My full name is Janell Lynn (Butler) Wojtowicz; it’s a rather eclectic name in the literary scheme of things.
I never liked my first name until I went to college. I grew up with classmates named Sandy, Lori, Debbie and Becky; Janell was odd (the name and, well, me too). But with maturity came an appreciation for the uniqueness of the name. Thanks, Mom, I finally like it!
The middle name is just fine; no complaints there.
My maiden name is fairly common, but what made it a tad bit exceptional was the fact I grew up in Butler County, Iowa. No, it wasn’t named after our family (aw, shucks!). Iowa’s license plates include the county name, so we had no need for personalized plates.
As for the last name, it’s Polish and pronounced Why-toe-vitch. I’ve gotten used to those confused looks on people’s faces when I introduce myself, how telemarketers butcher the pronunciation, and the need to spell it out. (Confession: Sometimes I misspell it.)
I was raised on a farm just north of Bristow, Iowa, a mere speck on the state map. I attended Allison-Bristow Community School all 13 years, where I played saxophone in the band; marching in parades was the best part.
I received a bachelor’s degree in written communication from Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. There I was editor of the college newspaper and helped out with the yearbook.
Thus endth The Wonder Years.
After college I worked in community journalism for 10 years in Clarksville, Charles City and Hampton, Iowa. Becoming a part of those communities gave me a deeper appreciation for small towns and the farming lifestyle, which has stuck with me.
Life changed when I married Frank, a life-long Minneapolitan in 1993, and moved to the Twin Cities, specifically a little ‘burb, St. Anthony Village. After 18 years there we moved a mile north to New Brighton, another charming little ‘burb. I have become a bona fide city girl managing to navigate congested freeways, downtown mazes, and the Mall of America.
I spent 12 years working in public relations at my college alma mater and its 15-station radio network. My role focused on media relations, college publications and fundraising collateral. I loved being surrounded by those college students.
For 15 months, I was Director of Communications with Leadership Foundations of America, a Christian nonprofit that supports inner-city organizations. The office was in downtown Minneapolis, which felt like I was in the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
I spent four years as public information specialist with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The city’s beautiful parks, recreational opportunities and environmental issues are world-renown, and it was an honor to work there.
Currently, I work as a freelance writer/editor through my business, A Portrait in Words. Clients include Christian nonprofits, small businesses and corporate. Talk about variety! I’ve edited communications material for an inner-city ministry and written 120 employee profiles for a railroad maintenance company.
Which brings me to today. My life revolves around marketing my first novel, “Embracing Hope”, and writing the sequels; maintaining my freelance services; and looking after family in Minnesota, Iowa, St. Louis, and Omaha.