Success with a Snowman

September 2002
by Karen McDiarmid

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Hunched over light tables, award-winning wildlife photographers Carl R. Sams II and his wife Jean Stoick were determined to pull perfect images from among 60,000 shots for their next book–one that was supposed to feature whitetail deer. They needed to edit the collection down to 140 images representing the best of four seasons. The task was tedious and seemingly endless. But when Jean came across a series of pictures of deer and birds interacting with a snowman, it sparked another idea–a children’s book.

“We knew,” Jean explained, “that in a book on whitetail deer we’d only get away with using one or two of the snowman pictures. In a children’s book, we could use so many more fun images.”

“At first, I thought Jeannie had lost her mind,” Carl said. “After 14 years of taking photos for a deer book, how could she change directions without a moment’s notice?”

But Jean took her notebook, curled up in her favorite chair by the fire, sketched pages, and wrote an outline. An hour later, she handed it to Carl. They knew immediately that they were onto something. As if on cue, the snow outside began to fall, the pair went out to build a snowman, and Stranger in the Woods came to life. From that moment, Carl and Jean were totally committed. Whenever it snowed, they could be found with their cameras, plenty of film, and a snowman in a red, floppy-eared hat.


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