Michigan City resident Janet Beutner has just begun her path to memorializing family traditions and exploring Michigan City history in print- and readers are already hooked.
Beutner authored her first book, “Zip and Zap: A Zebra Christmas Story,” which was just recently printed after she began its production this past February.
The children’s book follows two zebras, Zip and Zap, who are teased by the herd because one has red stripes, while the other has green. Santa Claus rescues the colorful pair and gives them a special job in his workshop. There, Zip and Zap discover their vibrant inclinations help them make something new and colorful that many people enjoy at Christmas time today. Beutner said so far she has gotten amazing feedback from kids and parents alike who attend her readings and bought the book.
“The people who read the book seem to appreciate the message,” she said. “It’s ok to be different from everyone else, but it’s not easy, sometimes you get teased. And it has a really wonderful ending.”
What many may not know is the story of Zip and Zap began long ago at Beutner’s sons’ bedsides when they were children. Every night she would tell them a story from her imagination, and Zip and Zap’s story became a favorite tradition.
“I really wanted to write the story for them, even though they’re in their thirties now,” Beutner said.
Her daughter-in-law, Julia Ferguson, created the vivid watercolor illustrations throughout the book. They also printed a Zip and Zap coloring and activity book for kids to add their own colors.
“It was really great to work together and see the story come to life,” Beutner said. “She has a two-year-old, my grandson, so I’d watch him sometimes while she was illustrating. It’s great seeing the book finally in print, the illustrations are beautiful.”
The path that led Beutner to publishing is the closing of her former work place. All Brown Mackie Colleges shut down their campuses in 2016, where she taught as a business instructor. Suddenly, with time on her hands, Beutner revved her creative engines to pursue her long-time goal of being an author.
“I actually found that, because of my business background, it helped a lot with marketing and putting the whole thing together,” Beutner said. “The things that I taught, I am really doing them now.”
Schools, libraries, bookstores, you name it- Beutner is doing readings to promote her book all over The Region.
“I want to tell the story,” she said. “Obviously I want to sell the book, but it’s important that kids feel good about themselves, and are told it’s ok to be different.”
The piece she is proofreading right now to be published early next year is a historical fiction set in the late 1800’s in Michigan City.
“The woman moves into the house I grew up in Michigan City, since it was built in the 1800’s, it makes it easy to describe,” Beutner said. “The main character is going in search for some adventure and gets into some trouble with the wrong crowd.”
Beutner has scoured through local historical records and photos for accuracy in her writings, making mentions of the Barker family and immerses the reader in how the city would have looked more than a century ago.
Beutner also said that perhaps another Zip and Zap story is on the horizon.
“Perhaps I’ll make another Zip and Zap adventure, they’re kind of a part of my life,” Beutner said. “And I’m happy they’re a part of my sons’ lives too. We’ve made Zip and Zap Christmas cookies, made Zip and Zap ornaments. It was something that stayed with them and they do appreciate finally seeing it in print. Plus, with my two-year-old grandson, he’s definitely a catalyst in saving this story.”
Catch Beutner along with Zip and Zap at one of her scheduled readings in December:
- December 1st - Zip and Zap Celebration: Meet the Author and Illustrator at Quality Beet 717 Franklin in Michigan City from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
- December 2nd - Meet the Author and Illustrator at Quality Beet from 10:00 a.m. to Noon.
- December 6th- Storytime at the LaPorte Library - Coolspring Branch, time to be determined
- December 6th – Author Reading at Michigan City Senior Center, time to be determined