Building on My Foundation in Non-Fiction Writing: Fall Master’s Class Remembered

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Another semester. Another class. Another step closer to achieving a milestone in life.

Our little piece of mortgaged America located in Avondale, the focus of my essay.

That summarizes an important part of what took place this fall of 2017. Specifically, I completed another graduate-level class, one more academic chess piece so to say toward earning my Master’s degree in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This fall, I joined 11 other student scholars in the “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop,” a course that allowed participants to submit essays, memoirs, journal contributions and other written works as part of the required assignments.  Each class, two works were presented, analyzed and read aloud in segments or entirely.

The professor, himself a very successful author of non-fiction, novels and short stories, encouraged discussion and criticism — but primarily the constructive kind.

My classmates presented poignant, compelling stories of growing up in parts of the nation and under familial dynamics much, much different than mine. Some revealed much more about themselves, their lives and personal relationships than I ever would, except perhaps in fiction.

I respected everyone and their abilities, and I believe I grew as a writer after absorbing the works presented each Monday night.  A community of sorts evolved: Writers charged with keeping the craft and art of the written word advancing through compositions centered on our own experiences and abilities, beliefs and perspectives.

My essay contributions were driven by what I know best: Chicago.

The second and more substantial of the two essays is titled The “Greening” of Avondale, a perspective on the Chicago neighborhood we’ve lived in for 17 years.

Your thoughts on this work are welcomed. And, if you want to read more of my “scholarly” works, please visit my website.

By the way, I earned an A this semester!

 

 

One Image, One Question: September 24, 2017

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

As this post is about to be published, the temperature outside here in Chicago this Sunday in September, the first official weekend of autumn, is 88 degrees.

Yes, 88 degrees this late in the season.

Do you have a favorite spot to observe the changes around you?

Hey, that’s a bit less July-like than the record breaking mid-90 degree temperatures recorded here and around the Midwest the past few days.

But enough weather talk.

The image above was taken on our front porch, where Susan and I sit often during the warm months to read, drink coffee (and sometimes wine or beer) and watch activity in the neighborhood.

By this time of year, opportunities to enjoy the outside on the porch dwindle.  But, not today.

From this perch, we’ve observed many somewhat subtle but significant changes to Avondale. Most specifically — the people.

Avondale’s proximity to downtown Chicago and public transportation, great housing stock and relative affordability has attracted families and a younger demographic.

Okay, the neighborhood is becoming gentrified.

We observe this in three quantifiable ways:

  • Rising prices for housing, meaning less affordability for many, including long-standing residents.
  • A reduction in gang-related activity, which was prevalent when we moved to Avondale 17 years ago.
  • An increase in people walking dogs! (I’m not kidding; being on a corner, we are at the dog walking crossroads.)

So on today’s question:

Where and how do you observe changes within your community?

Time to get back outside to continue this research. Real autumn weather will be here. Someday.

 

 

A Super Way to Start This Super Bowl Sunday

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Perhaps it’s not an exciting way to start off Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2016.

A view of northbound Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

A view of northbound Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

But here’s what I did on this unseasonably warm and pleasant morning: I went for a long walk in the neighborhood and stopped for a cup of coffee at a new, independent shop just off Milwaukee Avenue, my favorite street in the world.

Sounds innocuous, uneventful, even predictable, right.

Not so.

My stroll and stop at the Bow Truss shop on Kedzie Avenue gave me an opportunity to break away from my Sunday morning routine of coffee on the couch with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and gain some more insight on the changes taking place in and around Logan Square.

My view from the corner stool on a warm-for-February Sunday morning.

My view from the corner stool on a warm-for-February Sunday morning.

While sitting at the Bow Truss counter, I overheard a conversation between the barista (who hailed from a small town in northern Michigan) and the two guys next to me — one from Toronto, the other from France.  All three had been in Chicago for a short time, all were happy to be here, and all looked forward to learning more about the city.

Using my keen powers of observation (remember, I used to be a reporter), I ascertained that other patrons of the establishment, which was a scary bar back in the early 1990s, also moved to the neighborhood recently; they selected Logan Square because it’s become a very desirable place to live and work, and drink good coffee, too.

Ah, great coffee in a real glass mug!

Ah, great coffee in a real glass mug!

And, as illustrated in the adjacent image, I brought along some of today’s Sunday newspaper to read while I enjoyed the excellent coffee and relaxed atmosphere.

 

Bow Truss is just one of the seemingly dozens of new establishments bringing vitality and diversity to Logan Square. More restaurants, bars and even a brewery will open along Milwaukee Avenue in the near future.

These changes, which are leading to dramatically higher rents and housing prices, come in the wake of what some call “gentrification,” or a process where lower-income residents and business get priced out by newcomers.

And, there’s certainly validity in that perspective.

But Bow Truss replacing a long-gone seedy tavern called the Big O is a reflection of many factors, like market dynamics, the economy and shifting demographics.

Hopefully, those who want to live in Logan Square will still be able to do so. I’d welcome to overhear their conversation about the neighborhood the next time I break my Sunday morning routine.

 * * *

I’ve written about Logan Square (and Avondale, where we live) before. Here are some past posts.