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It began as a family tradition of sorts. And now, the Hieneman family is sharing that tradition with the entire world.
Campbellsville residents Jon and Ramona Hieneman have written what they call a picture book for children of all ages.
"For us, it is meant to be a graceful way to share a child's last year with Santa Claus," Ramona Hieneman said.
The book, entitled "Goodbye, Santa," is available for purchase at Amazon.com. The electronic versions of the book, for the Kindle and Nook, are also available. An iBook version is also in the works and will be available soon.
The idea to write a children's book began after one of the Hienemans' children, Abby, now 16, received a letter from Santa. In the letter, Santa wrote that, because Abby had grown older, he would no longer visit her each Christmas Eve.
"We just didn't like the way that ends, so we changed it," Jon Hieneman said.
Now, the letter is framed in the Hieneman home as a permanent decoration. The Hienemans also have another daughter, Kathryn, 19, who is studying English at Eastern Kentucky University.
Ramona Hieneman said many people have read the letter and commented on it.
"They would read it and they would cry, but in a sweet way," she said. "I told Jon, 'We need to do something with this.'"
Ramona Hieneman said she and her husband have known they wanted to do something with the letter for years, but didn't decide what until about a year ago.
While the Hienemans are attorneys in Campbellsville and write legal documents for a living, neither have written a children's book before. But that didn't deter them from putting the project together.
"We started with that letter," Ramona Hieneman said. "So Santa helped."
Jon Hieneman said the book he and his wife wrote is a very simple story, one that they believe everyone can enjoy and relate to.
"And the bulk of it is the letter itself," he said.
The Hienemans say all parents have to, at some point, discuss Santa with their children.
"I feel like this is the very answer to that question. Because he is real. We believe he is real."
In "Goodbye, Santa," the reader never actually sees Santa, because it is written from his point of view.
"I don't ever want to say Santa's not real," Jon Hieneman said. "It's important for parents to see it from that point of view."
After the Hienemans knew they wanted to put their story in a book, they began to think of how they could get it published. Most books today are self-published, Jon Hieneman said, so the two contacted some friends who have experience doing that.
They say the book was written last October and family members read it over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"One of our friends described it as a bittersweet and heartwarming story," Ramona Hieneman said.
The Hienemans say they haven't come across another book like theirs, a story that explains the process of saying goodbye to Santa.
Since last Thanksgiving, the couple has worked to publish their work. They say Abby and Kathryn have given it their stamp of approval.
Once the book was written, the Hienemans searched for an illustrator. They hired Cheryl de los Reyes Cruz from Argentina to bring their story to life.
Ramona Hieneman said they sent notes to Reyes Cruz as to how they envisioned the pages of the book to look. And they say they are pleased with the results.
The Hienemans used www.dragonpencil.com to publish their book and have named their publishing company Barnaby's Publishing House Inc. after Barnaby, an elf who helped discipline their daughters as they were growing up. The Hienemans said Barnaby was often "watching" Abby and Kathryn around the holidays.
In "Goodbye, Santa," the Hienemans said, the main character is named Laura Hope, which is a combination of their daughters' middle names. The story also features a cat, which was once given to Abby and Kathryn as a Christmas gift.
In addition to Amazon.com, local retailers can contact the Hienemans to sell "Goodbye, Santa" at their stores. They say they realize most stores have already ordered items for the upcoming Christmas season, but those who want to sell the book this year can do that. Books can also be purchased at the Hieneman Law Office on Main Street. The Hienemans say they will deliver books in Campbellsville to save on shipping costs.
The hardback version retails for $16.95. Copies signed by the Hienemans can be purchased for $19.95. The Kindle version is available for $2.99.
With their first story now in print, the Hienemans say they have an idea for another book. Though they are keeping the story secret for now, it involves the Kentucky Derby.
Ramona Hieneman said a friend, who works at a library, said there aren't many children's books that tell a story about the Derby. So, the Hienemans went to work creating one.
The Hienemans say they have enjoyed writing a book together, especially one that has such significance for their family.
"It's definitely a team effort," Jon Hieneman said.
For more information, or to order "Goodbye, Santa," visit www.goodbyesanta.com or search for "Goodbye, Santa" on Facebook.
If You Go
Jon and Ramona Hieneman will sign copies of "Goodbye, Santa" on Friday, Nov. 22, from noon to 2 p.m. at Taylor Regional Hospital's gift shop. For up-to-date book signings, visit www.goodbyesanta.com.