Conversations with Marianne

What inspired you to write “JOLIET”?
I felt it was important to recognize some of the people responsible for forging a city out of the prairie bluffs and whatit was like for the in Joliet. I wanted to spotlight their contributions. Joliet is my hometown. It became “home” to my great-grandparents and grandparents who came to Joliet from Eastern Europe. My father owned a local tavern, and I always felt as though we knew everyone in the neighborhood.I grew up with a real sense of community. I’m passionate about reminding people to cherish their history, to record their family histories and for America.

Why is Joliet’s history so important?
in Joliet were determined to see their children educated. Following World War II, Joliet
experienced a second boom in keep the school system in pace with the current population growth. Third, and equally as important, are Joliet’s leaders. population, which saw its school system grow again. Today, education remains a priority, and City leaders are careful to keep the school system in pace with the current population growth. Third, and equally as important, are Joliet’s leaders. Early community leaders had great vision, a sense of purpose, and the tenacity to build a strong foundation for a may community that is still growing and changing. Today, Joliet is going through its secondresurgence. The nationalities may be different — but the opportunities are still here for people to live, work, and worship. The pull of stone and steel that brought so much industry to Joliet in the early days has made way for new industries that have brought more jobs possibilities for social, educational, and economic growth.and opportunities to the community — and to both Chicago and Illinois. Joliet has always attracted people who saw the possibilities for social, educational, and economic growth.

What was your most interesting experience while researching and writing the book?
The serendipity of searching for previously unknown photographs of the people in Joliet and then discovering photographs that included both of my grandfathers. It was great fun talking with someone and suddenly realizing our family histories were connected. We would look at each other in surprise and say, “My grandpa used to do that, or go there, too!” It reinforced just how the community connected people’s lives.

What is the most important message in your book?
To cherish and document the histories of our families and of our communities for future generations. Our pasts serve as the foundation for the next generation – whether it is family, the workplace, or through the schools we attended. I believe it’s important to preserve history in order to move forward. JOLIET is also my effort to remind people from all over Illinois that we all learn from one another. Finding the common thread between all of us helps us to understand that we are not alone in this world. No matter where or who you are, or where your family came from, our shared experiences help us learn and grow.

Is there a special message for women in your writing?
As a female baby boomer, I feel especially resolute telling younger generations the challenges of the courageous women who helped shape our communities. It couldn’t have been easy to be an immigrant, and a female immigrant’s life was even more difficult. I learned about the hardships faced by my own grandmothers. History books seldom include the stories of the Croatian and Slovenian women who left their own families to come to America, and to Joliet. They were just as strong and brave as the men, and worked side-by-side with their husbands and fathers to build a better life. Something I fear, we all so easily take for granted.

Women’s history is important, and keeping alive the history of the women who help to build Joliet is very personal to me. Writing the stories of the women who founded and led the Illinois Woman’s Press Association since 1885 has become a desire of mine. Many of the women who formed IWPA were heroes. Strong individuals all, they influenced one another through common themes, values and goals. They formed an association becoming a cohesive force set on changing the limitations previously placed on them in the workplace and in their lives. They sought higher education, career opportunities and increased remuneration for their efforts. Together, they represented a woman’s power to think and act without losing her grace.

While attending college, I was greatly influenced by artist Judy Chicago. The Dinner Party, which was executed between 1974 -1979, focused on the history of women in Western Civilization. This was an important time for me as a young coed and it struck a cord. Chicago’s work was a vehicle for intellectual transformation, social change and women’s rights. After reading Dorothy Allison’s book, Bastard out of Carolina, I had the opportunity to meet her at a bookstore reading in Andersonville. She looked right at me and asked, “Where are the stories? You fought the fight and it was your life, don’t bury them.

How did growing up in Joliet shape your outlook on life?
Growing up I was supported with loving parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (lots of cousins). They were generous people who provided me with a solid foundation and a strong sense of community.Family friends were folks from the neighborhood who were all first generation Americans with similar values and integrity. It was a wonderful environment in which to grow up

What advice do you have for other women writers?
NETWORK! Networking through the Illinois Woman’s Press Association had a great impact on my writing career. That was how I met John Pearson, the publisher of Arcadia in Chicago. Service on the IWPA Board provides a great opportunity for me to share my experiences with other women in communications, and to mentor and encourage women who have a story to tell. We all learn from one another. Finding the common thread between all of us helps us to understand that we are not alone in this world.

I think it’s twice as difficult for a woman to get published and even more difficult if you are past a certain age. But it can be done. The women who influenced me told me I didn’t have to sell out, I could pursue my dreams and goals if I believed in myself. Who ever would have thought I’d have my first book published 30 years after receiving my undergraduate degree? You can’t give up. You need to keep throwing those words on the page and seeing what will stick. You have to keep pushing yourself up that hill and redefining your goals.

What is your most important message to writers?
There are so  many stories in your own back yard, in the people you see everyday, and in your own community. Community service is important in America. Last year alone, the Points of Light Foundation reported that “65.4 million people” volunteered at least once last year. Stories unfold. Inspirations enlightens.

To those struggling female writers, my heartfelt message is to pursue your passions. Enjoy the journey of the words. Keep at it. Allow yourself the time to develop your voice.

Keep your heritage alive by writing about the people and experiences that have shaped your life. Use your life experiences to create stories that inform, inspire and encourage others.