Many of you have seen her name in print, but far fewer can put a face to the name. She's Colleen Rae, our one and only dedicated correspondent for the Local Observer. Colleen's the person who seeks out and writes stories about the people, places and events in the greater Fennville area.

She's a wife, mother, dancer, artist, musician, caregiver and author. Colleen is indeed a lady of great diversity.

Born in Grand Rapids Michigan, she lived there till she was ten years old. Her mother remarried to an army colonel and Colleen then traveled the world as an "army brat." As such, she's lived in or visited Germany, Spain, Istanbul, Nepal, Afghanistan, India and Turkey. "Visiting so many places has left me open to many different ideas" she says. "Whatever I see or experience I don't immediately judge and don't jump to any conclusions."

That diversity in her background has helped her greatly in her current profession as a writer. "That's what writers do best." she says. "In one way or another, their writings bring to life the experiences they've had."

She submitted her first novel to 102 publishers over the course of a year and received 102 rejections. Since then she's had her manuscript professionally edited and she feels it may now be ready to be submitted for publication once again.

But being published isn't the only reward Colleen seeks in her writing. She writes for relaxation much as some people practice meditation. "I love to write. Some people meditate but I write.  As I write I go into a place where I'm not aware of time."

"Classical ballet requires tremendous discipline and time commitment. At 16 I discovered boys and suddenly had less time left for dancing."

Colleen started in dance class at age 7.  She studied ballet, tap, modern dance, then classic ballet. As a teenager she danced with the Chicago Ballet Guild.. "Classical ballet requires tremendous discipline and time commitment. At 16 I discovered boys and suddenly had less time left for dancing." In that respect she's like many of us -- the point at which we first discover the opposite sex marks a big turning point in our lives -- for better or for worse. J

She never completely gave up dancing though. Up until her first child was born, in her 20's, she continued with a modern dance group. She also learned to play the guitar and performed with a Folk Singing Group.

By the time she reached her 30's Colleen took up Belly Dancing. This was the summer of  '67 -- the summer of  love. "Belly dancing was the hot commodity back then. Everyone was taking Belly Dancing classes."  As a dance lover, she too began taking lessons.  After a year of lessons and one-time gigs, an opportunity presented itself to audition for a paying job in a Greek restaurant. To her delight, she landed the job and for the first time was able to parlay her love of dancing into a source of income.

Colleen with her husband Larry. Larry (Cummins) is currently a member of the City Council.

As a belly dancer, Colleen used the stage name "Kalifa."  I asked Kalifa for a little background on just what belly dancing is all about.

Kalifa says, "The beginning of belly dancing has been controversial down through the centuries.  Some say it began in the nomadic tribes of the Middle-East and northern Africa, centuries ago, and the undulations of the stomach were done by the tribal women in sympathy for a woman in childbirth to help along the process.  Others say that the hip shimmies and torso movements started in the folk dances done around the campfires of the Bedouin tribes, where both men and women danced. Eventually it was taken into the clubs in the cities, where, in the Middle East, at first, only men could perform the dance, as women were not allowed to dance in the clubs. Much later, around the 1990's, women began to perform the dance in public.  It was brought to the World's Fair in New York City around the turn of the century by Little Egypt.  She started a dance movement that didn't stop.  In the 1970's, belly dancing had a resurgence, especially on the west coast of the United States.  It has been a viable and artistic form of dance ever since."

Colleen found another calling within herself through an experience any mother would rank among the most tragic. She nursed her only son over a period of years through an illness that eventually took his life. Colleen came away from this experience realizing she had a calling as a caregiver. She became a professional caregiver for the elderly and life threatened and has continued this profession for the past ten years, most recently on a part-time basis.  

Colleen moved to Fennville from San Francisco a little more than two years ago. Her only daughter lives in a  nearby community and convinced her mom to move to Fennville. She met Larry Cummins shortly after moving here and they became man and wife about a year later. Larry was a former resident of Lansing. 

Colleen and her husband Larry are actively involved in our community. Both are on the 2007 Goose Festival Committee. In addition, Larry serves on the City Planning Commission and is currently running for an open position on the City Council. It was a great day for Fennville when Colleen came to town and brought Larry along with her.  

Colleen, (aka Kalifa) the belly dancer

Kalifa in full color regalia

Colleen the Author. She's written 5 novels and is Fennville's correspondent for the Local Observer.
(She's also an avid reader of Fennville News as you can see)

Colleen the musician and Folk Singer

Colleen the artist.
Click on a picture above to show an enlarged view.

Colleen & Larry have two feline friends. At left is "Samantha." "Kali" is shown at right