Three local authors work themselves into three interesting and diverse book genres


Kelly James

By Maureen Callahan

Kelly K. James – Downers Grove

Ever wondered if you pushed the envelope too far at work? Worried you might get fired for saying what you think or for disagreeing with your boss? Not long ago, Downers Grove writer Kelly K. James found herself in the same position. Her upcoming memoir, The Book That (Almost) Got Me Fired: How I (Barely) Survived a Year in Corporate America, gives the details. It’s the true account of a lawyer-cum-self-employed-writer who returns to the corporate world after decades of working from home.

A seasoned freelance writer and author of a dozen books, most being service journalism – how to lose weight, how to make money freelancing, etc., The Book That (Almost) Got Me Fired is a departure from her usual beat. It’s part how-to guide for surviving re-entering corporate America after being self-employed for 22 years, and part mid-life memoir.

The Book That (Almost) Got Me Fired is a candid look at switching gears mid-career while learning to adapt to a workplace in which you’re one of the oldest but not necessarily one of the wisest. To prepare for this new style of writing, James studied several best-selling memoirs. A journal that consisted of dozens of meticulously detailed entries – over a one-year span – helped her develop the workplace characters and keep track of the corporate shenanigans that morphed into the book’s narrative arc.

It’s an entertaining read, peppered by anecdotes – mostly humorous, sometimes poignant, but always honest – about what it takes to reshape oneself back into corporate America these days, as well as how to cope with single parenthood, middle-aged worries, and finding love again with a man who may or may not be the next “Mr. Right.”

James confessed that “letting go of worrying what people would think of me when they read the book” was the greatest challenge of this project. “I had to set aside the fear of what readers would think and focus on the story I wanted to tell,” she said. “I wanted to write something I would enjoy reading.”

James hopes readers go along for an enjoyable ride and learn how to thrive in corporate America, as well as the rest of their lives. “Initially, I planned to write about the transition from being self-employed to becoming a corporate drone, but I ended up including a lot of other aspects of my life, too.

“The bonus was that when something crappy happened at work, I would kind of cackle silently to myself and think, ‘Well, that’s going in the book!’” James relayed, laughing. At least she warns us. This is someone whose bumper sticker reads, “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.”

James will read from the book at the book launch at Frugal Muse Books, 7511 Lemont Road, Darien, on Tuesday, June 18, at 7:00 p.m. You may order the book from any brick-and-mortar or online bookstore.
Learn more about the author at

Roger Day Bain – Clarendon Hills

Like every other Little Leaguer growing up in Clarendon Hills, Roger Day Bain aspired to pitch for the Cubs. As a Plan B, he enrolled at the University of Kansas, after which he embarked on an early retirement of sorts. “I wandered around and kind of did retirement before a career. I wanted to do it while I was young,” he said.

Bain didn’t realize it at the moment, but he was living the fodder that would eventually fill the pages of his first book, Hardly Working.

Hardly Working is an autobiographical sketch of Bain’s life, filtered through the lens of work. The pages describe 40 different jobs he held over five decades in various destinations around the country in humorous detail. There’s even a brief jaunt to South America. Some jobs occupy an entire chapter. Others are a brief blurb. “I’ve had tons of jobs. Some as short as a day, a week, or a month, and I have lived in some pretty crazy places,” Bain said, laughing. “So, there was plenty to write about.”

“I thought my kids could read it and hopefully gain something from it,” Bain relayed.

The story begins with his summer jobs caddying at Hinsdale Golf Club and working in an uncle’s car dealership. Readers go on a colorful employment journey over the next several years, detailing dozens of Bain’s dead-end jobs. Eventually, Bain talked himself into the cable TV system in Lawrence, Kansas. It was there that he finally found himself. “I discovered my creative side when I got into video,” said Bain.

After a long stint in ad sales, Bain and his wife moved back to the area, where he started his own advertising agency in the early 90s. Clients like Dairy Queen and United Auto Insurance hired Bain to use his creativity while writing product songs and jingles.

Hardly Working also invites readers into the social history of the years it covers. “The book talks about events like Vietnam and the draft and Nixon. Whatever was in the backdrop at that moment,” said Bain.

In honor of his hometown’s anniversary, he also self-published a manuscript entitled I Grew Up in Clarendon Hills. It’s an account of Bain’s childhood from 1949-1969. “Nobody has written anything like this about Clarendon Hills, so I think anyone who grew up here in that era would appreciate it,” he said. The piece is currently being reviewed by the Illinois Library Association’s ‘Soon to be Famous’ author project.

For more information about Roger Day Bain or to order your copy of Hardly Working, visit To listen to his catchy tune about Clarendon Hills, “I Grew Up in Clarendon Hills,” please visit SoundCloud.

An entire soundtrack with the anecdotal stories of his book by the same name, “Hardly Working,” can also be found on SoundCloud.

Caryn Rivadeneira

Caryn Rivadeneira – Elmhurst

Caryn Rivadeneira is an Elmhurst resident and author of 25 books. Her career as a magazine writer and editor took a different turn when a friend invited her to rewrite an adaptation of Noah’s Ark as a work-for-hire project. “I loved it, and it opened the world of children’s book writing to me,” said Rivadeneira. She is the author of Helper Hounds, an eight-book series in which her past dogs have inspired the heroic main characters. Each one helps young readers find wisdom in themes such as bullying and making new friends, with the help of a canine protagonist.

As a mother of three, parenting has helped her flesh out stories in this genre. “I tap into conversations I’ve had with my kids or little things they find funny or amusing,” Rivadeneira relayed.

Her latest series, FrankinSchool, is officially aimed at an audience of second through fifth graders, but “I’m always cautious to comment on a target reading level because every student is different,” Rivadeneira knows. The series, in which her son shares a name with the main character, evolved from inklings of real-life scenarios he experienced as a young child. “What-if” poems they wrote together when he was little evolved into plot events. His dilapidated grade school building with ‘roped-off twisty staircases, creepy, sneaky doors, and spooky spaces’ provided a perfect setting for the main character, Fred, and other characters inspired by classmates.

“The series uses the power of pretending because readers don’t necessarily know if a plot event is actually happening or if it’s all imagined,” Rivadeneira points out. “To me, it doesn’t really matter because readers are using their imagination. When we say ‘what if,’ we allow ourselves to wonder about the world!” The third of this four-book series is due out in August.

In addition to reading, Rivandeneira’s other love is helping students write and develop their own stories through mini-writer workshops. Currently, she is working on this endeavor with a school in the western suburbs. “Writing is its own sort of magic that happens when we allow ourselves to say, ‘What if?’”

For more information, follow Caryn Rivadeneira on Facebook.



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