Living the American Dream

Sometimes, when you’re lucky, your dreams can come true . . . such is the story of Michigan author/photographers Carl Sams and Jean Stoick.
When I talked to Carl, he and wife Jean were at a pit stop somewhere in the heart of Texas. The Milford couple were visiting friends and doing what they the love — taking pictures, with nature as their subject. These days, Carl and Jean can look about and smile.
They love wildlife. They love art. They love taking pictures and they love the fact they can make a living from stuff they love.
They’re living the proverbial American Dream!
Their first children’s’s book, Stranger in the Woods, hit the New York Times? best-sellers list for five consecutive years. It has sold 1.1 million copies and even published in German.
‘We knocked off a little known book called Harry Potter,? Carl joked over the cell phone, as I believe he was refueling their vacation vehicle.
Not bad for a children’s book with a first printing of only 20,000, ‘that we hand delivered across the state.?
Stranger in the Woods was also made into a movie which has impressed the critics and engaged youth since 2001.
Their latest adventure in writing was published last June, Lost in the Woods. Last month, the couple donated a copy of the book to every elementary school in Michigan (moms and dads, have your kids check out the school library or visit to get your own copy.)
‘It’s been a dream come true,? Carl said, accompanied with the sounds of some Texas road. ‘There really is a message behind Lost in the Woods.?
The message for children (and adults) is about patience and trust — told from the perspective of a whitetail fawn.
According to Sams, spring is fawn season. Every year good meaning humans find ‘lost? fawns out in the wild. We friendly bipeds may try to help the little critter without its mother, but they shouldn’t. Mom deers leave their baby deers behind — then come back. It is natural.
‘This is a story of patience and trust — it tells kids they need patience, mom will be back. Mom said so and she will be back,? he said.
As both books have been hugely popular, Carl and Jean enjoyed the idea of ‘giving? something back in the form of donated books. Donating the book to schools now also helps educate folks here in their home state of Michigan about fawns and their mothers.
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Since Stranger in the Woods took off, the couple have been able to make photography their business — and while it is ‘fun,? it also keep them busy.
‘Last year we had about five days off,? Carl said.
They take pictures, promote their books, take more pictures and somewhere in there they fulfill speaking engagements. They weren’t always this jet-setting Michigan duo.
Carl was a builder/real estate broker by training. Jean was an art teacher. Both had a passion for nature. Carl’s advice for the budding photographer/would-be author:
‘Don’t quit your day job. You still need to make a living. Once we knew we could make it, then we switched. I took over 100,000 images before I made a living from it.?
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This spring the couple will continue their busy ways, hoping to wrap up the film version of Lost in the Woods. Despite hectic schedules and pumping gas at a station somewhere in the middle of Texas, I could sense Carl was smiling on the other side of the phone.
‘There have been so many positive experiences that make it all worth while.?
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Know somebody else who is living the American dream and loving it? E-mail Rush,