the power of creative collaboration

The book's cover. Photo by Ron DeKett, design by Kristin Toney.
The book’s cover. Photo by Ron DeKett, design by Kristin Toney.

A friend said she likes the cover of my newly printed book, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, and I promised to share the story behind it that illustrates the power of creative collaboration. My daughter Jennifer came up with the idea of a girl’s toes in black dirt as a cover illustration for the book. Then, as a surprise to me, she arranged a photo shoot with Naomi, a girl who lives next door to her in Michigan. Yes, the book is about growing up in the 1950s in Iowa, and yes, my husband Ron DeKett had to buy bags of black dirt to dump in the Michigan cornfield (that’s called poetic license). Southwestern Michigan soil tends to be a bit sandy, not black like Iowa’s dirt. Naomi all on her own dug a lovely family heirloom dress out of storage for the shoot. Kristin Toney designed the cover using Ron’s photo, and John Adam Wickliffe tweaked it before publication. I’m thrilled with the result. There you go, Rhea Lynn. That’s the story. Visit me at