Just like many renowned authors who did much of their writing in tranquil settings, three generations of published writers in the Creason family have found their inspiration in the Fithian countryside.
The local authors include Jane S. Creason; her grown son, Todd E. Creason; and her parents, the late Edwin M. “Mac” and Elizabeth Swengel.
Today Jane lives with her husband, Don, in the original Little Giant school house, circa 1880-90, which was bought by her parents in 1947 and converted into living space for the family. There have been numerous renovations, but the original wooden floor and ceiling beams of the old schoolhouse are still intact in what is now the Creasons’ living room.
Jane and Don also raised their son, Todd, and daughter Lockie Creason Inlow, in this historic home. Now Todd and his family live just down the road from his parents, and Inlow and her family live in Louisville, Ky.
Jane and her son’s writing regimens are very different. Whereas Jane tends to write in spurts — up to10 hours a day for several consecutive days — Todd sets aside four hours every evening for his creative writing.
“I basically do accounting all day in my job, so I need this creative outlet in the evenings,” he said. Todd had the idea for his first book 25 years ago, but it took him only 14 months to complete once he got started.
“It’s amazing how many of my family members have published books, but each of our books is totally different from the others,” Jane said.
Many of Jane’s family members have the distinction of being educators. Jane, her mother, son and daughter all graduated from Oakwood High School, where her father taught social studies in the early 1960s.
Her father earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois and a doctorate from UCLA. Jane also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from U of I.
Todd works in the university’s Office of Technology Management. In addition, all four writers play — or played — the piano and at least one other instrument.
Although Don isn’t a writer, he has helped his family authors by finding rare bits of information in old books that he’s picked up at antique sales.
“I’m also the idea man,” he said, pointing out that he provides his wife and son with story ideas and also critiques their writing.
Don worked as sales manager at FS Farm Supply for 40 years, and he also claims to have “an insatiable appetite for collecting antiques.” He also assumes many of the household chores and does the grocery shopping when his wife goes on a writing spree.
Jane had her first date with Don years ago when she invited him to a high school band picnic at Kickapoo State Park. Even though it poured rain at the picnic, Don says today, “It was the best day of my life, and I knew right then that I would marry Jane someday.”
Jane started writing in the early 1980s, after she had been a teacher for a number of years.
“I found out that my students didn’t know much about history and I wanted them to learn about some real historical events, but with a fictional story line,” Jane said.
She worked for many years on her first book for teens, which she eventually published with the encouragement of her husband.
“I like writing for young adults because I can tell the human element without having to include sex and violence,” Jane said.
All of the family books are self-published, although the Creasons have tried many times to get a publishing company interested in their work.
“I could paper my walls with all the rejection letters that I’ve received,” Jane said.
Todd recently opened his own publishing business called Moon and Sun Publishing, and he jokingly refers to it as “the largest publishing company in Fithian.”
The Creasons recommend that anyone who wants to write and publish should first read everything they can get their hands on about the topic, and next find a literary agent to help market their work.
The family’s published books can be categorized by author.
- Todd E. Creason: After Todd became a Mason he began researching famous members of that organization, which led to “Famous American Freemasons, Volumes I and II” — collections of short biographies of Masons in all walks of life. His “A Freemason Said That?” is a collection of quotations. Todd also has published two mysteries — “One Last Shot” and “A Shot After Midnight.” The Masons recently elevated him to 33rd Degree status in recognition of his published books.
- Jane S. Creason: She has taught for more than 40 years in Vermilion County and currently teaches at Danville Area Community College. Her books, “When the War Came to Hannah” (historical fiction) and “The Heron Stayed” (a coming-of-age story), reflect her interest in literature for young people as well as adults. Jane is working on a sequel to her second book.
- Edwin M. “Mac” Swengel (1917–2010): His primary focus was improving education through the use of mutual instruction — kids teaching kids. His books — “Plainston Chronicles, Volumes I and II” — tell the story of a fictional town and some of its inhabitants from 1919 to 1952, and how a school system based on mutual instruction evolved. Jane also is working on her father’s manuscript for another novel.
- Elizabeth Swengel (1913-2009): Jane’s mother wrote poetry all her life, but published only in her later years with the help of her daughter Lockie. Elizabeth’s book of poems, “To Mount a Wind,” reflects her many loves and interests.
The books by Todd, Jane and Mac are available from http://www.amazon.com, as well as from the authors. Elizabeth’s book of poetry is available from Jane.
The Creasons will have their family books for sale and will sign copies at 6:30 p.m. June 11 at the Oakwood Public Library, 110 E. Finley St.