By Kady Cramer
Local author and long-time lover of the lake, Merrie Costello’s first recollection of her fascination with water was as a nurse assistant at Kanakuk Kamp on Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Missouri.
“There was nothing better than waking up to birds chirping and the sunrise hitting the glistening water,” says Costello. “My body would feel de-stressed and it would put me into ‘lake mode’ where time didn’t matter, and I literally lost track of it.”
Now a wife and mother of three, she and her family– along with their chocolate Labrador retriever – have owned their own lake house on Lake Lotawana since 2016. This is the setting for her blog and first book – a children’s story featuring their five-year-old puppy, titled Lucy the Lake Dog.
After a communications career in the corporate world, Costello started a blog in 2018 centered around her family’s lake home called Seasons of the Lake. At the same time the family adopted Lucy. She was only eight weeks old. Her first weekend was spent at the lake house and her first bed was a beach towel.
“We noticed when we came to the lake, Lucy was just curious about everything and it’s really her happy place,” says Costello. “We open the [car] door and she wants to run straight down to the lake and jump in immediately.”
In addition to Lucy making regular appearances in Costello’s blog, the book (published in the Summer of 2022) follows Lucy’s many adventures at the lake – jumping off docks, swimming, chasing birds and riding the boat. As she impatiently waits for her family to wake up and take her down to the lake every morning, she dreams of all the things that she will do. One summer morning when her patience is tested, she realizes that all of life’s sweetest moments are best spent with the ones you love.
“I literally sat down and wrote the rhyming manuscript in about 30 minutes,” says Costello. “Next was securing an illustrator.”
Jacqueline Kerr, an illustrator from Kansas City, MO who primarily works in watercolors, creates drawings inspired by travel, architecture, and current events.
“A classmate of my son’s, Jacqueline had become a talented budding artist and her watercolor illustrations had just the right feel for my story of family,” says Costello.
After researching small publishing companies, Costello found one on the East Coast – Fulton Books.
“The advantage of not using an agent was that I was able to choose my own illustrator which was very important to me,” says Costello. “When I looked at some of the illustrations from other artists available to me through the publisher, I would rather have given up the project than use their computer-generated drawings.”
Costello announced the book on her social accounts last year and now many stores carry the publication in Kansas City as well as lake communities in Missouri, Colorado, and Wisconsin.
“We absolutely love the lake. It’s a way to put down the phones, put down the computer, turn off the tv, and just enjoy the world that God has given us,” says Costello. “Sometimes we are in such a busy frame of mind that we need to stop and think about what is important. I have such high hopes that children will love reading this book and feel the same warmth in their hearts that I did when I created the story.”
A portion of every Lucy the Lake Dog book sold is donated to KC Pet Project. For more information visit www.seasonofthelake.com, or follow Lucy’s Instagram @lucy.thelakedog. See jacquelinekerrillustration.com for more information on the book’s illustrator.