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Salisbury native and friends try hands at writing for children

SALISBURY — Catherine Goodman Farley and Jay Kenerly have known each other pretty much all their lives.
Their families were well-acquainted, and they were friends through Salisbury High School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After college, their career and personal paths took them in opposite directions from Salisbury.
Today, Farley is a physical therapist in Charlotte and mother of three; Kenerly, a financial services officer in Greensboro and father of four. Besides their Salisbury roots and families full of youngsters, Farley and Kenerly have something else in common: their compulsion to write and self-publish children’s books.
Until recently, neither Farley nor Kenerly knew the other had become authors. The realization came through an exchange of posts and messages on Facebook, and it has led to plans for a mutual book-signing of their children’s books in Salisbury.
Both authors will be signing their books from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at the Literary Bookpost & Just the Thing, 110 S. Main St.
You can bet their appearances in Salisbury will have the feel of a family affair and homecoming. Farley is daughter of Dr. Myron and Mary Goodman of Salisbury; Kenerly is son of Bill and Toni Kenerly, also of Salisbury.
Maybe it was a harbinger of things to come, but Mary Goodman and Toni Kenerly have been members of the same book club for about 35 years.
Here’s a look at how their children became interested in writing for children.
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Jay Kenerly says he and his wife, Rosemary Plybon, have their own little reality show with their twin boys Hal and Bert, who are 5; and daughters Maye, 3, and Viv, 2.
Add in a 10-year-old dog, Lily, and a 16-year-old cat named “Red,” even though he’s a white cat.
Kenerly was a history major at UNC, and he acknowledges he also fancied himself as a writer since his days in middle school. Before the couple ever had their own children, Rosemary frequently heard Jay express an interest in writing books for kids.
Rather than keep driving her crazy, Kenerly finally took a children’s book-writing class through the public library in Greensboro. The final project for the six-week course was to write a children’s book.
Kenerly decided the main characters in his book would be cats. He and Rosemary had two cats at the time and no children. With its cardboard cover, his 2004 children’s story sat on a shelf at home for almost 10 years.
Over time, Kenerly wrote some other children’s stories, until he decided to try self-publishing in 2013. One of the triggers was Tracey J. Marshall, a popular artist in Greensboro who had gone to high school with Rosemary. She had just illustrated another children’s book for a local author.
Marshall agreed to illustrate Kenerly’s book, and Rosemary offered to serve as editor. Kenerly decided to try self-publishing his original story from the class at the library.
“You would think writing is the hard part, but it’s the easy part,” Kenerly says. “… We didn’t have any idea of what we were doing.”
He learned how everything in the self-publishing business was web-based, which allows printing on demand. Kenerly and Rosemary decided if he sold enough of his first book, titled “Treats,” to make back their investment, they would try a second book.
“Treats,” published in 2013, celebrates the love cats have for snacks and how they especially go for the ones dished out by Mom.
Kenerly now has a second book, “‘Twas Christmas Eve Eve (The Night Mom Saved Christmas),” and he’ll be signing both in Salisbury.
The idea of Christmas Eve Eve comes from a Dec. 23 Christmas party his family always attended at the home of Cindy and Bill Noell in Salisbury, Kenerly says.
The theme behind Kenerly’s Christmas book is that even when the elves’ work is done and Santa’s sleigh is packed, they still need some last-minute help from Mom.
Kenerly says he has two to three more stories in the bank and ready to go for the future. The whole children’s book-writing experience has been a way for him “to scratch an itch” and be creative, Kenerly says.
“And to have something tangible at the end of it,” he adds. “… Now that we’ve done one, it’s fun to get out and share it, put it in front of people and get their reaction and feedback to it.’
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Make no mistake, Catherine Goodman Farley is the author of “Mischievous Mimi Explores Seabrook Island,” but she deflects a lot of the credit for the book to her daughters, Madeline, 10, and Mary Catherine (“M.C.”), 8.
Farley says the girls came up with all of the book’s animal characters and the places where Mimi should travel on the island. Madeline had the idea for using pluff mud as a key story component, and M.C. created the word search, which comes at the back of the book, along with a glossary — “Mimi’s Island Nature Guide.”
Illustrated by Lowcountry artist Susan Leggett, Farley’s book uses a newborn fawn named Mimi to help readers explore the trails, marshes and beaches of Seabrook Island, a S.C. barrier island and one of the Farley family’s favorite vacation spots.
As the girls have grown and traveled, Farley says, the family — which includes 5-year-old James — has collected keepsake books of places they visit.
Farley and her daughters realized there was no keepsake book for young visitors to one of their favorite places in the world, Seabrook Island.
Farley started building on a nature and exploration concept for the book in April 2013. A friend in Charlotte invited her to be part of a group writing for children, and she gained some valuable tips. In addition, one of her physical therapy clients is a freelance writer who gave her strong encouragement.
“In truth,” Farley says, “I’m a very technical writer — that’s the comedy of it.”
Farley says she probably went through 50 drafts before getting the story right, but she knew she had an important children’s book for Seabrook Island and a ready-made market for it.
Indigo Books on Kiawah Island and The Seabrook Shoppe on Seabrook Island have the book in stock, along with Historic Charleston (S.C.) Foundation and Park Road Books in Charlotte. Literary Bookpost & Just the Thing sold out of its first shipment to Salisbury.
The hardback book has 8.5- by 11-inch full-color pages with a map of Seabrook Island on the inside covers.
David Gardner, director of environmental education at the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, gave this review of the book:
“Catherine Farley has managed to capture the essence of nature on Seabrook Island in a wonderful and unique way. The story of Mimi’s adventure draws you in, enticing you to learn more about these beautiful animals. It is told in a way that works beautifully for young people to appreciate valuable lessons in safety, exploration, wild animals and the island itself.”
On the website (www.explorewithmimi.com) that goes with the book, Farley and her girls post “Mimi’s Thursday Treks,” an educational blog where children can learn more about the barrier islands.
As with Kenerly, Farley has more children’s books in her. The next one might look at Seabrook Island from a historic perspective, and she expects son James and his cousin to be heavily involved.
It should be noted that “Mimi” is the name Madeline and M.C. use for grandmother Mary Goodman.
So Goodman has those bragging rights — a book named for her — the next time she has a book club meeting with Toni Kenerly.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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