By Steve Sears
Sandi Clark, a 1975 graduate of Hackettstown High School, recently published her first children’s book.
“Hay Hager and Clammy” is based on characters that Sandi’s father, John Clark, Jr., created when she and her sisters were younger. The book is illustrated by Cumberland, Maryland’s Beth Artice.
Clark explains the idea behind her book. “Mom and dad would put us to bed, but we wouldn’t go to bed, we wouldn’t go to sleep. So, dad came up with an idea about ‘Hay Hager and Clammy.’ The original Hay Hager lived in the light bulb of our bedroom. And Clammy, it’s kind of hard to describe because he didn’t have a voice back then, so I gave him a voice. And so, when Clammy would come out, he was – I’m trying to show you something you can’t see – you know how you clap your fingers on top of your thumb? That was Clammy. And he would go, ‘Mee, mee, mee,’ like he was talking to us, kind of preparing us to go to bed. So, when Clammy came out we knew bedtime was near. And then when we got into bed and we got tucked in, dad would say, ‘Well, Hay Hager is going to bed now, too,’ and he would shut the light off, and so Hay Hager would go to bed and so did we.”
Clark took her dad’s tale and shipped it to the sea. Clammy remains a clam, but Hay Hager is now a lighthouse, protecting the nearby water. “I love the shore,” she says. In the book, the lonely Clammy has no one to talk to and looks up to the stars, wishing for a friend. Hay Hager illuminates the lonely bivalve mollusk and, when learning Clammy’s identity and realizing he needs a friend, lovingly promises to be one.
Clark’s dad read the story, which is actually a book length poem, before he died in May of 2012, but he never saw it published. “Every word I wrote,” says Clark, “reminded me of my dad.”
Clark, who currently lives in Short Gap, West Virginia, is a disabled Air Force Veteran and a widow of a Vietnam vet. Born in 1957 at New Jersey’s Ft. Dix Army Hospital, she graduated from Shepherdstown College (now Shepherd University) in West Virginia in 2002 with an RBA Degree. Currently enrolled at the American Military University, Clark is studying for her BA in Military History with a concentration in World War II.
Clark originally wrote “Hay Hager and Clammy” in 1993. Recovering from a slip and fall injury, she, while being afforded time to sit all day, reached back to her Hackettstown High School days and started to write poetry. “It took me about two weeks to get it together, to what I would consider perfect,” she recalls. All her friends who had little children loved it, so she looked to publish it. She approached about 100 publishers, but minus illustrations, there were no takers.
Therefore, Clammy sat silently and Hay Hagar’s light was decommissioned for 27 years – until May 2020, when Clark unearthed it. Her interest renewed, she sought to find an illustrator. Artice, a tattoo and piercing artist, animal lover and illustrator, and also mom of a one-year-old daughter, does tattoos for Clark’s son Daniel, while her husband, Craig, does Sandi’s tattoos. “I had two tattoos put on,” says Clark regarding one visit. “One is The Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine,’ and then when it really struck me was when I had my Liverpool Football Club from England tattooed (on me). I was sitting there, and I was admiring the beauty of his (Craig’s) creation, and all of a sudden it just felt like somebody slammed me in the back of my head. ‘Why don’t you ask them to illustrate?’”
Artice, per Clark, did some gorgeous work. “I think the illustrations are just phenomenal.”
Clark, who currently is preparing two to three more book ideas for the “Hay Hager and Clammy” series, thanks her “support team,” which includes her daughter, Jenn, and her husband Bruce; the beforementioned son, Daniel; grandchildren Hannah, Haylee, Hunter, Daykota, Camden, Makinzy, Landon and her soon-to-come great grandchild due in May or June 2021; her sisters Mary and Sue, and her lovable pets, Alli, Blake. Patches and Diesel.
“Hay Hager and Clammy” is available on Amazon.com. Clark also states that she sent a copy of the book to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (https://dollyparton.com/imagination-library). “She runs a wonderful project for kids. They have not received it yet, but I’m hopeful.”