Children’s Book Nearing Publication After Local Author’s Death

Potomac crash last month killed man and woman


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An image from the forthcoming children's book Kathleen French wrote, with illustrations by Katy Lipscomb.

COURTESY OF KATY LIPSCOMB

Before she was killed in a car crash last month, Kathleen French was closing in on a dream.

She wrote a children’s book called “Foxy the Fox and the Unexpected Treasure,” found an illustrator and was looking forward to seeing it published.

But French, 33, and a friend, Kent Brooks, 30, died on Oct. 18 when Brooks’ car veered off Democracy Boulevard in Potomac and struck a tree. Police are still working on their investigation of what happened.

French had a daughter, Kirsten, 10, and a son, Preston, 3. Brooks helped look after his niece, Lyla, who is 8.

French, a Potomac resident, grew up in Bethesda. She went to Winston Churchill High School, then earned a degree in business marketing at the University of Maryland, according to her sister, Lauren.

Kathleen French worked for more than 10 years at Leading Authorities, a speakers bureau that her father, Mark, founded.

Brooks, who had a home in Rockville, also attended Churchill. He studied at Lynn University in Florida, then the University of Maryland, according to his father, Steve.

For a little more than a year, Kent Brooks was a sales representative for WealthEngine, a Bethesda-based company that works on fundraising, marketing and business development.

His WealthEngine coworkers raised more than $5,000 through GoFundMe to help Kent’s family with the expenses of his memorial service.

Lauren French said Kathleen thought up Foxy the Fox when Kirsten was 2 years old, inspired by Kirsten’s red hair, blue eyes and vibrant personality. First, Kathleen wrote about Foxy in a poem, then turned it into a story for a children’s book.

Kathleen French found Katy Lipscomb’s art online.

Lipscomb, a 2016 graduate of the University of Georgia, is a freelance illustrator. She has created art for coloring books, a card game and an office supply company, to name a few.

Lipscomb, of Athens, Ga., said in an interview that she has shied away from illustrating children’s books, but when she read French’s work, she found an instant connection.

She and French collaborated for nearly two years through texts and emails. Last month, they put their project up on the fundraising website Kickstarter, hoping to get $4,000. They ended up with about $13,000. The book project was moving ahead.

“She was just so happy,” Lipscomb said.

 

Kathleen French. Credit: Kickstarter page for “Foxy the Fox and the Unexpected Treasure”

 

A video posted with the book fundraising page on Kickstarter shows French and Lipscomb talking about the project, with a sped-up look at Lipscomb doing illustrations. French called her book a story for “anybody who has an imagination and wants to go on an adventure.”

The fatal crash came just two days into the fundraising campaign, when French sent Lipscomb a final manuscript.

Lipscomb is going ahead with the book, with the support of French’s family.

Lipscomb said Monday that she sent the final copy to the publisher for a first proof last week. She expects to have it back by the end of the month. If that schedule holds up, people who ordered a copy, including backers on the Kickstarter campaign, could get the book in December or January. The first print run is 300 copies.

“Kathleen’s dream was always to be a writer,” Lauren, 24, said. Kathleen French became more motivated to pursue her goal a few years ago, around the time she connected with Lipscomb.

Lauren French said the collaboration with Lipscomb resulted in just the right imagery for the story her sister wanted to tell. “It’s just like taking a snapshot out of Kathleen’s mind,” she said.

Kathleen French also was writing a novel, and her family is trying to find an agent to help get it published.

Lauren said Kathleen loved running, baking, art and Harry Potter books, and was into trying new things.

“She has so many things that were just about to happen,” said Lauren, who, inspired by her sister, is working on a novel, too.

 

Kent Brooks with his niece Lyla. Credit: From Steve Brooks

 

Steve Brooks said one of Kent’s endearing traits was how devoted he was to his niece. Steve and his wife, Linda, have custody of Lyla.

Kent spent “every free moment he had” with Lyla and was instrumental in helping her advance and develop in school, often working with her at home, Steve Brooks said.

Kent also had a deep fondness for animals, growing up with a golden retriever named Riker. His parents took in his most recent dog, a boxer named Gonzo, after his death.

Steve Brooks said Kent enjoyed video games and cars, and was a gifted athlete who enjoyed playing sports with his father.

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