Say hello to members of latest Write Team - The Times: Columnists

Say hello to members of latest Write Team

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Posted: Friday, May 2, 2014 10:00 pm

What's a good way of getting to know someone? By having them describe themselves in their own words.

All 10 members of the new Write Team have done so in this article. By introducing themselves, they'll give readers personal insight before their columns begin Monday.

Six are new members of the Write Team. Four have previous experience. The Write Team will be published five days a week through the end of October. We hope you get to know them and become familiar with their written work.

SAMANTHA BROWN

I live in Sheridan and am graduating this month at the end of a crazy, but fulfilling, collegiate journey. I now have a bachelor's degree in media arts and a certificate in architectural drafting.

My goal this summer, apart from writing for The Times, is to start my own freelance design business specializing in architectural visualization. I'm excited to be a part of the Write Team again and I think this life-changing, nerve-wracking time in my life will provide plenty of interesting topics.

The last few years have really been about finding myself and the direction I'm heading. Sharing in the human experience is what makes the Write Team a compelling column and I'm eager to be a part of it again.

CHRIS CONNELLY

I am 24 years old and a lifelong resident of Streator. I attended Marquette High School and have taken some classes at Illinois Valley Community College, though I have not completed a degree.

I am fluent in Spanish, after many years of study and practice. I look forward to studying another language soon. I enjoy reading, writing, hiking, bowling, restaurants and spending time with friends and family. I have worked at a local restaurant for a few years. I would one day like to run my own pizzeria. I also have pondered the idea of writing and directing films. My interests are a little all over the place, and I think that’s just fine.

Writing for the newspaper interests me for a few reasons. I have some thoughts I wish to share, so I’m looking forward to this opportunity to express them to a wide audience. In doing so, I think I’ll feel more personally accomplished. I am overdue to try something new.

To be completely honest, I think I’ll enjoy any recognition I may receive. In fact, I will welcome all questions, compliments AND criticisms. I want to stir things up a little bit, get people thinking.

Another great thing about this opportunity is the people in my life, through my writing, may learn something else about me or understand me a little better. Last but not least, it’s a dream of mine to have some of my work published, so perhaps this is a good place to start.

My articles will not be something I take lightly. I am somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to writing; I rigorously see to it that I have chosen the best words. I do not wish to be misunderstood or leave anything out. Although misunderstanding may still happen, I have to be able to say I tried my best.

I’m not a socially outgoing person. I loathed giving speeches in school, and sometimes it’s awkward to make small talk with new and old acquaintances. However, through writing, I’ll be able to give that speech and utter not a word. It seems ideal to me.

MARY DOWDAL

We all have a personal narrative in our heads, and writing has been a great, therapeutic way for me to sort out mine. Writing gives me the opportunity to say what I want to say and a chance to edit in a way speaking does not. I also love to read, and when someone else's words resonate, I love that kinship.

For someone to have written those thoughts and opinions, they must have had those same experiences I have had. I am shy about sharing my own thoughts and experiences, but have been curious about the Write Team. Then you went and published those wonderful quotes from writers, and I've been wrestling on the hook ever since.

I am fairly new to La Salle County, having moved from Naperville when my husband and I decided to combine households four years ago. I was a single mother for 20 years between marriages. The changes in my life over the last several years provide a rich vein of material to mine. Being a newlywed empty nester approaching 50 is an experience I do not share with any of my friends.

My husband and I live in Ottawa and have three children between the ages of 16 and 25, none of whom live with us full time. I am the customer service manager for a local manufacturing company, but I'm still trying to figure out what I really want to do when I grow up.

I tend to tell more stories than anything, and share stories that have been told to me. Of course I have opinions, but I generally do not try to influence those of other people.

NATHAN HOVIOUS

I am a resident of Streator and have worked for the local manufacturing company, Streator Dependable, as a press operator, inside sales person, quality manager and now sales manager, the last 17 years. Before that I worked as a countertop maker at Murray Counter Tops, as a Day Services aid at Streator Unlimited and a cook at Buster’s Restaurant in Streator and Pontiac.

I am a graduate of Streator Township High School (Class of 1990) and have lived in Streator since early in 1981. I have one older brother, Mark, who is a U.S. Marine Corps Desert Storm veteran, who now lives in Collinsville, but spent most of his earlier years torturing me.

I am married, my wife works as a registered nurse at Pleasant View in Ottawa and have two children — my daughter, the eldest graduating from Illinois State University, and my son, attending Illinois Valley Community College. I have a great family and consider myself to be a lucky man.

NORA KLECKNER

I live in Troy Grove, the birthplace of Wild Bill Hickok. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, member of A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education, a motorcycle rights organization, as well as a registered nurse.

My son, William Phelan, is an alumnus of the Write Team, and I was very intrigued when I saw the search was on for the next group of writers. My first thought was “How cool would that be if I were chosen to be on the Write Team, too?” I was so very proud of my son’s columns and I was wondering if family members have been team members in the past.

I have contributed articles to our state newsletter for ABATE. I love the chance to be a part of the Write Team and hopefully will express a unique point of view on various subjects.

JO PLOTZ

I always have loved writing. I studied journalism in high school, and when I was very young I wrote and submitted a story titled “The Leprechaun Who Wanted Glasses” to some children’s magazine. Of course it was never accepted, but I kept on writing letters, book reports, whatever.

As I have aged, my handwriting has diminished, but I can still type. I am a retired accountant of 25 years, the mother of three and grandmother of eight. I read where a very wise journalist (it might have been a guy by the name of Lonny Cain) once said: “write about what you know.”

What I know is what I have lived, so what I write about will be my memories, of childhood, parents and grandparents, I hope with a bit of humor interspersed.

KAREN ROTH

I was was a member of the inaugural Write Team in 2001 and have returned every year since. I am the librarian at Lincoln School in Ottawa. The Illinois Library Association recently named it the 2014 Robert Doyle Award winner for outstanding work in a library.

My husband and I have one son, one daughter and son-in-law, and three grandchildren, and my hobbies include reading, writing, sewing and gardening. Among my volunteer activities are being a lector and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at St. Patrick's Church in Ottawa.

I appreciate the chance to write for The Write Team. Many talented, local writers have shared their stories in our newspaper through the years, and it is truly a privilege to be part of the group again. I love this process and look forward to reading other members’ columns, writing regularly again and even having a deadline.

AMY SIPOVIC

I teach social studies at Streator Township High School and live in Streator. I was raised in La Salle and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in history, and later earned a master’s degree in educational leadership. I am pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Northern Illinois University.

In my free time, I enjoy traveling, volunteering in the community, listening to live music and cheering for my favorite sports teams with my significant other, Tom. While we differ on our baseball allegiances (Good Guys for me; Cubbies for him), we both root for the Bears and Blackhawks.

I am interested in writing for a different purpose, as most of the writing I do is for my graduate program, which often is dry and pretty boring. I believe I can provide a unique perspective on local and national issues, as well as offer my insight as a twentysomething young professional living in La Salle County.

RODNEY VERDINE

Residing in Ottawa, I am assistant director of the La Salle County Detention Home. My wife of 32-plus years (Marie) has been retired about two years from the Illinois Department of Transportation. My current plans are to join her in retirement in about five years. I enjoy fishing, trips to Florida in January and playing chess, but not nearly as often as I would like.

I feel I have something to offer other people, although my writing skills don't always do it justice, but more than my speaking skills any more. Writing loosens me up to express things in my soul that aren't loosened any other way. Unfortunately, my memory doesn't always serve me well either. If I ever remembered half of the really good ideas I had for columns, some who like my columns might really be impressed.

PAUL WHEELER

I grew up in Chicago's southern suburbs and have lived outside Ottawa the past four years. I am a paraeducator in the Ottawa Elementary School District and also give guided hikes for the Starved Rock Foundation. I am an avid fossil hound and also have self-published two books of poetry the past two years. I also contribute to the monthly poetry gathering at the Book Mouse.

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