Richard and Mary Rensberry Talk About Northern Michigan and More Through Books | News, Sports, Jobs
ALPENA – For Richard and Mary Rensberry, Michigan provides the perfect setting for them to tell stories that help children and adults with everyday life and other topics.
“It was born in us,” said Mary Rensberry when asked what prompted them both to write.
Richard grew up in Alpena but now resides in Fairview. With his wife, Mary, they have written numerous books for children and adults, many of which are about northern Michigan.
Richard is the author of a book called “The City Slicker’s Guide to Amish Country” which is a collection of Fairview poems and stories. It’s a travel book that goes right into rural Michigan and tells about the Amish workers who live there.
Richard said he’s always had a passion for writing, but meeting his wife made him take it a bit more seriously. Mary is a writer and is originally from Texas. She started out as a teacher and her experiences made her wonder what students need.
“I taught school in Texas for many years in all kinds of school situations, public, private churches, home schools, alternative education,” Mary said. “And I started to really open my eyes to what the students really needed, what did they need, what did they come with and how could I meet their needs? And you know that made me embarked on a journey of learning about what education is and so on.
After Mary finished teaching, she thought she would write down some of the things she had learned to help people and students.
At first, Richard did mostly children’s books, but now he has a big series of books for adults. The series, Conversations with Sasquatch, contains several books and more are in the works. One book comes out in April and he has two other partially completed books.
Richard’s first book was a book called “It’s Black and White” and it took him about three months to publish. The book talks about ADHD and its challenges. He said he used to work in the field of drug education and was very knowledgeable about the subject he was writing about.
Mary said they write a lot of self-help books and imaginative books.
Richard said that Mary does a lot of illustrations in the books, but sometimes they have outside help. A book they did for the Brown Trout Festival was illustrated by Michael Payton.
“So sometimes I rent, it depends on the subject,” said Richard, showing the Brown Trout Festival book. “He is gifted for nature and fish. And Mary rented one too.
Richard said that long-distance communications are one of the wonders of the Internet.
They pulled out another fully illustrated children’s book and put it on the table. Marie talked about it a bit.
“It’s ‘The Best of Me’ and it won a TCK award in 2017 in the children’s division,” Mary said. “The lady who did my illustrations there was from Italy.”
Mary said the book was well received by children who read it. Their communications for this book were all done by e-mail and very few revisions were needed for the illustrations.
Mary said part of what drives them to keep writing is a desire to help people and offer a point of view.
“Just to provide help there,” Mary said. “There are so many people out there who need help and solutions and we’re just here to offer perspective. That we are able to help people and inspire people, etc.
Richard said it took them around seven years to get their name out there and that their new book series, Conversations with Sasquatch, really helped them.
“And we have to really get the audience interested,” Mary said. “And the sasquatch really piqued their interest and we took off with the sasquatch.”
Richard said some of the books he writes are sponsored and for specific events.
“Well, it was for Alpena, okay, the brown trout festival,” Richard said. “It’s charity for them, but the townspeople here sponsored the book. The Alpena Alcona (Area) Credit Union (who) sponsored the book, and then I wrote it and illustrated it and everything and it was given out at the Brown Trout Festival to all the kids. So there were 400 people and a few children.
“And he signed all the books they brought,” Mary said. “All children have a book.”
“And I’m doing another one this year,” Richard said. “The illustrations are done, all you have to do is send them to me.”
Richard said the artist who does the illustrations for the Brown Trout Festival books, the first titled “Big Brownie,” sends paintings rather than uploading them to the internet.
Richard said he was working on several books at the same time. Right now he’s working on two books at the same time, but sometimes he’s working on three. He keeps them all together with his iPad.
They also own a publishing company called Quick Turtle Books. They started their business in 2013, and Mary said from then on they spent most of their winters writing and in the spring and fall they held fast-paced events. They took their books with them.
Richard said he didn’t suffer from burnout, and Mary said he really took advantage of the late-night hours to write. Writing in her free time and getting out into nature also helps, Mary said.
Richard and Mary have simple advice for young authors looking to get published: go for it.
“There are just too many traditional publishing and big business agendas that don’t pick up writers worth publishing and stuff,” Richard said. “Do it and you’d be surprised.”