2015-04-17 / Front Page

Mother, doctor ... now author

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Dr. Lisa Dries of Kennebunkport, who writes under the name L.M.H. Dries, displays her first four children’s books, based on bedtime stories she made up for her two young daughters. (Duke Harrington photo) Dr. Lisa Dries of Kennebunkport, who writes under the name L.M.H. Dries, displays her first four children’s books, based on bedtime stories she made up for her two young daughters. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — By her own admission, Dr. Lisa Dries is a leftbrained person. Analytical by nature, the worst grades she ever earned on her way to becoming an OB/GYN at Southern Maine Health Care’s PrimeCare Women’s Health Clinic in Biddeford were in her English classes.

“I was a science girl, for sure. I hated writing,” she recalled on Monday, with a laugh.

It might be surprising then to know Dries is now a published author, with four children’s books to her credit. For that, she credits her own children, Maddie and Anna.

Now age 5 and 7, respectively, the girls were 2 and 4 when Dries began telling them bedtime stories, making up little morality plays populated by anthropomorphic characters, based on animals the girls knew well from around the family farm.

A native of Old Orchard Beach, Dries, 37, went on to Bates College after graduating high school in 1996. She attended the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and, after doing her residency at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, returned home to settle in Kennebunkport with her husband Bill, whom she met at UNE.

Together, the couple runs Triple L Family Farm on Whitten Hill Road in Kennebunkport — it’s his full-time job — where they raise organic-fed chickens and livestock. The three Ls in the farm name stand for “Live, Love and Laugh,” and the Dries girls certainly get that on the farm. And, at the close of each day came a story.

“The goal,” said Dries, “was to teach or reinforce those little life lessons that we’ve all been taught, but in a fun way.”

At first the stories featured different animal characters facing life obstacles to which the girls could relate. Sometimes it was overcoming adversity, other times it was learning to be wary of strangers, or dealing with a first visit to the doctor’s office, or that first scary day of school. But over time, Dries found her daughters returning to the same character. Perhaps inspired by a frog pond on the property, they kept wanting to hear more about Hopper, the young frog character Dries invented. In time, many different stories became Hopper stories and, soon, family and friends, not to mention her daughters, were urging Dries to preserve them for posterity.

Dries took her first, humble step as an author in 2013, paying to print up copies of “Stella and the Rocks” through Archway Publishing, the self-publishing arm of book giant Simon and Schuster. The book was a test case in that Dries purposefully chose not to use Hopper. Instead, the book features Stella, an actual pig on the Triple L farm, along with the Dries’ many barred rock chickens.

“I wanted to get one published just to have it for my girls,” said Dries, who knew right away she’d caught the authorial fever.

“It was amazing just to see it on the shelf and think, gosh, that’s my book,” she said.

With that, Dries turned to Oklahoma-based Tate Publishing, in part because she did not have to get an agent. Amazingly, within 24 hours of emailing her series pitch, Tate replied with a positive letter of interest.

Since then, Dries has put out three books in her series, “The Tales and Adventures of Hopper the Frog,” using the name L.M.H. Dries. There’s “The Trip Across the Lily Pad,” published in December 2014, plus “The First Day of School” (January) and “Strangers” (March).

Tate helped provide an illustrator, who depicts Hopper and his menagerie of friends in a style reminiscent of the classic Berenstain Bears. Tate is pausing after the first three books, Dries says, to see how they sell, but if the series continues, she already has more than 20 additional tales ready to go.

The stories are crafted at a reading level between grades two and three, and Dries, an early riser, likes to write a bit each day, after finishing her morning farm chores but before going to work.

“It’s all very different from what the rest of my normal day is like, and it gives me a chance to exercise that other part of my brain,” Dries says. “My mother was an ed tech teacher and my father was a minister, so I guess that part was always there, deep down inside me. It just took my girls to bring it out.”

And Dries is beginning to gain a reputation already for her literary work. More and more lately, she said, a patient she didn’t even know was aware of her literary career will present a book to be signed.

“That’s pretty special, I deliver their baby and then they bring in one of my books to sign for them, which is really amazing,” she said. “I didn’t ever dream it would get to be this big.”

But the best part, said Dries, is how she’s now living one of the stories she might tell in her Hopper persona, this one about making time for all of your talents.

“Every night they still ask me, ‘Mom, can you tell us another Hopper story.’ That still seems to be the recurring one they wanted to hear the most. But the other day my older daughter said to me that she wanted to be a doctor like me, but of animals, and also a writer, again like me.

“It was cute to see how she sees me as multi-faceted,” said Dries, “and how she has taken that and run with it.”

Or hopped, as the case may be.

Meet the author

Dr. Lisa Dries of Kennebunkport will conduct her first-ever book signing, beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, April 24 at the Wells Public Library. Dries will autograph all three volumes of her young reader series, “The Tales and Adventures of Hopper the Frog.”

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