For many folks, childhood memories are a source of joy, comfort, pain, life lessons and, quite often, embarrassment.
But for author Terra Kern, they served as great material for her first book, “Here Comes Little Jenna Jafferty.”
“Each chapter is about myself and an experience that I had,” said the 1980 Oxford High School graduate. “I was quite the character.”
Set in a rural Michigan neighborhood in the 1960s, the book, published by Covenant Books, follows the adventures, and misadventures, of the fictional Jenna Jafferty, who’s described as a “rambunctious, bighearted little girl doing her best to find her place in her family and to understand the world around her.”
It’s the first in a series featuring Jafferty’s journey.
Although she used experiences from her youth as the basis for her book, Kern, who now lives in Independence Township, insisted it’s not an autobiography. It’s fiction inspired by real-life events, she explained.
“There are some incidents that every kid goes through,” said the 55-year-old. “I am hoping that they will learn from my mistakes – and I make quite a few of them in there.”
Growing up in Oxford circa 1960s was “absolutely wonderful” for Kern.
“I was really an outdoors girl,” she said. “I loved exploring the woods and the fields. It was a lot of fun. It was exciting.”
“Times were different then,” Kern added. “We’d be gone almost all day long and our parents weren’t worried about us . . . All the parents watched over all the kids.”
She especially enjoyed swimming in Clear Lake. “I spent a lot of time in the water,” Kern said.
When she was younger, Kern wanted to pen children’s books because of her passion for reading.
“My mom taught all of us how to read before we even started kindergarten. She read to us all the time,” she said. “I’ve always been a lover of books.”
Long before she started publishing for the masses, Kern regularly took time to write for an audience of one – herself.
“I’ve always journaled,” she said. “If something was bothering me, I’d write it out. It’s just something I’ve always done. I can remember getting in trouble when I was younger and my parents would ask me what I did and I refused to tell them, but I would write it down.”
But as often happens, life got in the way, so the dream of becoming an author took a backseat to the responsibilities of adulthood.
“I found the man of my dreams, got married, started having children. I had three, so you can imagine how busy it was,” Kern said.
She also worked as a secretary and receptionist in the medical field for 20 years, then retired. But retirement got a bit boring, so she went to work as a customer service supervisor at the Kmart store in Orion Township. She did that for three years before issues with her back sidelined her.
It was during that time that Kern decided to start writing a book.
In 14 months, she penned the first two books in the Jenna Jafferty series. The next one will be entitled, “Little Jenna Jafferty: Changes, Challenges and Chuckles.”
“I was on a roll,” Kern said.
Her main goal is to write books that will not only entertain children, but be “enjoyable” for adults as well because parents and grandparents often end up reading the same stories over and over again at bedtime.
Kern, who has seven grandchildren ages 5-13 (with one more on the way), infuses her storytelling with humor as much as possible.
“I thought about the things that I liked most as a child,” she said. “The number one thing I loved to do was laugh.”
She also adds educational elements.
“I wanted to stretch children’s vocabulary, so every once in a while I put in a word that may be a little bit more difficult, but (it’s) one you can absolutely understand its meaning (based on) the context,” Kern explained.
“Here Comes Little Jenna Jafferty” drew rave reviews from Kern’s family and friends.
“They all loved it,” she said. “They said it was cute. They said it was funny. They think kids are really going to like it.”
Kern enjoyed writing the book because reliving her childhood memories made her think about her late parents Gilbert and Dolores Brown.
“It was like they were here with me again,” she said.
To all those would-be authors out there, Kern believes she’s a perfect example that “it’s never too late” to pursue a dream.
Her best advice is to “make sure that you write every day.”
“You don’t have to worry about punctuation and proper grammar,” Kern said. “Whatever you have in your head, you need to get it out on paper. You can always go back and reorganize and edit later. Just do it.”
“Here Comes Little Jenna Jafferty” is available at bookstores everywhere and on-line at the Apple iTunes store, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.