JL Callison

From an early age, prior to first grade, I’ve been a voracious reader. Frequently, I frustrated my teachers by completing the entire reading book the first week of school; then I would be bored while waiting for the class to catch up. By the end of third grade, I was reading on an eighth-grade level, devouring everything I could get my hands on. I liked the idea of writing stories, but I was never disciplined enough as a child to sit down and write. As I advanced in school, I was taught the classical method of writing a story by developing a plot, outlining it, making note cards for each scene, and organizing the story in detail before ever setting a pen to paper. I thought that was way too much work, and I lost interest in the story long before I ever figured out what I wanted to tell.

In college, I actually failed EN102, English Composition. There were a number of reasons for this, but that process of writing was a major part of it. Later on, as an adult, I wrote little stories and then threw them away without letting anyone see them. When I got into Louis L’Amour’s book about his writing process, I found out I’m really a “pantser,” one who sits down and writes beginning with the characters, allowing them tell the story. However, at the time, I frequently worked 60-80 hours a week and just did not have the time to write.

In 2013 I contracted the Guillain-Barré syndrome, and I now had time to start writing. I was tired of “looking at four walls,” and TV bored me.

The story line for Stranded at Romson’s Lodge had been in my head since the early ‘80s. I began writing the story, and the more I wrote, the more engrossed I became with the tale. I had no clue what I was doing, but my patient wife and Michele Israel Harper edited the story and made it readable. God put Terry Whalin of Morgan James Publishing across my path, and Morgan James published the book.

Patrick Bredlau

Patrick Bredlau (Trail name: RW) has lived most of his life in the flat lands of Illinois. His life-long enthusiasm for the outdoors was fostered by the Boy Scouts of America during his childhood, and later as a Boy Scout leader on many hiking and backpacking trips.

His favorite sports are backpacking, fishing, and sailing. His passion for backpacking led him to hike some of the most spectacular natural locations in the United States and Canada, including the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, and Banff National Park. As a sailboat racer, he has participated in the prestigious Chicago to Mackinac Island race, as well as other races on Lake Michigan.

After a long and successful 38-year career as a federal bank examiner and instructor, Patrick retired in 2013 to spend more time with his family and enjoy the outdoors. His first major adventure after retirement was to successfully thru-hike the entire 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2014.

Patrick’s book, The Green Tunnel, A Hiker’s Appalachian Trail Diary is the true-life story of a retiree’s joys, challenges, and physical rigors while thru-hiking the entire 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one great epic walk. The book’s title refers to the nickname, Green Tunnel, given by hikers for deeply-shaded trail sections that cut through dark and densely-wooded forests. All too often, tree canopies block out all sunlight or views of the sky, sometimes for hundreds of miles.

Readers follow RW as he walks north, starting out from the cold winter mountains of Georgia, until he finally reaches Maine during the height of New England fall colors. Along the way, readers encounter a fugitive from the FBI, internationally-known backpackers, the homeless, plus many other hikers seeking adventure or redemption. Trail angels often come to the rescue. Journal entries are frequently peppered with humorous and historical anecdotes, along with colorful descriptions of the swiftly changing scenery and seasons. Readers will also find a good deal of useful backpacking information, from the many firsthand tips and advice on equipment, food, trail culture, lodging, and the hazards of wilderness hiking.

Kristina Springer

Kristina Springer is the author of Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours (a Scholastic Bestseller and 2012 YALSA Quick Pick book), The Espressologist (a 2010 Society of School Librarians International Honor Book and 2014 Illinois Reads Book that has been purchased for film by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru), and Just Your Average Princess.

She has a Masters in Writing from DePaul University and resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and children. Learn more about Kristina on her website: KristinaSpringer.com.

Jim Hosek

I was born in Chicago and interesting fact, I have an identical twin brother. So if you say hello to me and I just ignore you, well it wasn’t me, it was him. Sometimes he’ll pretend to be me just to mess with you so be careful.

I am a real life veterinarian when I am not writing about Dr. At. I actually get a lot of ideas for my stories from my own experiences doing house calls. I’ve never solved any real mysteries apart from “what is making my dog so itchy?” (It was fleas!)

I am married to a “real doctor” (She has an MD). I tell her she’s just a veterinarian who specializes in one species. She likes to point out that my patients try to bite me. We agree to disagree.

I have two sons. I suppose they could be my twin brother’s, who would know, except my wife, but maybe not. We are identical. I have two cats. They adore me and worship me in their own cat ways. That is to say, they ignore me until they are hungry and like to give me hairballs as gifts and will let me pet them if they’re in the mood. I am also known as “The Cat Whisperer” due to my almost supernatural-like ability to make cats bend to my will. Clients are often impressed with my ability to connect with their pets. I have known about this ability ever since I was in vet school and I only use it for good.

Barbara Champion

Barbara Champion counts herself as fortunate for being in the lives of special needs children both within her own family and in her career . She is a mom of four boys, and she has worked with children of special needs for more than fifteen years. Working with these children combined with her education in American Sign Language, she has seen the difference it’s made in their lives. She has had the opportunity to work with kids of various abilities and diagnosis.

Her biggest thrill over the years is to see a child who previously didn’t know how to communicate a thought or feeling, use a sign for the first time. She has seen kids that had little to no language learn sign language, or what she affectionately calls Hand Talk, which is also the title of her first book. The kids can tell her an elaborate story they created, or just share what they did over the weekend. She loves watching their faces light up when they are understood.

Barb loves teaching Hand Talk and believes it’s just a fun way to learn some signs, while at the same time learning the basic building blocks of communicating with sign language.

Visit her website for more information and upcoming books and to inquire about classroom visits or workshops.

Joanne Zienty

Joanne Zienty was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side. She spent a lot of time wandering the aisles of her local branch of the Chicago Public Library. Besides wandering, she also did a lot of reading. But when she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read, she started writing her own. Joanne’s first success as a writer came in 5th grade, when she completed a 70-page novel – an homage to Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series – and had her first play – a Thanksgiving melodrama – produced on the stage of her elementary school.

She’s been writing ever since.

She studied English Literature at the University of Chicago, earned her teaching certificate from Roosevelt University and completed her Master’s in Library and Information Science at Dominican University. She studied creative writing with Molly Ramanujan Daniels at the University of Chicago’s Graham School and Ms. Daniels’ own Clothesline School of Fiction. Several pieces written and performed for these classes form the early chapters of her debut novel.

In 2014, Joanne won the very first Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author contest, sponsored by the Illinois Library Association and the RAILS Library System for that novel, The Things We Save. She was a finalist for the 2016 BookLife Prize in Fiction sponsored by Publishers’ Weekly and in 2017 was named an “Emerging Voice” in fiction by the College of DuPage. She’s given presentations and read her work at libraries across the six-county Chicago metropolitan area and at Waterline Writers in Batavia, IL, as well as meeting with local book clubs to discuss her work. She is currently working on her second novel.

Amy Logan

Amy Logan is the author of four  inspirational children’s books: A Girl With A Cape (2013), A Girl With A Cape and Her Jar of Pennies (2014), and A Girl With A PINK Cape (2015), and most recently, A Boy With A Cape (2016).  She is also the founder of the Kindness Gala, which is a fundraising event for local charities (www.KindnessGala.com).

Amy holds a BA in Speech Pathology, an MA in Teaching, and 10 years Leadership Experience in the Direct Sales Industry. Through her experience, Amy realized that right here, right where you are, is exactly where you are supposed to be. She insists that we were all born with the incredible ability to have a huge impact on our world; that we were born because the world KNEW we would make a difference.

For more information on her books, her Empowerment Talks, or what she’s currently working on, visit her website www.GotYourCape.com, her Facebook page www.Facebook.com/AGirlWithACape, and follow her and help #RockTheCape at www.instagram.com/AGirlWithACape.

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the author of the Bryony Series supernatural/literary trilogy for young and new adults, the Adventures of Cornell Dyer chapter book series for grade school children, and the Bertrand the Mouse series for young children.

She has six adult children, three adult stepchildren, fourteen total grandchildren, six godchildren, and four cats.

She is the co-founder of WriteOn Joliet and previously taught features writing for a homeschool coop, with the students’ work published in the co-op magazine and The Herald-News in Joliet.

Denise blogs daily and is currently the features editor at The Herald-News. To read her feature stories, visit www.theherald-news.com. For more information about Denise’s fiction and to follow her on social media, visit www.bryonyseries.com.

Pat Camalliere

Pat Camalliere is the author of the Cora Tozzi Historical Mystery Series, which includes The Mystery at Sag Bridge and The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods, award-winning finalist for 2017 Most Original Concept by Red City Review Book Awards. She is also editor of the 6th edition of History & Anecdotes of Lemont, Illinois.

Camalliere is on the board of the Lemont Area Historical Society, and a member of The Society of Midland Authors, The Chicago Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime.

Print books may be purchased through Amazon and locally at Smokey Row Antiques in Lemont and Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park. Ebooks available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

Visit the author’s website and subscribe to her free local history blog.

Ann Rubino

Ann Rubino is the author of Le Forestiere, written in Italian, Women in Chicago, and Peppino, Good as Bread, an intermediate-grade novel of World War II in Italy. The sequel, Peppino and the Streets of Gold (2016) follows Peppino as he comes to America and faces an immigrant’s challenges in Chicago in the late 1940’s.

Her most recent book, Emmet’s Storm, just one  the Best of STEM 2017 designation from NSTA and the Children’s Book Council. It is set in 1880’s Iowa and features a boy teased by his peers about his obsession with all things scientific. In the historic Blizzard of 1888, his knowledge makes him a hero. Following a granddaughter’s complaint, ‘Why does Grandma only write about boys?’ she is now working on a sequel to Emmet’s Storm starring an inventive and independent girl.

While Ann was teaching professionally, she won the OHAUS Award for innovations in science teaching; took part in the creation of the New Generation Science Standards; sat on the review board of Science & Children magazine; and worked as a consultant for the Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago. She holds her MT(ASCP), B.A.Ed., and M.S.Ed. and an Endorsement in Gifted Education. Her last teaching assignment was as adjunct at Lewis University, training future teachers in methods of science teaching. Once retired, she reviewed many children’s books for the Recommends division of Science & Children and continued her work on the review board.