A tale about a lonely tree finding friendship with animals of the forest has brought together a local author and three Sedona Red Rock High School sophomores in their own story of creativity and collaboration.Sedona resident Dusty Crisman, who had already been published once before, could have chosen anyone to illustrate her book, “A Lonely Tree,” but knew she wanted to work with students, which brought her to Sedona Red Rock High School.
“My grandchildren went to this high school and I just think the school is super,” she said. “I wanted to do something for young adults; something they could take into their future — whatever that may be — to show their future employers that they were published at the age of 15.”
Crisman brought her first book, “Kai: The Sedona Siamese” to the school and proposed having high school students illustrate her second book. Krushi Bhakta, Cheyenne Javey and Tirzah Wright all volunteered; thus the kinship between high schoolers and author began.
Crisman gave the students specific instructions of what she wanted, and the project took a better part of their freshman year. After completing the front page, the students used it as a template to keep the style consistent.
“It was what Dusty wanted because we were all basing it on her vision,” Wright said. “We had to keep in mind what she was asking for. Each page was either done together or individually.”
Crisman said she gave the students specific instructions.
“I just kept telling them to follow the script,” she said.
Javey, who said she has been an artist since she was a little kid, said most of the project was done during school breaks or art class.
“Sometimes we got out of class to work on it,” she said.
As time went on, Crisman and her young illustrators started to build a rapport following some humorous incidents. The four of them recalled a time when Crisman had to foot the bill for an elaborate Starbucks order.
“It was all worth it; whatever they needed was OK with me,” she said.
Another time, Crisman said she remembers one of the pages missing a squirrel where the manuscript called for one.
“I ran to Cheyenne’s house and asked her to hurry up and draw one,” Crisman said. “I had drawn this ugly squirrel — I mean, I can write but I can’t draw.”
The relationship between Crisman and the girls has been a symbiotic one; the students especially were positively impacted by the experience.
“I’ve always liked art a lot but I never thought I was good at it and I was really learning how to be confident with my art, and this gave me an opportunity to use that confidence,” Wright said.
Since the book’s release in November, Crisman and the illustrators have been getting positive feedback from readers, teachers and parents.
“My parents never expected this from me,” Bhakta said. “They were so shocked and happy.”