HARTFORD — When a person has a great story to tell or life experience to share, they’re often told to write a book. That’s exactly what John Morrissett, the competitions director at Erin Hills Golf Course, has done.
Overlooking the rolling hills that share Erin Hills Golf Course, Competitions Director John Morrissett is envisioning what could be.
“This time next year, the hillside will be knee-high in fescue,” said Morrissett.
It was what he envisioned many years ago, that has put him on a new course away from golf.
“Back in the winter of 2007-2008, when my daughter was 6, I would put her to bed at night and turn on the night light, turn off the light and then I’d start to tell a story,” said Morrissett.
Soon, Morrissett was writing the story down 11 years later.
“That’s became ‘Sally and the Yeti‘,” said Morrissett.
This summer, that bedtime story officially turned into Morrissett’s first novel when it was published by Three Towers Press.
“The hard part was I would try to think in advance as to what the next part of the story would be, the rest of the story. Then, bite off those chunks as they came along. So, it took some discipline just to stay with it and eventually got it done,” said Morrissett.
The fictional and fantastical story is about a seventh grade girl from Kohler named Sally, free meeting a yeti which leads to a special trip to Nepal and its adventures.
“I was living in Kohler, Wisconsin. So, the book starts in Kohler, Wisconsin. I was dreaming of going to Nepal one day, so I tried to tie all of that together. But, I wanted it to be authentic, I wanted to be able to describe Kohler, describe Wisconsin and have it be real,” said Morrissett.
Initially, his descriptions of Nepal were written based on guide books and videos. However in 2014, those descriptions had to be changed when he actually visited the country he had been dreaming about since childhood.
“For a large part of my life, I’ve had a real interest and fascination with Nepal and Mt. Everest with the Himalaya. And I remember growing up, going to the public library and getting all of Edmund Hillary’s books about his Everest expedition, about crossing Antarctica, about going up the Ganges River. So, that was very much in my mind,” said Morrissett.
The feeling he gets when planning a trip is something he hopes the readers are able to experience for themselves.
“It’s exactly exciting to go somewhere,” said Morrissett. “That’s one of the themes of the book, is to make people be curious about this amazing world that we live in.”
Morrissett’s traveling companion on many trips is his daughter, Amy Jayne. She’s also the inspiration for Sally.
“It’s a very personal account because I have a very close relationship with my daughter and all the memories that we’ve had together, the trips we’ve been on have meant the world to me. And to capture some of that in a book means a lot,” said Morrissett.
In many ways, the book is a story of love, taking Morrissett back to the magical place where the story began.
“It kind of captures those special moments of when she’s a little girl, putting her to bed, telling her a bedtime story. It kind of locks that in and formalizes that in a way that I’ll always have. Those are just some of the happiest memories I’ll ever have,” said Morrissett.
Morrissett has another book he’s hoping will be published later this year, with Sally going to London to save the queen’s corgi.
Moraine Valley Community College
Sweet taste of culinary success
By Barbara Dargis
Rose Deneen, assistant professor at Moraine Valley Community College, displays her award-winning book, “Baking with Vegetables.” (Moraine Valley Community College)
Lots of bakers make chocolate brownies. Few include cauliflower.
But a brownie recipe developed by a Moraine Valley Community College instructor features the vegetable, and it’s not the only one.
Rose Deneen, an assistant professor in the school’s Culinary Arts program, self-published a book of recipes for desserts featuring beets, cauliflower, pumpkin and other healthy ingredients. So far she has sold some 300 copies of “Baking With Vegetables,” a book that also has been nominated for a publishing award.
“All my recipes turn out looking like something sweet, like bread or cake,” said Deneen, a Bartlett resident. “I’m really very proud.”
Deneen has been a pastry chef for 30 years with outlets such as Shaw’s Crab House and Blue Plate Catering on her resume.
Deneen said the idea to pair vegetables with ingredients that lead to a sweet outcome is really nothing new. But she said she realized at one point in her career she “could expand on the idea” and compile a collection of dessert recipes that could be healthy as well.
The cauliflower chocolate brownies are one of her personal favorites that are featured in her full-color illustrated and step-by-step recipe book.
Deneen’s book is a finalist for the 2019 Midwest Independent Publishing Association 29th Annual Book award. “Baking With Vegetables” is a standout in the cookbook category, according to a news release from MVCC.
Deneen’s book includes 51 recipes and she said she completely enjoys eating all of them. But she knew she would need independent taste buds to judge her work as well.
For that, the longtime MVCC assistant professor turned to her students for input and suggestions. So she developed a recipe using canned pumpkin, in one case, baked it and brought it to class.
That Pumpkin Pecan Ring was “amazing” said student Erin Byers. Byers credited her professor for more than her ability to come up with tasty treats. Byers said the recipes can be followed by even the most novice of bakers.
“Her recipes are not scary or intimidating at all,” said the 22-year-old Oak Lawn resident. “She breaks each recipe down in easy step-by-step instructions, and the photos are very helpful as well.”
In the classroom, Deneen encourages her students to “put their own spin” on whatever food they are working with, Byers said. In the case of the Pumpkin Pecan Ring, Byers said she created a cream cheese based topping to enhance original recipe.
“She reminds us often that we can do so much with vegetables,” Byers said.
But Deneen has had a few criticisms along the way as well. Deneen recalls one woman who challenged her on the “healthy” aspect of her baked vegetables recipes when she was out promoting the book.
Deneen acknowledged that she has not done the research to conclude that her carrot mousse, for example, can be considered “healthy.” But she said any way you look at it, eating more vegetables, especially for dessert, is a good thing overall.
Deneen has earned a good reputation on the Palos Hills campus of MVCC as well. Dean Eliacostas, a chef in the Culinary Arts program who has worked with Deneen for nine years, said the award is good for the students as well.
“This is so exciting and gratifying, and that carries over to the students,” Eliacostas said. “This is amazing for the program and the school, too.”
While Deneen waits to hear on the outcome of the book award, she said she is already at work on a book of recipes for gluten free diets. A vegan cookbook is on the back burner as well.
“Baking With Vegetables” sells for $30. It can be purchased on Amazon and HenschelHAUS.
By Sharyn Alden Special to the Times-Tribune
Gregory Lee Renz, author of Beneath the Flames, discusses firsthand knowledge of firefighters’ battles with post-traumatic stress disorder, also a theme in his novel.
Gregory Lee Renz, a former captain of 28 years with the Milwaukee Fire Department, has written an acclaimed debut novel, Beneath the Flames. Before retirement, Renz was highly decorated with awards for saving two boys from their burning basement bedroom.
Since his book was published a few weeks ago Renz, who has not personally experienced PTSD, has been surprised by the number of responses from active and retired firefighters regarding the topic of PTSD. It is presented in intimate detail in his novel.
Numerous firefighters have shared some of their most painful memories with him like visions of a mother draped over her small child to protect her from the fire.
A retired fire captain wrote him saying he appreciated how his story presents the topic of PTSD. At the end of his career he said he had a tough time, but eventually accepted and understood his own pain. Reading Renz’ book, he said, was not unlike therapy.
His book also addresses the PTSD epidemic in the youth of the inner city where they often witness multiple acts of violence.
Besides PTSD Renz covers other topics drawn from his years as a firefighter in his informative talks.
Deforest Public Library, 6 p.m., July 22.
* Recipe Featured in Karen’s cookbook – Happiness is Homemade in Door County.
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. Add flour all at once and beat over low heat until mixture leaves the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from heat and continue beating to cool down dough, about 2 minutes. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each egg. Continue to beat until mixture has a satin-like sheen.
Drop 1/4-cup mounds of batter, swirling the top of each, onto parchment- lined pans. Bake for about 50 min or until they turn brown and puff up. Remove from oven and cut 1 or 2 slits on each side. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
For filling, beat heavy cream with sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cut tops off puffs and fill with cream. Return tops and dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 6 cream puffs.
* Recipe Featured in Karen’s cookbook – Happiness is Homemade in Door County.
1 ripe banana
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
A pinch of salt
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Place sliced banana on the bottom of pie crust. In a medium saucepan, scald milk and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, put sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in milk. Place over medium heat, stirring until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in egg yolks and cook another minute. Add butter and vanilla.
Pour into pie crust and cover with plastic wrap. Let chill for 2 hours.
Before serving, in a medium bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Top pie with whipped cream and serve.
Retired firefighter draws on experience for first novel
After 28 years of working for the Milwaukee Fire Department, Madison native Gregory Renz has seen a thing or two.
Renz was a fire captain in inner-city Milwaukee, often encountering much more than dangerous fires — though he certainly saw his share of those. Renz observed how poverty, racism and social injustice divided one of the most segregated cities in the country.
When Renz retired in 2008 and moved back to Madison, he thought about all he had experienced, particularly a dramatic rescue in which he saved two boys from the basement of a burning building on Dec. 6, 2004. He’s shared the story several times, including when he was honored for the rescue and inducted into the Fire and Police Hall of Fame in 2006.
“When I shared that story, I saw tears coming down people’s faces,” Renz says. “It hit me: the power of a story and how it can move people.”
In retirement, Renz took up writing. It took him nearly 10 years, but on June 1 he is launching his first novel, Beneath the Flames (Three Towers Press.)
The novel follows farmer and volunteer firefighter Mitch Garner’s journey to salvation after he blames himself for a devastating loss of life at a fire in his small, rural Wisconsin hometown. Garner falls into a depression and decides the only way to redeem himself is to be somebody else’s hero.
He applies for and is accepted into the Milwaukee Fire Department, where he confronts a culture and community he knows nothing about. Then he meets 12-year-old Jasmine and her little sister, Alexus, through the department’s mentoring program.
“They are as far apart culturally as you could possibly get, and they don’t understand each other,” Renz says of his main characters. “Jasmine starts helping him [Mitch], and this huge racial divide starts narrowing.”
Renz’s debut novel tackles such themes as forgiveness, redemption and family. It also provides a behind-the-scenes look at a fire department, as Doug Holton, a retired Milwaukee Fire Department chief who worked alongside Renz, points out. He says Renz’s book was a “realistic portrayal” of how racism plays out both in the city and on the staff. “His book is very dynamic,” Holton says. “People have a perception of firefighters that they’re heroes. But when the door is closed, and you’re living with somebody for 24 hours, what’s going on?”
Those dynamics are what make the story work, according to writing instructor Christine DeSmet, who coached Renz in writing classes through UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies program. “Greg relished the revisions that helped him hone his storyline and characters,” DeSmet says. “He seemed to be a treasure hunter with his own material. He loved scraping away at words to find even more emotional depth for his characters.”
She says the novel is packed with emotional twists and turns, weighty themes and humor. “They say a novel is only as good as its ending,” Desmet says. “Greg Renz’s debut novel has one of those thought-provoking endings that doesn’t leave a reader. I suspect a lot of readers will be asking, ‘When’s the next novel coming out?’”
Renz is working on it. He’s drafting ideas for a second firefighter-themed novel. He’s got more stories to share.
Your LIFE! Magazine
Book Release/Fundraiser to be Held May 15 at the Marcus Center
Author Bill Zaferos did not know he was suffering from bipolar disorder when he wrote his first novel, Poison Pen, in 2000. All he knew was that the title popped into his head and he became driven to write day and night. The book will be released May 15 with an event at the Marcus Center.
The plot of Poison Pen centers on Jerry Most, the acerbic host of the game show Die Trying, in which contestants perform death-defying acts to win fabulous prizes. The dangerous stunts never really work but the highly popular show gives Most riches beyond his belief. Still, his wealth isn’t enough to keep him happy and he sinks into a dangerous depression. Seeking solace on a cross-country trip during the show’s summer hiatus, he winds up in Hammertown, a miserable Wisconsin burg, where he decides to end it all while getting drunk in a local bar.
Called a “brilliant tour de force” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Peele, Poison Pen is a tale of redemption that offers an off-beat look at American culture as well as life, death and the deeper meaning of ‘60s television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies.
Author Nick Chiarkis said: “Poison Pen by Bill Zaferos is a page-turner. Mr. Zaferos is a wonderful storyteller and masterful writer. This is a ride you don’t want to miss. You will cheer and laugh, and at times choke up with tears. I did not want the story to end. Bravo, Mr. Zaferos.”
Bill Zaferos is a first-time author and writer who managed to channel his mental illness into creativity by writing Poison Pen during a manic high. He wrote the novel in a few months and then left it on a closet shelf for 15 years before allowing friends and family to read it. With their encouragement, Zaferos finally sought publication of the novel.
Zaferos is a former newspaper political reporter, political consultant and public relations and advertising executive. He lives in downtown Milwaukee – not the suburbs – with his wife, Tracey Carson.
“A Night for NAMI Poison Pen Book Launch” Wednesday, May 15. VIP reception at 5:30 in Conference Room A and an interview/audience Q&A with Zaferos at 7 pm in the rehearsal hall. Proceeds for the event will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Greater Milwaukee. Tickets are available on the Poison Pen website (poisonpenbook.com) as well as the Marcus Center ticket office (marcuscenter.org) and Amazon.
Karen Buhk has kept her traditional family recipes alive in Happiness Is Homemade in Door County, a cookbook that contains recipes for more than 50 delicious desserts and meals from the past to the present. Photographs by her granddaughter-in-law, Sandy Buhk, make this cookbook even more special.
Karen Buhk spent her childhood watching her grandmother and mother in the kitchen and learning all the techniques and skills that she incorporates in her recipes. She has been cooking and baking by look, feel and taste all her life and has now recorded many details and tips so you can make these delicious dishes for yourself.
Buhk is well known around Door County as the “Cookie Grandma,” making her special treats with love and sharing them with everyone she knows.
Wisconsin Newspaper Association
MILWAUKEE – Bill Zaferos, who started his career as a journalist in Wisconsin before switching to public relations, has published his first novel, “Poison Pen.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl spoke to Zaferos ahead of the book’s release, which is scheduled for May 15. The book launch includes a fundraiser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Milwaukee, at which Zaferos will read from the book and take questions from the audience.
“Poison Pen” is described as an absurdist tale of redemption about a depressed game show host known for his cruel on-air insults and crude behavior. Zaferos told Stingl he wrote the book in 2000, but waited 16 years before getting the courage to show friends, fellow writers or a publisher.
Zaferos, a UW-Madison graduate, started his journalism career as a reporter for the Oshkosh Northwestern. He also worked as a political reporter for The Post-Crescent in Appleton before serving in a number of public relations roles.
The stunningly honest author biography of Bill Zaferos’ new novel begins this way:
“Bill Zaferos is a first-time author and writer who managed to channel his mental illness into creativity by writing ‘Poison Pen‘ during a manic high.”
The words flowed out of him for three months as he huddled over a vintage Mac computer in his basement, often well into the night while self-medicating with wine and grooving to Bruce Springsteen and The Who.
Out poured the wild story of a rich and caustic game show host who hits the road to find himself and winds up in a miserable northern Wisconsin town populated by weird characters.
Did all that feverish late-night key pounding lead to a story that makes sense?
“What’s remarkable to me is that it holds together. There are parts of this that I don’t remember writing. I was a man on a mission,” said Zaferos, 60, a former newspaper reporter and public relations man who lives in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.
HenschelHaus Publishing in Milwaukee agreed with his assessment and took on the book. It will launch May 15 as a fundraiser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Milwaukee at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. It starts at 7 p.m., preceded by a VIP reception at 5:30. Tickets are $30.
Zaferos will read from “Poison Pen” and take questions from Marcus Center President Paul Mathews and the audience. Everyone present will receive a copy of the book, which also becomes available that day on Amazon.