Collins retired, but working
However, after describing his schedule since retiring as an English teacher at Moline High School after 35 years, it doesn't seem there is time for much of a breather.
The children's author appeared at Illinois Young Authors in Springfield in May, and again was overseeing the Mississippi Valley Writers Conference at Augustana College in June, all the while continuing his writing.
That break -- the breather, he called it -- did finally raise its ugly head.
``I wrote 68 books meeting my deadline while teaching,'' he said. ``Without teaching, I missed my first deadline. Now I am of the state of mind that I can do it tomorrow.''
That missed deadline slowed him down but didn't stop him. ``Smiling Superstar -- The Story of Tiger Woods,'' published last year, became the 69th book by Mr. Collins to find its way into print.
Although he is retired from teaching, don't tell him he's not working.
``I will do something every day to make me a better writer,'' he said. ``It may be writing, it may be reading, or studying a marketing list, or attending a conference. You have to keep the nature of the writer, or you lose it.''
During his career, Mr. Collins has written books about John Deere, Bix Beiderbecke, Casimir Pulaski and ``Notable Illinois Women.'' He has written about diverse personalities, from Lyndon Baines Johnson to Lee Iacocca, and written children's fiction as well.
He was cited by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization for ``outstanding contributions in the realm of youth and children's writing for 1996.''
There is a need for the historical biographies he writes.
``Kids need role models,'' he said. ``If ever the time was such that we needed role models, the time is now.''
A constant presence on the local writing scene, Mr. Collins is a big cheerleader of local writers and writing. He sees it as helping people who helped him. He founded the Mississippi Valley Writers Conference and the Children's Literature Festival.
``I'd like to do some things for the Quad-Cities,'' he said. ``The beautiful thing about the writers around here is that they are very helpful. There isn't a selfish bone in anybody. It is the nature of the area to share, and there is plenty of room for quality writing.
``I have felt the support, and it makes me feel wonderful,'' he said, ``and I need that.''
He is a member of several local writers groups, among them Juvenile Forum, which meets at his A-frame house in Moline. He would like to see a Midwest writers center in the Quad-Cities.
As a writer he knows it's hard work, even as a published writer.
``Some people think it is easy after getting 70 books published, but I still get rejection slips,'' he said. ``You have to keep at it.''
The focus of his writing has been for children, but he admits there is a dark side to his writing. He has worked on a novel -- a work in progress he describes as deep, dark and suspenseful -- for 20 years. He has completed 400 pages and thinks there are about 200 more to go.
``It is totally out of my realm,'' he said, ``but I would like to see how I do. I think it is natural that I want to finish the adult novel now that I am not teaching.''
-- By Kurt Allemeier (January 22, 1998)
Copyright © 1998 Moline Dispatch Publishing Company, L.L.C.