Editor and publisher
LeAnn Spencer, the founder of A Prairie Journal, is a journalist with more than 30 years of experience. She worked for nearly three decades at the Chicago Tribune as an editor and writer. While there she wore many hats, but one of the most satisfying was during her years as an environmental reporter. Since 2003, she has been a regular contributor to Chicago Wilderness Magazine and a private publishing consultant. Most recently, she served as copy editor for the spring issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal. Her love for the natural world stems to her childhood on an Indiana farm. In the last 15 years, she has explored the positive influences of the human-animal-nature connection by working as a volunteer using therapy dogs to assist children in hospitals, schools and residential facilities. In her spare time, she’s a novice bird watcher and enjoys a part-time career as a professional harpist. She has a Master of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Chicago, a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University, and is enrolled in the naturalist certificate program at the Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois.
Don Blecha, a photographer in northwest Illinois, walks many hours in the prairie in search of what others often overlook, whether it’s a glimpse of Henslow’s Sparrow or a newborn fawn. Most of his photos are taken in Grundy County, Illinois, putting to rest the belief that those who are not blessed with scenic mountains or lush hardwood forests do not have beautiful landscapes. His work can be viewed at www.flickr.com/photos/rattlinantler.
Mary Dixon, a visual artist and poet, is a graduate of Hastings College in Nebraska with a B.A. in art, English, and education; of the University of Nebraska, Kearney, with an M.A. in English; and of the University of Notre Dame with an M.A. in theology and an M.F.A. in English creative writing. She is a Nebraska farm girl who cherishes the unique life and people of the plains area. She has published creative works in periodicals and a collection of poetry, Eucharist, Enter the Sacred Way, Franciscan University Press, 2008 Most recent poems are in the magazines Poems in The Bend, Spring 2008, Fox Cry Fall, 2008.
Jenn Hollmeyer grew up in North Carolina and studied journalism and art at UNC-Chapel Hill. She now lives in Westmont, Illinois, where she serves as art editor and designer of Fifth Wednesday Journal, writes for a leading marketing agency, and paints architectural portraits. Her stories and poems have recently appeared in Quality Women's Fiction, ART TIMES, and Ariel.
Angela Just lives near Lake Michigan on Chicago’s North Side and slakes her longing for her own garden with frequent forays on foot or bike to the city version of where the wild things are. She belongs to bird-watching and conservancy groups at North Pond and discovered the Northerly Island prairie on a recent bike ride. Angela has had work in Fifth Wednesday Journal where the editors recently awarded one of her photos their Editor’s Prize for 2008. She is a poet who has published in After Hours, Free Lunch, HerMark, Make Magazine and Seeding the Snow.
Rachel Kellum, raised in the flattest parts of central Illinois, has spent a lot of time dreaming of living in less spacious, more mountainous places. She managed this dream for a short while as she completed her MA at Colorado State and simultaneously built a little cabin out of mostly second hand materials in the foothills. She didn't live in it long enough, and it waits for her. In recent years, it seems she has been swallowed up again by the plains, but this time, the high dry ones. Illinois green and hazy white-blue has morphed into the receding faded sage and giant high-blue of northeastern Colorado. The chest opens when driving from the mountains to here. Living with her three children, Rachel writes poetry when she can and teaches painting, writing, literature and art history at Morgan Community College, a few miles east of a sugar beet factory, and one mile north of the beef processing plant. The morning air smells like strange earthy soup, even indoors.
Barbara Mahany, a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, grew up thinking everyone's mother took home movies of scarlet tanagers in treetops, and not the children in their playpens. She grew up with shoes soaked from the burbling brook that ran across the street, and she spent long days, whole summers really, in the woods. One of her first memories is of being driven to a grove of endless lily-of-the-valley. It was something sacred then, and she knew it. She turns still to the quiet of the woods, and the glories of the moon, to find the wisdom, and take in the life lessons so pregnant, so available, for those willing to listen, to watch, to absorb.
Vern Miller holds degrees in German Language and Literature, as well as an M.B.A. He has taught at two major universities. He sometimes writes about his experiences with the prairie and some of its inhabitants and sometimes he writes about his experiences in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of southern Colorado and the creatures he meets there. His work has appeared recently in Snowy Egret. He combines his enthusiasm for literature with his interest in business to publish the Fifth Wednesday Journal.
Deb Seles is an Episcopal priest who does improvisational comedy while not walking the trails with her Norwegian Elkhound, Rocky. She loves visiting o0ur national parks and her favorite activity is exploring a new trail. She serves as a chaplain at Stroger Hospital and has a spiritual direction and retreat practice aptly named “Holy Adventures.” Her favorite place on the prairie is any new, unexplored trail.
After a career teaching biology and chemistry at Lyons Township High School, in the western suburbs of Chicago, Jack Shouba has several new part-time careers. He works to save and restore open space as Open Space Development Coordinator for Campton Township in Kane County and volunteers for various conservation organizations. He teaches a variety of botanical classes, including local flora, tree identification, as well as and photography classes at The Morton Arboretum. An avid photographer, he uses his photos in his teaching and in public lectures. His pictures have been used by conservation organizations, local governments, the Peace Corps, as well as private collections and in the pages of Chicago Wilderness magazine. For more information contact him at email@example.com.
Erin Tuttle has a B.A. in English from Hope College, is finishing a graduate degree in theology from Regent College, and is working on a Naturalist Certificate from the Morton Arboretum. Erin enjoys digging in the dirt, driving ramshackle vehicles, and spending time in her backyard with her three hens. Someday, maybe she’ll compile a book of all her odd stories, but until then, you can find her among the big bluestem and silphium of Schulenburg Prairie, or wandering through the woods with her eyes fixed in the trees. Just don’t trip her when she’s in this state.