The path to publication: How three Tri-Cities journalists became book authors
Writers are going to write.
Today's column celebrates that premise, focusing on three journalists who have been around the Tri-Cities a long time in the newspaper, marketing and corporate worlds.
I got to known them not long after my early-career steps as a reporter in Elburn and then a sports editor in the late 1970s. Their bylines may not grace local publications as they did in the past, but their desire to deliver content for adults and children has not waned.
Their efforts have the stars aligned in such a way that Sammi King, Kurt Wehrmeister and Chris Cudworth all have written books they are actively promoting. Here's what they've been up to.
Sammi King of Batavia wrote newspaper columns for several decades, so anytime she decides to start rummaging around in her old story files, she's bound to come across something that will stir memories.
For eight years, King wrote a humorous family column called "Mom's Time Out" for the Beacon News in Aurora, focusing on life with her two young sons, Gregor and Kevin. She later went on to write a community column for the Daily Herald for 20 years.
She's been a fan of musicals, having done some singing and songwriting, particularly for children. You get the idea. This is a woman with an archive of her past work in her home.
"I was in my basement cleaning and I came across a bunch of letters from readers of the moms' column and they were really nice," King said. "One gentleman said he sent the column to his daughters in different parts of the country -- and he said he thought I should write a book."
King had thought about writing a book on the family topic when she was younger but found she was always too busy to give it the attention such a project would need. However, the old letter stirred old desires.
"I thought, maybe I should look into that now," King said. "So, I started doing it about three years ago, right around the beginning of COVID."
The end result was a book called "Mom's Time Out," one she self-published through Amazon. King will talk about the book from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the Books Between Bites presentation at the Batavia Public Library.
"It's a lot of work," King acknowledged. "I went through all of the columns and started rewriting them, because things have evolved since then."
Some of the columns weren't as funny as King had originally thought. But that assessment, she reasoned, may come from the fact that, "I'm not doing the 'new mom thing' now."
"But the book is done and I'm happy with it," she said. She'll be selling it on Amazon, but set up her arrangement with the publisher to allow her to sell at bookstores. It is also available online through Barnes & Noble.
"I believe in bookstores," she added.
Former Geneva resident Kurt Wehrmeister has published a children's book, "Cumie, the Brave Little Cloud."
- Courtesy of Kurt Wehrmeister
The COVID shutdown also left former Geneva resident Kurt Wehrmeister with more time to shake out his thoughts about a children's book and turn them into the real thing.
In just more than two years, "Cumie, the Brave Little Cloud," was available through AuthorHouse and Barnes and Noble, the product of Wehrmeister's desire to tackle the topic of life's cycle through that of a young female cloud realizing that eventually a rain shower would end her time in the skies.
The "Cumie" character became the perfect vehicle to teach youngsters about life and death, Wehrmeister believed, particularly for when they first encounter it with the loss of a pet or grandparent.
Wehrmeister, a resident of Santa Rosa, California, acknowledges the writing part of the book was pretty quick. In fact, he says, 90% of it was written in one afternoon in late January of 2021.
But before that, he wanted to make sure the book featured top-rate illustrations. He turned to his old friend and Geneva Republican newspaper colleague Rick Nagel in Geneva to seek the help of Nagel's daughter, Kathryn.
Kathryn, an illustrator and artist, agreed to do it and started drawing not long after Wehrmeister sent her the text portion.
"Kathryn started to work on it almost immediately and cranked out 27 drawings which illustrated the progression of the story," Wehrmeister said.
Working on it in between her retail job hours, Kathryn worked on getting the illustrations just right for about four months. It has a lot to do with why she has top billing on the book.
"Some folks wonder why her name is listed first on the cover and the title page because generally the author gets top billing," Wehrmeister said. "I insisted on that, simply because her work was a lot harder and took a lot longer than mine.
"And, it was uncanny; the presentation of the Cumie character she gave me was just about exactly, often better than, what I'd had in my mind's eye."
After getting a graphic designer in Santa Rosa involved for the book layout, Wehrmeister was able to sign a contract with AuthorHouse in Bloomington, Indiana, for the book's publishing in mid-March.
Prior to this jaunt into the children's book world, Wehrmeister had been a reporter, columnist and editor at the Geneva Republican newspaper, a columnist at the Kane County Chronicle and a communications manager for Mooseheart International. He was a popular public address announcer at Geneva High School sports events for decades.
Wehrmeister and Nagel will sign copies of the book at The Little Traveler in Geneva, where the hardcover version will be available. Dates for the book signings are Friday, July 28, and the weekend of Oct. 13-15.
Chris Cudworth of North Aurora and his latest book, "Honest to Goodness ... Why Christianity needs a reality check and how to make it happen."
- Courtesy of Chris Cudworth
In describing Chris Cudworth, some have called him a "Renaissance man" because he's been a writer, artist, lecturer, marketer, athlete and long-distance runner.
My first thought might be a "juggler" because he has had so many projects and jobs going at the same time, but a more accurate description is that Cudworth is a "deep thinker," plain and simple.
Thus, he tackles topics in his writing that others might steer clear of for fear of hitting the wrong hot buttons. For example, he was the first person I can remember, more than 30 years ago, writing and talking about native plantings and interactive landscapes on business properties.
Taking his perspective on things into account, more often than not Cudworth makes a lot of sense and connects the dots on topics man has toiled with for generations.
It's the same with his latest book, "Honest to Goodness ... Why Christianity needs a reality check and how to make it happen."
"My book points people to honesty as the foundation for all theology," said Cudworth, a resident of North Aurora. "This includes challenging belief systems such as creationism, which denies and defies science."
It's that kind of mindset that fuels resistance to medical knowledge as evidenced by the anti-vaccine movement during the pandemic, Cudworth reasons. "HTG connects the dots between how anachronism and stiff-necked biblical beliefs undermine honest and healthy progress in many areas of life," he said.
Yes, that's a tough topic for any of us to wrap our arms around, which is why Cudworth has spent the better part of five years working on it. The timing of the book's debut on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing certainly provides perspective for the increasingly common clashes between right-wing Christianity and other viewpoints.
Cudworth had help on the book from co-author Dr. Richard Simon Hanson, a religion professor at Luther College who reviewed a 2007 book Cudworth wrote titled, "The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age."
Hanson "loved the perspective" of that book, which addressed the impact of biblical literalism on politics, culture and environment, Cudworth explained.
He sent Cudworth a manuscript he had written, "Religion From Earth," which Hanson said he was not intending to publish. He told Cudworth to use any or all of the material in any future work.
"I've used it all in the new book as a stand-alone complement to my own writing," Cudworth said.
Cudworth believes his second work on theology focuses on "how biblical legalism and tradition so often produce a conflicted theology that leads to cultural conflict."
The book provides solutions to those issues, he said, along with "reconciliation between science and Christianity, also a key issue for our age."
As I noted, it's deep stuff, but that's how we all learn more about ourselves and the world around us.
"My goal in writing this book is to help people understand (through honesty) the full history of the Christian religion and how mistakes in the past teach us what to avoid in the present," Cudworth said.
He's off to a good start on Amazon and his social media platforms, with posts topping 40,000 views in just a two-week period. "The message is gaining traction," he said.