Artists in Conversation:

Josh Sobel

Nurturing New Work: The Art of Play Development

In many ways, the world of script development is like Gold Rush-era California: thousands of prospectors looking for the best way to identify rich veins and extract theatrical pay dirt. Artists, theatres, arts organizations, and foundations have spent decades and millions of dollars to develop programs that will in turn develop new scripts for the stage, focusing variously on individual playwrights, specific scripts, particular topics, fostering creative teams, and so on.

Joel Valentin-Martinez

How has your diverse geographic history—Mexico, California, Arizona, New York, Illinois, etc.—shaped your ideas about, and approaches to, dance and performance?

I grew up in a small town called Zapotitan de Hidalgo, in the state of Jalisco, outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. Dance has always been a very common thing in my family and in the communities I grew up in. Dance was really rich in everything from weddings to weekend parties to birthdays to school.

Jeff Abbey Maldonado

The Hardest Piece I've Ever Had to Produce

My latest installation, recently on view at the National Museum of Mexican Art, is the most difficult piece I've ever had to produce. It remembers my only child, Jeff Abbey Maldonado, Jr., who was murdered at age 19, just 16 months ago.

The installation is a contemporary ofrenda, or altar, meant to celebrate sprits who have passed into the next realm and return for a night to be with their loved ones. This is celebrated in Mexico on November 1 at midnight.

Kimberly Dixon, Guild Literary Complex

Integrating Public and Private Art

My mentor once told me the trick will be to keep a balance between public art and private art, that my work with the Guild is my public art and it’s important, but don’t neglect my private art. My mentor was dead right.

Ellen Placey Wadey, Poetry Performance Incubator

Tour Guides: An Intersection of Poetry and Theater

Sometimes you come up with a great idea, and sometimes a great idea happens to you. This is a story about the latter. In 2004, I was director of the Guild Complex, and we’d received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to produce a festival of poetry theater. Festival was ambitious.

Kris Vire

Theater and Journalism: Combining My Two Great Loves


In 2009, Kris Vire became only the second Theater Editor of
Time Out Chicago when inaugural editor Christopher Piatt decided to step down. Since its debut in 2005, TOC has become a major source of reviews and news for Chicago's theatre community, quickly earning a reputation on par with much more established publications for its breadth of coverage.

A Sustainable Model for Arts Partnerships

Joanne Vena, Director of School Partnerships, CCAP

How can an artist combine his or her art practice with giving back to the community and, at the same time, make a living? It’s a question many artists face, and it's one answered by few organizations.

Gint Aras

Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Book

Sometime after finishing my MFA, I came to realize that any published book opens a can of worms for its author. Once the final proof has been completed and the book released into the world, the author goes from having absolute control over his characters’ blood to virtually no control over anything. Readers have conversations in his absence. When an author is being interviewed, the interviewer’s interests naturally drive the discussion.

Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearless Symmetry: Combining Creative Disciplines

Audrey Niffenegger is a visual artist who helped establish the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College. She's also a writer and the author of the internationally acclaimed novels The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) and Her Fearful Symmetry (2009). I sat down with Audrey to ask her about working across disciplines, book arts, and the experience of attending art colonies and writers' retreats.

Jason Pettus, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

How to Start a Cultural Institution for Under $500

Before I started the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, I worked as a self-publishing artist—first, as a photographer back at the University of Missouri, then as a writer of novels, travelogues, and
performance poetry in Chicago. I attended high school during the peak of the early-'80s punk years, so for decades now, I've been a strong adherent of the "do it yourself" (or DIY) ethos.

Thea Liberty Nichols, The Robert A. Roth Study Center

A One-of-a-Kind Resource

Intuit’s Robert A. Roth Study Center was established in 1995 on the occasion of the organization’s fifth anniversary. It was named in honor of Bob Roth, who published the Chicago Reader from 1971–1994, and who served as Intuit’s Board President for those first five years, from 1990–1995. Roth made the acquaintance of Princeton-trained art historian Dr. John MacGregor when he was in Chicago over the summers researching artist Henry Darger.

Knee-Jerk Magazine

Launching Our Monthly Literary Magazine


Knee-Jerk is an online literary magazine created by three local writers: Casey Bye, Jon Fullmer, and Steve Tartaglione. The monthly magazine features stories, interviews, excerpts, and reviews of things (e.g., "Review of The Power Team", "Review of My Mother's Abs," and "Review of My Pregnancy at Seven Months"). In describing the Knee-Jerk vibe, the three founders suggest "a dinner table filled with friends and family.

S. Brandi Barnes - OBAC-Writers Workshop

The Torch Is Lit: The Organization of Black American Culture, Past and Present

The Organization of Black American Culture, founded in 1967, was born out of the Committee for the Arts. Both were products of the Black Arts Movement.The idealists who founded OBAC had a vision to establish an umbrella organization for African-American arts and artists, and to establish a black aesthetic.

Liz Mason, Quimby's Bookstore

Tips on Self-Publishing and Selling on Consignment

Working at Quimby's—a bookstore that specializes in independently
published and small press books, comics, and zines—I meet lots of
zinesters, writers, publishers, poets, and comics artists.

Megan Stielstra and Amanda Delheimer, 2nd Story

Origins of a Storytelling Series

Sit down with friends, open a bottle of wine, and inevitably, the stories start, right? Hilarious or tragic, they’re always intimate. This was the impetus for 2nd Story, Chicago’s personal narrative storytelling series that exists to bring people together through story.

Sheryl Johnston, Literary Publicist and Event Producer

The Business of Publicity: Tips on How to Get the Word Out

Literary agent and event promotor Sheryl Johnston has been able to draw on a very wide array of writing modes and experiences, learning from all angles of the profession - from publicist to editorialist to agent . Here she shares some gems of wisdom for writers, and the keys to successful book promotion.

How to Approach an Agent as an Emerging Author

So you’ve written the book and experienced the surge of joy and relief that only a completed draft can elicit. Now what? Most aspiring authors make it to typing the words “THE END” and mistakenly think the journey of becoming a published author is almost over.

Jason Behrends

Mentorship, Collaboration, and Time Management: How to Get Stuff Done

Balance is something I struggle with—not necessarily the act of balancing, but the concept: to load up all aspects of your life, arms outstretched and still, and then just hold it there.

Creating a Shared Writing Space

Founding The Writers WorkSpace

In October 2005, The New York Times ran an article on a writing space in NYC called Paragraph. That same afternoon, my friend Pat Cronin and I were meeting in my dining room—a room that also served as living room, play room, office, and art studio.

Clemolyn (Pennie) Brinson

Listening to My Muse: Notes from a Conscious Writing Journey

My muse visits me a lot—so much that I’ve personified her and written several poems about her. I’ve learned that she is boss. When inspiration hits, I grab the nearest piece of paper and start writing before the train of thought or mood is lost. Waiting longer than a minute can result in the initial impact or feeling fading away as quickly as it came. Once that happens it’s gone forever.   

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