Darien writer helps others communicate with clarity and care
Jul 05, 2017 08:30PM
By Ben Scott
Deb Barrett (left) and husband Chris with her mom at home in Darien.
Deb Barrett has always loved language and culture. Her family’s ethnic ties to Poland are strong, and some of her grade-school classmates were recent immigrants from that country. She also met priests from Asia who stayed at her parish while studying at Loyola University, and was fascinated by their cultures. That interest continued to grow as she did.
Barrett’s family moved to Darien in 1968, when it was still unincorporated. “My old friends thought I was moving off the edge of the earth,” she laughed. That move introduced her to an even greater variety of people and cultures. At Hinsdale South, her studies included French and Spanish. At the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, she continued those studies, picking up a bit of Arabic along the way.
After college, Barrett’s first job was troubleshooting mainframe computer software, an entirely different language. She later taught those skills and then managed corporate training functions. She particularly enjoyed working with people from all over the world. Among her favorite memories is hosting workshops in the US for European business partners. “Our room looked like a mini UN,” she remembered.
Barrett’s corporate work was always writing-intensive. In addition, managers and coworkers regularly sought her help with their own writing. When she was ready to take the next step in her career, she knew what she wanted to do.
For the past 15 years, Barrett has been working as a freelance writer and editor. Her clients have included businesses of all sizes, from individuals to multinational corporations. She has written training materials, brochures, and reports. She has also edited a variety of manuscripts and documents for consistency and readability. “The more simply stated, the more powerful the idea,” she explained. Her clients appreciate her corporate experience as well as her focus on communication with clarity and care.
Libraries have always been an integral part of Barrett’s life, so volunteering at the Indian Prairie Public Library just made sense. Over the past decade, she has interviewed over 100 local veterans for the Veterans History Project, part of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center. She now also interviews longtime area residents on local history for the library. The saved interviews give library patrons the opportunity to learn history from some of the people who made it.
Several years ago, Barrett was interviewed about the Veterans History Project by the Darien Patch. She soon found herself writing a weekly business column for the Patch. Her articles profiled Darien family-run businesses and entrepreneurs. “Everyone has a story,” she said. “I love uncovering people’s stories, finding out what shaped them, what drives them.”
Darien holds a special place in Barrett’s heart. As a student at Hinsdale South, she learned lessons in Civics as the city incorporated. That is also where she met her husband, Chris. They were later married at Our Lady of Peace and bought their first home in Darien. They still call Darien home and continue to find it “A Nice Place to Live.”