publishers. Marshall is excited to potentially see her story in print because it relates to her personal experiences — something Naar thinks plays a critical part in the success of a student’s work.
“I’m really after students creating images that relate to who they are,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product.”
In the meantime, Marshall is working on another illustrating project. She was approached by an author whose story has been approved for publishing, in hopes that she would provide the illustrations for the book.
Nevertheless, Marshall’s collaboration with another author has not caused her to abandon ideas for the future of Annabelle and Wilbur.
“While I may not have put pen to paper, I have many ideas for more stories with these characters,” she said. “Ultimately I would like for Annabelle and Wilbur to be an adventure series, continuing into four or five individual books.”