Update of an Artist in November

Sticking it to 'em.

I suppose this post will also cover some of October to fill in all those gaps between cookie baking, Kathy Griffin, and Miley Cyrus.  I know your lives feel empty without knowing the scoop.

This photo here was taken on my pre-birthday road trip to Gebhard Woods State Park and the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail in and around Morris, IL.  I had a window of good October weather and time off work.  ‘Twas a lovely quiet day of hiking and talking to myself and the voices in my head.  Lots of writerly conversation. 🙂  While only an hour away or so, it fulfilled my wanderlust in the tradition of past October trips to Vermont, Oregon, and Europe.  Took many photos, most but not all of which have been uploaded into my Flickr.  This was one of my favorite finds! All the naturey stuff was cool, but this find made my day.  As I say in the photo’s Flickr description, it’s not 100% accurate and fair to say that All Mormons Hate Us, but they sure as heck have been making a name for themselves lately. I’m feeling the pain of Maine (& etc.)  I definitely felt a kinship with the trail walker who came before me.  So, yay to whoever you are….

My birthday on the 25th was a good one.  Mellow, but wonderful.  Brunch, then later dinner and drinks with Ernie and friends.  Some time to myself in between.  I made a trip to the Art Institute. It had been a while, a few years.  I always love their photography gallery.  They’re currently showing a collection of Victorian photo collage works.  SO cool.  I also hadn’t been to the new Modern Art Wing.  Breath taking.  I dig all that stuff.  Had a moment with Picasso–it was his birthday too! I also enjoyed the student/journalist/etc. interviewing the gallery worker in the section with the clown abuse film, light installations, and other very contemporary work (sorry for the general terms here).  I wanted to hang out and listen more, but that would’ve been creepy. Like the clown.

NewTown Writers goings on are winding down for the year.  Our October NewPlay Readings event was a success.  I know the authors, actors, and audiences had a good experience.  I put my producer brain in overdrive, which was good for me, though I’ll tweak some things for next year.  I attended the final workshops of the year (and met a couple new writerly friends), my 2009 Artistic Director report has been written and sent out, and we have a Board meeting this weekend to talk 2010–the group’s 30th Anniversary.  Oh, and you can become a fan on Facebook, too. 🙂

I’ve attended a couple writerly events in the City in the past couple weeks.  As always, the amazingly fun 2nd Story had an event on the 8th at their home base, Webster’s Wine Bar.  My Solo Homo pals, Byron and Sara, read and directed respectively.  Last night, Essay Fiesta, a brand new series held its inaugural event at the Book CellarEssay Fiesta features personal essays and comedy.  It’s a free event, but with the opportunity to buy raffle tickets to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center.  They had an awesome turn out last night.  You should go to the next one in December.  It’s right around the Holidays, but if you’re around and inclined and want to hang out in the way cute Lincoln Square neighborhood, do it.  I’m looking to hopefully be involved in future editions.  And of course, 2nd Story’s December deadline approaches….

I’ve recently gotten in the habit of tracking my writerly activities on my private/Friends Only blog.  I call these entries “Writerlogged.” I jot down every day-ish what I’m doing, working on, attending, etc.  They’re keeping me in check.  And they’re things that don’t necessarily need to be posted in a public forum like this–jottings of works in progress, process, hopes and dreams I don’t want to jinx by announcing them to the world.  Etc.  When I feel like my life is being taken over by laundry and my restaurant job, I can be like Hey, this is what I did and this is what I need to focus on and stuff.    The posts also apply to reading and watching which feed the writerly stuff.  It’s good.

So I have been working on various things.  I’ve been giving some love to a handful of short stories that are in various stages of life.  Also working on a CNF/Essay/Solo piece.  I like going back and forth with this.  Sometimes I really don’t want to deal with myself and my own life.  So I write about others.  Beyond this, there are always photo, media, etc. projects that want love too….

Organized my reading list.  I wish I could read all the books and all the lit mags and all the blogs, but you know, I can’t.  Listed are things we have in house, things I need to acquire, things to finish.  In the middle of the Best American Short Stories 2008.  Realize the new one just came out.  Oh well.  Also, my Walt Whitman collection.  The latest issue of MAKE Magazine.  All in due time.  Recently finished Band of Brothers, the Ambrose book, that I borrowed from my brother.  Having my base of knowledge from the film was helpful, and I was able to fill in any gaps and experience the source material. Waiting in the wings is my copy of With the Old Breed, E.B. Sledge’s memoir which was used in HBO’s The Pacific, which can’t come soon enough.  Recently finished Richard Peck’s Past Perfect, Present Tense Young Adult story collection.  Cool to have a perspective from that genre.  I also received Kathy Griffin’s Official Book Club Selection for my birthday.  Started that because Kathy’s awesome.  I need to acquire and start the new John Irving soon, too.  I won’t bore you with the rest of the list, but know I’m reading stuff. 🙂

And writing too.  I’m not a speed writer, though this time of year many are.  While I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this time around, I am with all my NaNo friends and others in spirit as I work to accomplish something writerly every day. Whether it’s updating my writerly site, or swooping the editing comb through a story, attending an event, or just walking through UnAbridged Bookstore to be surrounded by tried and true printed real books.  Etc. 🙂

With that, I’ll end this, but hope to post other bits soonly.  Happy Creating, Everyone.

Cheers.

Update of an Artist in August

It’s almost the middle of August, and summer is definitely trucking along.  We had a delightfully cool July but are definitely feeling some dog days this month.  A hot summer makes the relief of Autumn even more special.  For those who know me, Autumn is high holy season around here.  It’s my first back in the city.  I’ll definitely miss Indiana for it’s Autumness, but will seek out the city’s delights–but that’s a nerdy post for later.

To follow up on my Band of Brothers Revisited post, shortly after I posted it, a fellow WordPresser lead me to Alan Sepinwall’s blog, What’s Alan Watching?  He’s the TV critic for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.  This summer, he did an amazing series on Band of Brothers. I recently finished going through his posts and many of the comments.  Had I known about it (we were watching it at the same time!), I would’ve definitely joined in the conversation.  Alas, he wrote his last post about the same time I wrote my own BoB post.  I still want to comment on his final entry.  The whole thing is a wonderful in depth conversation for BoB nerds everywhere!

I’ve spent part of the last month haunting neighborhood used book stores (plus my indie bookstore down the street) looking for Malarkey’s and other related books. I think I want to read at least Malarkey’s before I borrow my brother’s copy of the BoB book, which I still haven’t read.  I want to despite the gnawing voices of the Ambrose haters on Amazon (which does have everything I want…).  I should stop reading things like that.  Just upsets me. 😛  I’m also interested in reading E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed, which is one of the sources for the upcoming The Pacific film.  How exciting that Sidney Philips will be a character in the new project!

I’ll save my WWII reading for the Fall, as I’m trying to focus on other reading this summer. My “To Read” list is growing with older and newer books (like, I still need to get to Sarah Vowell’s latest!), recent acquisitions, and books on Ernie’s shelf.  I’ve taken a couple times to sit outside–even go to the lake–and read my Walt Whitman collection. Perfect for summer on a blanket on the grass with the lake’s breeze.  Definitely won’t finish it this summer, but it’s good to have at my side when I’m inspired.  I also have the Best American Short Stories 2008 collection at my side when a dose of short fiction is in order.  I finally finished the 3rd (with six more to go!) Sookie Stackhouse book, Club Dead, and totally loving the new season of True Blood!  My current non-fiction reading is Michael Davis’ Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. What a joy!  And it had me in tears in the first paragraph of the prologue for real.  I’m three chapters in, which is a fascinating account of the history of children’s television in general.  The Captain Kangaroo stuff is cool.  I’m trying to make more time to read actual books.  Less sitting in front of this computer and more reading, yo!  But the computer is good too.

On the writerly front, I’ve been focusing on two short stories this past month or so.  I’ve also been working to organize all my works in progress.  I’ll always be adding ideas, but I’m trying to focus on further developing my most developed work so I can start taking it to the next level.  One story is inspired by my neighborhood in South Bend.  I really love this piece (which I started in November for my short story edition of NaNoWriMo) and am getting more and more into it.  It’s also been good to harness my Indiana experience creatively–something I want to continue.  Another story is more fantastical and quirky and inspired by an Indiana friend of mine.  That’s all I’ll say for now. 🙂  These stories are written in 1st and 3rd person respectively, and if I’m going to flip flop between strories, I like that variety.  On the CNF front, I made it through the first draft of a story about Truman’s bar in Indiana.  I’ve also rebounded from Playing Guns rejection and am preparing it for another submission–to a place that’s perhaps a better fit.

I’ve also typed out my grandfather’s journal like I said I wanted to.  Very cool.  With that, I’ve registered another WordPress site which will be more family oriented.  Not sure how public it will be, but it will definitely be a cool place for family and friends hopefully.

With all this Indiana talk, I did take the time to reflect on my time there.  Here’s an excerpt from my Friends Only blog:

It was this random, amazing, frustrating, weird, beautiful, creative, inspiring, annoying experience in our lives. While we can definitely tell our “Indiana stories” boiled down to some laughable cocktail party tales, I get a little Stockard Channing at the end of Six Degrees of Separation where she seeks to make sure her experience truly becomes a meaningful part of her life. I know I will continue to do this myself in my work–whether in short stories, solo pieces, journal entries, or what have you. Just like I try to do with everything else. I can’t deny the new perspective our time there offered.

All the wonderful people I met along the way–those I’m still in touch with and those I’m not–will not be forgotten. 🙂

Finally, in NewTown Writers news, after a successful Solo Homo 7, the Fall 2009 event is in the works.  We wanted to do some sort of short plays event, and it looks to be gearing toward a Reading event with some brand new works.  I’m currently working with a number of members on developing their pieces–and looking to include a few more.  I’m wearing my producer & director hats on this one so I can focus my writerly energies on other things.  We’re looking to go up mid-October.  Will post more later!  I’ve also started attending the bi-weekly literary meetings.  I’d never done that before, mostly because of my old work schedule and not living in the city for a few years.  It’s been fun–I’ve been able to workshop one of my current stories as well as hear some of the work in progress for the fall.  And now that meetings are looking to be at the Center on Halsted, that’s a bonus since I can walk there.  Awesome!

Upcoming fun things are in the works. Looking forward to them and to getting more work done.  Will tell  you all about it….

Onward—->

Solo Homo 7 Success!

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Thanks to everyone who helped make Solo Homo 7 a success! A huge thank you to everyone who came out to see us.  We received some lovely compliments.  A big thank you to the cast: Lisa, Timothy, Joe, Deb, Mike, Byron, Sara, and Cookie.  David, our tech guy.  Thanks to Strawdog Theatre Company, 2nd Story, and all our fellow NewTown Writers.

I had a good time in the producer’s chair.  Thanks to Joe for all his help!  Robert too.  *Whew*

Onward to our Fall show and Solo Homo 8 next year!

Cheers! 🙂

NewTown Writers Presents: Solo Homo 7!

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Hello Friends!  You should come see my latest show.  I am co-producing it with the wonderful Josef Steiff, as well as performing a “new” piece, Is Jimmy Stackpool Singing Too? I say “new” because it’s something I’ve been working on for a while now, on and off.  Like writers do.  I hope you like it.  Here’s all the official info:

Solo Homo 7: NewTown Writers (newtownwriters.org), Chicago’s oldest GLBT writer’s group, presents the 7th installment of its hit solo performance series, Solo Homo.  Mon-Wed June 22-24, 2009 at 7:30.  Join us in Strawdog Theatre Company’s Hugen Hall at 3829 N. Broadway, Chicago.  Tickets may be purchased at the door or online at strawdogtheatre.com.  Please, no phone calls to the Strawdog box office.  $12 or 2 for $20 on Tues-Wed; $6 or 2 for $10 for Monday’s “Preview.”

This year’s line up of storytellers includes Cookie Crumbles, Byron Flitsch, Sara Kerastas, Deb Lewis, Timothy Rey, Mike Rogers, Lisa Scott, Josef Steiff, and Michael Van Kerckhove.

And there will be a cash bar too!  Can’t beat that, yo. 🙂

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Here’s a shot of me reading at this past weekend’s Printer’s Row Lit Fest.  NewTown Writers had a slot in the Arts & Poetry tent.  I read a pieced called Out of the Collective Blur. The events in the story took place in the spring of 2000.  I’ve revisited the story a handful of times over the years.  Still looking for a home for the story.  Interestingly, it’s about the homeless in general, and more specifically about a homeless woman I would often see in the Grand Avenue Red Line station.  It will find a place.  Even if I post it here on this site. 🙂

And here’s another photo.  Cos the Chicago Tribune banner makes me look more important, right? 😛  My photomate is Jill, NTW’s current president.  She’s cool.

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All right, off to do more show stuff….

All Kinds of Stuff

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So, much going on in the past month. First off, Ernie and I finished our semesters at IUSB on May 7.  My class presented their awesomely creative group projects–their productions of Oedipus Rex.  We had one set at Woodstock, a sci-fi production set into the future, a production set in the world of LA gangs.  And a Greek tragedy meets Dr. Seuss.  The parallels are actually quite fascinating with that last one. 🙂  I had another solid group and I felt things went well even as my focus was split there for a while between packing and everything else.  I received my last pay check from the university last Friday, so now it’s really over.  The teaching, my coursework, the experience was an amazing (if sometimes bumpy) ride that I’m feeling will be better served in more private reflection.  Whatever the ups and downs, I don’t regret our time in “the SB” one bit.  I’m glad we did it, and I’m beyond glad we’re back.  Sometimes I’ll be riding my bike home from work and think Wow, I live here again.  And the last 3 years feel like a dream.  Like that season on Dallas when Pam walked into the bathroom and Bobby was in the shower and he wasn’t dead after all–and the next season they had to pick up from the one before.  Crazy!  Like I almost have to pick up  my Chicago life from 2006.  And then there’s the finale of Newhart when Bob wakes up with this previous series’ wife.  That whole Vermont thing was just a whacky dream.  Yeah, I feel like that sometimes.  But I know I contributed for real.  For real.

Both Fiction and Creative Nonfiction/Solo Performance work inspired by my time has a Hoosier has already begun….

“Operation Chicago Re-Boot” is going well. I’m actually looking forward to what I’m referring to as “Operation 2nd Wave.” A friend is buying my futon which used to be in the guest bedroom at the Country House.  It currently lives in our storage unit.  Once she is able to take it to her new place, we’ll be able to tidy up around here–put some stuff downstairs.  And do some cleaning.  That’ll be good.  I’ll feel more settled then.

I’m figuring out my post-South Bend masage.  Grad school, teaching, both moves, etc.  It’s all in my neck and shoulders and the rest of me can use a tune up too!

I’ve been focusing on two stories this past month.  First, Playing Guns, a piece about childhood play, friends, family, war, stories, etc.  I made a recent submission deadline.  Yay!  I won’t say who or what cos I’m supersticious like that.  *Fingers crossed* just in case.  I’m not really focusing on Is Jimmy Stackpool Singing Too? for Solo Homo 7. We open in just shy of 3 weeks!  Click on the link for more, though I know I’ll be giving it its own post soon.  I’m also co-producing/co-directing as well.  That’s been a lot of good behind the scenes grunt work.  Love that I have the opportunity to do it.  It fits peachily into “Operation Chicago Re-Boot.”  It’s been fun and we have an awesome group.  Can’t wait to see the culmination of all our work!

Finally, I recently finished reading Kevin Wilson’s short story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. I got a copy in my Easter basket from the in-laws.  I love it!  I appreciate the quirkiness that to me does not slide into ridiculousness.  Many of his characters have–unique–occupations and I love how he explores them and connects them to their lives.  His fantastical elements are grounded in reality and sense, a balance I work to achieve as well.  I wish I’d written some of them!  One of his stories, “The Museum of Whatnot,” deals with similar themes to one of my works in progress–our relationship with objects–but they’re still, you know, different.  🙂  While all the stories are different, you can definitely sense Kevin’s sense of humor, his voice, etc.  If I had to pick a favorite, I’d go with “Mortal Kombat,” which interestingly is one of the less “quirky” ones.  It’s an honest and raw piece about two high school friends in the early ’90’s and their relationship and discoveries.  A looked forward to event is the release of the home version the Mortal Kombat video game.  What an amazing cultural phenominon to connect to their lives.  That one got me reaching for some tissue.  I look forward to reading more of his work down the road….

Other reading material this summer will include the 3rd book onward in the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  Can’t wait for the 2nd season of True Blood to start!  I also have my Walt Whitman to read, other story collections.  Etc.

When I’m finished with working on my current Creative Nonfiction, I’m looking forward to diving into some of my own fiction.  I want to make stuff up again.

It’s fun. 🙂

NewTown Writers News

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Here is the Official press release (written by myself and sent out to the world, or at least the group’s mailing list and our Facebook group):

NewTown Writers announces the appointment of Michael Van Kerckhove as the new Artistic Director of the performance wing. Michael returns to Chicago after he and his partner, Ernie Nolan, spent three years working with Indiana University at South Bend. His affiliation with the group dates back to the inaugural edition of Working Stiffs in 2002.

Michael and long time member, Robert Klein Engler, have found a new home for their performance endeavors. After a number of years at the Bailiwick, stops at Live Bait and Chemically Imbalanced, the 2009 season will be presented in Strawdog Theatre Company’s Hugen Hall cabaret space located at 3829 North Broadway.

Plans are in the works for the 7th edition of Solo Homo in June and an evening of short plays in October. Stay tuned for details…

Pretty cool, huh?  In my reintegration into the city, dubbed “Operation Chicago Re-boot,” I became a board member of the group last fall and an “official” member of the performance wing.  Even though I’ve been involved with the group and have been published in both publication arms, I really do feel this sense of official-ness.  I haven’t been involved as much with the literary wing, though that could change now that I’m back, depending on Life and Everything Else.  Either way, the group has my support.

There was a noble effort to regroup and re-focus the theatre wing this past December.  The Holidays and New Year unraveled that a bit.  I was asked to step into the AD position and approved by the rest of the board.  Yay approval! 🙂  When recently asked my goals as AD, I basically replied “Focus and Process.”  Solo Homo will have some familiar faces, a few new ones, and will get back to its roots of writing & performance–that magical blend of the literary and theatre worlds I love so much.  How we get there should bring out the Best in all of us.  I like that.

Now, I just have to figure out what I’m going to do for my own piece in the show.  You know, the writing part.  I have a couple pieces I’d love to do, but they may be a little long.  So maybe this will be a good way to impose a deadline upon myself for new material.  The other pieces will definitely be incorporated into my full length solo show that maybe I’ve mentioned around here a few times.  It has a yet to be determined unleashing date, for sure.  But Battles With Boys will arrive….

NewTown Writers continues its bi-weekly workshops, and as in the past should have a table at the Printers Row Book Fair, also coming up in June.  Will definitely let you all know about that!

Happy Writing and Happy Spring.  It’s wonderful to be back! 🙂