How Starr Came To Be

Illustrator Mary Kilpatrick street art

In 2001, accomplished professional actress and artist Mary Kilpatrick came to me, her husband, with an idea that had been bubbling in her soul for some time. She had been working for quite a while as a Children’s Specialist for the New York City-based Sanctuary for the Families, a non-profit absolutely dedicated to the safety, healing and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence.

I was sitting in a big comfy chair in our Carroll Gardens flat in Brooklyn when this force of nature approached me with the loving intensity she is known for. She said “I want to tell the story in rhyme and in colorful, safe pictures. Would you write the words about a family—a mother, a young boy, a girl—told from the young girl’s point of view? I choose a name Star.”

“How about two ‘Rs’?” I asked.

“Yes. It is from Starr’s point of view. My drawings will show the adults from the neck down, from a child’s perspective. It will be about their fear-filled, violent home life and how they got to safety at the Sanctuary shelter. Okay… I have a bunch of ideas to go over and…” Mary caught herself. She then walked out of the living room and reappeared with a big smile on her face. “Okay Howard?” And she jumped into my lap.

I said, “Sure!”

After two months, the work was complete. We found a publisher, and between 2002-2006, A Place for Starr sold out two editions (10,000 copies). Then our publisher was sold to another company and stopped the marketing of Starr.

We moved to Bend, Oregon in 2002. Until 2006, Mary worked here with Saving Grace (then called COBRA), a domestic shelter with the same purpose as Sanctuary. Mary and I then became immersed in other business and creative projects in Bend. But we continued our work with children, in another vein—co-founding a non-profit childrens’ theater.

During that time, our ideas about Starr were put on the shelf, although we would take the book down from time to time and discuss. We did self-publish a small third edition on our own, but very little more was done with the book until 2016.

With the help of Dave Finch, our designer, and the awesome abilities of Kathryn Galán, our editor and link to our new partner, Amazon, we have launched a fourth edition of this difficult yet hopeful and courageous odyssey.