WRITING FOR FUN AND, HOPEFULLY, PROFIT
D. James Tindell
(originally published in Trail
They meet once a month to brainstorm ideas,
critique and support, to plot and scheme. They debate the best
course of action, they laugh and occasionally shed a tear. They
are comrades, and they are determined to overcome any obstacles
to reach their collective goal.
Put down the phone, you don't have to call Homeland Security.
They're no threat, except perhaps to the peace and quiet of their
meeting place. They're writers, and the plots they craft wind
up on the printed page, perhaps a page you'll read someday. They
hope so, because they are the Northworders, and writing is what
they really want to do.
The group formally came into being in August 2001, after a year
or so of meeting as an amorphous but somewhat unorganized group
of folks interested in the art and craft of writing. The Northworders
stated purpose, from the group's bylaws, is "to foster the
development of local authors' work through honest but fair criticism;
to provide encouragement and inspiration to those authors as
they write and submit their work for publication; and to provide
a support network for those authors." The group collects
no dues or fees, but its members are serious about their calling.
Serious enough that several have already had their work published,
no small feat even in the best of times.
Sue Burgess grew up in the Milwaukee area, attended UW-Milwaukee
and became a teacher of English, speech, and drama, even physical
education. But, in words virtually every member of the Northworders
can relate to, she says, "I always wrote. As early as fourth
grade, I was taking notes. I've always been fascinated with words."
Burgess' first official writing job was for a church publication
in Fort Atkinson, which led to a post with The Janesville
Gazette. Eventually, her contacts in academia led to a job
writing biographies for the American Association of University
Women. Eventually, Sue and her husband Tom, a magazine editor,
moved to the Hayward area. "I thought the solitude of the
woods would be a perfect place to write," she says. That
has certainly proven to be the case.
Sue and Tom recently finished a major project, editing Tales
of Lac Courte Oreilles, a history of the Hayward lakes
area. The book has proven to be a hit, and is currently entering
its second printing. What's up next for Sue Burgess? Mutter,
a novel of German and Danish immigration to Wisconsin in
the 19th Century. The central character is based on Sue's great-great-grandmother.
Ray Hursh has seen a lot of the world in his
sixty-plus years. Raised in Superior, Hursh attended colleges
in Wisconsin, Minnesota and California and has worked in various
jobs, including athletic trainer and as a waiter at fine-dining
establishments, including The Hideout near Couderay. Along the
way he learned the piano and dabbled at writing. He never got
serious about writing until 1997, when he entered a contest at
the LCO Community College and took first prize. Not long afterward,
Hursh's poetry was published by the International Library of
What's the best thing about poetry for Hursh? "The challenge
of phraseology," he says. "You can't use the same phrasing
for different styles. You might want to say the same thing, but
you have to change it based on the style." Hursh has written
poems in a wide variety of styles, including the sonnet, terzarimi,
blank verse, rhyme schemes and haibun, an Oriental style that
includes prose and haiku.
Hursh's latest volume, Silk Clouds and Velvet Dreams,
was published this year. It's his first solo work, but he's also
had poems published in the United Kingdom, making him the first
Northworder to be published in a foreign country.
Ray Hursh isn't the only poet in the Northworders.
Lorayne Wick and Betty Haling have also had their poems published
in various magazines and online. Wick started out as a professional
singer, traveling the Midwest in the early 1940s as the vocalist
for a group that featured Russian folk music. She met her husband
Ken in Plymouth, Wisconsin, while on tour. After he returned
from World War II, the Wicks started a family. Ken became a jeweler
and Lorayne a teacher, getting her degree in art education at
age 50. Lorayne had to run the family jewelry store after Ken's
passing, as well as teaching grade school art and music. With
the help of her family, she succeeded at both.
Wick first came to the Hayward area in the early 1960s while
on gem-hunting expeditions with Ken, and years later she decided
to make the move permanent. That's when her desire to express
herself in poetry and painting started to show itself. "It
just sort of comes out," she says today. "Sometimes
I wake up with one," and a new poem or painting is soon
born. She gets inspiration from nature and personal experience,
not all of it good. One poem, "Terror", came out of
an armed robbery at the family's jewelry store, when the thief
held a gun to her son's head.
Betty Haling grew up in northeast Iowa, majored in psychology
in college and became a teacher. She and her husband Russ came
to the Hayward area some 25 years ago. Today she serves as secretary
of the Northworders, and credits the group with cranking up her
creative juices. "The Northworders was the impetus for me
to write more," she says. Her collection of poetry, A
Look at Life, was published earlier this year.
"It's observations of nature and people," she says.
"I don't go by form, I just put it down as it comes to mind."
She finds the natural rhythm of poetry perhaps a bit more easily
than others, thanks to her background as a percussionist. Living
on Moose Lake is also an inspiration for her. Haling's goal is
always to write poetry that the average reader can understand.
"I like it when a reader says to me, 'This is the kind of
poetry I like. I can read it and don't have to struggle to figure
Dave Tindell wrote short stories as a youngster
in southwest Wisconsin, and won awards for them while studying
broadcasting at UW-Platteville. The writing waned as his radio
career waxed, but a few years ago he took up the pen again at
the urging of his wife, Sue. The result was his first novel,
Revived, published in 2000. It's a story of a romance
that begins in the mid-1990s and nearly ends when the heroine
develops terminal cancer. Her fiancé has her frozen, and
then revived in 2032, and she struggles to adjust to her new
world, which includes more than the expected challenges: her
senior-citizen lover, his war-hero son and her own grown daughter
and grand-daughter, not to mention the killer who is stalking
her and the other revived Eternals.
"The idea came to me in a dream," Tindell says. "I'm
always intrigued by the thought of, 'What if'" Tindell's
second novel, Heart of the Game, about a high school basketball
coach and his son and star player, is being shopped to publishers
by his agent. His work in progress is The White Vixen,
a spy novel set during the Falkland Islands War. Tindell is wrapping
up his second year as president of the Northworders.
Virginia Rasmussen grew up in southern Minnesota and worked as
a secretary at a nursing home. Little did she know that job would
inspire her to write short stories. "I've been writing for
several years," she says. Her poems have been published
in area magazines, and her first book, Calico Days and Sandpaper
Knights, a collection of short stories, came out in 2001.
"The first time you see your name in print, it's pretty
nice," she says.
Rasmussen's latest book, Once Upon a Memory, is a larger
collection of short stories. At a recent book signing in her
hometown of Farmington, the author says she was asked many times
by readers about the subjects of the stories. They're based on
real people from her life. "Just keep guessing," she
tells them. "I'm not going to tell." Rasmussen's work
could be labeled literary fiction, stories about men and women
of all ages. "Whatever hits my mind when I sit down, that's
what I write," she says.
The Northworders meet on the third Tuesday evening of each month
at a restaurant in Hayward. For more information about the group,
and to find out how to buy members' work, email the writers at
And keep an eye on the bookshelves. You'll see some familiar
Special thanks to D.
for making the story available to us.