QUINCY — After working for 30 years as an information technology consultant, Ron Kinscherf grew tired of what he called “the rat race.”
“I was tired. I was done,” he said.
He quit his job in April but did not know what to do next. For years, in addition to his day job, Kinscherf spent time broadcasting Quincy Notre Dame basketball games on WTAD-AM. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008 for that work, but he had stepped away from the microphone a few years ago.
“I spoke to Mary (his wife), and she was fine with it,” Kinscherf said. “She said, ‘We’ll make it.’ She knew I wasn’t happy.”
Kinscherf, 59, now believes he may have found his calling after spending some of his free time with his grandchildren.
He has written 13 stories to be used in children’s books since the first week of April. The first one is going through the illustration process. Kinscherf believes it will be published through Amazon and available for purchase by the end of July.
Playing with his grandchildren
The idea of becoming a children’s book author was hatched when he visited with his son, Zach, daughter-in-law, Katelyn, and grandsons Theo, 3½, and Lucas, 1½.
“Everybody was making suggestions about what I should do next, and Katelyn said I should think about writing children’s stories because of the way I play with the boys,” Kinscherf said. “Theo and I play a lot, and he’s very creative. We play a lot of creative games with his cars and trucks, and I just started thinking about it. Hmmm … maybe.”
Kinscherf came up with ideas for a couple of books, wrote them and then contacted local authors Bobbi White and Tracy Schlepphorst for feedback. Both gave positive reviews. He then went online and found Holly Brogaard from Minneapolis to illustrate his work.
“We hit it off in about 10 minutes,” Kinscherf said. “Holly can do what I’m thinking, and she’s very open-minded. It’s really cool to see what you imagine these things to look like, then have them actually come to life as she does whatever magic she does. So I was like, OK, we’re going to do one and see what happens.”
Ant colonies and turtles
Kinscherf says the first series of books are about an ant colony living under a brick patio at an older couple’s home in a small town in a small neighborhood with a small backyard. One ant is in charge of the ant colony, and all the ants have jobs.
Another series is called “Papa Tell Me a Book.” As a grandfather puts a child down for a nap, the child looks around the room and picks something, and the grandfather tells the story. The idea came from Kinscherf’s experiences of putting his grandchildren down for naps. (He also has two grandchildren, Nathan and Mia, who live in Charlotte, N.C., with his daughter, Abby, and her husband, Mark Kerkhoff.)
“Theo picks what he wants the story to be about,” he said. “You get nervous. He looks around the bedroom and picks anything random. It could be a light bulb. So now I’ve got to create a story from that, and I have three books based on that.”
The idea for his third series came while playing the No. 5 hole at Westview Golf Course in Quincy. He saw 40 turtles near a big drain at the edge of the lake (in front of the green).
“It made me wonder what they’re talking about,” Kinscherf said. “So I wrote a book about how every Sunday morning, the turtles have their council meeting. Each turtle has a different neighborhood. Who’s in charge? What are they talking about?”
Not your typical children’s book
Kinscherf believes his books will differ from the average children’s book in a couple of ways. One would be the vocabulary.
“I’ve read an unbelievable amount of children’s books in the last three years, and a lot of them aren’t very good in the fact that I don’t think they’re really written for a 3-to-5 year-old. There are words in there they don’t understand,” he said. “I’ll stop in the middle of a book and ask (one of his grandchildren), ‘Do you know what ‘refrigeration’ means? Or ‘constellation?’ No, they don’t, but they won’t interrupt you while you’re reading because basically, it’s a picture to them and people talking. There are children’s stories where there’s just not a whole lot of effort.
“I try to write to two audiences. One is the child, and graphics are the key. Also the adult will have fun, because some of my humor is in there. I believe I’m pretty good at writing dialogue.”
To help with a child’s understanding of words, Kinscherf also has instances in his books when he asks the reader a question.
“If I use a word the child might not know, I’ll write, ‘Now we’ll stop,’ so the reader can explain to the child what that word means,” he said.
People interested in following Kinscherf’s writing process can follow him on the first Facebook page he’s ever created. It’s called “Papa Tell Me a Book.”
Using your imagination
He says he hopes his books stir the imagination of children.
“I want to show people how you can use your imagination to tell a story, and how it’s really not that hard,” he said. “These are not your conventional children’s books. They’re going to be different.
“I have not run into a person who said, ‘Why in the world are you doing this?’ or ‘What a waste of time.’ I think God has had a plan for all of us to a degree, and I don’t think I was created to be an IT salesman. I have helped people, but how much joy or good have I really done for the community?
“We all do what we can, but I’ve always felt there was something great that I was going to do. I’m really excited about this.”
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