Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

April 22, 2013

Books reflect on authors' lives

Kevin Killeen is a radio reporter who wanted to tell his own story for a change.Jean Ellen Whatley was a television reporter and anchor who just wanted to run away from home after a series of daunting family tragedies. She was also tired of telling other people's stories.Saturday, Killeen and Whatley shared the concepts behind their respective books at a Lit at the Library event sponsored by Helen Matthes Library. The event was held at what will eventually be the library's new location in the former Fifth Third Bank building.Saturday's event was co-sponsored by Left Bank Books of St. Louis. Co-owner Jay Steele is a 1991 Effingham High School graduate who contacted the library about holding the event."Most of my family still lives here," Steele said. "I thought it would be fun to bring what I do to the people I grew up with."Library Director Amanda McKay said having the event at the old bank keeps the renovation project in the public eye."It keeps people excited," she said.Killeen, a longtime reporter with KMOX Radio in St. Louis, is the author of "Never Hug A Nun," a coming-of-age comic novel that Killeen admits is more than a little autobiographical."It's about all the things that boys do when their parents think they are at their friend's house," he said.Killeen said he wanted to work on something that would last longer than the typical news story."I was musing on how ephemeral news is," he said. "In that spirit, I wrote this book."Whatley described surviving an abusive childhood and teenage motherhood to live what she thought was an idyllic suburban life with four children and the "second man of her dreams." But that man turned out to be a sex offender, leaving Whatley to raise four kids on her own. She also had to deal with several deaths in her family at about that time.Her book, "Off The Leash," describes a 9,000-mile trip she took with only her dog Libby as company. "It's about freedom — the freedom to pursue your dreams," she said.Whatley said she finally decided to write her own story as a catharsis to all the turmoil in her life."I don't have a lock on heartbreak, but I discovered nobody wants to be the poster child for unfulfilled dreams."I did something about it. I ran away."Whatley said she retraced the steps of her life and re-connected with people she had encountered on the way.

"I was able to reconnect with every single person who had influenced my life," she said.Traveling without human companionship also enhanced the trip, she said."I was able to create some opportunities for myself, to be authentic," she said.

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