LUVERNE - Multiple manuscripts, each consisting of hand-written stories on plain white paper and held together by paper clips, are spread out on the dining room table in Kathie Hendricks’ Luverne home.
They are the stories - eight in all - that Hendricks hopes will soon be converted to colorful children’s books to join “Walleyes & Watermelon: The Story of Summer at the Lake,” which she published last October, and “Here Come the Leprechauns,” which she anticipates will be on bookstore shelves by late February or early March.
Hendricks writes under the pen name Kate Henry, which she thinks is more catchy for her target audience - readers ages 6 to 12.
“I’ve always liked to write, and I still write handwritten notes and cards,” Hendricks said. Her published books, as well as the manuscripts, were all penned in the span of 10 weeks in 2017.
That January, while recovering from back surgery, her son Jake encouraged her to use the time off from her daycare business to write a children’s book.
Hendricks said she sat down at the dining room table and began to write. A few hours later, she had completed her first manuscript. The stories, though considered works of fiction, are based on her childhood days, as well as those of her children and grandchildren.
“Walleyes & Watermelon” hearkens back to Hendricks’ youth, when she and her brother, Tommy, spent two weeks every summer visiting their grandparents at the lake. Their favorite meal, of course, was walleye and watermelon.
The main characters in each book and manuscript are Kathleen - otherwise known as Bean, a nickname Hendricks had as a child - and Tommy.
“The ideas are pretty easy for me,” Hendricks said of the story lines. One manuscript, titled “Backyard Hockey,” is about people flooding their backyards to play hockey; while another manuscript, “Annoying Ghosts,” is based off her 12-year-old granddaughter’s interest in drawing ghosts.
“I have one (manuscript) where my daughter, when she was 4, had an imaginary friend, Andee,” Hendricks said. When the family moved to Luverne 25 years ago, Hendricks noticed that her daughter, Stephanie, had stopped mentioning Andee. When she asked the child what happened, Stephanie said “When we moved to Luverne, she moved to New York City and I don’t see her anymore.
“So, that’s a book,” Hendricks said with a grin.
Of “Here Come the Leprechauns,” Hendricks quipped, “I’m half Irish, so writing a book about Leprechauns was pretty easy to do.”
Hendricks is nearly six months into a signed two-year contract with Christian Faith Publishing of Meadville, Pa. It was the first publishing company she approached after getting addresses and phone numbers of a couple publishing houses from son Jake.
Christian Faith Publishing is now asking to see the rest of her manuscripts.
“My publisher said I could send them all in at once,” Hendricks said. “I kind of would like to get them out there.”
Though she hand-writes each manuscript using a ruler to help guide her even lines, she also draws in her own ideas for illustrations. At the publishing house, graphic artists use those ideas to create the colorful images that appear in the books.
“I have to approve everything,” Hendricks said. “It took a little over a year to get the first book published; the second one, 11 to 12 months.”
Writing children’s books isn’t a full-time gig for Hendricks, who is in her 38th year as a daycare provider - first in her hometown of Breckenridge, and then in Luverne.
Hendricks has daily story time with the kids in her care, and they’ve all heard the stories of Bean and Tommy.
Writing books for a younger audience appeals to the newly published author.
“I like this age group,” she said. “They can pick it up and read it themselves and think about it.
“I just want a children’s book that kids will like - that they’ll go back to.”
The first of Kate Henry’s books is available at Barnes & Noble book stores, as well as their online shop. “Walleyes & Watermelon” can also be checked out at the Rock County Library in Luverne, a member of the Plum Creek Library System.