This is the second installment of the Meet the Writers of Northbrook Writes. Check out the first feature.
Anne McKinley, Daniel Cacchione, and Tracy Slutzky are three local writers with different goals and motivations for their writing. Whenever they attend a Northbrook Writes event, they say they gain valuable insights and a mutual understanding about the challenges of writing.
At Northbrook Writes, a series of free lectures and workshops led by acclaimed authors, participants delve deep into the various pillars of good writing: setting the scene, modulating a story’s tension, escalating suspense, developing characters, and much more. Aside from learning how to improve their writing, participants find support and kinship.
About the Writers
Anne has participated in the Northwestern University Summer Writers’ Conference for many years. Then late last year she noticed in the library’s newsletter that some of the conference instructors were also involved with Northbrook Writes, so she decided to sign up for the workshops. Ann is staying motivated to keep writing, something she’s been doing for the last 13 years.
Daniel is a semi-retired longtime resident whose interest in storytelling goes back to when he was in 4th grade living in Erie, Pennsylvania. He wrote a first-person essay about his experience of falling through the ice in Lake Erie and being rescued by a woman “who pulled me up by the hood.” Daniel’s work, It’s Cold Down There, earned him an honorable mention from his school’s writing contest. The former insurance executive is writing a memoir after going through major obstacles in his life.
Tracy, a former drama and English teacher, is a director of content for a healthcare company and she’s been interested in writing fiction since she first tackled creative writing assignments in 5th grade. Even with a busy marketing career and raising two children, she’s leaning into the momentum of writing fiction and learning to enjoy the creative process. She has been working on a fantasy novel (“This is more about a girl in a semi-realistic world and how she arrives at a certain personal growth.”) for the last two years.
On Finding Community
Anne: The most important lesson is that none of us are alone, which is what writing feels like a large chunk of the time. Seeing all the other participants in the seminars and listening to their questions, struggles, and feedback has helped me set aside my guilt over finding the time to write and not always doing everything on my to-do list.
Daniel: Writing is a monastic work environment. Having to sit by myself and work is probably one of my problems because I’m a social person. The classes are educational and you get introduced to people who may be very different from you but they all want to put something down on paper. It’s a very diverse group. All have a desire to write. Some want to be published and some don’t. I was very surprised by the attendance of other writers in the area.
Tracy: The Northbrook Writes program is outstanding. I’ve missed very few events. I really make a point to attend all of them. I feel like I can always get something from them and keep the momentum going. Writing is a very solitary thing to do and it’s not always easy to get started.
Valuable tips and ‘Useful Pearls’
Anne: I have been so impressed with the quality of the instructors (all of whom also teach paid writing courses), the length of the seminars, and the thought that has gone into making the courses accessible to people who work full time.
Daniel: Last year I attended a Northbrook Writes class on character development; how to develop character without having to rely too much on the description of their appearance but rather through their attitudes, characteristics and actions.
Tracy: I think the speakers that are brought in always have some useful pearls to offer that can help me think differently and push my writing further. There was a lecture on setting and it’s something that I probably need to develop. There’s always something shared that I can learn from.
I’ve really learned to enjoy the process. I don’t write every day. There are periods of time when life gets busier. It is a challenge sometimes to find time. But as long as I continue to move forward, it’s OK. So I’ve tapped on something that works for me and I keep it enjoyable and I’m very conscientious about keeping it that way.