Illinois teaching grad publishes first novel

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TIPRE Erica Magda

By Jim Vorel

When Vincent Tipre graduated from the University’s College of Education in 2006, he had no idea that less than a year later he would be wrapping up the publication of his first novel.

He had never had any inclination to write before. While searching for teaching jobs in the Chicago area, Tipre began to collect a journal of events, thoughts, past memories and accounts that grew and took on a life of its own.

“Before I knew it, I had a memoir that was ready to become a novel,” said Tipre, who now teaches as a substitute in Northern Illinois and attends Northeastern Illinois University, seeking further education qualifications. “I’d never written anything like it before. It was almost spontaneous in how it came together.”

The book, titled “Six Summers,” is an account of Tipre’s life over six years and summers, from ages 16 to 22.

The book focuses heavily on the summer camp that Tipre lived across from as a child, and at 16, began counseling at. For the next six summers, Tipre learned to work with children and learned lessons from them that would eventually cement his decision to pursue a degree in elementary education.

The children that he counseled, other counselors and friends of Tipre form the other characters of the novel, which Tipre stresses is completely true and accurate.

“It’s all real,” he said. “Every character is real, and every event happened during those six summers. All 256 pages of it.”

Because Tipre attended the University during the rest of the years that aren’t part of one of the “Six Summers,” much of the book also takes place on the University campus.

Tipre said that the locations, situations and even teachers (though none are called by name) will be familiar to most students at the University.

“There’s a lot in the book about the sort of experience that I think all college students go through,” Tipre said. “Whether it’s the loneliness of first being away, the adventures of apartment life, or an education major’s first teaching courses, it’s an honest look at that time for me.”

The writing and publishing of the novel has been of special interests to Tipre’s friends, most of whom have made their way into the novel themselves. James Bruton, a lifelong friend of Tipre’s who grew up in the same neighborhood, is one of the other main characters of the novel.

He attends and then acts as a counselor at the same children’s day camp in Chicago that Tipre does throughout the novel. He said that the camp played a big part in both of their lives.

“We both ended up as teachers after being there together, that has to say something,” said Bruton, who graduated from the University in 2006 with a degree in English. “I’m really happy to see Vince put this together. We grew up together, played baseball together and even lived together at U of I, and I think it makes a great book.”

Bruton, in addition to being a character in the book and friend of Tipre, also helped edit the book when Tipre first finished it and let him know that he had written a memoir.

“I admit I didn’t really think much of it when he first said he was writing a book,” Bruton said. “But I’m very impressed by how seriously he took it, and he ended up making a really cool book. I hope it sells about a billion and a half copies.”

A billion and a half copies may be something of a liberal estimate.

When it comes to actually marketing the book, Tipre has opted for lower risk choices.

He placed ads in local newspapers in the area whose summer camp is so heavily featured in the book, as well as in local papers in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Though offered a chance to sell his books through major publishers like Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, Tipre instead chose to sell his book online.

“The big bookstores are a lot of risk, because if they don’t sell out your books, you’re forced to buy them back,” Tipre said. “Instead I can sell them through Amazon.com and my own site for much less.”

Students at the University also look forward to a novel that speaks to their experiences at school and this time in their lives.

Megan Brosius, junior in Communications, said that such a novel can show younger readers some of the things they can expect during their transition to “adulthood.”

“I think it’s really cool for someone to tell the story about this huge part of their life,” said Brosius. “This is a time of great growth in who we are as people. Plus, local kids here can relate to the things that happened on campus and learn something from them.”

For the meantime, Tipre continues to substitute teach and attend classes, but he is also working on another novel.

His next novel, called “The Tennis Baseball League,” details Tipre’s lifelong love of baseball and a new version of the game invented by him and his friends.