John Hyland was born in 1942 in Belvidere, Illinois. The son of hard-working parents, he grew up enjoying energetic outdoor activities. After doing ridiculous things as a teenager, he worked hard to become an outstanding professional. A desire to teach English motivated him to earn a BA from Wartburg College (1964), an MA from the University of Nebraska (1966), and a PHD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1979).

Before finishing his college work, he served in the United States Army from 1966 to 1968. He was trained as an infantryman and expected to fight in Vietnam. However, offi cers at Fort Gordon, Georgia, assigned him to a personnel specialist’s position.

John began conducting English classes as soon as he received his honorable discharge from the Army. From 1968 until 1970, he taught composition and literature at Sauk Valley College near Dixon, Illinois. Then he delayed his teaching career to enroll in the PhD program in 1970. He spent most of his time producing a long dissertation about the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. To ease that monotony, he also taught two writing classes at the Richland Center branch of the University of Wisconsin.

After John earned his doctoral degree, he taught English as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls from 1980 to 1985. Remedial and standard composition classes were his specialty, along with world literature. Unfortunately, he lost his teaching position when the university discharged approximately forty non-tenured instructors because of a severe decrease in student enrollment.

Instead of leaving the university, John took a writing position in its news bureau. He specialized in feature articles that appeared in the River Falls Journal and several other news papers, including the St. Paul Pioneer Press. By 1988 he was working as a free-lance developer of writing workshops for Minnesota companies that included Red Wing Shoes, Citizens Security Insurance in Red Wing, and Advanced Flex of Minnetonka. As a special text for those programs, he published “Business Letters: A No-Nonsense Guide to Writing and Revising Them” (1992).

John held a ten-year writing and training job at Treasure Island Resort and Casino (1994-2004). Employed in the human resources department, he produced technical manuals for several departments and a casino-wide handbook titled “Writing for Good Results.” Alcohol-service instruction was his main training duty, but he also specialized in teaching new-employee orientation, kitchen sanitation, and healthful work procedures.

John retired in 2004. Since then he has enjoyed a leisure life in River Falls with Joan, his wife for 47 years. To stay healthy, he does yard and garden work, runs three or four miles a day three times a week, and bikes along county roads.  And to continue using his writing ability, John creates amusing fiction.  Will Will and Me is the most recent one, but there’s an earlier funny story called Ginger and Alice, which is shown at the end of this website.

Will Will and Me contains eight fictional stories about the amusing actions of grade-school boys in the 1950s and ‘60s. The first story tells how Will Will, the main character, gets his peculiar name. The next three describe Will Will’s mischief, which gets him and his pal, Johnny, into ridiculous predicaments. Story two, for example, shows Will Will using a butterfly net to snag a farmer’s pet goose. In the sixth story, Will Will convinces a lady who dislikes him that he’s not a “scamp.” He himself is a victim of mischief in the last story, when he and Johnny get “bamboozled” into buying an awful rabbit-raising business.

“The next second it was thrashing around on its side in the road, honking like crazy. It twisted the hoop six ways to Saturday but couldn’t tear through the cloth.”

Will Will’s full name is William Sidney Peterson, but no one ever calls him that. Will Will is as unique as his nickname—the leader of the pack, the Dennis the Menace of his hometown. In his book, Hyland recounts eight adventures he embarked on thanks to (or perhaps because of) his best friend Will Will. Set in the 1950s and 60s in a little town in Illinois, this charming trip down memory lane invites readers to take part in the boys’ adventures and perhaps reminisce about their own childhoods as a result.

The lead character takes center stage in this short collection of stories. He is imaginative and inventive, coming up with crazy schemes and creating entertainment for himself and his classmates. Will Will and the author go fishing for catfish together, catch butterflies (and other creatures they’re better off leaving alone), make up war games, get up to no good with some slingshots, and more. Even a mundane task like helping out with spring cleaning turns into an exciting adventure at the hands of these two friends. Will Will’s mischief often ends in punishment or bruised friendships, but it’s always worth it. Charmingly illustrated by Eldora Larson, the stories reveal a pure friendship; they remind us that time and time again, boys will be boys.

The boys show many different sides to them and their personalities, adding a complexity and understanding of young boys of that era that is often missing from modern children’s books. One moment they might be playing a silly game, and the next they’re having fist fights on the playground. They go from being supportive of each other to merciless teasing. They are as real as young boys can be, and readers will sense the author’s own memories playing an important role in his telling of these stories. Hyland’s tale offers young readers a glimpse into what life used to be like for children, but it is equally accessible and attractive to adults, who will be reminded of their own childhood friends and adventures.

Hyland takes us back over half a century and infuses his writing with nostalgia. His writing evokes the era’s simplicity, from the antiquated manner the boys speak to their interests. With no technology to distract them, the boys must create their own entertainment, often spending most of their time outside thinking up new games and fun activities. They make their own butterfly nets, fishing poles, and slingshots. Through Hyland’s clear writing style, the boys take us back to a simpler time. Readers will undoubtedly emerge from the book with a hankering for the days when every moment was worth something.

Although Will Will comes off as an incredibly likable and realistic individual, Hyland admits that the character is a combination of a few of his childhood friends. At the end of the day, despite all the times Will Will’s ideas have led to trouble, he is a kind-hearted boy. Will Will and Me is a wonderful tale of two best friends. It’s a reminder that even the smallest, most insignificant or boring task can become an amazing adventure.

Getting to Know How Well Will Will and Me Was Written

Here is the first page of an imaginary wit battle between John and a friend as they examine the ways that Will Will and Me was written.  They agree and disagree in amusing ways while discussing everything from word usage and sentence structure to the characters’ actions, physical features and language habits.”  Anyone can get a complete copy of the journey by emailing a request to willwillandme@gmail.com.

The book tells how Alice, a constantly mischievous gerbil, plays preposterous tricks on Billy and Mrs. Franklin, who keep her as a pet. Ginger, who was bought by the Franklins to be Alice’s friend, tries to keep her from misbehaving.  However, Alice persuades Ginger to help do stupid things like pushing a wastebasket down the basement stairs.  Then when the two gerbils try to break a fancy vase, the Franklins punish them by making them wear vests and chains.  They free Ginger and Alice after Alice pretends that she’s learned to behave.  However, she plays many more absurd tricks — like trying to shatter huge plates by pulling them off a shelf high on the kitchen wall.  That final mischief ends in an amazing, unexpected way when Ginger and Billy and Mrs. Franklin combine to convince Alice never to misbehave again.

It is clear from everything covered in this website that John Hyland is a first-rate author of delightful comic fiction.