Surrender To The Writing

This morning I am doing some writing for a course, a book I’m working on, and a military writing workshop. I came across something I wrote a couple months ago that seems very appropriate for a blog post this morning. It is a train of thought writing that I have incorporated into several projects but it also offers food for thought. As you consider writing your military stories, or writing at all, think about the following. It has certainly been on my mind since I did the rewrites for The Tiger’s Widow in June when I feel like my soul was ripped in two as I wrote. The story completely changed and in the end……it was BETTER.


Writing is a very personal activity. Through writing we immerse ourselves in the depths of life, love, and loss. We explore issues and problems that seem insurmountable. We open ourselves up to vulnerability and criticism. It can be SCARY!

Pick up any writing guide and it will tell you writing is hard work. Perhaps, but I don’t view it that way. I see it as an outlet through which expressions of hope, fear, desire, and love flow. There are days the words flow like a raging waterfall and other days they stagnate like a smelly, slime covered green pond. You just have to be vulnerable and go with the flow of it all and do the best you can.

What does becoming vulnerable have to do with writing military stories? War is hell and those (mostly) young men who went off to fight were scared, vulnerable, homesick, and full of hope, desire, fear, and love. When we open ourselves up to these realizations we become better writers. We tell the stories of those who went to war more compassionately. With more truth and honor than if we stayed closed off.

Can we just give the facts and leave it at that? Yes, but who will really want to read that story all the way through or even more than once? When we better understand what was was like and what our soldiers experienced, we can try to (but never fully) stand in their shoes to relay their experiences.

People talk about genealogy serendipity, the occurrence where the right person or record is put in our path. Some researchers and family members even feel guided by their ancestors. It is as if someone is whispering in your ear. This whispering happens to me all the time. Maybe it is a thought that crosses my mind or an email with information. Sometimes as I write, the words just flow and when I am finished I wonder where they came from.

So when you next sit down to write, let it flow. Let go of all your reservations and see what happens to your military or family stories. What gold nuggets will you uncover as you write? What story will flow out that you never expected?

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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Follow Friday – New Ricigliano Chicago Ancestors

I haven’t posted in a while about the work I’m doing on the people from Ricigliano, Italy, although a lot of people left comments in those posts. This morning I received another comment referring to a specific blog where a woman named Anne is trying to identify over 100 of her mother’s old photographs. Not only are photographs involved but also original documents.

Please visit Anne’s blog Welcome to DorothyDe and browse her photo gallery. Can you help identify any of the individuals there? Please try and then if you would be so kind as to come back here and leave a comment as to which photos you identified, it would help others researching these same families.

Who was DorothyDe? Dorothy DeLeonardis was the wife of George Halston. Dorothy’s parents were John DeLeonardis (1895-1960,) who ran the Loyola L newsstand, and Carmella Saracco (1893-1979.)

On another note, I am still running the genealogy program at Casa Italia in Stone Park, IL. This fall I will be putting out a call for original photos and documents to be donated to the Rigi Collection. I have most of the other files in the archive organized.

Please stay tuned!

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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“The Tiger’s Widow” and “Stories from the Battlefield” Book Launch

July 22, 2014 – Chicago, Illinois.

Jennifer Holik announces the release of two of her latest books. The Tiger’s Widow the second book in the Stories of the Lost series. And, Stories from the Battlefield: A Beginning Guide to World War II Research.

Widow_Cover3The Tiger’s Widow Synopsis:

Love knows no boundaries of time and space or life and death. It exists forever in our hearts as we remember and honor those who have gone before us. Through those memories we pass life lessons on to the next generation. We teach others there is light after darkness, hope after despair, and love is the glue that puts shattered hearts back together. This is a story of five hearts separated by time and space; hearts which would meet in the perfect moment. It is a story about never ending love that lived on even after death.

Join me on a journey that spans 72 years and several continents. This is the story of the life of Virginia Scharer Brouk, the wife of Flying Tiger, Robert Brouk. Virginia picked up the pieces of her life and joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, later known as the Women’s Army Corps (WAC,) to take up the fight after Robert was killed in a plane crash. Virginia’s story is of life, loss, war, and the connection of hearts filled with love.


Stories from the Battlefield: A Beginning Guide to World War II Research Synopsis:

StoresBattlefield_6x9_webSynopsis: All the records burned! We hear this over and over when we think about World War II research. Yet there are many records and resources available to get you started. In this short guide, you will learn the basics of World War II military research and what to look for in your home sources. Then we will explore components of personnel files, death records, and other associated records in this short book.

This guide is meant to be a starting point for World War II research, not an exhaustive examination of all the military branches and records available. In 2015 I will release the first in a series of in-depth books on World War II records, the first being Stories from the Battlefield Volume I: Navigating World War II Home Front, Civilian, Army, and Air Corps Records. Please visit my website for more details on the release dates.

Coming in 2015!

Volume I: Navigating World War II Home Front, Civilian, Army, and Air Corps Records

Volume II: Navigating World War II Accident Reports, Internment and Prisoner Records, and Death Records

Volume III: Navigating World War II Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Merchant Marine Records

Volume IV: Navigating World War II National Guard Records

The Tiger’s Widow and Stories from the Battlefield are available through the author’s website: where you can also find the World War II Toolbox!

About Jennifer Holik

Jennifer is a genealogical, historical, and military researcher. Jennifer lectures throughout the Chicagoland area on World War II records and stories, women during World War II, kids genealogy, and Italian genealogy.

As a researcher and writer she can help you research and piece together the stories of your ancestors, particularly if they served during World War II. Jennifer is also on staff at the World War II History Network where she assists with the genealogy group.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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