An Official Farewell to Chicago

It’s been a little over seven months since I said “Farewell” to Chicago and hit the road for new adventures in Nashville. Seven months since it snowed in March for the movers after seventy degree days in February. Since sitting in my car with my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich after my final packing/cleaning/walk-through/put our condo keys and parking lot gate opener on the counter/taking my time shutting the front door and looking wistfully like the final episode of a beloved sitcom. All with minutes to spare before the new residents received their keys and had their first walk-through before closing. I had no interested in accidentally meeting them.

Since basically my final shot of Chicago was, while filling Bud’s gas tank at the BP on Broadway and Irving Park, I see Honey West sauntering cautiously across the lot with her poofy pink winter jacket and big-gulp sized drink. Taking me back to a pivotal Chicago moment that first Monday after 9/11 out of our apartments and ourselves, and my dear friend MK (before he was “MK”) and I hit the Boystown bars and we ended up at Gentry and ordered one more drink we probably didn’t need and Honey sang the WWI classic “Over There” and I completely effing LOST it. Yeah.

Seven months of moving into a new house and trying to not rely on my phone too much to get around (I miss the Chicago grid!) and making my way into a new literary community and job searching and all that goes into relocating. And I finally have my new site ready, and I’ve been brewing this “Farewell” post in my head for a while. Because I kind of feel like I just “ghosted” out of town. Between Ernie’s moving down early to start his new job at Nashville Children’s Theatre that’s brought us here in the first place and the packing of life and work and all that, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time to see everyone and visit everywhere and get too sentimental. Even though I did find time to walk by all my apartments, including walking the ally to visit my West Barry coach house place. It would’ve been cool to have a big going away bash somewhere, inviting (most) everyone we ever knew in Chicago. But it just didn’t work out. We left once before, but not as far. South Bend, Indiana was close enough to keep our dentist. This time, not so much. This is it.

So, farewell to mine and my college mate Sarah’s first apartment (1998-99) down the road from Wrigley, a “garden apartment” with its cat pee soaked carpet and rat problem. To (re)discovering Boystown and to all the boys and friends I knew and loved and crushed on and all that, numbers written on Roscoe’s business cards with golf pencils that I maybe still have tucked in an old phone book somewhere (okay, I know where). To being single via landlines and answering machines and payphones, oh my.

A Thank you to all my peeps at Chicago Dramatists and the Living Room Project and NewTown Writers for all your inspiration and opportunity. To the Chicago Live Lit Community and all the writers I’ve shared a mic with or listened to from the audience–and to all the audiences who took ten minutes here and there to listen and maybe say a kind word after. You are all amazing!

To my DePaul University MAWP classmates and professors. You seriously rock! Thank you for getting me to the place as a writer I am today. Thank you also (and especially?) to the DePaul Writers Guild! I miss “stretching my tuition dollars” every Thursday (etc.) and am honestly still feeling a little lost without you. I know you still have my back.

I miss you, big fat Lake I could walk to or ride my bike along, stare into, get a sense of direction from. A particularly sweltering spell this past August, all I wanted was to be with you. The Cumberland River doesn’t quite cut it in comparison. I miss more daily biking and walking in general, late night rides down Clark Street from Andersonville, cutting across Sunnyside and its funny pedestrian-only way. Feeling badass riding Milwaukee Avenue home from Wicker Park.

I get my Chicago Instagram fixes primarily through @Chicagotod and @Chicagomotives. Thanks, guys!

I read my copy of Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology from a distance, much of it sitting on our back porch overlooking our sometimes overgrown backyard, early mornings, coffee, birds and bugs chirping, a train whistle in the distance, light (and sometimes not) city noises. Far away from our condo’s arm-span sized balcony that served as our outdoor space (for which I was grateful!) overlooking Sheridan Road from where my young nephew once shouted excitedly, “TWO AIRPLANES!” as he kept watch of our O’Hare flight path. I love the collection and am proud to be a part of it. But it made me miss the city: a Chicago I could directly connect with, sure, but also a Chicago just before my time there in neighborhoods that I only visited but never lived. And a Chicago that was not my version of Chicago. It kind of drove home that life in Chicago for me is now truly in the past. 20 years ago I was saving my dollars (literally–as a waiter!) to get myself there. But things end and it’s all a part of myself, ourselves.

As is Unabridged Bookstore and Joys Noodles and Melrose Diner (RIP) and the Golden Apple and all the coffee shops I wrote parts of my soul in (Dollop, “Cariboy,” and more) and the stages at the old Bailiwick and the Strawdog cabaret (also RIP) and all the theatres I went to with Ernie and before I knew him. And that moment when each night Charlie’s transitioned from cowboy bar to late night dance club. And walking quickly to Halsted without a coat in winter because who wants to deal with coat check? And both the romance and torture of all the CTA train lines. And the entertainment of the Broadway bus. And restaurant jobs and temp jobs. And the Art Institute on my birthday. And driving back into the city at night, the skyline lights welcoming us home. And, and, and more things I’ll think of and remember after I finish typing this.

I could think about things I won’t miss or places I never made it to. But maybe some other time for all that. I want to keep the glow nice and warm as the weather is finally (finally!) properly autumnal down here in Tennessee. Just in time.

A Place for Grandma

My grandmother, Julia Elizabeth Van Kerckhove, passed away on October 17, 2014. She recently celebrated her 92nd birthday on October 11. The following is what I shared at her service on October 22, written earlier that morning.

So the story goes that after the performance of the Greasepaint Players’ production of Deadwood Dick that I saw when I was 3 going on 4 years old (that I also fell asleep during), I went back stage to greet Grandma and declared that THIS is what I wanted to be when I grew up. After several school plays, a theatre degree, and my current job running a national arts organization for children’s theatres, I’d say I’ve kept to my word.

Our girl Julia was many things to all of us: sister, cousin, mother, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother, friend. The kind of friend you can navigate through various disagreements with—from simple things like taste in music and the spice level in your dinner (note: she liked absolutely zero) to deeper, more ideological issues—and then keep going with the grounded, positive relationship that you started with. We all have our ins with her. In my case, theatre, art, and to some extent writing (dibs on her vintage typewriters!) are mine.

Here then is a montage of things she is to me, and as these moments wash over you, I invite you to riff on your own.

Julia is waking up early and eating blueberry pancakes around the chrome sided kitchen table at Bedford, and then driving to the Detroit Institute of Art—either solo, or with Steve, and sometimes Mark across the street—where we’d roam through galleries of paintings, jade sculptures, and suits of armor, and also touch the bronze the donkey.

She is practicing her Art in the Schools presentations with us in the Bedford dining room. And driving across town for sessions with MY 4th grade class, and letting ME run the slide projector.

She is late night stories around the same kitchen table, lit by the glow of her Blessed Mother nightlight—our own Virgin Queen campfire. Including the book about the little ghost where the family, whose house he haunts, one day decides to oil all the doors in order to silence this mysterious search of a new house to haunt, only to discover they are already taken by other ghosts.

She is cold meatloaf sandwiches on white bread with butter; she is carrot Jell-o and Raisin Bran.

She is watching Murder She Wrote and scandalous 1980s miniseries. And asking me if the TV show The Facts of Life is about sex.

She is asking me if Michael Jackson is “the one with the nice personality” while questioning my love of Prince and Madonna.

She is my silver sequined sparkle vest she made for one of my dance recitals, where she sat with Mom and Dad in the audience on metal folding chairs across Redford Township.

She is “Graham Crackers” a nickname that probably came from the classic snack of graham crackers and butter.

She is insisting on my washing my hands before heaving thinking of touching her piano–or doing anything really. (And any neuroses I have in this area is all her fault!)

She is saved Quaker Oats canisters recycled as Star Wars action figure fortresses and pencil holders wrapped in brown contact paper; birthday cards with newspaper clippings; and tubs and tubs of previously unpublished photos.

She is bonding with my husband Ernie over the musical Gypsy.

She is a cookie tin filled with colored foiled stars; she is a shouted “FRANK!” echoing throughout the house.

She is “Judy” as Grandpa called her, which of course made me think of Judy Garland cos that’s how I roll.

She is asking about school and grad school and my writing and work, and giving me her pride and support up until the very end.

She is a million other things I’m not thinking of at this moment in part because the house is a whirlwind this morning and cartoons are blasting from the downstairs TV and live goes on, but I know they will all come to me in the days and months and years ahead. As they will for all of us. I mean, I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to forget such a present, powerful, inspirational, and downright stubborn force in my life. For real.

So, Thank you, Grandma!

A Place for Rick

Three weeks ago on April 5, I lost my Uncle Rick. Mom’s older brother. He’d been fighting cancer for a long time. While it went away for a while, it came back with a vengeance, as it does. Though he kept how bad it was mostly to himself. These past several months, it was hard to get a hold of him. I left a few messages, texts, and sent him a copy of Midwestern Gothic. His 80th birthday was in March. I texted him, and then never got a hold of him. I regret not trying harder, but what you can you do? When we learned things were really bad, we heard he wasn’t taking calls. I tried calling to at least leave a message in hopes that his caregivers would play it for him. But the call never went to voicemail.

Cousin Mary, who lives in California a few hours north of Rick let us know she was driving down and would read any messages we emailed her. I was back home for my niece’s birthday, and was finishing up my email sitting at my dad’s kitchen table, when my Aunt Diane called to tell me he’d passed. This was also the three year anniversary of my Uncle Charlie’s passing, so not a good day for my aunt already.

I sent my message to Mary anyway, and these few weeks later, I thought I’d post a slightly edited version here.

A few other things. Rick was a big deal in the dog world, judging dog shows all over the planet. He’s written several dog books including Rottweilers for Dummies (kinda cool, eh?!) Check out his Amazon Page! He hosted a Tournament of Champions dog show in Detroit for several years around the time I was in high school. He knew Betty White.

His house in Malibu was next door to Olivia Newton John, but I didn’t see her when I was out there. Before that, he lived on the same street as Bob Dylan. When The Wallflowers broke in 1996 and my crush on Jakob Dylan was at its most intense, Rick told me how he remembered Jakob riding around the neighborhood on his Big Wheel. Awesome.

Maybe there’s more I could say, but this is good for now.

So here’s that message. Thank you Rick. 🙂

 

Hi Rick. First off, THANK YOU. For everything. For being part of a pretty stellar line up of uncles: yourself, Charlie, Terry, Ron, and Gary. Pretty awesome there.

Thank you for taking care of Mom, in whatever way you needed to in a given moment. You took care of her growing up. And also rescued her from her houseful of crazy boys. Well maybe not so much from ME, ha. Okay, that’s a lie. The Me part. I know that the adventures you went on together enriched her life like I’m sure they did yours. Thank you in the end for being my “co-eulogist” when it was her turn to go. It was an honor to share that with you.

Thank you for making your visits such events—even if at first that meant you took us to Toys R Us and let us pick TWO toys!

Thank you for being there for graduations and other events. For sending me cards (and cash) when I was a broke college student just starting off on that crazy adventure.

Okay, early memory time: Summer 1978 when Mom, Steve, and I stayed at the Malibu house. You were there part of the time before going on your travels. Steve couldn’t stop running fearlessly toward the ocean. Me, I held back, content to digging in the sand because Jaws was going to get me. Once, I got carried away, flinging sand as I dug. You were sitting downwind, reading. Sand kept blowing at you, and you told me to stop. Probably with a stern look like Grandma. A small moment, but it stuck.

Thank you also for being an inspiration both as a gay man and a writer. Having you to look up to and talk to as I was figuring myself out I think made it much easier. Probably for Mom too. Thank you for being a part of mine and Ernie’s ceremony (10 years ago next month!); for sharing some of your stories, for connecting me to a part of that history. I only wish we lived closer together so we could share more of our stories more often. As a writer, I am definitely aware of this family tradition we have going on here.

(Side bar: I love how many years ago, Ernie and I were flipping through his TV in his studio apartment and when we hit Animal Planet you and Ron Regan Junior were giving commentary at a dog show. What an awesome and beautifully random moment!)

So, the writer thing. Our subjects and approaches may be different, but I love how we both found our ways in (though I suppose I’m still figuring that out.) Thank you for your support in all my creative endeavors. Having you at the show I did in Chicago that dreadfully cold February in 2006 was very cool.

Thank you for that awesome October adventure a few years ago: my triumphant return to California after 32 years! The talk, the wine, the fresh air, my “brush” with Jack Kerouac at Big Sur.

As an uncle now myself, I hope I’m half as fabulous as you’ve been.

Thank you again!!

Love, Michael

Warning: Reader Crossing

Originally written for Open Books’ Read All About It blog, September 13, 2011. Re-posted with permission. Support literacy in Chicago by supporting Open Books.

reader crossing

I bought this post card about 11 years ago at a bookstore in Paris (jealous?!).  Speaking no French at all–and really only surviving that leg of my trip with the help of my dear friend Erwan–I looked for things that were either in English or had no words at all.  This little piece of art work speaks many-a-word in all languages. The road itself, the urban street-scape of varying opportunities for bustle, the little indie bookstore. The red and white triangular crossing sign.  We know it.

And I am totally that guy in the street sign.  I am a street reader.  I even often dress like him–especially come this time of year. Brimmed snap hat, a blazer or flannel jacket. All that.

I moved to Chicago in 1998, away from the car culture of various Michigan cities and towns.  And I discovered this brilliant thing: Commute Reading!  A valuable resource of time in my increasingly adult world–and increasing computer staring habits.  In addition to home, Caribou Coffee, and the Golden Apple diner, I could read on the El platform, at the bus stop, in the public transport vehicle of choice.  And even, the walking portions of journeys connecting my various apartments with my office and restaurant jobs! I was totally that guy with his head down in his book, walking the side walk and cross streets, looking up occasionally from Wicked, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I Know This Much is True, or my Joe Orton plays anthology to make sure I didn’t smack into fire hydrants, sign posts, and other non-reading pedestrians.  Once, shortly after emerging from the Grand Avenue Red Line station, a gaggle of tween girls passed me on the opposite sidewalk.  I looked up just as one snapped my photo with her disposable Kodak–the single muted flash of the throw-away Paparazzi made me wonder who she thought I was.  A reader in the wild.

wonderful.copenhagen.poster

Viggo Vagnby’s Wonderful Copenhagen (1958)

Since buying this card two years after my move, it has been a constant companion, taped up for easy inspiration in every bedroom or home office since. It evokes a world of possibility in which we readers are just as municipally protected as deer and children in our quest to get to the other side!  Where cars and pedestrians alike brake for us, where children laugh with us instead of at us.  Imagine a world where the ducks of the iconic Wonderful Copenhagen poster are replaced by a  line of readers of various shapes, sizes, and ages crossing the road with a police officer holding back a happy crowd of onlookers (and a palace guard?) cheering for them, turning the person next to them saying. “Look, they’re reading! We can do that too!  We can be that important and revered!” We don’t have to be ashamed or make excuses or feel like we’re getting in the way.

When my partner Ernie and I moved to South Bend, Indiana in 2006, we had to buy our first car together as we had returned to urban-suburban-rural car culture.  No more Commute Reading for us (we would see South Bend buses rumble down our little street but were never quite sure where they came from or where they were going.)  Even the four and a half minute walk from our house to my restaurant job wasn’t substantial enough for street reading, and I drove to the area IU campuses for class (both teaching and as a student). I felt the loss of my valuable resource right away and had to readjust my reading  habits–or else.

Back in Chicago since 2009, I found another restaurant job right away whose commute is a 15 minute tops bike ride–and barring a major blizzard, I pretty much exclusively take advantage of not having to wait for late night buses.  So my Commute Reading didn’t return to its full glory.  Now that I’m at Open Books regularly for these late summer and fall months–and now that I have class in DePaul’s Loop campus–I am once again able to enjoy my train reading.  Sure, I’ll text Ernie that I’m on my way home, or if I’m feeling a little brain dead I’ll try to beat that level of Angry Birds I just cannot get past, but more likely my time will be spent with whatever real life paper book (or classwork…) I have in the queue.  And I’ll keeping going on the walks between by day- or street-light.  And in a world where people think it’s okay to text and drive, maybe folks will give me–a fading relic slipping into the nostalgia of a golden age–safe passage.

It’s a Book! It’s a Miniseries! It’s…History!

The following was originally written for Open Books’ Read All About It blog, August 23, 2011. Re-posted with permission. Support literacy in Chicago by supporting Open Books.

Band of Brothers ~ The Book

Band of Brothers ~ The Book

One of our getting-to-know you questions we sometimes answer around the room during Open Books writing field trips is “What’s your favorite kind of book.” Depending on the age of the students, we’ll get an array of genres, titles, series, authors, etc.  “Scary books” and “funny books” are popular amongst the younger ones.  Harry Potter, Junie B. Jones, fiction, non-fiction, and adventure books are all cited.  When I’m feeling a little sassy and want to get a reaction, I’ll stray from the more conventional “literary fiction” and answer “World War II Memoirs.” Yeah, that’s my field trip trump card.

I blame Stephen Ambrose.  In 2006, I finally got around to watching the HBO-Spielberg-Hanks-produced 2001 Miniseries Band of Brothers based on Ambrose’s book, when I borrowed the DVDs from my brother.  A long time history fan, particularly that era that’s still (barely) within our grasp, I hunkered down in my and my partner Ernie’s house in South Bend, Indiana and followed the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne. And sobbed. And became a little obsessed. And found fan sites and official sites.  Looked up all the actors on IMDd, found photos of the real guys, found out who was still alive and who wasn’t. Wanted more, more, MORE. I bought my own DVDs in 2009, and have re-watched it in its entirety every summer since. And I’m still a sobbing mess at the end of each episode.

The Real Band of Brothers

The Real Band of Brothers

Of course, it started the book. Actually, it started with Hitler and that whole reality of WWII thing. But it started with the book.  Which I finally read (my brother’s copy again) last year (and since picked up my own at the Open Books store) and retraced the story, getting a different perspective and more behind the scenes.  I’ve also read (SPOILER ALERT) books by Easy Company vets, Easy Company Soldier by Donald Malarkey and Parachute Infantry by David Kenyon Webster (published posthumously and a major source for Ambrose and the screenwriters). Again, different and deeper perspectives.

When Hanks and company produced last year’s follow up series, The Pacific (also very good, though I don’t yet have the DVDs), I rushed out to pick up its source books, E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed and Robert Leckie’s Helmet for My Pillow (with an eye out for their other books, both fairly prolific writers).  I recently picked up a book by Gene Garrison, a veteran of Patton’s Third Army, entitled Unless Victory Comes, which will give me another in to the Battle of the Bulge.  Band of Brothers as a whole has served as a sort of gate-way drug to further reading, just as Harry Potter and the Twilight series (or Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary depending on one’s age…) have gotten even more books into young readers’ hands.  And all that’s a good thing.

Band of Brothers ~ The Actors

Band of Brothers ~ The Actors

There are more books by and about other veterans of both series, which I’d like to eventually pick up. Band of Brothers has really launched an entire niche industry of publications, artwork, lectures, and official tours to Normandy and other sites. It’s inspired a whole legion of fans from history and military die-hards to younger fan girls and boys (not that these groups are exclusive…) who post animated photos on Tumblr.com, write fan fiction portraying the “characters” in less than chaste situations, and edit film clips to rock and pop songs on YouTube. There is also an ongoing series of actor interviews that’s been celebrating the series’ 10 year anniversary since June of last year.  Their Jumping For Heroes event to raise money for a memorial in Normandy took place on August 21 of this year.

Thinking about this fandom is fascinating–there is a sort of falling in love with these guys—the real guys, their personas and relationships as filtered through art, the actors who played them, what they did.  There is borderline fetish, hero worship, pride, and gratitude.  There is a trying to make sense of our own lives through them.  It is a connection to our own family histories. With that, I feel in some ways I know more about these guys than I do either of my own grandfathers.  I didn’t have all the conversations about these things that grandfathers and grandsons should have before it’s too late. I’ve since been going through my dad’s dad’s Army photos and learning more through my grandmother, and just working with what I have.

 

My grandfather, Frank Van Kerckhove (kneeling, 2nd from right), with his own band of brothers. He trained for the Pacific, but remained States-side working the Signal Corp and weapons inspection.

My grandfather, Frank Van Kerckhove (kneeling, 2nd from right), with his own band of brothers. He trained for the Pacific, but remained States-side working the Signal Corp and weapons inspection.

During Ernie and my recent trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, one of the Band of Brothers actors was in attendance at the play his fiancé directed.  I happened to know he was going to be there because of his recent interview.  I saw him come in and sit in his seat. My heart pounded and I squealed inside like the fan boy that I am. But I was cool, yo.  And I didn’t end up talking to him, which I’m totally (I think ) at peace with.  But it’s like–You’re here, and despite all the other work you’ve done you are still Webster—Webster whose book I’ve read!  What would I say?  Maybe just a Thank you.  That would’ve been good.  But I remained calm….

In an essay of mine entitled Playing Guns where I tackle my youthful war games with brothers and friends, my family’s own military past, and my interest in war stories, I write: “Give me one soldier’s memoir over a dry shot-by-shot account.  While the places and triumphs and losses in each tug at me, I ultimately prefer legends over maps.”

(Mostly) Literacy Related Flashes (Mostly) From Kindergarten

This post was originally written for Open Books’ Read All About It blog, August 11, 2011. Reposted with permission. Support literacy in Chicago by supporting Open Books.

Me, 1979

Me, 1979

I attended Christ the King elementary school in Detroit from K-6th grade.

My teacher’s name was Ms. Beasley, like the doll on Family Affair, though she looked nothing like her.

On an orientation day of sorts with parents, I wrote my name on the blackboard.  I was more of a “Mike” then.  I capitalized the E. This was eventually (figuratively) shaken out of me.

I think seeing my last name-Van Kerckhove–in all its 12 letter glory–printed out in perfectly formed letters on my desk’s name tag kind of freaked me out.

For a long time, I thought of different, more accessible, stage names. But my real name is way cooler than anything else I came up with.

That fall, thanks to our classroom calendar, I remember distinctly knowing the year (1979) for the first time.

From there it was all about following the adventures in my dad’s Lord of the Rings calendars.

I did a series of plot re-telling book reports on The Hobbit in 4th grade.

I also did one on the novel adaptation of E.T.

I didn’t read the rest of LOTR until my early twenties.

One day, Ms. Beasley sat me down at her desk in the corner of our classroom. 

Bilbo writes his memoirs.

Bilbo writes his memoirs.

She asked me, “Do you want to learn to read?”

I said, “Yes.”

That she trusted us to decide on our own is actually pretty cool.

I’m glad I didn’t say, “No.” I mean, I would’ve learned eventually, right? Or maybe I would’ve been ignored. Or put in some sort of “special” class with all the other kids who said “No.”

I’m glad I didn’t say “No.”

One day, Ms. Beasley fell backwards off her desk chair.  My class totally lost it! Ms. Beasley informed us that it wasn’t funny.

The classroom rug we all sat on to do class reading was gold.  Of course it was gold–it was 1979!

Those were some big fat words!

And by big I mean “cat” taking up half a gorgeous page.

Okay, maybe not half.

I had that same classroom (Room 101)  for 2nd grade with Mrs. Nixon.  I felt a sense of warmth and comfort–nostalgia for my olden days.

Story Lab Chicago Launches & Other Updates!

Hello Friends! So, like Happy New Year!  Boy, is this site due for an update.  October seems so far away now.  And I’ve finally posted all my photos on Flickr of my amazing California trip. To follow up on the previous post, Story Club was an awesome time, if a little mellow due to the cold November rain that evening–which has beauty in itself of course.  Hoping to get back next month to maybe snag an open mic slot.  I have a Valentines Day themed piece that could be good….

In the mean time, I have a storytelling gig coming up on Wednesday January 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Black Rock Pub on Damen and Addison in Chicago. Story Lab Chicago is a new venture by the fine folks at This Much Is True.  SLC features new and new-ish writers/storytellers.  Check us out!  And visit the web site and become a fan on the Facebook.  I’ll be debuting a new story, which is still coming together, but getting there. 🙂  If you see me in Caribou this week, you’ll know what I’m doing.

Other writerly goings on these days….

~ Coffee Boy, the movie, wrapped production at the end of August and was officially released on October 15, 2010.  World wide distribution and domination is pending film festival slots and other goings on.  In the meantime, check out the film’s page on direct0r-adapter-friend Erwan Ripoll’s site HERE.  Also with this project, I have my own IMDb page. I want to think that makes me cooler than before, but I guess not really. 🙂  Still, exciting.  There isn’t much on it, though I submitted the link to this site to be included.  So, visit it and up my “Star Meter”!  (Though I think I’d have to pay for that first….)

~ Battles With Boys took another step closer to reality thanks to a handful of friends and a class room at DePaul University where I was able to share an official first draft of the show as a full length entity comprising of various short pieces.  A discussion proceeded and there is much to think about.  The next step will hopefully reach a wider audience.  More to come….

~ Mining My Life: This past year has been in part focused on organizing all that I Have. Loose pages of high school and college poetry, 7th & 8th grade assignments, ETC, are all in one handy folder in order which works for the chaos of it all.  My 19 handwritten journals plus my private cyber journal are getting the personal indexing treatment (getting there….) so that I can quickly look up things instead of spending hours trying to find it.  My journals have been particularly helpful for my CNF work–and along the way I’ve gotten inspiration for my fiction as well.  Journal #1 will come in handy for an upcoming project landing this Spring (TBA…!)  This all helps my brain process the fact that I’ve reached the age where the past is just as overwhelming as the future.

~ NewTown Writers: Leg work to be done soonly on Solo Homo 9.  Stay tuned….

~ Open Books:  One of my goals for the end of 2010 and into the new year was to do a little volunteer work.  Thanks to the fine folks at Open Books (Chicago’s leading literacy non-profit), I’ve been able to work a couple sessions of the Adventures in Creative Writing Field trip program.  So far, I’ve worked with high school girls on prose, and 3rd graders on poetry.  The little ones were more into it.  I have a couple more sessions this month as well.  If you’re so inclined, you should check out all the volunteer section at the site.  Shown below is a cool photo someone snapped of me and my 3rd graders who make you fall in love with them, then they leave and break your heart just a little.

Well, that does it for now. If I’ve forgotten anything (it happens), I’ll shoot another post.  Cool things abound in 2011.  Can’t wait!  Cheers.