- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

TROY, Kan. (AP) - High school was hard for Donna Hart. So, she turned to writing to express her feelings, describe the things in her world and let her imagination run wild.

Hart began by writing song lyrics and a soap opera, but it was the essays she penned for school that boosted her confidence the most, especially when her 10th-grade teacher, Liz Stevens, read them aloud in class.

“It made me feel like I did something right,” she told The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1KZWfny ).

Hart, who grew up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and moved from California seven years ago to Troy, spends her time these days writing children’s picture books. She has had eight books published within the past year, with more slated to hit the shelves in the coming weeks.

Hart said the idea for her first book, “Sherry Strawberry’s Clubhouse,” which features fruit-like characters with alliterative names, came in 2007. Once finished, she submitted it to a publishing company recommended by a friend. The book was published in 2013, but soon afterward the publishing company closed.

At the Wathena Fall Festival in August 2013, Hart met Julie Casey, publisher at Amazing Things Press in St. Joseph, Missouri. After sending Casey a Facebook message and subsequent talks, Hart was signed to the publishing house in spring 2014.

“She’s published all of my books, except the original copy of ‘Sherry’s Strawberry Clubhouse,’” Hart said, adding Casey also serves as editor of the books.

Hart has worked with four illustrators who help bring her characters to life: Chamilka Herath, of Sri Lanka; Kyra Landgren, of Massachusetts; Tammy Ishmael-Eizman, of Ohio; and Katie Billings, of Salina.

Hart said the original “Sherry Strawberry” book has been expanded into a series that also includes a coloring-activity book, postcards and greeting cards.

Among her titles are “A Cat Named Phyl,” a tale of a stray cat and her kittens who have to search for food and shelter until something wonderful happens one day, and “Room for Maggie,” a story about the preparations made before a new baby arrives home.

Her other titles include “The Boy Who Loved the Sky,” ”Terreben,” ”Finally Fall” and “Thankful for Thanksgiving.”

In addition to writing more children’s books, Hart’s future endeavors include a mystery novel with her mother as co-author, a couple of romance novels, poetry, a photography book and a screenplay.

“It feels good to tell a story,” she said, “and it feels good when people read them.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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