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Laura Bien and “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives”

Laura Bien and “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives” image
George Ridenour
Rights Held By
Ypsilanti Historical Society
OCR Text

On April 24 Laura Bien, author, blog writer, archives assistant, poet, and researcher provided Archives visitors with a brief background related to her career in writing and signed copies of her new book “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives.” Ms. Bien indicated she has always had an interest in writing and at an early age began writing poetry. She attended the University of Michigan planning to pursue her interest in poetry and published a number of poems in a local U of M literary magazine. After graduation she taught in Korea for two years and then returned to the United States and attended Eastern Michigan University graduating with a degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Laura indicated she especially enjoyed working with and teaching others from multicultural backgrounds. An advertisement in the Ann Arbor Observer caught her eye and brought a new career writing “The Calendar of Events” for that publication. The experience at the Observer taught her to: 1) be succinct and compress your thoughts; 2) be comprehensive – put together a “full picture in one sentence;” 3) write in a conversational manner – talk to your audience; 4) write in vivid language to catch the reader’s interest; 5) write blurbs as if you had only ten minutes to complete it; and 6) make sure your articles are no longer than approximately 1,000 words. Laura gave the audience some background about finding and researching the short stories included in her book. For instance, she indicated that reading local school yearbooks gives a flavor of the time period and sometimes provides tips for stories. One example she gave was finding a reference to an outbreak of smallpox at EMU in a yearbook which resulted in her writing a story that described the impact of the outbreak in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area. Another source for stories is reviewing old patent records. Many patents for inventions were applied for by Ypsilanti entrepreneurs and one story that she published was related to the patent of a “Toast Buttering Device” by Robert Dickenson in 1929. Writings of former Ypsilanti historians are another potential source for stories. One story she developed was initially inspired by the writings of blind historian James Milton Barnes. Finding bits and pieces within other stories and writings often lead to the development of a unique new story. In addition to writing books Laura now writes blogs for the Ypsilanti Historical Society and regularly writes articles for the, the Ypsilanti Courier, the Chronicle and the Ann Arbor Journal. Her articles are focused on her love of history and local interests. Tom Dodd, local teacher, historian, and editor of the Depot Town Rag, describes Laura as “…one of the best writers in Washtenaw County.” That is quite a compliment coming from a respected teacher of journalism. (George Ridenour is a volunteer in the YHS Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.) Photo Captions Photo 1: Laura Bien, local author, poet, and researcher with a copy of her new book “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives.”