IT DIDN'T START OUT THAT WAY Book Cover Shut UP Book Cover Shut UP Book Cover Shut UP Book Cover
Redbird Studio
20860 George Hunt Circle #312
Waukesha WI 53186
This is the original "Redbird Studio" founded by Judy Bridges in 1993. Currently sponsors Judy's workshops and readings.
Redoak Writing
Director: Kim Suhr
P.O. Box 342
Genesee Depot WI 53127
The official successor to Redbird Studio. Offers writers' roundtable groups and other programs for adults and young writers.
Redbird Studio
   Founded by Judy Bridges, 1993   

From the Bird's Nest...

The Writing Mentor Speaks Her Mind, Makes You Laugh, and Lights Your Fire!

by Judy Bridges

After twenty-five years of coaching writers and leading workshops - and writing myself - I've come to one conclusion: We are all beginners.

I am often asked if a class is for beginners or pros, and can see people squint when I’d say it's for both. I love having a mix of people of different ages, genders, interests, and best of all, levels of experience. The person who has never put pen to paper sits next to one who is extremely well published. High school dropouts sit with college professors, and factory workers with attorneys. Unless someone happens to mention it, no one can tell the difference. When we start writing, we all look alike.

We all bring something to the party; and we are all lacking. We write well one day and badly the next. We blow the grammar one day and correct it the next. We think we've nailed it when we haven't, and sometimes we have it when we think we don't.

The truth is, writing is like life. It goes up and down. When we're young, we think we're going to get smarter with experience and live on an upward curve, with our days getting brighter and happier all the time. Eventually we figure out it doesn't work that way. The happiness curve is jaggedy. Life is good at times, and not so good at others.

As writers, we begin anew every time we face a blank page. All the words are in our heads, waiting to get sorted into proper order. But often, instead of flowing easily, ideas jumble, phrases bubble up in our brains and slip away. This happens to the pros as well as the beginners.

Way back when we first started writing, we were sure it was all about inspiration, that lightning would strike with la grande idea. If we were to get out of the way, the right words would flow through our fingers to the page. All we'd have to do is let it happen.

Then we realize writing isn't that easy. Work is involved. Even those first "inspired" drafts need a lot of fixing.

Enter: Craft. We take classes. Read books. Learn everything we can about the practical matters of structure, plot, character reveal, show and tell, point-of-view, dialog, etc. etc. etc. Surely, now, we are on the ascending curve to professionalism. We paid our dues and the rest is going to be easy.

Ha! - says everyone who's been at this for a while. The blank page is still a blank page. You still struggle to fill it with worthwhile things, and you still need to do the fixing. With experience, you spot the mistakes more quickly and are more adept at fixing them. But the path is the same.

If you work in a single genre, you learn some shortcuts, patterns you can follow. You can begin with the murder, have X number of characters of one type or another, and XX number of plot points to cover. This makes it easier, but there's still that blank page.

When you approach the page knowing you have work to do, when you realize you are like every other writer on the planet who has to work to get it right, you quit staring at the sky, waiting for inspiration. You quit looking at other writers thinking they're the pros and that if only you knew what they know, writing would be easy.

Scary as that is, it's the good news. You write and re-write because your standards are high, you want it to be good. If you didn't care you would write any old dumb thing on the page and let it go. The fact that you wrestle with it, that instead of getting cocky you admit to feeling like a beginner, is one of the best things you can say about yourself as a writer.

If you are lucky, you'll be a beginner all your life.

Bean Soup: Navigating Politics With Family
By Judy Bridges and Karl Christenson
WPR Radio Broadcast - Wisconsin Life | January 20, 2021

"Believe it or not, not everyone agrees when it comes to politics. And in the current political climate those differences are especially amplified when trying to have these discussions with family.

"Waukesha writer, Judy Bridges walks us though the complex arc of navigating politics and finding common ground with her distant brother."
~ Karl Christenson

Bean Soup by Judy Bridges

My brother lives three thousand miles away from me, in Alaska, where he built a successful business while his wife raised the children. My brother and I were close as kids. Not so close during the middle, busy years. And now good friends again. Except for politics, where he is “The Great White Hunter” and I’m “The Bra Burner.”

I never actually burned a bra. And he doesn’t hunt anymore. Still, we are far Left, far Right — the difference that’s torn so many friends and families apart. Especially now, when smart, decent, people are convinced of opposing sets of facts. Our whole country is lined up on one side or the other, and the sides are more likely to spit at each other than talk over the fence.

Like it or not, we need to find paths we can walk together. It’s clear that we aren’t going to argue this out. I can’t convince my brother of my thinking and he can’t convince me of his. All that happens when we try is that we back each other into corners we aren’t going to come out of. The issues are too hot. Our convictions too ingrained. The best we can do is just be together.

Earlier this year my brother asked for my opinion. He said everyone in his circle thinks the way he does, he knows I think differently and he respects me enough to ask the questions. We tried, both of us. We knew that once upon a time we could talk and come to consensus. Not anymore. Our language had become loaded. Sentences we thought were neutral were unwitting attempts to convince.

We swore off politics. Conversations became thinner, and less frequent.

One day I found a photo of us taken when we were kids and our biggest disagreement was who beat who in a bike race. I posted the pic on Facebook with this caption:

“The love we share is deeper than the distance between us. This photo was taken the year after my mom married his dad and we got each other in the bargain. Politically, we’re miles apart, but we’d each take a bullet for the other.”

The posting opened the door again. For a while. Then silence. I sent him a note, “Let’s not let politics stand in the way of love. How about we connect at least once a week?”

He agreed. Now our conversations go something like this:

Me: “I made a pot of bean soup today. The kind you like.”

Bro: “I’d love to have a bowl of that. It’s 9 degrees up here!”

That’s it, plus updates on his antique autos and my book sales.

Will we switch sides? Probably not. But we have cleared a path we can walk together. There is kindness. There is love. There is hope.

And a big bubbling pot of bean soup.

A Written Gift
"Snow, snow. Beautiful snow."
by Judy Bridges

A good thing to remember on a snowy day. I wrote this a few years ago, and read it on WUWM "Lake Effect."
Recorded by Mitch Teich

My mother stands at the window, smiling out at the flaky stuff. I am four years old and already I've acquired the habit from her. Our sing-song voices share the joy, and it's years before I give it any thought.

This small moment in my life got bigger a few years ago, when Mom died and I was going through her papers. I'd given her a three ring binder to make notes of things she remembered or would want me to know.

The pages were filled with penciled memories of pressing her brothers' pants for a penny, of dressing up in her big sister's flapper clothes, and helping out the fancy lady who lived next door. And on one page, an entry about her dad standing at the window, singing, "Snow, snow. Beautiful snow."

Until I read that, I didn't know our snow love was a generational thing. If I got it from my mother, and she got it from her dad, did he get it from his mother or dad? And did they get it from their parents? For how many generations have my ancestors been welcoming snow?

On other pages, Mom remembered sharing bowls of potato soup during the Depression, getting a job at the shoe factory, going to dances with her friends, and marching with the Gray Ladies on the Fourth of July. She told about the good looking guy who bought her a wedding dress, how he celebrated when I was born, and what it was like when he left. In her written memories, I found my younger mother, the one I was too little to understand.

It would not have been easy for my mother to write her memories. She was an avid reader, but having to quit school at thirteen left her self-conscious about her grammar and spelling. Words like 'ridiculous' turned into 'redicalus', and 'arthritis' into 'arthuritis.' On top of that, her hands weakened in those last days so that it was hard for her to hold a pencil. And yet she filled page after page with things she wanted me to know.

I think of Mom when I get tired of writing, when the words won't come and my fingers ache. I worry about grammar, vividness, point of view, accuracy, and grace, when I should be taking a tip from her and just getting the words on paper. I should write what I think, say what I want to say and fix it later – or not. Absolutely no one is going to die if the only thing I write today is a really awful first draft.

The heart of writing, the only thing that really matters, is that we communicate. For some things – a published work, for instance, we need to polish to perfection. But for the written gift, the messages written for children and spouses and friends, all we need is ourselves – our imperfect, word-scrambling, ordinary selves remembering a man looking out a window on a winter morning, singing, "Snow, snow. Beautiful snow!"

Mom’s Nativity Scene

Pearl white figures in a pool of lace-white lights. Every camel’s
saddle, every ear on the sheep, every little finger on the baby,
is perfect.

Mom took such care to make this, selecting each figure,
painting, firing, checking each piece of work
with her careful eyes and fingers.

If she were here, she would say, “We’re having ham for dinner.
Invite everyone.” The house will fill with relatives and friends,
grandpas and kids, and strangers who are down and out.

There are towels in the bathroom if anyone wants a shower.
Blankets for a nap. There’s little here that she won’t give away
if someone needs it.

You don’t eat ham? No beef, either? Come to the kitchen, we’ll
find something for you. Of course you can stay the night, if you
don’t mind sleeping on the floor. The kids will be there, too.

In the morning, bellies fill with eggs or pancakes. Hands warm
with fresh knit mittens. She’ll wave goodbye from the doorway,
and tell everyone to come again.


This piece was written in the spirit of my mother,
Margie (Marguerite Kiefert, Miller, Weyenberg) Bakic, 1911-1999
who truly knew the meaning of a welcome mat.


Dave and I wish you the best
warm hearts can give,
now and throughout the year

I hear this is a great holiday gift! Special deal this Year of the Covid: $15 plus postage. I'll sign and dedicate it if you wish. Email me and we'll take care of the business.

Judy's Taking a Virtual Trip to Hawaii!

An On-Line Writing Workshop Hosted by Writing Coach Laura Lentz and Featuring Guest Teachers Judy Bridges and Alice Laplante. Click for detailed information.

StoryQuest workshop image

Judy Bridges is the author of my favorite, most practical book on writing – Shut Up & Write!. I have used Judy's book over the years in my Words in Progress class. Her Narrative Drive and Character Wheels are essential exercises when planning a story. Judy will kick off the series and give a talk on creating structure and a narrative drive in story. She will offer us exercises we can do on our own inside the class and then share with each other.
~ Laura Lentz, workshop host. Laura’s workshops are online and on the north shore of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.

Judy Bridges
Thanks to Laurel Landis , Jonnie Guernsey, and Dan Wilson for organizing the 4th annual presentation of photographs and writings. We missed being at Sugar Maple, but this worked and renewed the sense of community.

What fun to be commended as a person who helped bring Rick Whaley's book to life. Walleye Warriors: An Effective Alliance Against Racism and for the Earth was published in 1993. 27 years later, it's still in print, still a model of writing for social change. Hat's off to you, Rick.

My husband posted this on Facebook:

How fun to take a book off the shelf and find the note Judy wrote to her dad when she gave him the book in 1988. There’s no question in my mind that he was pleased and proud.

A basket of flowers to say thank you

A basket of flowers to say thank you to the women at St. Francis Animal Hospital who helped us say Goodbye to Chloe today. 14.5 years is a pretty good run for a lab. We'll miss her, but this is better than her being in pain. S'long Shiny Dog.

Chloe Basket of Flowers Chloe lying down

Those were the days, for so many people.

I hope we all remember the good things we carry from that time. The first thing I think of is how deep memories are, and how rich. The old building is gone (there's a new one in it's place). The kids have grown. Some of the adults in that audience are still using the book they're holding. And I think they saved the stones to rebuild the grotto. Life goes on.

Those were the days - Marian Center Those were the days - Grotto Those were the days - Kids Those were the days - Shut Up Crowd

My mom was 8 years old then.

I don't know how it made such an impression on her, but I never knew a more committed voter. I remember standing in line with her for very long times, smelling the wet wool of the women's coats, sensing dedication I was too young to understand. She went to the polls for every election until she could no longer walk, and then she had me get absentee ballots for her. She was an American.

Sharon Nesbit-Davis wins The Keyboard Award!

I still like this photo. And still like the book.

I miss Aunt Claire's back yard.

She knew how to build a strong house that was a home, not a showcase. But every time of year, something in the yard, like these laugh-o-dils, insisted on making a show of it.

Claire's Daffodils Claire's Daffodil Border Claire's Backyard

Thanks to Katherine Keller, editor of Bay View Compass, and Sheila Julson Thompson, reporter (and Redbird writer!) for putting our pretty faces on the front page of the March Compass. Their headline: SO LONG BAY VIEW, WE'LL MISS YOU, is right on target.

Bay View Couple moves to Brookfield due to a dearth of appealing senior housing on the near South Shore

February 28, 2019

By Sheila Julson

Bay View Compass Article 2019

Judy Bridges, founder of Redbird Studio writers center, and her husband, David Blank, have lived in a 1920s duplex on Indiana Avenue since 1986. This year, however, the couple, along with Chloe, their 14-year-old Black Lab, reluctantly said goodbye to Bay View.

Bridges, who is 79, and Blank, 67, had difficulty finding senior housing on the South Shore that fit their needs. "We would have happily stayed here, but friends who are a few years older than us strongly advised to move before you need to. And I'm kind of bossy, so I needed to move while I can still push a couch where I want it," Bridges laughed.

Although she and Blank have no physical limitations, they have no children, who they may have relied on to help maintain a house in their later years. After debating for two years about whether or not to move, and searching for senior housing they liked, they eventually found an apartment complex in Brookfield designated for active age 55-plus seniors. Options they found attractive included two-story buildings with patio doors that lead to an outdoor area.

"It took a long time to find a place that had the look I wanted. I can't stand these senior places that are six stories high," Bridges said. "There aren't many choices with regard to senior apartments around here (on the South Shore), maybe some condos, or places for ailing seniors with oxygen tanks, but we're not there yet."

As Bridges sat in the empty living room in the lower flat of the duplex - save for a few boxes and stray chairs, she reflected on her time in the neighborhood, watching children grow up, teaching a neighbor to knit, organizing a block party, and other milestones. The duplex was home to six people in the years since Bridges bought it in 1986. Bridges and Blank, her mother and stepdad, and later, an aunt and uncle, whom she cared for.

From wanderlust to settled

Before moving into the duplex on Indiana Avenue, Bridges lived in 61 different places. She lived in Milwaukee until she was 9, when her parents moved to Grand Rapids, Mich. Her parents divorced soon after, and she lived with each of them, and she also stayed with other relatives. "At one time, I had clothes in three different places, so it was a strange upbringing," she said.

Bridges' career included office management, market, training, and sales support. "Those were the days when you got as high as you could get within a company in six months, if you were smart, but there was no going anywhere after that," she said.

She pursued more work opportunities in Cleveland, Washington D.C., Richmond, Chicago, and San Francisco. By the time her second marriage ended, Bridges, then in her late 30s, packed up her little red Ford Fiesta and toured the United States, zigzagging to her different destinations. "I just looked at a map and chose places that I had seen and wanted to go back to, or places I had not seen and wanted to check out," she said.

It was also around that time that Bridges started to develop a serious interest in writing. "I looked at where the good writing was coming from around the country. Places like Iowa and the South were strong, but I started reading the stuff coming out of the Midwest, and to me it was better than what was coming from anywhere else," she said. "It looked like it came more from stability than from an intellectual or literary place. It was solid."

By the early 1980s, Bridges decided to return to Milwaukee, her hometown, and pursue a bachelor's degree in writing. She had taken classes at the University of Maryland and other schools, but she had not finished a program. At age 43, she earned her bachelor's degree at UW-Milwaukee, and it was there that she met Blank.

Bridges began to earn a living as a writer, chiefly composing corporate and business articles, which was a natural progression from her previous work in marketing, sales support, and training. She went back to school again, and at age 53, earned a master's degree in adult education from UW-Milwaukee in 1993. That year she also married Blank, who sold first aid supplies for a living and performed in community theater groups. She also launched Redbird Studio to teach writing.

Marian Center for Nonprofits

In 1992, Bridges rented an 8-by-10-foot studio on the top floor of the Marian Center for Nonprofits, the former St. Mary's Academy building after the school closed. The artist in the space next to her suggested that they teach a class. "And [Redbird] went off like a firecracker," she said.

Bridges taught the writing craft to thousands of writers of varying levels of experience. "We stopped counting at 6,000," Bridges said.

Her Redbird memories are vast and could fill a book. Bridges told a story about subletting Redbird studio space to writers. There were little placards above each studio door that read "Our Lady of . . ." a holdover from the building's days as a Catholic girls school.

"One of those sublet spaces had three artists, and two of them had lost their husbands. The placard above their studio just happened to read, Our Lady of Sorrows. I thought, that's not going to do," she said. Further down the hall, she spotted a placard that read, Our Lady of Victory. "One night, I got a ladder and I switched the placards, so then we had Our Lady of Victory here, and there was another, Our Lady of Hope there, and I thought, that's better!"

When she moved Redbird Studio from the Marian Center in 2015, she took the Our Lady of Victory placard but did tell one of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, who operated the Marian Center, that she did. "She just said, 'That's very good,'" Bridges chuckled.

Bridges also partnered with Riley Elementary School to lead children's writing workshops. For inspiration, she took students to the lakefront and for walks on the Marian Center campus. Initially, she was reluctant to work with kids, but after she saw how inspirational her programs were for the students, she held regular children's writing camps.

"The teachers from Riley told me they heard kids asking each other, 'Hey, will you get to go to Redbird this year?' That's the one thing that thrilled me, and that's exactly what we wanted out of that!"

Looking back at a career working with so many writers, how does she define success?

"Here's the thing about 'successes.' They are already writers before we connect, at workshops or on park benches, and we become friends. I hesitate to name them because they already, to one degree or another, have [success]. My gift is to notice what they have and figure out how they can make the best use of it," Bridges said. I have trouble naming successes because I can't get myself to see success as the brightest star or the most famous book.

"What is most gratifying is when I read the second or fourth version of a story and know this is it, the writer got it. The characters sing. The canoe scratches on the rocks. You hear rapids around the bend…and I know then that this writer quit waiting for the muse to do it for her and started the serious work of her craft."

Bridges stays in touch with many of the people she taught at Redbird over the years.

"I keep a box of notes from men and women who write, sometimes years later, to say thanks, and tell me how they're doing, what they've written, or not written," she said. "One day, Old Me will sit in a white rocker on some shady veranda, open the box, and say to myself, Well, how about that?"

Now semi-retired, she still operates Redbird, but in a smaller capacity, leading master classes in her home. She also leads writing retreats at The Clearing Folk School in Door County.

She self-published a guide to writing fiction and nonfiction in 2011, Shut Up & Write!

A new chapter

Bridges was initially drawn to Bay View because she felt its warmth and realized it was going to grow into a good, solid community. "Sometimes you are in a neighborhood and it feels like it is on the way down," she said. "But here, it was clear in my mind that it would just get better and better."

She said that her neighbors share strong bonds of trust, and many have keys to each other's homes.

She joked that after a time, she and Blank became the elders of the neighborhood, and after a while, their neighbors began automatically shoveling snow for them. The community gave Bridges the stability she had been yearning for. She said, "I wanted to sit still for a while, to be able to go to a local store and walk in and have somebody say, Hi Judy."


During their time in Bay View, Bridges and Blank supported a group dedicated to preserving Seminary Woods, the historic woodland on the grounds of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee's property.

In response to series of sexual assaults in Bay View during the late 1990s, Bridges founded Whistle Sisters, a group of women who met at the Bay View Community Center. They distributed whistles to women to use as an alarm if they were threatened. The group also provided self-protection tips and strategies. "It didn't seem like there was enough attention being paid to [the assaults] at the time," she said.

She was also a strong supporter of St. Mary's Academy and the Marian Center for Nonprofits. The building, now demolished, was reminiscent of a boarding school Bridges attended as a youth, St. Clara Academy, in Sinsinawa, Wis. Several of her cousins attended St. Mary's Academy, so she always felt a strong connection to it. It was razed in 2018 to make way for a new convent for the sisters.

A group of neighbors took Bridges and Blank out to dinner before they moved to their new apartment in Brookfield. "It's kind of like family," she said. "Although you're not in everybody's life every day, you see glimpses, and that will be a definite miss. I'd prefer not to move away from that, but the options (for senior housing on the South Shore) were not that great."

They will also miss their favorite local businesses like Outpost Natural Foods and Colectivo Coffee, along with the progressive attitudes of Bay View.

Bridges and Blank have a small RV, "a tricked-out hippie mobile," so they will be able to travel now without the responsibilities of owning a house. "But we might stick to more regional travel. We're not anxious to go traipsing around the country," she said. "I've already been everywhere!"

Senior Housing in Bay View?

The Compass asked Ald. Tony Zielinski about the prospect of senior housing being developed in Bay View. He has championed the large new apartment developments in Bay View on Kinnickinnic and Ward and Robinson.

"We have been looking to promote senior housing on Kinnickinnic Avenue. I have been and continue to be very interested in helping to get senior housing on our business strips," he said.

Asked who "we" is, he responded, "We means me and anyone who may be interested in promoting that goal."

To date, none of the 500+ new existing apartments, nor the 350 new apartments proposed for Kinnickinnic Avenue, include senior housing.

According to (National Environmental Policy Act), "Senior housing is housing that is suitable for the needs of an aging population. It ranges from independent living to 24-hour care. In senior housing there is an emphasis on safety, accessibility, adaptability, and longevity that many conventional housing options may lack. "

- Katherine Keller

Disclosure: Sheila Julson was once a student of Judy Bridges at Redbird Studio.

What a kick — a full house at Sugar Maple for the 2nd Annual presentation of "A Picture and a Thousand Words." Ten photographs. Ten excited authors reading work inspired by the photos. The audience was quick with laughter, gasps, and applause. Who could ask for more?

Thanks to project organizers Laurel Landis, Jonnie Guernsey and Dan Wilson for nursing this from idea to exciting evening. Watch their new website — — for photos of this event and (I hope) plans for 2019.

I'm ever so proud to be included in the 2018 lineup: Sheila Julson read "Cracks in the Foundation," inspired by Meg McCormick's, "Steps to Luxury." Stephen Jansen read "Pont Marie," inspired by Nicole Wayne's, "Pont Marie." Barrett Westberg, read an untitled piece inspired by Jason Hillman's, "ta.lis." Ken Walker read "The Summer of my Discontent," inspired by Dan Wilson's, "The Badge of the Broad Minded." Dan Wilson read "Loading Dock," inspired by Troy Freund's, "Moving Day." Judy Bridges (Hey, that's me!) read "The Window," inspired by Jason Hillman's "ope/rum." Harvey Taylor read "Waiting for the Sun to Shine," inspired by Azure Bielefeldt's "fruitful." Myles Hopper read "The Unfortunate Fortune Cookie," inspired by Ryan Laessig's, "Milwaukee alt/B." Dave Thome read "Joe Blueberries," inspired by Peter Wallace Lee's, "Ecoute moi beni." Kim Suhr read "The Virgin's Wink, inspired by Anna Rodriguez', "Madre of the Punk Rock Cafe."

The 2019 A Picture and a Thousand Words event is accepting submissions from writers and photographers. See the website for details.

Shut Up & Write! and Coffee Mug

For your reading/writing pleasure these winter days

Boswell Book Company In Milwaukee has a fresh supply of Shut Up & Write! books — just waiting for you. They are also available at Little Read Books in Wauwatosa, Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Red Oak Writing in West Allis, Book Cellar in Waupaca, The Clearing in Door County, and of course, This is just what I hoped for this book — that it would find its way to the minds and hearts of writers everywhere for a long long time.

Theile Tanning Print

The Winner!!!

Dave Blank's cityscape, "Thiele Tanning", won 2nd in Category and 3rd Overall in the "best of the best" of 596 entries in the 8th annual Light Space & Time Online Exhibition. The "Cityscapes" competition included entries from 22 countries and 32 states in two categories – 'Painting and Other Media' and 'Photography & Digital'.

Dave and the other winners will receive worldwide recognition. Thanks to the awards committee and all who admired and encouraged his work throughout the years.

See and Dave's website:

That's my guy!

Milwaukee writing class kid's camp Milwaukee writing fans of Shut Up & Write! Milwaukee writers will remember the grotto at the Marian Center Milwaukee Writers will miss the workshops and classes at the Marian Center

With the buildings fenced off for demo,

I look through the chain-link and see memories I think are held in the bricks, of writers, artists, school girls in uniform, nuns in full habit. I admit to stealing the sign that hung over my door in Redbird Studio. It says "Our Lady of Victory." That's how I choose to think of this building — a million victories, large and small, public and personal — fostered by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi since they laid the first cornerstone and dared to start teaching — of all things — girls! Let me rephrase that. They allowed girls to learn. We take that for granted now, at least in most cases in this country. That's a victory I wish we could spread worldwide.

One Year Ago

Before I married Dave Blank,

a mutual friend stood at a window at UWM and said he was looking at the scene the way Dave does, with eyes that see — and appreciate — details we often overlook.

Today this FB "memory" popped up and putting 2 and 2 together, I have to say that like our friend, I have loved learning to "see" the David way.

Free Library at The Marian Center

Free reads in the Little Libraries

This one's on the driveway into Canticle and Juniper Court, 3201 S. Superior (Lake Drive), Bay View, alongside the soon-to-be demoed Marian Center. I can still feel myself standing at the 4th floor windows in Redbird Studio, staring down at this spot. I wrote a good bit of this book up there, also met and learned from a lot of wonderful people — friends for life. This summer we'll be putting more books in more little libraries. This seemed like a good place to begin.

Little Read Book Shop-2 Little Read Book Shop-3 Little Read Book Shop-1

Good news for Indie Bookstore Lovers!

We stopped in at The Little Read Book in Wauwatosa and were thrilled to see that most of the yellow construction tape that was wrapped around the Village is gone and parking was downright easy.

The shop is as beguiling as ever – the staff is knowledgeable and welcoming, books are well displayed, the kid's corner is enough to make me want to shrink a couple feet and start my reading life all over again.

We also eyeballed face-out copies of our favorite guide for writers — Shut Up & Write! – signed by the author.

After so many months of yellow cones and tapes, I guarantee they will be very happy to see you. 7603 W State St., Wauwatosa. Mon-Fri 10-8, Sat. 10-6, Sun, 12-4.

My brother Bob and I really did a number on the thousands of photos inherited from 3 families.

Best decision: get rid of the ones where people don't look like themselves — like the last photo of Grandma with her hair mussed and that vacant look on her face. In real life, she was never ever vacant. Also ditched all remaining uglies of ourselves and friends. Result: we're getting cuter all the time. Process highly recommended.

Bob and Judy Picture Pile Family Photos

This photo taken from our front porch shows the sweetness of living in our cozy neighborhood on a snowy night.

We've lived in fancier places, and poorer, and this one fits us just right.

We wish everyone in the world had at least this much.

with love image

One of the nicest parts of my life is hearing from students I fell in love with,

like Rudy Hummel (Kids Camps) and his dad, Mark (Shut Up & Write class).

Rudy's in college now, but his last year in high school he slept outside every night to bring attention to – well, I'll let him tell it. All I'll say is the Hummels live in Duluth!

Rudy moving into his snow cave

Here is a slice from Rudy's website, written at the time...

"I thought about what's important to me, like the outdoors. I also thought about how many people have to sleep outside all the time, without sleeping bags or warm clothing. At first glance, these don't seem very well connected, but to me they are. Caring for people is important, and so is caring for the environment that sustains us. Treating nature well is treating each other well, both now, and for generations yet to come. It's our habitat, too. We all live on this planet together. I chose Habitat for Humanity because it sets a wonderful example of caring for people. It's an organization that builds houses for people who are homeless. I chose Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory because it connects people to nature and helps them understand why we need to care for it."
~ See Rudy's blog:

"May we all feel shaken up a bit, and be inspired to do something."
From an post by Rudy's Mom, Gail Hummel

"Rock Story" books written by young authors in Ms. Beehler's K5 group.

How Writers Create Ripples

Meet Sparkle, Rainbow, Bee, Shorty, Diamond, Twilight, Rocky, Jay, Treasure and Emerald, the very special friends of Ms. Beehler's K5 class.

At our farewell to the Marian Center party there was much talk of how the ripples of things begun at Redbird have spread and become part of many lives. Adults who were kids in the 90s remembered hiking down to the beach, finding their special rocks and writing stories about them. I often hear from grown up "kids" who still treasure their rocks.

But this story has another slant, from one of the teachers who joined Redbird and led several of the early grade summer camps. Judy Beehler is a Milwaukee Public School Montessori teacher at Fernwood Elementary in Bay View. She adopted the "rock story" concept, developed it further and, well, here's a note she wrote after the farewell party.

(from Judy Beehler, June, 2016)

"I was late because, thanks to you, I was hosting my own young authors' party at Fernwood. I have taken so much of what I learned from you and applied it in my own teaching. Every year my K5 students culminate their years with me by writing a magic rock book. I still use my story that I wrote at Redbird to get my students inspired to write their own books. We go to the beach to find our magic rocks. Then they name them and decorate them, and for the next month or so those rocks become members of the class as the children write and illustrate their own books.

"The results amaze everybody (including me) each year. The books are wonderful, and the children grow so much as readers, writers and artists as they work on their books and then share them with anyone who will sit down with them to hear their stories. I am no Judy Bridges, but thanks to your inspiration, I have "edited and published" around 125 magic rock books. They write and illustrate, and I type their stories and mount their illustrations in their books. The finished books are treasured by the authors and their families. As I learned from you, everyone can write and not one of my K5 students has left my class without producing a book. I credit you with my passion for helping children learn to write and becoming pretty successful at it. I am going to try to send you a picture of this year's books. I wish you could actually see them and hear their stories."

Ms. Beehler sent the photos of the kids and their books. (We blurred the kids' names.) The beach photo was taken a few years ago, during a Redbird writers' camp.

Young Authors in Ms. Beehler's class at Fernwood Montessori Elementary,
an MPS school in Bay View (Milwaukee) WI.

Ms. Beehler helping kids find their magic rocks.
Taken while she was teaching a Redbird Studio summer camp.

I write, therefore...

I help other people write.

Does that make any sense? Maybe not in any other occupation, but it's true in writing. Every writer I know gets a kick out of helping another writer over a hurdle. As one friend said, "We have to be the only professionals who work so hard to help our competition."

Why do we do this? We learn while we're helping, for one thing. And I suppose we like being in the company of other writers. And then there's this little ego thing: it feels good to see someone jump the hurdle and get where they want to go, knowing that you contributed to their success.

I guess that's the big thing for me. In the 23 years since the Studio opened, and in the years before that when I wrote for a living, I got addicted to the thrill of seeing writers win. Like Doreen, when she wrote that first perfect story; Maria, when she heard the applause after her play was read; Gene, when he saw his book in print; Steve, when he sold his first article. The list goes on, happily, for a long, long time.

We see a lot of wins around here. Seems whenever I start out a day cranky, someone will call, or write, to say "Hey, guess what!" They'll say thanks, to me and all the other writers at Redbird who help one another.

So okay. We write, therefore... we help other people write. I think that's a pretty good thing to do with our time.

One day we ran a survey asking writers to finish the sentence: I write, therefore... 

Here's what they said:

"I write, therefore I spend a lot of time staring at my computer."

"I write, therefore my family and friends think I'm unemployed."

"I write, therefore I drink."

A few answered:
"I write, therefore I AM A WRITER."

We liked that. But we liked this better:

"I write, therefore I think."