The Second Half: Creativity–why bother?

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

In my Second Half of life, I made a decision to get creative, channeling my most inspired thoughts and ideas into becoming a “real” writer. Of course, being a “professional writer” and “making a living as a writer” are two different things. Lots of brilliant folks would starve to death in a month if they had to rely upon their writer’s income.

In the same arena as stuffing envelopes and assembling items from home, free-lancing can be both lonely and financially crippling—writers need to create ways to connect with colleagues and brainstorm avenues for making writing a sustaining profession, if not downright lucrative. Last weekend, I did just that at the Rockford Writers’ Guild (RWG) Annual Gala.

The two-day event was at Cliffbreakers Resort: a coffeehouse-style program with meal and open mike for readers, Saturday night in the hotel’s Tudor Commons. This was followed by the Gala Sunday including Cliffbreakers’ fabulous Champagne Brunch, an inspirational keynote speaker, and readings from prize-winning poets and authors.

Cliffbreakers was a wonderful venue for this event: inspiring views of the Rock River, amazing brunch with a selection of food that was impossible to sample completely—even for me!—and high-end service that never quit. Having heard rumors that the resort was not as lovely as it once was, I retort, “Hogwash!”

The Rockford Writers’ Guild hosts this event annually, but aside from the new venue at Cliffbreakers, this year things were a little different: the Gala was expanded into a two-day affair and they added a keynote speaker. RWG puts on the Gala to feature the award-winning writers published in the Rockford Review literary journal—RWG Press publishes the Review twice a year, and offers open writing contests for poets and scribes willing to put themselves out there.

“The advantage of including the Gala Coffeehouse this year,” event organizer Mary Lamphere tells us, “is to give everyone who writes an opportunity to read their work to an audience of their peers.”

No easy feat—have you ever read your own work out loud to an audience? As a youngster, I performed on stage without batting an eye, but those were someone else’s words. Put your heart and soul into a poem, story or essay, and then read it out loud to a bunch of people.

“It’s a little like doing a striptease on the balcony at the mall,” I tell my pals, “a revealing, terrifying, and emotional experience!”

This emotional experience was the theme of the keynote address/one-woman show by Lauren Hecht: writer, performer, musician and teacher of writing composition and critical thinking at Northern Illinois University. Her presentation: “Creative Fusion * Creative Publication” offered an alternative view of the negativity and constant rejection surrounding writers.

Hecht’s character, Editor Gorf, inspires writers to ask themselves, “Do I really need to pass through the eye of the needle of the expert to be published?”

She noted, “We ask ourselves ‘Why bother?’ when we are creating, but not when we are watching TV or eating dinner.”

Her point—creating is as important as consuming!—brings to mind another familiar theme: “An empty vessel has nothing to give.” Creativity fills us up and spills over, giving joy and beauty to those around us: good for you, good for others.

“Besides,” Hecht shares, “Creative work retards the aging process!”

Her ultimate lesson: to reinforce the VALUE of creative endeavors for each of us. Uproarious laughter gave way to public testimonials and gratitude for Hecht’s message, a wonderfully inspiring presentation for writers whose claim to fame is the ever-present identity crisis: “I’m brilliant…no, I suck!”

Message received, Loren…today, I create.

Hecht offers her Creative Fusion * Creative Publication workshop at Rock Valley College from 9 to 11 a.m., Oct. 16, for only $30. Contact her at or (815) 766-0016.

On to the prize-winning writers! I was moved to tears at the compelling reading of “The Lumberjack Breakfast” by Ryan Bernsten, senior at Boylan Catholic High School and first-place winner in the Youth Prose division. I can’t imagine that depth and compassion coming from a heart so young, and look forward to his creative growth.

Local conductor/composer/author Rob Tomaro gave us “8”…his readings are performances of the highest caliber, plucking the strings of joy and fear in his audience.

Freeport resident Alan Youmans’ thought-provoking “Second Chance” touched anyone who has wondered “what might have been.” Ann Edmonds, from Sterling, made us laugh out loud at her wonderful “My Great Grandmother’s Chicken Dressing.” And Rockford native Jeff Flodin recited from memory his first-place piece “Faithless,” a riveting view from the eyes of a man who became blind later in life.

Check out the poetry winners: Claire Reck, eighth-grader at Rockford Christian, won first place in the Youth Poetry division with her sensory delight, “The Promise in a Seed”; celebrated area poet Wilda Morris engaged us with her sonnet, “At Norman’s”; Rockford teacher Rebecca Kojetin shared a heartbreaking moment with a homeless man in “Tattered Clothes”; Candace Murrow, of Olympia, Wash., read her moving piece, “Poet’s Song”; and Richard D. Farrell, from Carpentersville, gave me shivers with his first-place poem, “Showdown”.

Finally, Editor’s Choice winners: Jerry Hauser from Green Bay, Wis., read his ethereal poem, “Moth,” and Gala organizer Lamphere gave us the totally scary “Nothing.”

So, while I wait to be discovered as the next great novelist, I’ll keep plugging along in the company of my fellow writers, comforted by the knowledge that my efforts keep me young!

Visit for information about RWG or Rockford Review.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue

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