A Treasure in the Stateline

A Treasure in the Stateline

We have a hidden treasure up here in the Stateline and it’s called Burpee Museum of Natural History. Housed in a late 19th Victorian Mansion along the Rock River, the Burpee Museum has been delighting visitors and contributing to the study of natural history for nearly 75 years. Burpee Museum sign

This past week I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour at Burpee. The backstage tour was an opportunity to gather some inspirational material; images, thoughts, history, stories, emotions, for a collaborative event, known as Word of Art 3D, planned for early 2017.

To tell you everything about the Burpee Museum would take a book, but here are some of the highlights from the special ‘collections’ tour. Continue reading


Writers as Reader (WaR) April Book Selection, The Professor’s House by Willa Cather

Willa Cather
Willa Cather, born in Virginia in the 1873, is an author and a poet best known for her works depicting frontier life on the Great Plains, O Pioneers! (1913) and My Ántonia (1918) being two of her most recognized novels. One of Cather’s lesser esteemed but no less admired novels is The Professor’s House (1925).

The Professor’s House is a slice of life narrative about a middle aged professor, Godfrey St. Peter, who finds himself, at what should be the pinnacle of his life, despondent and disillusioned. Continue reading

Making a Living as a Writer, Part 2

Last week, in “Making a Living as a Writer”, I told you about a little known steady paying occupation for writers, called technical writing. This week I’ll share some insights on technical writing as a career choice.

17141849-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Technical-writing-with-related-tags-and--Stock-PhotoWhat exactly is a technical writer and what do they do?

I have to admit that I find people’s reactions amusing when I tell them that I am a technical writer. “Aaaaaaaaaah,” they say as they shake their heads with a quizzical look on their face. Or “Technical…….writer,” as in, I comprehend the writer part but what is this word technical in front of it. Before I became one, I had never heard of a technical writer myself, so I certainly appreciate the polite stammering and befuddled expressions.

Very simply defined: a technical writer is someone who takes complex ideas, processes, and concepts and makes them understandable and accessible to an audience [you can find a more comprehensive definition at the Society for Technical Communication (STC)]. stc_mod3

Numerous industries employ the services of technical writers; finance, computer, medical, insurance, manufacturing, scientific. They write everything from FAQs, to procedural instructions, to training materials, to white papers. Some technical writers also write grants and website content.  All industries need documentation of some kind. Continue reading

Making a Living as a Writer

I don’t know about you but I’ve lost count of all of the writing how-to books, inspirational online classes, and writing retreats, virtual and real, that I have attended. From each Writing Toolsexperience I did glean some very useful information. One thing, however, that always just gnaws at my sensibility is the admonition ‘You can’t write for the money, you have to write for the love of the craft’ and ‘don’t expect to become wealthy from your writing’ all from people who are actually making money and some becoming wealthy from their writing.

I get the sentiment, though. As with any job or career, the chances of becoming wealthy are not that great. But what about those of us who need to earn a living. Had I taken that advise 20+ years ago, I would not have been able to support myself with my writing skills. No, I am not anywhere near wealthy but I make a decent living.  Continue reading

5 Years of In Print

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the I Am In Print 5 Year Celebration. In Print is a premiere writer’s organization in the stateline area along the ipt1Illinois/Wisconsin border. We meet most month’s in Cherry Valley, a small community tucked around the I90, bypass 20, I39 interchange between Rockford and Belvidere. Continue reading

2 Birds with 1 Stone

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I belong to a book club called Writers as Readers (WaR). Each month we meet and discuss the month’s selection from a writer’s standpoint; trying to learn what works, what doesn’t.

One of things we ask after each month’s WaR meeting is that one member of the group write up a brief summary of the book selection and discussion. This month I am that member, but it works out well for me because I needed a topic for this week’s blog post anyway, hence, 2 Birds with 1 Stone. I wonder where that phrase came from? Hmmmm, topic for next week? Maaaaaaybe. Continue reading

Writers as Readers

As a technical writer, I get paid to analyze technical documents; that is what I do all day. I can do it in my sleep, actually many nights I DO do it in my sleep, but that’s another blog post.

So why is it when I try to analyze something artistic my mind shuts down.

What, what are you doing? We were just reading that story.

I just want to analyze the writer’s use of language and her character development.

No, no you don’t! It’s a good story, let’s just read it and admire it. We like it, don’t we?

I do like it, but why do I like?

Who cares whyyyyyyy we like it. We just do.

But I would like to know more about how she built the story. Understand story arc and tension and scene construction.

Story arch? Tennyson? Scene of the crime? Aaaaah, sure. Let’s do that with the next book. Now, what page were we on?

And so it goes.

I even started a book club, through my writing group In Print Professional Writers Organization, for the express purpose of reading as writers [hence the name Writers as Readers (WAR) book club] to learn more about the craft of writing. The ladies in my group are much more literate about literature than I am. I am way out of my league.

During our discussions, members bring up such insightful observations about the books that we read while I just nod my head saying, “Oh yea, that was well done.”

My problem is I am so into the story (if it’s good) that I’m not paying attention to the nuts and bolts of the structure. I really have to work on that.

Still, I persevere. I have even thought of reading a book once for the sheer pleasure of it, then reading it a second time to study and analyze. Yea, that’s not happening.