Kelly Parke of Tooele is passionate about many things. A few of the things she loves include celebrating Halloween, creating art, and teaching STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) classes.
Recently, she added a new passion: sharing the joy she finds in fairies.
Parke has loved fairies for a long time.
“I’ve always been a fan of Cicely Mary Barker, the author of the book ‘Flower Fairies,’” she said. “I’ve had that book for a long, long time.”
Fairies took on a special meaning for Parke in 2012, the year her mother passed away. A friend, Amey Riahala, took her to a place Parke describes as magical.
“I was just having a really difficult time,” Parke said. “My very good friend took me to a place where they had all these little fairy doors and fairy houses. It brought magic to me on a day when I was just devastated.”
That feeling of magic brought Parke joy. Her experience inspired her to do something that would bring that same joy to others.
An artist since childhood and a graphic artist by trade, Parke thought of illustrating a book about fairies.
But there was one problem: Parke wanted her fairies to live in a unique setting.
“In respect for the person who made all those fairy doors, I didn’t want to steal their thunder so I wanted to do my own thing,” she said. “My oldest daughter [Kristal] said, ‘Why not have them [the fairies] live in the mountains?’”
Parke fell in love with Kristal’s idea of mountain fairies when she and her husband Marvin flew his plane over the Oquirrh Mountains — and Kennecott Copper Mine. An idea began to form for mountain fairies that got their magical powers from minerals.
Add that to a cosmic wind from outer space that supercharged the powers of 14 fairies, and the Oquirrh Mountain Fairies book series was born. Parke self-published the first book, “Mineral Magic,” last August.
With more than 25 years of experience as a professional designer, Parke considers the Oquirrh Mountain fairies project to be her crowning achievement.
“I did the book all on my own — I paid for prints, I paid for the copyright, I had to find a printer,” she said. “I’ve been a professional designer and illustrator for many years. I wanted to do it all. It’s kind of like my magnum opus, something I can call my own.”
In its Amazon listing, Parke describes Mineral Magic as “a unique story that involves space, local history, magic, science, and fun!”
Once she nailed the setting and magic system, the story for the book came easily to Parke.
“I can’t even take credit; it’s like the story wrote itself,” she said. “I had to research the science. … I visited the mine and got pictures of all the minerals. … The rest was just creating and refining.”
From start to finish, the 48-page book took Parke about seven years to research, write, and illustrate. With 230 illustrations crammed into those 48 pages, the book was a true labor of love.
“The reason I was able to fit all those illustrations [was] to encourage kids to doodle on the edges of the pages. I made very custom borders,” she explained. “The borders are different on each and every page.”
Like the custom borders on each page, Parke thought carefully about every detail of the book. For example, she purposefully made the lines of each illustration light so that they disappeared after the page was colored.
“A lot of kids want to do their own things and by the time they’re done coloring, it looks like their own drawing — you can’t see the lines,” she said. “So they can be proud of what they colored.”
She also named the three main characters after minerals, and she wove real scientific principles into the story.
“The idea of STEAM and STEAM is to completely engage them [the students] visually,” Parke said. “The book definitely gets both sides of their brains working. It’s … really different than what’s out there right now. It really appeals to creatives because the creativity will really maximize all the STEAM elements so they’re fully engaged. It’s more than just coloring, it’s a form of expression.”
When it came time to publish the book, Parke planned a special launch party at Storybook Nook in Gardner Village. She had a fairy cake, music, a “wing wall” where people could take pictures with fairy wings designed by Parke, prize drawings — and six live fairies who roamed the event.
Parke also flew out her friend Amey Riahala, to be the guest of honor. Riahala was one of the fairies, as were Parke’s former student Lexi Keyes, Parke’s younger daughter, Rebekah, and Rebekah’s boyfriend Chris Nelson.
“I flew her [Riahala] out for the launch because without her kind gesture, this book may never have happened,” Parke said. “It was truly the spark for this whole deal.”
The book launch was one of the greatest days of Parke’s life.
“They [Rebekah and Chris] had so much fun dancing around at my launch,” she said. “Such a great memory.”
She added, “It took [my husband] a while to really understand what I was trying to do, but at the launch, seeing everybody smile, seeing me sign every book that was purchased, he really got a kick out of it to see it come to fruition.”
For Parke, the most rewarding part of being an author is hearing that someone enjoyed her book.
“There’s this one family that bought books for both [of their] girls and they sat there for five hours and colored,” Parke said. “She [the mother] had to keep checking on them.”
That fascination is why whenever Parke goes to an event, she always makes sure to bring a coloring table where kids can sit and color.
When Parke reflected over the past seven years, she expressed gratitude to several people who helped make her idea a reality. The book is dedicated to nine people, including Parke’s friend Riahala; local author Holli Anderson, who helped edit the story; Angeline Walters, a supportive friend; and the Hinkle, Burke and Cannon families, who each made a unique contribution to the final project; and — of course — Parke’s family.
“When it comes right down to it, if there ever was a muse for my book, it would be my two daughters, Kristal and Rebekah,” she said. Not to mention her husband Marvin’s support.
Parke calls herself an “accidental author.”
“I didn’t dream one day of making a book, I just had this idea and I wanted to share it,” she said. “It’s funny because I do enjoy telling a story, but I’m an accidental author. … My family is so helpful and encouraging.”
Parke doesn’t intend on stopping at one book. She’s planned an entire franchise, including more books, chapter book adaptations of the story, a board game, an app, and lesson plans that teachers can use to explain the scientific principles in Mineral Magic.
Details about the Oquirrh Mountain fairies project can be found on Parke’s website at parkecreative.com.
The website address was corrected to parkecreative.com.