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A & E

LocalLit author spotlight: Richard Wheeler of Joliet

Richard Wheeler, who's lived most of his life in Joliet, is the author of "A Decade of Innocence: A True Story of Alcoholism, Nostalgia, Poverty and Survival." His excerpt in this week's LocalLit newsletter takes place in 1949 in the Woodland School neighborhood on Joliet's east side.
Richard Wheeler, who's lived most of his life in Joliet, is the author of "A Decade of Innocence: A True Story of Alcoholism, Nostalgia, Poverty and Survival." His excerpt in this week's LocalLit newsletter takes place in 1949 in the Woodland School neighborhood on Joliet's east side.

LocalLit is a new short story newsletter that connects local authors with local readers. The newsletter kicked off in April. Each week a new short story by a local author is sent directly to subscribers' email.

Next week's short story is by Richard Wheeler of Joliet. Recently, Wheeler took a few minutes to speak via email with Herald-News features editor Denise M. Baran-Unland.

Baran-Unland: Tell us a bit about your writing background,

I never intended to become a writer but gravitated into it. I became comfortable with the basic rules of grammar during the years when I worked as a Linotype operator in the printing industry. That is where I acquired my journalistic writing style of Who, What, When, Where and Why. I believe that substance is far more important that style, and that writing should be easily understood.

Baran-Unland: What types of stories do you like to write?

I mostly write non-fiction, although I occasionally dabble in fiction.

Baran-Unland: Give a one-line summary about your featured short story.

“Memories in an Old Bottle” describes a seemingly ordinary incident that occurred in my childhood but contains subtle deep meanings about life.

Baran-Unland: Have you published any books and/or are you working on one now?

My early books and booklets are all technical publications pertaining to printing processes that are now outdated. However, all of my life I have written volumes of personal essays regarding my private thoughts on matters pertaining to everything from personal relationships to my concept of God.

My big book, “Decade of Innocence,” is actually a collection of 55 essays about my formative years that I originally wrote for my eyes only. I intended them to serve as reminders of my youth, in case my memory failed late in life.

Later on, I decided to publish those essays in book form in the belief that other people could benefit from reading about my astonishing experiences growing up in Joliet, while living in poverty, dealing with an alcoholic parent and enduring 10 years of illness. I was surprised at how fast 3,000 copies sold out locally. Now, that book is only available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble as an e-book.

I am currently translating very old traditional German children’s stories into English, and editing them to conform to modern-day American sensibilities. Although unknown in America, they are delightful and timeless stories that have survived through many generations.

They pertain to the development of universally desirable character traits, such as honesty, trust, obedience, sense of duty, good citizenship, respect, diligence, kindness, tolerance and justice that transcend all cultures.

Baran-Unland: Where can people find more information about you?

I have no claim to any notoriety. However, I am active in the Blackhawk Railway Historical Society that meets in Lockport. I also serve as Recording Secretary for the Cunningham Neighborhood Council in Joliet where I write the monthly minutes, spiked with commentary. I love to meet new people and I always respond to email messages. Address:

For casual, impromptu personal interviews, I am readily available most early mornings at the coffee shop, 821 Plainfield Road in Joliet, where I join other Old Timers for lively discussions.

Editor's note: Richard Wheeler graduated from Illinois State University and served in the Army. He is a former teacher, printer, video store owner and race track teller, and is an active member of the National Railway Historical Society.

In addition to reading and writing, his diverse hobbies include Old Time Radio programs, bicycling, walking, photography, chess, euchre, vegetable gardening, model railroading and the German language.

Now retired, he resides in his hometown of Joliet, Illinois where he serves as Recording Secretary in the Cunningham Neighborhood Council.


Each week LocalLit will deliver an original short and family-friendly story by a local author to the newsletter's subscribers or – starting in 2019 – a review of a book written by a local author.

Authors with a connection to our readership area may submit. Submission does not guarantee acceptance.

Stories should be edited and between 1,000 words and 7,500 words.

Featured authors will be spotlighted in publications before the newsletter runs so readers have time to sign up.

To submit and for more information, contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

To sign up for the newsletter and read Wheeler's story, visit

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