Former Statesboro resident and past columnist for the Statesboro Herald’s Moments magazine, Patrick Hempfing recently won an award for his book, “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” which is a collection of columns he wrote while living in Statesboro.
The stay-at-home dad based his columns on life experiences with his daughter, nicknamed Jessie in his writings, a former Bulloch Academy student. His wife, called Mattie in the book, taught at Georgia Southern University before the family moved to the Orlando area in 2016.
“Life changed forever for the better on September 22, 2004,” Hempfing said.
That’s the day the couple’s daughter was born. Patrick and Mattie were married for almost 20 years, focusing on their education and careers before Jessie’s birth.
When a job phased out just after Jessie was born, Hempfing became a self-professed “Mr. Mom.”
“As I look back, I had successful professional careers in banking, accounting and auditing, and each were exciting chapters in my life,” he said. “When Jessie was born, I wanted to find a job that gave me the flexibility to maximize time with my daughter as well as have a career. I didn’t want to miss out on her events during and after school.”
Hempfing didn’t know at the time that the career he was seeking would turn out to be writing.
“I’m not sure if beginning a writing career at age 50 was the best decision or not. It’s not an easy way to make a living, and I’m blessed to have a supportive wife, who is also an outstanding editor.”
He admits that an English or journalism degree would have been helpful with his new career, “but my professional background has helped me in the running of my business, so maybe it was in the good Lord’s plan all along,” he said.
Hempfing’s first manuscript that set him on a writing journey remains unpublished, but he said it is a true treasure.
“I took the 219-page memoir with me on a trip to visit my family in June of 2009 and presented it to my mom and dad. My dad read a few stories aloud to my mom every night.”
Just two months later, Hempfing’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, and he died that September.
“I never sold a single copy of ‘With Heartfelt Love and Thanks,’ but it will always be a bestseller, because I had a chapter for my dad,” Hempfing said. “My dad knew how much I loved him.”
Once the writing bug hit, he wrote furiously on the memoir.
“God was kicking me out of bed at 2 a.m. sometimes. I thought it was about my new career, but now I look back and see I was in a hurry to finish for my dad.”
While Jessie was a kindergartener at Bulloch Academy, the pair wrote a children’s story together, and he later took it to a writers’ conference, where it won an honorable mention.
“I came home from the conference with an idea for a column. I pitched four sample pieces to Reagan [Daly] at the Statesboro Herald for Moments Magazine and they became my first publishing credits. I’m forever grateful to the Herald for publishing my work.”
His columns appeared monthly for almost two years in Moments and also ran in other newspapers and regional parenting magazines around the country through January 2018, accumulating over 500 publishing credits.
In February 2018, Hempfing stopped the columns in that format, and he and his daughter introduced their co-authored column, “Tween Daughter and Dad,” a project they worked on during Jessie’s tween years. The writing dad is especially proud of the endeavor with his daughter, now an eighth-grader, that discusses tween-year experiences from both points of view.
Jessie said of the writing project, “I enjoy writing with my dad because it allows us to communicate and do something together we both enjoy. We can also encourage each other to do better.”
At the urging of friends and readers of his work, Hempfing gathered his columns that had appeared in Moments Magazine and other publications and published them in a book.
Hempfing describes his book this way: “’MoMENts: A Dad Holds On’ shares hilarious and poignant moments of the day-to-day challenges of daddy-daughter chaos while embracing the pockets of love, joy and happiness that make fatherhood exhilarating.
“The subtitle has a double-meaning,” he said. “Most of the stories took place when Jessie was between the ages of 5 and 10. There were days, still are, that I was holding on to her childhood and wondering ‘Where did my baby go?’ Other times when facing the daily demands of an at-home parent, I was holding on and wondering, ‘When will Momma be home?’”
Hempfing’s book recently won a second-place award at the Royal Palm Literary Award Competition in Florida.
“If I have a message, it’s ‘cherish the moments,’” Hempfing said. “God has watched over my writing journey and blessed me with a beautiful daughter. I can’t wait to see what mark she makes in this world.”