Gretchen Preston


While Gretchen Preston’s career began as a medical social worker, writing for medical newsletters and patient education manuals in the Pacific Northwest, she now writes children’s books from her home in Chocolay Township – books that, in her own words, are made to be loved, carried around, shoved into backpacks and just plain enjoyed. Preston fell in love with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after meeting her husband Tim while he was on a visit to Denver from Marquette. Through her book, Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River, Preston creates short stories that include characters inspired by local folks and her animal friends. She weaves historical, geographical and naturalist facts into the text and uses her life in the U.P., personal observations and imagination to round out the stories. Valley Cats reflects Preston’s belief in enjoying both being and feeling like a kid. For the author, it is important to have fun with work while never forgetting to laugh. She does this while calling upon her favorite childhood books as inspiration, and while offering children books that are both fun and educational.

Preston commits many hours of research to each story, using a computer as her chief writing and fact-checking tool. The Valley Cats stories follow the four seasons, with chapters ranging from three to seven pages in length, including a glossary in the back that features words and terms that may not be familiar to non-UPers. Preston’s final product is a beautifully illustrated hardcover book, ideal for the fifth grade reading level. Karin Nuemann, a graduate of Northern Michigan University, is the illustrator. After Preston completes her stories, Nuemann takes photographs of the location of each illustration as described by the text and each character before her creative artistry gets to work. Once stories and illustrations are complete, they are sent to an editor, and appropriate changes are made. The final product shares the wholly unique U.P. story with readers.

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