Longtime Kasilof resident Ann Mercer has just published her first children’s book, “Miss Lucy Moose Fell Down in the Swamp.” As the title suggests, the story is about a moose who falls down in some swampland during a slushy Alaska winter and is unable to get out, but after some significant effort manages to free herself. It hit the digital shelves of Amazon as well as the actual shelves of Soldotna’s River City Books in December of last year.
Mercer is a retired nurse practitioner, and at 77 years old it had never occurred to her to write a book of any kind, let alone a children’s book. Like so many great ideas, her story of Miss Lucy Moose seemingly hit her out of nowhere. Mercer said she was out in her yard last winter when inspiration struck.
“Last winter around this time it was really mushy and we’d been freezing and thawing … And suddenly, I could picture the story. So I went in the house and wrote it down within an hour and a half or so.”
Mercer ended up only changing a few words here and there from the original story, adding more alliteration and giving the story a bit of its own rhythm. While publishing it as a children’s book was not yet on her radar, she did decide to record herself telling the story and acting out Miss Lucy Moose’s struggle to make it out of the swamp.
“There I am by myself in my cabin, acting like a moose … I thought I might have lost it.”
Mercer shared the video with her family, and after receiving a lot of positive feedback her nephew encouraged her to turn the story into a book. While it was not part of the original plan, she decided to go for it and went to work on the illustrations. The image on the cover was her first one, which she said she was able to do fairly quickly because she wanted to keep the images simple. The next two illustrations she attempted, however, she said took significantly more time and energy. At the risk of overwhelming herself, she stepped away from the project for a few months before coming back to finish the rest of the illustrations. Miss Lucy Moose was brought to life through colorful brushstrokes, and the story had taken shape in ways that Mercer had not anticipated.
Something else that was not planned by Mercer is the story’s underlying lesson.
“Underneath the fun of this story is a victory story,” said Mercer, and she explained how Miss Lucy Moose’s perseverance in pulling herself out of the swamp is a reminder for kids to never give up, even when they might feel hopeless or stuck.
By December of 2018, Mercer had made her book available online via Amazon as well as at River City Books, a local bookstore in Soldotna. She has plans to start selling her book at other local vendors soon, and in March she is scheduled to read “Miss Lucy Moose Fell Down in the Swamp” aloud for children at the public libraries in Kenai and Soldotna, moose noises and all. Samples of her illustrations are also on display at the Kenai Fine Arts center as part of their February exhibit.
When asked if there are more children’s books in her future, Mercer did not rule out the possibility. She is currently illustrating a book for a friend, and as far as Miss Lucy Moose is concerned, Mercer said she is considering a sequel of some kind.
“I think I need to get Miss Lucy Moose going first,” said Mercer. Her plan at the moment is to widen her audience before deciding what sort of adventures Miss Lucy Moose will get into next.