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The gift of writing: Local author recognized, donates books

Cottage Grove

Andy Hatch has been writing for 30 of his 43 years in Cottage Grove.

Though many people know him as "coach" from his 29 years as an athletic coach at New Life Academy in Woodbury, some know him as Dad or just Andy.

To shoppers on, he is known under his pen name, Andrew James Hatch.

In 2013, he decided to finally publish the three books he had written over those 30 years.

"I was on a trip across the Rockies on horseback, and I said 'I've gotta get the books published,'" he said.

Using CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, he self-published a western named "West of Boston," a children's book and partial memoir called "Champ" and historical fiction novel "Mystery of the Sweetgrass Hills."

Hatch didn't think about getting them formally published at first but always wanted to share his stories with those he loved.

"I went to Kinko's and got several copies made of 'Champ' to send out to my family because I wrote it for the family," he said. "There's a little fiction in there, but mostly it's memoir."

Family has always been a writing motivation.

"I've written poetry and stuff for family members' birthdays; it's just sort of a natural thing," Hatch said.

He's certainly moved beyond only family recognition this summer: The Cottage Grove Arts Commission named him Artist of the Month in August, and he was featured in the city newsletter. He is the third resident to receive the title since the program launched in 2015. Other winners are LeRoy Johannsen in June 2015 and Dwayne Tannahill last April.

"I was at Strawberry Fest talking to someone and I gave him some information, and then I turn around and I'm Artist of the Month," Hatch said.

Compared to L'Amour

Since being recognized he's been complimented by all kinds of friends and people who he attends church with, many of whom did not know of his writing life.

"I happened to be ushering at church, and at least seven different people came through and said, 'Andy, I saw you in the newsletter' and one of them said, 'I want that one book,'" he said. "A lot of them said, 'I didn't know you were an author.'"

Hatch's favorite response was after he asked a friend of his to look over a draft, and she compared him to one of his favorite authors, whose westerns — almost all of them — line his extensive bookshelves in his writing nook at home.

"She said, 'Andy, I thought I was reading a Louis L'Amour.' That was a compliment," he said.

Though Hatch loves westerns, the books he's written are all different genres.

"I'm a person who likes a lot of different things," he said.

Hatch has sequels to both "Champ" and "West of Boston" in the works, as well as another historical fiction book called "Time Window."

This time, he said he will only publish one book at a time.

"We did three books at once, and we will never do that again," Hatch said. "It was hairy."

It was "hairy" for the whole family, as Hatch, his wife Faye and daughter Jennifer Faye Hatch-Schwantes all worked together to finish the books, in an almost assembly line.

"I don't type, I'm one of those older generations, but my wife is good at it, so she's my technical person," he said. "And my daughter is helping out with a lot of editing because she graduated with a degree in english and a minor in creative writing from (University of Wisconsin) Eau Claire."

Hatch-Schwantes also co-wrote "Mystery of Sweetgrass Hills" with her father, working to research historical facts to weave with their fiction.

Proceeds donated

After the books are written and available on, Hatch uses the proceeds for various donations, which he calls his "royalty fund." He donates to programs at his church, sponsors two children in Africa and wells being dug in Africa. He also donates his books to A Touch of Home to be sent to the local troops deployed overseas.

"But you can't overdo it because the same guy might be there for more than a year, and you don't want the same guy to get the same book twice," he laughed.

Hatch is looking to have his "Champ" sequel "Creatures of the Valley" on in time for Christmas, which he said won't be a problem because for him the writing process is a joy.

"It's fun to write," he said. "You hear authors talking about writer's block. I've never had that. Once I start writing it just flows."