CLARKSVILLE — It all began when the tornado sirens sounded at Clinton-Massie Elementary School, and fourth-grade teachers Jennifer Henderson and Patty Ratliff ushered their students to their designated safe spots — the boys’ bathroom.
“Emotions were high,” said Henderson. “The kids were crying; it was awful.”
Putting the safety of her students first, Henderson’s colleague, Patty Ratliff peeked out the door, looked both ways, and then snuck out and ran down the hall to the library where she grabbed some books.
After making her way safely back to the boy’s bathroom, Mrs. Ratliff began to read to the children entrusted in her care in hopes of calming their fears and easing their minds. She acted out each character’s part, and before long the children, and Mrs. Henderson, were laughing so hard they cried tears of joy as opposed to tears of fear.
According to Henderson, it was then that the school principal opened the door to find out what kind of party was happening in the boys’ bathroom!
“So for us,” said Henderson, “the next step was obvious: we wrote a short story about our experience, and it was then that Nicky the hamster, Charlie the cricket, and Sammy the snake were born, and we began writing You’ll Never Believe What Happened in the Principal’s Office.”
Offering a generic overview — in order to protect those involved — Ratliff says they were inspired by an actual event that took place at the elementary school. One day, a teacher found a snake in the fifth-grade hallway, caught it, and took it to the superintendent’s office, who almost jumped over his desk to get away from it.
“That got the ball rolling,” said Ratliff, “and it built from there.”
According to Henderson, writing the book “was not a linear process. It took roughly two to three years to write and publish, considering we were both working full-time, and that included Patty living and teaching in Florida for a year. We used Face Time and Google Hangouts weekly to get around that hurdle and then asked Stan Kearns, the husband of retired CM teacher Ann Kearns, to do the illustrations.”
Henderson and Ratliff hosted their first book signing at the Choosy Suzy program held at Clinton-Massie High School October 4th and were humbled by the support of their CM family.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Ratliff. “The students are very excited and proud, and it was thrilling for both of us to be able to hand a book to each of our family members and watch their reactions.”
After students learned that a second book was already in the works for the “You’ll Never Believe What Happened…” series, a student asked, “How does that work — you writing together?”
To which Henderson and Ratliff replied, “You have to have complete trust and respect each other’s thoughts and abilities. We build on each other’s strengths, and many times we end up thinking the same thing.”
Books are available for purchase through Amazon or Orange Frazer Press. Should buyers want an autographed and/or personalized copy, they can buy direct by sending a personal message through the Facebook account “Patty Ratliff Jennifer Henderson” or emailing [email protected] Total purchase price, including tax, is $10.62, and checks can be made out to “Limitless Productions.”
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications from several area schools.