Former Walla Walla man spins storytelling into kid lit


As far back as he can remember, Chris Carson has been writing and telling stories. Then about four years ago he began investing more time into the effort.

The son of Walla Wallans Robert J. “Bob” Carson, Phillips professor of geology and environmental studies, and wife Clare Carson, associate dean of students, both at Whitman College, Chris just published his first story, “Off Track in Yellowstone,” a 175-page kids literature book. Bob shot the photo for the cover.

Book details

“Off Track in Yellowstone,” by Chris Carson, Paperback, 184 pages, April 15, 2014, SBN: 978-1-304-87030-8.

Click here or visit Earthlight Books, 321 E. Main St., Whitman Bookstore, 280 Boyer Ave., and Book & Game Co., 38 E. Main St.

Chris said he’s been spinning tales for his children with wife Dr. Mandy Allison, Amelia, 8 going on 9, and Edward, 5, and their friends.

Sitting by a fire near where the story takes place in West Yellowstone, Mont., he began relating the yarn that developed into the published version.

“I was working on another kids’ book at the time, and I stopped to write up this story as a present for my daughter and her friend. The more I wrote, the more I began to like the story as a concept for a series of wilderness mysteries, books about two adventurous girls getting into tough spots in wild and remote areas,” he said.

In the story, teenage skiers Amelia and Cecilia suspect something’s up when a starved, frostbitten, raving-mad person emerges from Yellowstone National Park days after a priceless painting disappears. Their investigation leads them deep into the winter back country, turning their adventure into a struggle to survive.

Chris received a lot of encouragement from younger and older readers while working on the novel. “I am still not sure what will happen next and have only limited time to take further steps to promote or publish. I know very little about the publishing world — if there is a market for this concept, then I’d absolutely like to work with editors and publishers to produce a series.”

A lifelong outdoors enthusiast, he especially enjoys climbing. “Almost all of my mountaineering has been in North and South America, from high summits to technical rock towers. This love has often put me in situations like the one the two girls face in this book — slightly lost, exhausted, out of daylight or time, with many miles still to go.

“Since becoming a dad, I’ve spend a lot less time pursuing difficult summits and a lot more time running, biking, or cross-country skiing, but I still seem to have a knack for overestimating how far I can go or underestimating how long a route will take.

“While living in Utah, I took to cross-country ski racing, especially endurance events. Uncertainty and pushing limits always adds to the experience, whether climbing or skiing.”

For many of those adventures, he’s partnered with Mandy, a pediatrician and researcher for the University of Colorado, Denver, “including some of the days where the return to camp is hours after dark.”

With this kind of exposure is it any wonder their children love to be outside biking hiking, skiing and climbing?

After graduating in 1991 from DeSales High School, Chris earned his bachelor’s in environmental biology, summa cum laude, in 1995 from Dartmouth College; a master’s of education with an emphasis in secondary science instruction in 1997 from the University of Mississippi; and a master’s of linguistics with an emphasis in instruction of bilingual students in 2002 from the University of Utah.

He taught middle through high school grades for 11 years in Mississippi, Utah and Colorado, usually to groups of students considered at-risk, “a term I don’t like,” he said.

“As a teacher, I came to love the intersection of science and language — using student-led investigations in the secondary science classroom to teach English to bilingual or emerging bilingual students.”

He continues this emphasis as a lecturer at UC-Denver. “I design professional development for Colorado elementary and secondary science instruction, mentor and teach student teachers during their internships and teach on campus about culturally-responsive teaching in urban schools.”

He’s busy penning the second story and has rough sketches for a couple more. “I’m ready to go on the next adventure for these two smart, strong, self-reliant characters. Will they find themselves in similar tight jams as the hike, bike, or climb their way into other remote locations? Book two could be “Off-Route in the Rockies,” hiking/mountain climbing in La Garita Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains outside Creede, Colo., with connections to the summer repertory theater. And book three could be “Lost in the Book Cliffs,” biking in remote areas of the Tavaputs Plateau/Book Cliffs along the Utah/Colorado border, with connections to archaeology pieces.

“Whether or not this book or series is published (beyond self-publishing), I hope people enjoy it, and I hope it inspires middle-grade readers to pursue their own outdoor adventures,” Chris said.

Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313.


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