A retired engineer explains how he is producing an award-winning newsletter.
Walt Larson: senior citizen, desktop publisher
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Some people think that all the residents of assisted living are drooling down their shirts in wheelchairs. It's just not true. Take the adult-retirement community where I live, which includes Morningside of Fullerton and ParkVista, both in Fullerton, Calif. The independent-living component has 420 residents, and we put out a monthly newsletter, the Morningside Monitor. Residents write the articles, one of us takes most of the photos, and I coordinate production. As a retired electrical engineer and a teacher who's also done some computer-systems design for large corporations, I'm pretty familiar with computers.
A colleague, Frank Russell, lays out the newsletter's calendar; the other six pages fall to me. I collect most of the articles on disk. (Sometimes I use E-mail to drop someone a note, like "Where's the article about your trip to the Grand Canyon?") I choose the photographs and then use Quark XPress to lay out the actual pages.
When the pages have been laid out just right, I send the disk and the photographs to our printer. I used to scan the photographs directly into Quark, but I found that it was easier and cheaper to indicate where I wanted the photographs to go and to let the printer actually fit them in.
In 1993 we won a Lockman Award for the best newsletter by nonprofessionals. Of course, we've been fortunate to have some very interesting people here to write about. For example, Thurl Ravenscroft, the well-known voice of Tony the Tiger and countless Disney characters, lives in our complex. We also have Eustace Lycett, who won two Oscars -- one for special effects in Mary Poppins. Remember how Julie Andrews flew through the air? Well, he was responsible for that.
Each edition of the newsletter costs about $600, and we usually have 1,000 copies printed. Half go to residents of Morningside and ParkVista, and half are used for direct-mail advertising campaigns. The costs are split: the newsletter is paid for out of our activities-department budget and Morningside's advertising budget.
I've used my computer skills to help out with my son's business, too. He's an architect and a building contractor. I installed Microsoft Excel for him so that he could enter labor rates, costs for materials, and the like. Once he saw how quickly he could calculate an estimate, he was off and running with the stuff.