Moroccan cooking. Retro cereal boxes. Historic homes.

As a freelance writer, I’ve tackled these topics and more. I write about historic preservation, travel, homes and business.

I’ve also written a rags-to-riches story covering the life story of the founder of one of Columbia, Missouri’s most successful firms. Prior to its buyout by global firm Eurofins, ABC Labs employed about 300 people. It was founded in 1968 by the late Charles W. Gehrke, a University of Missouri professor who grew up weeding and hoeing to help support his mother and four siblings. Here’s a photo of Charles, circa 1928, taking some time off.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

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So what does Yellow Dog Bookshop have to do with moon rocks? The bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St., Columbia, is now selling the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

The book is about Charles W. Gehrke, who looked for the building blocks of life in the moon rocks brought back from the NASA Apollo moon missions from 1969-1972. Gehrke also founded Columbia-based ABC Labs, which employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by global firm EAG Laboratories.

The book, "From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks", now for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street, Columbia, Missouri.

The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks”, now for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street, Columbia, Missouri.

If you’d like a signed copy, author Dianna Borsi O’Brien will be signing and reading from the book from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22 at the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St., Columbia, Missouri.

Or you can buy a signed copy of the biography and have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript I uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs, a firm that was the first tenant of Columbia, Missouri’s research park, Discovery Ridge. The company employed 300 people before it was purchased by EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was published March 2017.

Buy it here now:

Have a signed copy shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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“From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” my book about Charles W. Gehrke will be officially launched with a book signing.

Perhaps you’re wondering what melon fields have to do with moon rocks? I’ll talk about that and the man behind the science from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in Orr Street Studios.

Charles W. Gehrke eats a water melon on the fields he worked in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, circa 1928.

Charles W. Gehrke eats a water melon on the fields he worked in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, circa 1928.

Can’t make it? Here’s the connection: Gehrke, an MU biochemistry professor and founder of ABC Labs, literally worked his way up to those positions. He spent his youth working as a field hand to help support his mother and four siblings. Here’s a photo of Charles, circa 1928, taking some time off.

You’ll be able to buy a signed copy on Wednesday or buy it here now by clicking the PayPal button below.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

The book is also available through  amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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Here’s more about  “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support the family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA, which would soon launch missions to the moon. Gehrke was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript the author uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” highlights the adventurous life of Gehrke, an MU biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was released in April 2017.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

Now available — the biography of Charles W. Gehrke, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

You can buy a signed copy here by clicking the PayPal button below.

The book is also available through  amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.

A signing and book launch is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr Street, Columbia. RSVP to Dianna O’Brien at dobrien387@gmail.com

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript the author uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs. The company thrived and before its buy out in 2015 it employed about 300 people. Today, ABC Labs now part of EAG Laboratories, a global scientific services company headquartered in San Diego.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book was released in April 2017.

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

The moral to this case study is experience is the key to getting it right the first time. That’s why Water Lilies turned to Works Design Group when the frozen food manufacturer decided to launch its own brand. Water Lilies wanted to pitch its new brand Mandarin Market to the difficult notoriously competitive market of premium club stores.

Works Design had lots of experience working on packaging for other products that had won shelf space in club stores such as Costco.

The result? A perfect pitch that gained Water Lilies a spot in one of Costco’s regions.

Now that’s success and it came from the experience of Works Design Group on packaging and Water Lilies on making all-natural frozen Asian food.

Read all about it here:

Packaging Propelled Private Label Manufacturer to Costco Success — Water Lilies had been making private label frozen foods for years. When it decided to launch its own brand, Mandarin Market, the right packaging landed it a spot in Costco on the first try. Read about what made this kind of success possible in this case study published in Package Design magazine.

OK, it’s safe to let this secret out: I don’t drink beer. At all. But that didn’t stop me from writing this case study on Ballast Point’s package redesign for this San Diego craft beer and spirits producer.

That’s because as a reporter and writer I don’t let anything get in the way of getting the article done and done well. Ballast Point products aren’t sold in Missouri yet, but no worries. A few extra telephone calls and photographs and I learned exactly what the package design looked like.

It’s not what I know or don’t know, drink or don’t drink. It’s my drive to learn everything I can about any subject I’m assigned that makes me love my job, and I think that passion for getting it right no matter what shows in this case study for Package Design magazine.

Take a look and see what you think.

Rebranding Brews Sales — Ballast Point craft brewery got a fresh look — and improved sales. Read about how MiresBall made this craft beer and spirit producer stand out in the crowded market.

No need to wait to buy my book about Charles W. Gehrke, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks, which will be published this fall.

Right now you can save 20 percent on the book and buy it for $16.00—a savings of $4 off the $20 cover. Choose from three delivery options: Pick it up at an event (A release party will scheduled soon), pick it up at the Compass Flower Press office, or have it shipped to you. You will be notified by email immediately when the books are in hand.

Pick it up at an event (date to be announced) or at Compass Flower Press office at 315 Bernadette Drive, Suite 3, Columbia, MO 65203. Cost: $16.

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Or have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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So what’s From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript I uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs, an firm that today employs about 300 people and was the first tenant of Columbia, Missouri’s research park, Discovery Ridge.

The book, From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur and family man.

Published by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker, the book will be released in September 2015, but you can reserve your copy now and be the first to get From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.

Buy it here now:

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Or have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button