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Jackson native tells pony’s tale in first book

Jackson native Carin Thamke recently published her first book, “Sir Prize, the Storm Pony.” Submitted photo

JHS 1996 graduate Carin (Kranawetter) Thamke self-published her first children’s book, “Sir Prize, the Storm Pony,” in December using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Services.

The book is based upon true events of a pony’s life from his birth in the 1980s through several moves and adventures until he finally settles back home.

Written for children in about the sixth grade, the book is not strictly an equestrian biography.

“Although the events described in the book are true, I share what I imagined to be his voice or thoughts as he went through those major fun or sad life events,” Thamke said.

The book includes photos of the real people and places from Sir Prize’s life.

Thamke met Sir Prize’s owner, Missy Neale, in the early 2000s, and they became good friends. When Neale had knee surgery and needed help to take care of her pony, Thamke volunteered.

During this time, a storm came through and the pony’s barn flooded in the middle of the night. Moving the horse was a challenge because Neale didn’t have a horse trailer. That experience stuck with Thamke and was the spark that inspired her to write her book.

After his barn flooded, Sir Prize was taken to a barn at Longview Farm Park. The move was controversial because that barn was used by an organization that used horses to provide therapy to children.

“Even though the mayor said Sir Prize could stay there, his presence was frowned upon by some because he was considered one too many at the barn,” Thamke explained. “However, compassion won out and the kids loved him!

“I decided to make it a children’s book because most kids love horses,” said Thamke. “I learned more stories about Sir Prize from Missy, and the book almost wrote itself.”

The plot focuses on the “storms” in Sir Prize’s life. In addition to his barn flooding, there are times when he must move or has a friend (another pony) die. Thamke expresses the emotions Sir Prize goes through, which may be similar to children’s emotions as they move away, face loved ones dying, are bullied, etc.

Thamke started writing her book in the spring of 2019, and it was published this past December, almost four years later. She found writing her book “fun and frustrating at the same time.”

It was fun because she has enjoyed writing most of her life.

“Creative writing has always been a fun outlet for me, even as a kid,” explained Thamke. “I can remember as early as fifth grade in North Elementary, my teacher Mrs. Martha Short, gave us an assignment to write a poem. I wrote a poem called “Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls.” She submitted the poem in some statewide contest. I know it won a prize and was published somewhere, but I don’t remember where exactly. So, Mrs. Short, wherever you are, thank you for believing in me all those years ago!”

Part of the frustration came in finding the time to write this book. “Writing is not my full time job,” she explained. Her full-time job is being an IT digital lead for manufacturing infrastructure and information security at Bayer Crop Science in Saint Louis.

She and her husband, Pete, live in St. Peters and have three children from previous marriages; two have moved away and the youngest is currently a freshman in high school.

Another frustration was trying to tailor the story to children at about the sixth-grade level. To make sure it resonated with young minds, she let young people read her manuscript and give her feedback. She started with her cousins, Rebecca Newell and Madelyn Eftink, and a friend’s daughter, Amya Singla.

“It was draft one or two that I sent them,” Thamke explained. “Needless to say, those were not the best drafts. But the feedback was needed to rethink how to format the story.”

By draft four or five, Thamke reached out to Jefferson Intermediate Middle School in Saint Charles.

English teacher Christen Dannenbrink used her book as an English project for her sixth-grade students.

“After each chapter, Mrs. Dannenbrink would send me the students’ feedback about the chapter. By the time the kids read the last chapters, the kids were sad the project was over and wanted to send gratitude cards. Within a week or two, I got cards from them all. I was so humbled by the love,” Thamke remembered.

“I used their feedback to improve the final version of the book.”

Several children asked what happened to Sir Prize and wanted to know if he was still alive, so Thamke added a chapter at the end of the book, mentioning the pony’s death in 2005, without going into the sad details of a debilitating disease that led up to it.

Thamke felt it was important to answer the children’s questions, but she wanted to end her book on a positive note.

The story itself ends with Sir Prize returning to the barn that had been flooded in the storm. “He could finally go home,” Thamke said. The book ends with Sir Prize in his “happy place.”

One final frustration that Thamke faced was learning the technical side of self-publishing. The book has about 10 chapters and spans some 130 pages. She has both a paperback version (available on Amazon) and a Kindle version. She said the process to create a Kindle version “is ridiculous.”

Last Wednesday, Feb. 1, Jefferson Intermediate Mid-dle School hosted a book-signing party and invited all of the students who had helped edit the draft.

Thamke ordered 40-50 copies of her book to bring to the book-signing. She usually tries to keep 20 or 30 copies on hand to sell. “I’m new to this,” she admits.

Locally, Jackson Middle School has bought a copy of the book, and Thamke plans to donate copies to the Riverside Library System.

Like Sir Prize, Thamke plans to return to her happy place here in Southeast Missouri.

She and her husband recently purchased property in Glen Allen, on which they someday hope to build what Thamke calls their “forever home.”

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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