These three have the write stuff

Current and former residents find success in publishing

Oct. 9, 2008

Some people with ties to South Milwaukee are finding inspiration in the blank page. In recent months, a resident won several children’s books awards, another published her first book and a former resident has found success publishing stories about his days growing up in the area.

An educational experience

Janet Halfmann’s first fiction book, “Little Skink’s Tail,” swept the competition at the 2008 Florida Publishers Association Conference, where she won both Best Children’s Picture Book and Best Overall Book of 2008.

“Little Skink’s Tail” tells the story of a lizard that loses its tail, and while it waits for a new one to grow, it imagines itself with many kinds of tails.

“Just from doing the readings with the kids and stuff, I could see how much they enjoy it,” Halfmann said. “And it is such a good, educational book. Even though it’s fiction, there’s so much science in it.”

The book also picked up Learning Magazine’s 2009 Teacher’s Choice award. Halfmann is overjoyed with the success she is experiencing, as evidenced by a poster of the book’s cover that proudly hangs on her living-room wall.

“I’m doing what I always wanted to do,” she said. “It’s taken awhile, but I’m there.”

Halfmann recently released her second book, “Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story.” Another picture book, it is based on the true story of Smalls, an enslaved steamboat wheelman who helped his family and others escape slavery during the Civil War.

“I wanted to do a true story about a minority hero because my feeling is that there are so many great achievements that minorities have done, but you don’t read about them,” Halfmann said.

It’s an exciting adventure story, and educational, too, she said. Halfmann spent two to three months researching the book for her first draft and then enhanced the book by finding letters, speeches and other historical documents by and about Smalls.

“I really enjoyed writing it because he was such a great person, and you just wished you would have known him personally,” she said.

She is the author of more than 30 children’s books. She has two more books scheduled for release in the coming months.

Her own way

Carol Bronikowski, who retired as third-grade teacher from Divine Mercy, has had her work printed in magazines, but she always wanted to publish a book. So, she wrote her manuscript and sent it to publishers.

In 2006, she received a letter from Mayhaven Publishing. The company was unable to publish it because of budget constraints, but representatives encouraged Bronikowski to think about self-publishing. Mayhaven felt it was a good story, worth printing and reading.

A year later, “Serena and the Turtle Eggs” is a reality, and children now can read about island-dweller Serena, who lost her family in a storm, and her efforts to protect a turtle’s eggs.

“Everyone who has read it has really enjoyed it,” Bronikowski said.

She shopped around for a self-publication service and decided on BookSurge, a part of Amazon.com. Her son, Alan, and daughter-in-law, Elisa, helped Bronikowski get the book into digital format.

Melissa McKelvie, an art student at Alverno College, created the illustrations.

“I wanted to have something for my family to have,” Bronikowski said. “I really wanted to have something out there.”

Four unusual pets

Edwin K. Danowski, a 1954 South Milwaukee High School graduate, is telling everyone about his experiences growing up in southeastern Wisconsin.

The book “A Dog, a Cat, and a Crow!: The Very Real and Heart-Catching Story about a Boy and His Truly Amazing, Real-Life, Feathered and Furry Friends” has three parts. The first tells about Danowski’s time growing up and his unconventional pets: a dog, a cat, a crow and a goose.

Danowski said they were all kept in separate cardboard boxes in his basement as young animals, but eventually, the kitten curled up with the puppy and the crow perched on the side of the box with them. The goose tended to keep to itself.

“The things they did were fun and entertaining and sometimes sad,” he said. “They are stories about struggles and making it through.”

The second and third parts of the book are about the grown-up Danowski and his life after being in a disabling car accident at 29.

Now 72, Danowski, who lives in Racine, has enjoyed success not only in his professional career as a consultant , but also in his writing and art. Many galleries have featured his paintings.

At a Glance

WHAT: Edwin K. Danowski book signing

WHEN: 7 p.m. to closing, Tuesday, Nov. 11

WHERE: Barnes & Noble, 5755 N. Bayshore Drive, Glendale

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