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Door County Cherry Pie

hapiness is homemade in door county

Fox11 News

hapiness is homemade in door countyRecipe Featured in Karen’s cookbook – Happiness is Homemade in Door County. (Available at Amazon or in Door County at Seaquist Orchards, Body, Bath & Soul or Nature Works)


Double Pie Crust, recipe below

4 cups pitted sour cherries, from Door County, of course!
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling on top


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare double pie crusts.

In a large bowl, mix cherries with sugar, tapioca, and almond extract. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Roll out lower pie crust and place in pie tin. Fill with cherry mixture and dot with butter. Roll out second crust. Crimp edges of crust and cut several slits in the top to permit steam to escape. Sprinkle top with sugar.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Pie Crust Recipe:

Single Pie Crust: 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup lard, a pinch of salt and approximately 4 tablespoons ice water.

Double Pie Crust: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup lard, a pinch of salt and approximately 6 tablespoons of ice water.

In a medium bowl, work the lard into the flour until it is pea-sized and crumbles. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together in a ball. Place on a floured surface. Roll out and turn, rolling until it is the desired thickness.

Watch a video of this wonderful recipe!

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Instructor’s ‘Baking With Vegetables’ cookbook a hit

Moraine Valley Community College
Sweet taste of culinary success
The Beacon-News

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.

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Hero Firefighter/Author to Address PTSD in First Responders at DeForest Library Monday, July 22

By Sharyn Alden Special to the Times-Tribune

beneath the flamesGregory 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.

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A story taken from the headlines

beneath the flamesFor 28 years Gregory Renz was a firefighter and Captain with the Milwaukee Fire Department, and he called it, “The best job in the world. It was my passion,” he says.

On a cold night in December a few years ago two young boys were extremely fortunate that Renz was able to save them.

The building where they lived was on fire and thick with smoke when he made his way down a smoke-filled stairwell to the boys’ basement bedroom. “I couldn’t see a thing but I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I backed out,” he says. “You train your mind to slow down the rush of adrenaline and focus on the situation,” he says.

He found the little boys unconscious and not breathing.

“When I picked them up they were lifeless, like rag dolls,” he says. “I brought them up the stairs and outside but feared the worse. Miraculously, they were resuscitated on scene by paramedics and transported to the hospital where they recovered with no lasting effects.

For this rescue Renz received the American Legion Medal of Honor, the Fire Rescue Class “A” Award from the Milwaukee Fire Department (their highest award), the Heroism and Community Service Award from Friehouse magazine, the Red Cross Brave Hearts Award for Emergency Response Hero and many other accolades.

Since retiring from life as a firefighter, Renz has turned his experiences into his debut novel, “Beneath the Flames.” “The story is about a guilt-ridden firefighter and a courageous twelve-year-old girl who join forces in the fight for their lives,” says Renz.

It’s not often that a story vividly shows us what life as a firefighter is like and how it feels to face life and death situations on a regular basis, but readers will have an opportunity to hear Renz talk about life as a firefighter and an author on July 22 at the DeForest Public Library.

He will discuss what prompted him to write the book that has been creating a buzz since its release in late May.

It took eight years of creative writing courses, workshops, conferences, and countless drafts, before he finally typed, “The End” at the completion of his manuscript.

About the Book

On the cover of his novel, the photo depicts Renz holding his granddaughter. That dramatic scene (staged) epitomizes the vivid human interest themes inside the cover.

“Gregory Renz’s new novel is a triumph of poignancy, compassion, and restraint. In it, a man’s regret is transformed to triumph.” –Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean.

The author draws on the power of forgiveness, hope and redemption in telling a compelling narrative.

He adds that when people from diverse backgrounds work together in challenging situations, they come to realize that we all have the same hopes, dreams and fears. “The walls of ignorance and bias crumble. There is no longer us and them; there is only us.”

An overriding theme showcases the difference between growing up in rural Wisconsin and living in the inner city of Milwaukee. “One aspect of the story is that the lush rural setting of Wisconsin becomes the source of agonizing guilt for the protagonist while the decaying inner city of Milwaukee becomes a source of hope and redemption,” Renz explains.

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One Man’s Manic High Helped Him Write A Novel


Poison Pen is an offbeat look at American popular culture in a tale of redemption. The plot surrounds Jerry Most, the suicidal, acidic host of a death-defying game show. The book explores themes of life, death, and the deeper meaning of ’60s television shows like “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

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Remembering Baseball with the Milwaukee Braves

shepherd express

Shepherd Express

Baseball has long been called America’s national pastime, and 60 years ago, baseball was at the height of its popularity. When the Milwaukee Braves moved to the city from Boston in 1953, more than two million local fans flooded the brand-new County Stadium annually during the team’s first five years in town. The team finished in second place in three of those five seasons before winning the National League Pennant and appearing in the World Series in both 1957 and 1958.

The hometown Braves experienced their best season in 1957, when they won it all in a grueling seven-game contest against the formidable New York Yankees. During that season, the Braves won 95 regular-season games, and the team’s success came from the contributions of perennial All-Star Eddie Mathews and the 23-year-old league MVP Hank Aaron, as well as from Cy Young-winning pitcher Warren Spahn. Consistent victories were also the result of quality performances by the defensively minded first-baseman Frank Torre. Torre, who batted .273 over his seven-year career with the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, experienced his best seasons in 1957 and 1958, leading the NL in fielding percentage and twice homering in the 1957 World Series.

Before he passed away in 2014 at the age of 82, Torre sat down with Wauwatosa native Cornelius Geary to share detailed personal stories of his time with the Braves organization. These timeless stories have been collected into the book All Heart: The Baseball Life of Frank Torre, which is filled with photographs, engaging narrative and new stories about some of the greatest players of all time.

Cornelius Geary will read from his new book at the Wauwatosa Public Library, 7635 W. North Ave., at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 20.

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Cedarburg woman writes book on father’s secret World War II service, 75 years after D-Day invasion

CEDARBURG, Wis. — CEDARBURG — A World War II veteran’s secret service is revealed decades after his deployment. A Cedarburg family used to believed their dad was a barber, chauffeur and translator during the war.

But he finally told them about his role in the D-Day invasion. now his daughter is writing a book about it.

“I thought he trained with the 35th, went to Europe with the 35th served and came home, but that’s not what happened,” said Louise Elders Moore.

Her father Alfred Endres was 88 when he was awarded France’s Legion of Honor for his work liberating the country. Louise found out after the ceremony her father actually a machine gunner during the invasion.

“D-Day plus one was his initiation into combat,” said Moore. “People jumped over the sides of boats, some sank, there were dead bodies floating in the water. He didn’t think he would live through it.”

Alfred was 26-years-old when the government came to their farm near Lodi, Wisconsin and told them either Alfred or his younger brother had to serve. His daughter said Alfred volunteered, so his brother could stay. Just weeks later, he was on the beaches of Normandy.

“He almost got crushed to death because when the ramp came down on the Higgins boat bullets were flying and everybody pushed back. He was in the back and he almost suffocated,” said Moore.

Alfred passed away shortly after he was given the Legion of Honor. Louise decided to find out more about her Dad’s combat experience. She’s now writing a book to honor her father, a man who wanted no accolades for himself.

“I said to my Dad, ‘Do you feel you are the greatest generation?’ ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Some people say you are a hero.” And he went, ‘nah.'”

Moore’s book titled Alfred will be out before the end of the year.

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Local cookbook author, Karen Buhk, “Happiness is Homemade in Door County”

hapiness is homemade in door county

WFRV- Green Bay

hapiness is homemade in door countyDo you have some old family recipes you’re trying to keep alive and pass down to new generations? That’s the focus of a cookbook from a local author, Karen Buhk.

You can get “Happiness is Homemade in Door County” at Art of Door County in Fish Creek, Seaquist Orchards Farm Market in Sister Bay, and Nature Works in Egg Harbor.

Watch the segment.

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Homemade Cream Puffs

Fox11 News

* Recipe Featured in Karen’s cookbook – Happiness is Homemade in Door County.

Watch the full video.

Cream Puffs:

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white flour
2 eggs


1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar


hapiness is homemade in door countyPreheat 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.

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Old Fashioned Banana Cream Pie

Fox11 News

* Recipe Featured in Karen’s cookbook – Happiness is Homemade in Door County.

Watch the full video.


Pie Crust
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


hapiness is homemade in door countyPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare single pie crust. Roll out and place in pie dish. Bake with weights for 10 minutes or golden brown. Let cool completely.

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.

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Bipolar Milwaukee author uses novel to promote mental health awareness

WMTJ-4 Milwaukee
Pete Zervakis

A local author who recently saw his first novel published said channeling a mental illness into creativity is what helped him write the book.

poison penA local author who recently saw his first novel published said channeling a mental illness into creativity is what helped him write the book. Bill Zaferos wrote the novel, “Poison Pen,” in 2000.

At the time, he didn’t know he was bipolar. His condition was going untreated.

“One in four people have mental illness in America, and I’m part of that one in four,” Zaferos said. “It manifested itself in me in just writing obsessively for three months.”

He said one reason it took him so long to begin treatment through therapy and medication was that he was embarrassed to admit he might be mentally ill.

“If you tell people you’re mentally ill, you can never have a bad day again,” Zaferos said. “Because if you do, the line is always, ‘Somebody’s off their medicines.’ Which is unfair.”

“A lot of people are ashamed about it, and that’s wrong,” he said.

Zaferos’ manuscript sat on a shelf for almost two decades before he mustered up the courage to approach a publisher about it last year.

The novel will be officially released Wednesday at an event at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

At the book launch, Zaferos will read from the novel and explain how he channeled his mental illness into creativity.

All proceeds from tickets, which can be purchased here, will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Milwaukee.

“Not everybody’s going to write a book. But they can work to feel more comfortable about having a mental illness and about how to deal with it. So it’s just really important to remove the stigma.” “I want to do something to help them because they’re doing a lot to help other people,” Zaferos said.

Zaferos said he hopes the event and the story behind his book will bring awareness to mental illness and break stigmas that often make it taboo to talk about.

“Not everybody’s going to write a book,” he said. “But they can work to feel more comfortable about having a mental illness and about how to deal with it. So it’s just really important to remove the stigma.”

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From life to the page

Retired firefighter draws on experience for first novel

The Isthmus


beneath the flamesAfter 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.

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Bipolar Author Bill Zaferos Channeled Mental Illness Into Creativity

poison pen

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, Popoison penison 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 ( as well as the Marcus Center ticket office ( and Amazon.

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New Door County Cookbook

hapiness is homemade in door county

By , Peninsula Pulse

hapiness is homemade in door countyKaren 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.

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Former Wisconsin newspaper reporter publishes first novel

Jordan Schelling
Wisconsin Newspaper Association

poison penMILWAUKEE – 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.

Read more…

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Milwaukee novelist who wrote on a manic high is putting the focus on mental illness

poison pen

poison penJim Stingl
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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.

Read more…

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Brust to speak at library April 15

Sun Prairie Star

Robert J. Brust spent several years writing the new book, Human Understanding: An Engineer’s Analysis of Life: Getting to the Basics after spending years searching for the meaning of life.

His professional experiences as a large-scale professional problem solver led him to personally explore the most important things in life — love and happiness.

At his presentation at the Sun Prairie Library he will share basic engineering principles for viewing life from different perspectives that can potentially lead to a path to happiness.

Brust, who has worked on some of the country’s best-known buildings asks, “Do you really know why you think the way you do? An open mind can change your life and make you happier. That is important as how you think is important to your happiness.”

Some of his engineering projects include the exterior façade of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and renovations of the plazas at Hancock and Sears towers. In New York, projects included acting as a peer structural design expert for the design of the new Central Park Police Station and designing an unusual shoring system for an extension of the New York City Subway system.

“We are often so focused on the immediate concerns in our lives that we forget to think about what life itself is all about and how that affects our happiness,” Brust pointed out. “We build homes and cars, trains and airplanes, but when it comes to building our lives and optimizing happiness, many of us fall short.”

He began his lengthy search for human understanding after a personal tragedy. When his son died it caused him to reexamine his past assumptions about how to live the best life possible.

He was the second of 11 children and was raised in a household where reason was more important than expressing emotions. The field of engineering was a likely next step for Brust who holds a degree in civil engineering from Marquette University. At the age of 33, he founded a successful Milwaukee engineering firm, now named Harwood Engineering Consultants.

He says one of the greatest gifts he has received in life is the ability to analyze information in areas which he is familiar.

History of Achievers

Brust has been around problem solvers all of his life. “My grandfather on my dad’s side was a very well-known architect who had a book written about him. He was the chair-person for the first building code committee in the state of Wisconsin,” he said. ‘My father was the president of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Institute of Architects and held the high school record for the mile run for many years.”

On his mother’s side his grandfather was a well-known doctor who was nominated for governor of Wisconsin. “He declined the nomination, but because he had diabetes, he worked with the doctor who invented insulin. My grandfather used himself as a test subject to determine the proper dose.”

Brust noted his mother was a champion high jumper in college and was the first president of the Mount Mary College Alumni Association.

The engineer/author makes a point not to tell others what to believe, but he inspires people to dig into issues that may be controversial and come up with their own conclusions. In his book he urges people to look beyond what they may have been told growing up or in school, and learn to think for themselves (

“This will challenge some of what you think you know,” he said. “My book is also intended for those who think they already understand themselves. They may be surprised.”

He writes the first step in having a good understanding of life is to have an open mind by taking a fresh look at things you’ve been taught about topics such as history, science, philosophy, archaeology, and even religion.

Brust has spent many years investigating what life is all about.

“I’ve always been curious and asked ‘why’ about so many things,” he said. “When you connect that curiosity about life with an analytical mind, sometimes it is surprising what you discover.”

He does not always accept things as they are or what he’s been told due to many inconsistencies about the topic.

“An engineer cannot afford to overlook contradictory information without risking failure and a lawsuit,” he said.

As an engineer Brust was sought by building contractors for his innovative, problem solving abilities.

His work comprised of designing and analyzing the most effective construction procedures for a wide variety of building projects in 23 states.

“I was often asked to figure things out when no one else seemed to find a solution,” he said.

He offers ideas on how to unlock tough problems using a logical, data-driven approach. In a divisive country today, that approach is what many people desperately need.

Perhaps most importantly, Brust said, “I’d like people to think that after reading his book they have learned something about life and happiness.”

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Lora L. Hyler: From shy bookworm to author creating a safe harbor for middle grade kids

Milwaukee Independent
Photographer: Lee Matz

Milwaukee Independent: What was the fondest memory of growing up in Racine, and who was the most influential person in your youth?

Photographer: Lee Matz

Lora L. Hyler: I grew up in a multicultural neighborhood populated with families who greatly respected my parents, and looked out for all the children as we freely played after school and throughout long summer days. The lone single white female around the corner, with the parents’ blessings, regularly invited children over for chocolate-fondue. It was idyllic in many ways, with normal, church-going parents who valued family and friends. These neighborhoods do not attract the local news. My parents were the most influential people in my life, who valued education and reading books.

Milwaukee Independent: How were you introduced to books by Astrid Lindgren and Roald Dahl, and why did they have such an impact on your childhood?

Lora L. Hyler: I was a huge reader. I was first introduced to the Bible, and then the encyclopedia when my parents purchased a volume for our home. Beginning in elementary school, I would check out as many books as I could carry walking to and from school. As soon as I could see over the counter, I would visit my local public library and quiz librarians about books on hand featuring famous Blacks. My eyes opened beyond my hometown, and I have never stopped appreciating various world cultures. I loved the adventures of the Lindgren and Dahl books, and the way they sparked my imagination. As a debut middle grade children’s author, I now appreciate them even more.

Milwaukee Independent: If you could send a message 20 years into the future and another 20 years into the past, what would you ask your older self? And, what advice would you give your younger self?

Lora L. Hyler: Twenty years into the future, I would ask myself, ‘Why stop the adventures?’ How many times did you visit France to work? Are there other stops around the world and people to meet? Are you appreciating all the blessings and thanking God every day?”

My advice to my younger self is, “Congratulations for always questioning, looking within, growing, appreciating and reveling in hard work, along with adventure. Without being aware, you have always been on a fearless path. You remembered to learn from those much wiser than yourself, and to inspire someone else along the way.”

Milwaukee Independent: Just like a sprint is different than a marathon but still perceived as running, what have you found to be the biggest misconceptions about writing styles and being an author?

Lora L. Hyler: The biggest misconception is that inspiration strikes and a masterpiece is birthed, instantaneously. The truth is good writing comes from putting in the work, learning the craft, editing and editing again, and taking chances to tell the stories you want to tell. Then, the real work begins: marketing. The author needs to get a book into the world through tireless promotion, making the transition from keyboard master to public speaker. Luckily, my background includes public relations and marketing. I have owned my PR and marketing company, Hyler Communications, since 2001.

Milwaukee Independent: What did your career in broadcast news teach you about yourself? And, how did that work influence your style of writing?

Lora L. Hyler: My journalism career taught me that a shy bookworm can become anything I set my sights on. Fresh out of college, I was sent to interview Wisconsin’s governor, presidential candidates, and fire chiefs. I enjoyed both research and using my wits and imagination to get the story. My creative writing today – short stories, screenplays, and books – use all of these skills. Authoring children’s middle grade fiction is my absolute joy.

Milwaukee Independent: What is the most rewarding part of the writing process? And, what is the most stressful part of being creative with words?

Lora L. Hyler: The most rewarding part for me is conducting the research first, crafting a story, editing and seeing my words come to life in a way that touches kids and adults. The most stressful part is living life with all the stressors and demands vying for attention. A creative soul must strike a balance between tuning out the world, yet understanding that harmony with loved ones and surroundings is what feeds the creativity.

Milwaukee Independent: What is the writing scene like in Milwaukee? And how can more professional and creative opportunities be developed?

Lora L. Hyler: I have looked all over the country and abroad to form my ‘writing community.’ I nurture and get sustenance from writers without regard for borders. I seek out residencies throughout the country and have established supportive relationships with artists originally from France, the UK, Korea, Japan, and the Caribbean, just to name a few. I am a member of the global Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and am an active member of the Wisconsin chapter. I also belong to Milwaukee Film, Milwaukee Filmmakers Alliance, and Oscar winner John Ridley’s Nō Studios.
I join Ridley in seeing the great potential within artists from Milwaukee and Wisconsin. I challenge artists to devote the proper hours to develop their craft and build mutually supportive networks.

Milwaukee Independent: How do you work to change the racial and gender stereotypes about writers?

Lora L. Hyler: I do not get hung up on the limited views and shortcomings of other folks. I pride myself on identifying gates and gatekeepers, preparing myself, and knocking down barriers without apology. I am fearless. Here is what I know for sure: hard work pays off and once an individual creates his or her own opportunities, the universe opens up to receive and reward their talent. It is as if the universe says, “Welcome, child. You have earned your way. Tell us what you want.” Right now, I am on the receiving end of many blessings and have touched lives in ways I could not even have imagined. It is humbling.

Milwaukee Independent: How has social media and shorter attention spans for reading affected the publishing industry, and they way people consume text published on paper?

Lora L. Hyler: Most publishers advise their authors to release a paper and e-book simultaneously. It is somewhat misleading to think people spend less time reading. They read differently, many on personal screens. Social media has also played a role in ‘vetting’ our reading, through referrals. Savvy authors benefit from this. We have ‘champions’ for our work that we may never meet.

Milwaukee Independent: With the overwhelmingly popular trends of superhero movies and video games, do libraries still offer a place to engage imagination, or is that becoming obsolete?

Lora L. Hyler: There will always be a place for libraries. I spend a lot of time in libraries, with kids, millennials and elderly people. I see researchers, casual readers, and game enthusiasts. I see solo and shared experiences. I walk in and each time, something new catches my eye. I deeply appreciate librarians and view them as vital to literacy and understanding the world around us. They are excited to help kids and adults alike. Librarians are also working to bridge gaps that divide us.

Milwaukee Independent: How do you connect your childhood to your current work, and what are your expectations for kids today?

Lora L. Hyler: I was a kid who grew up in a loving, safe environment populated by two parents in my home, and a safe harbor neighborhood. Not every kid can say this. As I became a member of the kidlit community, I realized I am helping to fill a void. Books can be a safe harbor for a child for whom life is unkind. Every child needs to see himself or herself within the pages of a book. Currently, there is a great disparity between books sent out into the world through publishing industry gatekeepers, and the reality of the nation’s demographics. I support all initiatives to change this. Our kids come in many flavors: various ethnicities, cultures, immigration statuses, religions, sexual orientation, etc. When a child cannot see their beauty in a book, they feel like an ‘other.’ I am convinced we need more of these books in the marketplace. A book can save a life.

Milwaukee Independent: What was your goal in writing the “Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes,” and what do you hope children take away from reading it?

Lora L. Hyler: I simply wanted to write an original fun, adventurous story featuring multicultural superheroes, science and spy gadgets. I achieved that with The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes. Kids need to just be kids for as long as possible.

Milwaukee Independent: What message do you have for young girls of color who dream of using words to express their creative dreams?

Lora L. Hyler: Creativity does not require a fortune, it requires imagination. All children can start where they are. Simply begin writing, illustrating, painting, designing, dancing, playing the piano or any artistic expression that speaks to you, with whatever skills you have right now. Work at your craft and stick with it because your soul demands it. I promise you, good things will follow. The world loves and needs artists.