Spotlight on BAIPA Members — By Linda Jay Geldens
Arlene Miller, better known to BAIPA members as the Grammar Diva, has a passion for grammar. I asked her, “Why your intense interest in grammar?” Arlene replied, “I think grammar is — like my fascination with tap dancing, and writing music — linear, left-brain, and logical.”
Born near Boston in Lynn, Massachusetts, Arlene lived in New England for 40 years before moving to the Bay Area. An only child, she always hoped for a brother or sister. What a creative kid! At age 5, Arlene wrote a musical starring herself and her playmates.
The Tap Decades: At age 6, she started taking tap and ballet lessons and discovered she had natural rhythm. During elementary school, she took private tap lessons, performing tap solos and participating in a kick line as part of a tap troupe. Beginning in the late 1970s, Arlene studied jazz tap: “That style of dancing fit me perfectly.” In 1981, she studied tap on Sundays at a studio in Brookline, Massachusetts; her teacher was a famous vaudeville tap dancer, Leon Collins. She learned tap improv, and performed on a program with tap dancer Gregory Hines at the Boston Tap Festival. In the 1980s, Arlene taught dance school, and acted in a Harvard Law School play — where she tap danced on a desk! After moving to Santa Rosa, California, in 1993, she again studied tap and performed with an adult tap troupe.
In junior high and high school, Arlene studied piano and music theory, read music, and wrote lots of lyrics and melodies. She finished her four-year immersion in Latin by studying Virgil. In 1973, she got a B.A. at Simmons College, where she majored in Publications (including courses in graphic arts and copyediting) and English Literature.
When Arlene graduated from college, there were few jobs. “My dream was to write articles for a music magazine like Billboard.” Instead, she worked briefly as a reporter and as UPI editor for local Florida newspapers. Arlene then became a technical writer at Wang Computers in Massachusetts in 1983, and switched to free-lance technical editing for Data General and DEC when she was a stay-at-home mom. “I wrote stylebooks and even won some awards from STC – Society for Technical Communicators.” In California, she worked as a contract tech editor for Alcatel and DSC Telecom.
Arlene has written and published two grammar books since 2010, and a brand-new novel, Trashy Novel, under the pseudonym Jo Jo Baker. Arlene Miller is a natural grammar teacher — she was the entertaining speaker at BAIPA’s February 2013 meeting, and has given corporate grammar workshops.
Of all her achievements, though, Arlene says, “The best thing I ever did was raise my two kids.” Her daughter, 26-year-old Shelley, has been an ice skater for six years with Disney on Ice, and is marrying another skater from the Disney show next year. Her 25-year-old son Jake is a San Jose State University graduate in radio-TV-film, and loves electronic music.
Grammar is just one of many passions in Arlene Miller’s life!
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