July Meeting Canceled

We weren’t able to find a speaker for July, so our July 7 meeting has been canceled. Enjoy an extra morning of writing! See you in August!

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June Meeting: The Writing Journey featuring Nancy Mays

MFA. Journalism. Entrepreneur. All these and more apply to our speaker, NANCY MAYS. 
Join us to hear Nancy discuss her journey. She is a former newspaper reporter and longtime corporate communications/public relations professional. Her travels led her to work for news outlets in Kansas and Caracas, Venezuela. In the corporate field, she led communications PR efforts for Applebee’s, H&R Block and Johnson County Government.Currently, Nancy  finds herself steering her own small communications consulting firm that specializes in healthcare companies.
To further her writing endeavors, Nancy earned an MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2017 at the tender age of 55. Her short stories have been published in the Mid-American Review, the Colorado Review, Eclectica  and forthcoming in Ploughshares. Nancy lives in Lenexa with her husband and celebrates their first year as empty nesters. The journey continues. And so does ours, as we all gather to discuss our passion: writing.
Join us Saturday, June 2, 11 a.m.! This program is free and open to the public. This meeting will be held at the Antioch Branch of the Johnson County Library, 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam, Kansas.

May Meeting: Alarms, Locks, and Outmaneuvering Home Security

Ever wonder how the bad guys get into places most people consider well protected? Or how that expensive lock failed to fortress your home? Join us for a discussion lead by Tom O’Connor.

For the past seven years, Tom has turned his focus to residential and commercial security, and currently works as a Senior Alarm System/Home Automation Consultant with Central Security Group. He knows a great deal about the bad guys and their tricks. But there’s more. Tom had top security clearance with the DOE and had his own consulting business with clients like the DOD. Ask him about his top client — A personal bodyguard. Count on an hour filled with interesting and fun topics that will inspire a great scene, prompt a new thriller, or work into a rich mystery.

Join us Saturday, May 5, 11 a.m.! This program is free and open to the public. This meeting will be held at the Antioch Branch of the Johnson County Library, 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam, Kansas.

April Meeting: Reporting On the Crime that Shakes a Community

Some crimes are news for a day. Some crimes are talked about for decades. In 1983, Sandy Bird, wife of Missouri Lutheran Synod minister Tom Bird, died in a suspicious car wreck near Rocky Ford Bridge southeast of Emporia, Kansas. Just a few months later, Marty Anderson, the husband of Lorna Anderson–Tom Bird’s secretary–was gunned down in front of his family on a quiet rural highway in central Kansas. (Read more about the murders here.) The sinister and juicy story conflicted Emporians who knew the families and caught the imaginations of reporters all over the country, and the people of Emporia found themselves the subject of a made-for-television miniseries called Murder Ordained.

Trooper John Rule (played by Keith Carradine) talks with reporters Bobbi Birk (played by Kathy Bates) and Nancy Horst (played by Margot Rose) of the Emporia Gazette in Murder Ordained.

When Bobbi Mlynar (Bobbi Birk back then) began reporting on the Bird/Anderson murders, she had no idea the case would span her entire career, or that she’d find herself played by Kathy Bates on the small screen. During our April 7 meeting, Mlynar will talk about the case, reporting, and be available to answer other questions.

More about Bobbi Mlynar, in her own words:

Annoying children — forever tugging on a sleeve and asking, “Why? Why?” — sometimes carry over their annoying habit into adulthood.  The most obnoxious among them probably become reporters. I did.

While working part-time as a keypunch operator at The Emporia Gazette and attending classes at the College of Emporia, the newspaper’s editor and publisher William Lindsay White convinced me to forget about history and political science and to go into journalism instead.

It was good advice where job satisfaction was concerned.

During my first 31 years at The Gazette, I also was a stringer for The Kansas City Star, The Topeka Capital-Journal, and United Press International. The Associated Press had free access to any of my stories because of The Gazette’s AP membership, so I’ve been published — but not paid — by numerous newspapers across the country.

I’ve received a few citations from the AP for my work, but have never submitted any stories for competitions through news organizations. However, my friend and fellow Gazette reporter Nancy Horst and I were nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes — which we did not win. (One went to a Kentucky newspaper for a university basketball scandal and I really don’t remember who won in the other category.)

I was co-writer on two books about Kansas storms and was a ghost writer for a book of vignette feature stories.

The Gazette forcibly promoted me to city editor in the late 1980s and, after a few of the most boring years I’d had in journalism, I left my career in 1994 and ended up in public relations, marketing, and fundraising.

I worked in the international department of a web press company and was public affairs supervisor for a statewide child-welfare agency, and for a time in-between, helped my son in his business.

After retirement in 2010, I was elected to the Emporia City Commission and now am serving my second 4-year term. I continue to do limited freelance writing and am gathering material for a book about some scandalous and murderous affairs in and around Emporia. I also am gathering anecdotes for a humorous look at menopause and the female aging process.

Join us Saturday, April 7, 11 a.m.! This program is free and open to the public. This meeting will be held at the Antioch Branch of the Johnson County Library, 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam, Kansas.

March Meeting: Practicing the Law From Both Sides

Writers fill books with lawyers and courtroom scenes, and our speaker in March will help us understand what lawyers do–whether they’re fighting on behalf of the defendant or trying to put the defendant behind bars.

Michael Dailey grew up in rural northwestern Missouri. Inspired by a grandfather who had been a roaming lawyer on horseback in his early days, Daily earned his undergraduate degree in economics and then his law degree from the UMKC School of Law. He started his career as an intern for legal aide for Western Mo. and then became a trial attorney for the court defense unit. While working as a Kansas City, Missouri, prosecutor for twenty-six years, Dailey also took private clients to defend on his own time. Since leaving the prosecutor’s office, he’s had his own full-time practice as a defense attorney.

The 120-year-old house and the 80-acre farm in Platte County where Dailey and his wife now live helped drive his decision to leave the prosecutor’s office. Because Kansas City prosecutors are required to live in the city, Daily could only visit the farm on weekends for several years. But the draw to return to his rural roots led him to become a full-time defender and a “gentleman farmer.” The farm now boasts organically-grown apple, apricot, and peach orchards, big gardens, a long house, and an old tobacco barn that has housed chickens, goats, mules, horses, geese, and tons of equipment at times.  Some of the equipment and vehicles Dailey has gathered over the years have been accepted as payment for defending people who had no other way to pay.

Dailey is a great story teller and has tales about all kinds of criminals and innocents from a long career on both sides of the aisle. He’s been a part of some of the most high-profile cases in Kansas City over the past forty+ years. This will be a fun and fascinating event for writers, readers, crime show watchers, and anyone curious about what life is like for lawyers.

Join us Saturday, March 3, 11 a.m.! This program is free and open to the public. This meeting will be held at the Antioch Branch of the Johnson County Library, 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam, Kansas.

February Meeting: Reporter Tim Carpenter on Interviewing

Interviews can be an important part of your writing process, whether you’re a journalist working on an investigative piece or a novelist conducting research for a book. But the interview itself can be daunting. How do you build trust with someone who might be reluctant to share his or her story? How do you know if you’re getting good information? And how do you ensure you get the information you need?

From Call Northside 777, 1948

This month’s speaker is Tim Carpenter, Statehouse Bureau Chief and Special Projects Reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. Carpenter has received numerous awards during his three decades carrying a press pass, and is especially well known for his in-depth investigative reporting. Carpenter is also a skilled interviewer. In 2014, after the Topeka Capital-Journal ran Carpenter’s story of Milton Wolf (in which it was revealed that the U.S. Senate candidate was posting x-rays of injuries and fatalities), the Los Angeles Times posted a link to Carpenter’s interview and wrote, “This is how a real journalist goes about his job. It’s the most professional, effective interview of a politician we’ve witnessed in our decades in the business. No histrionics, but brutal in its impact. It should be screened for every journalism class in the country, as well as every newsroom and not a few writers’ rooms in Hollywood.” (Apologies; the interview video does not appear to be available at this time.)

Whether you’re writing a mystery or aspiring to be a journalist, this program is for you! Bring your questions, and bring your friends!

This program is free and open to the public.

Join us Saturday, February 3, at 11 a.m. at the Corinth Branch of the Johnson County Library, 8100 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kansas, 66208.

December Meeting: Writers and Libraries

Helen and her dog, Max.

Helen Hokanson has worn many hats at Johnson County Library over the past 18 years. She has most recently landed in the Reference department, focusing on Readers Advisory. She loves connecting readers to writers, but her passions lean toward helping writers develop their craft and finding a home for every dog.

Her work projects include planning a yearly writers conference, bringing authors of interest to the KC Metro area, and hosting a monthly writing contest.

Johnson County Library is proud to support writers in our community. Helen Hokanson will talk about current initiatives, like our annual Writers Conference and writing contests; her hopes for future programs, and answer questions. Suggestions are also welcome!

Join us Saturday, December 2, 11 a.m.! This program is free and open to the public. This meeting will be held at the Antioch Branch of the Johnson County Library, 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam, Kansas.