LUSK – Anyone who has ever been around a three year old knows they are in a difficult time of an independent spirit that often exceeds their physical and mental abilities as a child. In Wendi Dutcher’s first published children book, Brann Gets Lost. The little dragon Brann (pronounced Braan) Dutcher details three year old Brann’s adventure into the woods and subsequent challenges and lessons.
Dutcher has experience with kids after raising two of her own and now spending time with her three grandsons, whom the book is dedicated to, along with her late father. She also has a lot of experience in search and rescue after spending more than 30 years in law enforcement. These life experiences contributed to some of the plot behind Brann Gets Lost.
Originally from Lusk, Dutcher is the daughter of Jeannie Zerbe. She first remembers finding her love of creative writing in Mr. Dierk’s eighth grade English class. After high school she moved to Nebraska, Georgia, back to Wyoming, living in Cody and Douglas before landing back in Lusk. She has worked as a communications officer in dispatch, a detention supervisor, animal control, juvenile enforcement and served as a peace officer. In most of those roles she also worked in search and rescue at one time or another.
Now, Dutcher is retired from law enforcement, and works alongside her mother at their ranch North of Lusk raising alpacas, goats, chickens and ducks. They design and create fiber products using the alpaca fibers.
She also loves to read. This love of literature is another driving force behind her creation of the book. As far back as she can remember, Dutcher has been a voracious reader. She reads all genres and still enjoys childrens’ books.
In her little spare time she runs a small cake business, “Cakes by Design: Your Idea or Mine,” baking and decorating cakes to order for special events.
The book Brann Gets Lost has been decades in the making. Her drive for children’s stories really started after the birth of her first son. She used to write short stories for him. She never shared or sought to publish these short works though.
Once her grandsons were born, she continued sharing the love of words with them, often playing games where they would make up stories together. Her grandson Emmett would give her feedback on the Brann stories and some of his comments served as inspiration for the ending.
After showing her mother a rough draft of Brann, her mother insisted she find a publisher to send the book idea to. After researching various publishing companies and the self-publishing option, Dutcher chose to send her book into Newman Springs in August 2019. Within a week she had a response back with a proposal for a publishing contract and her journey to becoming a published author began.
Newman Springs provided the illustrator. Throughout the nine-month process of rough draft to final product, Dutcher worked with her editor to refine the story. Many people do not realize the amount of work it takes to turn a rough draft into a polished book on a bookshelf. Dutcher admitted the most challenging part was being patient as they worked through the process and the anxiety of “Will the final product match my vision for this book?”.
One appeal of sending it to a publishing company was the company provides all of the marketing and PR for both a domestic and international market. They also provide a great deal of help in the editorial department and Dutcher is so appreciative of all of their industry connections and help.
The most rewarding aspects of the last year have been the initial acceptance of her manuscript by the company and then seeing the physical book on shelves and the excitement her grandsons exhibited when they saw the book was dedicated to them.
Ultimately the most enjoyable part is still the creative process of writing and developing the characters and plot. Dutcher has already written the next book featuring Brann and sent it into the publisher. Young readers will be happy to know that Brann will have more adventures.
“It really is amazing to know that my ideas and creative process are contributing to someone’s childhood,” Kutcher said. “I’ve seen the first month sales and it is amazing to see that people are actually purchasing my book. I intentionally ended the book with the idea that Bran will probably do this again. It isn’t neatly packaged as a, ‘I learned my lesson and won’t do it again,’ but rather, ‘I now know I can do something on my own and I will do something like this again.’”
She feels this makes the ending and characters more relatable for children and more realistic for adults. She feels it is so important there are literary characters for kids to relate to and help them understand, as kids grow into their own person, they will make mistakes and continue to try to be independent. And this is okay. However she also hopes the book will help children understand why adults “nag” them and try to help them stay safe as they grow and have adventures.
Her book has already garnered praise from reviewers and parents, with one satisfied parent stating, “The story is short and sweet with colorful and fun illustrations. It teaches an important lesson that young ones can easily grasp. The length of the story and words per page are great to keep little ones engaged.”
Dutcher plans to participate in several virtual readings and will have copies for sale at the Annual Homemaker’s Christmas Bazaar in December. Her book can also be found on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.