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Local author overcomes obstacles to create children's book

Carolyn Oetting self-published her book “Black and White Animals Color the World,” which features her black and white Shih Tzu, Liza Janie. A gift set with her book even includes a stuffed Liza Janie dog.

Carolyn Oetting self-published her book “Black and White Animals Color the World,” which features her black and white Shih Tzu, Liza Janie. A gift set with her book even includes a stuffed Liza Janie dog. Photo by Leah Freeze.

The year 2003 was a difficult one for Carolyn Oetting.

Plagued with a debilitating back injury and diagnosed with Lyme disease, Oetting was in severe pain.

She had always been an active hiker, cyclist and swimmer. But when the pain took over, Oetting took to more leisurely recreation.

She slowly began writing a children’s book inspired by her black and white Shih Tzu, Liza Janie.

Driving down a country road one day with Liza Janie glancing out the car window, Oetting pointed out the black and white Holsteins in a field saying, “Liza Janie, those cows are the same color as you.”

And so began her writing of “Black and White Animals Color the World,” a world-traveling adventure where Liza Janie traverses the globe visiting other black and white animals.

It’s an educational story chock full of geography and science lessons, and interactive fill-in-the-blanks.

After she finished writing the book, Oetting approached Holley Smothers, art and health teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, to illustrate the story.

“I am a 3-D artist, so illustration is not my specialty, but I am interested in research-based teaching strategies and cross-curricular learning,” Smothers explained.

She loved the book for its use of geography, science, colors and culture, so she decided to help in the project by developing a lesson plan for use at home or at school.

But Oetting still needed an illustrator, and eventually found one online.

With her completed book, Oetting also researched publishers online but quickly encountered challenges.

“Everyone and their brother has gotten into children’s book publishing,” Oetting said.

She at first decided to self-publish the book using a Random House partner called Xlibris.

There were huge upfront costs, and the company wanted to sell the book online for $32.

“That’s a ridiculous price for a children’s book,” Oetting said.

She bought 250 books from Xlibris and sold them all for $20 — without a profit.

With continued research, Oetting’s husband, Jim, found createspace.com, an Amazon company that provides free self-publishing tools and a space to sell the book on Amazon.

She now has more control of her book and sells it for a reasonable $12.95 through Amazon. Interested readers in the Jefferson City area can contact Oetting directly to purchase the book for $10.

Oetting offers a gift set complete with a Liza Janie look-alike stuffed animal with a collar and leash, globe pencil sharpener and a book, all wrapped in a paws gift bag for $25.

She is now working on a series of books, “Lively Learning with Liza Janie.”

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