Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Joanne Zerkel, former Features Editor, passes away

I received word today that Joanne Zerkel, an editor from my early days in journalism, passed away. She hired me as a freelancer when I was first starting out and was instrumental in helping me succeed as a writer.

I had sent a story to my local paper, The Star in Chicago Heights, IL, and that editor passed it on to Joanne, who was features editor. She called me, said they would publish the article and asked if I would like to write more stories for the paper. That was my entree into journalism.

The first assignment I got was to write a story about autism. I had no idea what autism was, but I learned with Joanne's guidance. Over the 13 years I wrote for the paper, three of them on staff, I interviewed school children, medical professionals, local residents who had a story to tell, and any number of other people Joanne considered newsworthy.

The most fascinating story I ever wrote was about abdominal aortic aneurysms! That's because I was able to enter two operating rooms to witness the operations. Since Joanne hired me, I have written more than 1,000 articles for various publications.

The irony is that I never wanted to write for newspapers. My forte, however, has been feature writing. Joanne fostered that. She encouraged me and never criticized. She guided me to be a better writer.  My dream as a writer is to get a novel published, a goal I continue to pursue, but writing features articles is where I started.

Joanne is responsible for introducing me to National Federation of Press Women, an organization of which I've been a member for nearly thirty years. She was an advocate for women and was active in organizations that assisted women. She started several programs that helped the underpriveleged.

She will be missed, of course, and I will always remember her as the person who thought enough of my writing to hire me to write feature stories for a legitimate newspaper.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scrapbooking and Writing

It wasn’t until I covered a story on the hobby of scrapbooking that I considered composing a scrapbook of my own. The 25 people who attended a semi-annual event titled "Scraptacular" in Myrtle Beach, S.C. convinced me scrapping was worthwhile. They, however, did traditional scrapbooking. I thought I'd go in a different direction, so I bought My Memories Suite, a digital scrapbook program. I love it! The program isn't intuitive, but a bit of practice and frequent references to its "Help" pages will produce a professional-looking book.

Another way I'm not a traditional scrapbooker is that I have limited my scrapbooks to travelogues. My first one was on our vacation to the New England states and Eastern Canada. I'm compiling my second one on our trip to Eastern and Northern Europe.

How does this help me in my writing? I have instant information about all the places we visited. I don't always have the exact name of the buildings or museums or highlights of the places we visited, but the Internet has them all. A picture I had of a lovely building in Aarhus, Denmark proved to be the city's theatre. Another of a huge pink building turned out to be the Toompea Castle in Tallinn, Estonia. I can include a specific location in one of my stories with first-hand references to any number of sights, buildings and other attractions.

The best result is a life-long keepsake and a sense of accomplishment--just like writing a book.