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March 2012 Archives

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Remember Crush of the Month Lindsey Pearlman? Well, she’s a crush with a conscience. Pearlman loves animals--from the pampered pups her dog care company walks and cares for to the elephants of Thailand for which Pearlman traveled thousands of miles to donate her time. Recently she discovered that Groupon is offering a family four pack of tickets to the George Carden Circus Spectacular.

Says Pearlman, “unlike the image the public receives of circuses - filled with cotton candy, clowns, and happy performing animals - the reality behind the facade is one of torture, sadness, and pain.” 

Since the Groupon deal went up, Pearlman’s facebook feed has been a frenzied montage of anti-cruelty petitions, late night links to disturbing youtube video of mistreated elephants and descriptions of her effort to compel Groupon to discontinue their circus deal--this is a woman on a mission.

I’m turning today’s blog over to Pearlman for her take on the situation.

Pearlman on circus animals: “Circus animals are trained as babies under the constant threat and application of physical punishment.  (How else do you get a six-ton wild animal to perform painful, joint-shredding "tricks"?  Not through positive reinforcement.  Through pain and intimidation!)  Bullhooks are the most common tool to cause physical pain and punish.  When not performing, [animals] are on chains for days on end, or in transport from town to town.  These sensitive, intelligent animals are not meant for domestication. The situation has become desperate and public education is necessary to bring circuses to an end." 

Pearlman on the circus’s impact on children: “Children who watch these performances learn that it is acceptable to force another living creature to do something that is stressful, and often even painful, as long as it serves the purpose of entertainment. This mindset will carry over into their relationships with people, and it will not serve them well in life.”

Pearlman on the George Carden Circus Spectacular: “The USDA is limited in what they can monitor, but many infractions of this particular circus have been cited over the last 20 years. The elephants used in this circus are in terrible condition.  One piece of video evidence shows Bo, the star of their show, exhibiting a swaying behavior.  This behavior occurs when the elephants are unable to do what they do naturally - walk through a forest for over 30 miles a day with their family, forage, and have their social needs met."

Pearlman on Groupon: “Over 650 people purchased this deal.  I contacted Groupon immediately, and began providing information regarding the business they were promoting.  For the past six days, I have been working to convince them to remove the deal, refund the money, and take this opportunity to help these animals receive the public awareness they deserve.  Because Groupon is such a popular source of consumer interest, their voice is invaluable.  I believe this is a great opportunity for Groupon to come out of this with a boosted public image."

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Photo by Peter Coombs

Sue Fabisch writes what she knows and she knows motherhood. A longtime singer-songwriter and stage veteran, Fabisch started Mommy Music Inc after reading of a famous songwriter’s contempt for female songwriters. From there, her songs found focus in a one woman show which grew into Motherhood the Musical which opens March 30th at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre. Fabisch spoke with Our Town about Veggie Tales, her show’s success and of course balancing career and motherhood.

Our Town What are your musical influences?  
Sue Fabisch Well, I love me some Barbra Streisand!  How I wished I could sing like that.  Hence, the switch to songwriting! And I think Bette Midler had a huge impact on me as well.  I just loved her ballsy in-your-face attitude.  Believe it or not, I was also influenced by the songs in all the Veggie Tales videos (that I had to watch over and over and over again with the kids!)  They're really well crafted songs, very silly, very catchy and really smart lyrically.  So Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Larry the Cucumber.  Yep, those are my musical influences.

OT You started your company in part as a response to a songwriter who disparaged housewives.
SF This famous songwriter talked about looking for songs for other artists.  When his team couldn't find the perfect song, out of desperation, they turned to the 'housewife pile,’ a box in the corner where he would throw songs mailed in from housewives who thought they could write.  Here was a guy, who had made it in the music business, passing judgement on me and my talent because I chose to stay at home and raise kids?  Um, no thank you.  I have a degree in music and I can write a song and breastfeed at the same time, dude!  Can you do that???


OT So why aren’t moms taken seriously?  
SF Oh man, I wish I knew!  When I first started putting out Mom songs two things happened:  Audiences loved it and the music professionals hated it.  They would call it "niche" and "cute".  They would send me condescending emails saying things like "too bad it's just not commercial."  Yet as I stood there and watched the audience, I saw huge amounts of laughter.  So I just ignored them and kept going.

OT Has your show faced similar marginalization?   
SF Well, the title kind of puts it out there that we're targeting moms, but when I see men in the audience (and this is worldwide) they are laughing just as hard.  The comments afterwards are usually "Oh, I remember my wife saying that" or "My daughter is going through that right now".  So I do believe that men are relating.  The question is:  Will men actually admit (in public) that they enjoyed the show?

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Chicago-based author Alan Goldsher is a renaissance man. Author of a growing catalogue of “remix” novels, spoofs that mix classics and zombies or in Goldsher’s case, Von Trapps and Vampires, Goldsher also finds time to ghost write, play standup base and mock Lady Gaga. Tonight at 8:30 p.m. he’ll hit iO Theater to celebrate the release of two new novels, A Game of Groans: A Sonnet of Slush and Soot, and Give Death a Chance: The British Zombie Invasion 2 with an night of reading and improvisational comedy. He spoke with Our Town first.

Our Town To what do you attribute the growing popularity of the (usually) supernatural mashup/parody genre?
Alan Goldsher The simple fact that the books are out there.  Mashups -- or, as Team Alan calls mine, remixes -- likely would have been embraced several years ago, had they been in the marketplace, but few major publishers would take a chance on that sort of thing.  As is the case with new a musical sub-genre, it took an indie company to test the waters, then, once the big publishers realized readers would embrace that kind of goofiness, the floodgates opened.  And I mean floodgates in a (mostly) good way. [Also], young adult readers seem to have gravitated to the books, and Y.A. is arguably the smartest, coolest, and trend-making-est demographic in the industry.  Publishers know this, and will take a shot on a mashup in hopes that it could be the next, um, er, Paul Is Undead.

OT What initially attracted you?
AG I dig writing humor, I dig writing horror, and I dig writing about pop culture, and doing something like Paul Is Undead or Give Death a Chance gave me the opportunity to kill three birds with two books.

OT What about zombies? They’ve been off in the corner for decades, why have they recently come to the fore?
AG I could get all philosophical and discuss how zombies represent the id, and in today's America -- what with its wobbly economy and simmering class war -- people can't help but embrace the ugly part of themselves when it comes to entertainment, because they aren't allowed to get that ugly in their day-to-day lives.  Truth is, for me, zombies are a wonderful entity to play with because, unlike vampires, the undead don't have a set mythology, so a writer can do with them what they will.

OT Your new book pits Lady Gaga against the zombie Beatles. What parts were particularly fun to write?
AG Gaga takes herself too damn seriously, so it was a blast to mess with her, and, given the opportunity, I'd do it again, and I don't care if she knows it.  Truth is, Give Death a Chance is just a novella, so I didn't spend too many pages trashing her, because I had to give equal time to making fun of Madonna, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne, Oasis, and obstructionist Republicans.

OT Fictionalizing public figures vs creating fictional characters, discuss.
AG When I fictionalize a public figure, I fictionalize the hell out of them.  I mean, if you want to see Paul McCartney being Paul McCartney, you can pop over to You Tube, so what's the point of making a fake McCartney act like the real McCartney?  When you do parody, you heighten and exaggerate -- e.g., the real McCartney spends a surprising amount of time talking about sales figures, so my Zombie McCartney is flat-out obsessed with them -- whereas when you create an original character, it's all about realism.  There's little real about my undead Beatles.

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Photo by Patty Michels

I started screaming before I’d even turned, before I understood the man’s words--garbled, insistent, closer by the half second--were directed at me. Not the pure soprano shrieks of a horror movie ingenue, rather the messy blare of a dreamer screaming herself awake.

Fourteen and a half hours earlier, I lay on the couch, eavesdropping on the bird’s gossipy chatter. At six a.m., they seemed as shocked as the rest of Chicago by summer’s early arrival. March, yet eighty degrees, pollen counts deadly, neighborhood kids exultant. I’m a poor sleeper, insomnia mostly, nightmares when slumber finds me. Somehow the couch helps.

What woke me that morning was this: I can’t go to the bus stop, a full thought, and clear. My brain was misty though, and sleep’s tide tugged.

Hours later, slicing an apple, the knowledge returned. I can’t go to the bus stop. I pictured the lamplit corner, well-traveled by commuters and bar patrons, dog-walkers and nighttime runners. The warning slipped around in my mid-day/warm breeze/distant car sounds brain, transforming into something intellectual and distant: a debate between Free Will and Determinism. Would I wind up at the bus stop no matter my preceding choices? I remembered the polemic later, home, again sleepless, but for reasons altogether new.

That night’s novel writing class concluded early. I left my students to fill out teacher evaluations at eight twenty eight. For me, the end of anything, a sleepless night, an eight week class provokes a sense of movement colored by relief and loss. As I walked toward the stairs (I can’t go to the bus stop) I thought of another ending, more brutal, no relief.

A few months back a Chicago woman was murdered and set ablaze in her garage. Newspapers reported that on the previous day her sister had a premonition as she passed through the building’s gangway. She warned her sister to be careful, though of what she couldn’t say. At the stairs’ peak, Am I having a premonition, I wondered? Usually thoughts hang murky, more picture and feeling than words, but that day all the warnings came clear and articulate, cogent as headlines in the New York Times.

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Andy Selsberg thinks you are good at things, for example, “forcing people to acknowledge how adorable your baby’s foot is,” or maybe “Telling professional coaches what to do.” In fact, the former Onion staff writer is so convinced of your myriad abilities that he’s written a book enumerating these positive traits. Our Town spoke with Selsberg about the book's bathtub genesis, lists as literature and perhaps most significant, the contents of celebrity purses.

Our Town Here’s what I’m good at, accurately predicting the color of people's nipples. What about you? 
Andy Selsberg Nipple prediction? That's a rare one, like yelling original prompts at improv shows. Does anyone really possess that skill? If so, it would have to be a Chicagoan. I'm really good at not being able to read my own handwriting. And I'm a ringer when it comes to noting when it's good sleeping weather. I learned it from my parents, who are masters. I'm also good at passionately favoring one drugstore chain over the others. Growing up in Kenosha, I was obsessed with Walgreens. When I tried to write short stories in college, half of them took place in a Walgreens. In New York, Duane Reade is everywhere. It doesn't get a lot of true love, but it's earned a kind of affection via grudging acceptance. Walgreens acquired them in 2010, but Duane Reade stores kept their name. This is how Macy's should have dealt with Marshall Field's. Regional chains are important! Apparently, I am also good at retail tangents.  

OT What inspired your book?
AS I was in the bathtub, thinking about what I could do next. I thought, "What am I good at? Everybody's good at something... Yes--everybody is good at something! I'll do a list of everything people are good at!" That was the first working title: Everybody's Good at Something. It just felt right, like it could be funny and telling and expansive. Familiar and new. 

OT Was it a struggle to make it book length?
AS It just took time and focus. At least a year. I would go out almost every day with a notebook (Field Notes brand--another Chicago connection) and commit to coming up with a few dozen possible lines. It's a matter of training yourself to think in a particular way. I'd do it while riding the subway, on a park bench after work. Being in places with lots of people inspired lines (You are good at sharing headphones, conveying cultural standing through tote bags...). 

OT Are you a fan of lists in literature?
AS Yes--or maybe a fan of lists as literature. I like David Markson's novels--they're like scrolls of literary snippets. I Remember by Joe Brainard is genius. Though I might wish I didn't, I love magazine features where someone of note lists everything in their bag, or lists all their favorite products. It seems to add up to a perspective. Twitter is a slice of the world in list form, constantly updated. I loved Letterman's Top Ten collections. And I'm sad that one of my favorite list books, What's Right with America, is out of print. "Army surplus as a college wardrobe staple," "Bumper stickers that make fun of other bumper stickers." It's sincere and sarcastic at once--a tone close to my heart. You can make fun of something and still love it dearly. (If not, most contemporary parents are in trouble.) 

OT You quote Grace Paley’s “Wants” on your Dear Old Love Tumblr. First of all, love that story, second, did the line actually inspire DOL?
AS That is a cool story--more a presiding presence than an inspiration for DOL. I taught "Wants" for years before I actually read Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, which has a supporting role in it. Such a good novel! I have the Paley quote ("I attribute the dissolution of our marriage to the fact that you never invited the Bertrams to dinner") on the site to set some aspirational guidelines: the specificity, the humor and sadness of it all. And I hope it reminds people that the site aims to artfully condense experience, to tell stories in miniature, more than get actual notes to actual old loves. 

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Interior designer Karyn Musick knows what she likes--designing livable, lovely homes which reflect the lives of their occupants. She spoke with Our Town about design trends, the horror of the 80’s and why moms need rooms of their own.

Our Town When did you first realize you wanted to work in interior design?
Karyn Musick I always had a passion for design. As a young teen, I use to love to decorate my own bedroom and I always had input with my siblings and family’s decorating projects. 

OT Why hire an interior designer?
KM It's sometimes difficult for people to envision and make complex decisions since they are emotionally and financially involved. [A designer can] consult and give professional guidelines to achieve your design goals.

OT What’s your favorite part of the design process?
KM I really enjoy working together with my clients [to] understand their goals. I love when a client tells me that they love what I've helped them to accomplish.

OT You’ve been in the business for over two decades. Is there any period in recent design history that you think back on and wonder what everyone was thinking?
KM Yes! The 80's--all of the high gloss lacquer furniture and teal and raspberry were "the" colors! I was a little young back in the 70's; however, avocado appliances would scar me today!  

OT What’s the secret to making  a room both beautiful and livable?
KM Understanding the space’s main function, then adding all of the personal elements to make it beautiful.

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OT Your “Mom Cave” contest invites moms to submit outrageous stories and photos in order to win a specially designed sanctuary just in time for Mother’s Day. What inspired the contest?
KM Often, we will visit a family home and as we are walking through each room, we will hear the lady of the home say "this is supposed to be my living room but it's a play room right now, oh and the basement, well, that's where my oldest child (i.e. husband) hangs out on Sunday's, while he's watching all of his football games.” She'll usually gasp for a breath and say, “my designated area is in the kitchen or the laundry room.” Yikes! In November, we were invited to a launch and it was held in a lovely home in Lake Forest. I believe this family had triplets. There was this beautiful schemed room on the main floor. The color scheme was done is bright and soft pinks with an elegant Settee Love Seat. The main wall had framed black and white prints of Audrey Hepburn. The bell went off that this was her "Mom-Cave!” This is what inspired our Mom Cave contest.

OT I’m “creatively cluttered” by which I mean I can’t find my floor. I’m also generally confused about how to make a home look good. Any general tips for someone like me?
KM Less is always more! Organize your clutter by putting away the things that you really don't need everyday. Keep and display the things that mean the most to you and get rid of the things that collect dust. 

To learn more about Divas N' Design visit divasndesign.com

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.


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Chicagoan Anne Laughlin came to writing later in life, but since the 2008 publication of her first novel, Sometimes Quickly, she’s barely paused to breathe. Today marks the release of her new mystery, Runaway. She spoke with Our Town about the mystery genre and why, even in 2012, lesbian niche publishing remains vibrant and important.

Our Town Was writing always an ambition?
Anne Laughlin I didn’t begin writing until I was fifty years old, so if it had always been an ambition, it lurked well in the background. However, I’ve always been a big reader and I believe most serious readers at some point wonder how good a writer they’d be. At fifty I somehow stopped worrying about how good a writer I’d be and just sat down and wrote. [But] With a little experience comes the depressing knowledge that it takes a lot of work to produce something worthwhile. Over the course of these few years I’ve tried to become more serious about editing, making my work better with each pass. I suppose you could say it’s evolved from what was initially almost a hobby approach to one that’s professional.

OT Who are your influences?
AL As a young lesbian in the seventies and eighties, I spent a fair amount of time hunting down books with lesbian protagonists, many of which were mysteries. Here were protagonists with whom I could identify, battling and defeating foes. Believe it or not, that was a big deal at the time. So I’d have to say that the pioneers of that era were a huge influence – Katherine Forrest, Claire McNab, Barbara Wilson, and a little later, Val McDermid and Ellen Hart.

OT What interests you about the mystery genre?
AL People say that one of the negatives about the commercial genres – mystery, suspense, romance, science fiction – is that they must adhere to constricts of their genre and are therefore predictable and formulaic. I think that’s a crock. There’s very little that can’t be written about within the confines of crime fiction. What makes it appealing to me is the emphasis on complex, compelling stories that can only be successfully told through complex, compelling protagonists. The suspense inherent in the genre is the bonus that makes a delicious read for me, and apparently for millions of other readers, given the popularity of the genre in both the mainstream and LGBTQ publishing worlds.

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March's Hot Writer: Rory Leahy

My genre: Plays, which are generally seen as comedies but I prefer to think of
them as dramas with lots of jokes in them, and sketch comedy, as well
as prose fiction, generally fantasy/and or comic, absurd.

My literary influences: Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Harper Lee, Margaret
Atwood, Mark Twain, Tom Stoppard, Keith Giffen, PG Wodehouse, to start
an incomplete list.

My favorite literary quote: "Hello babies, welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in
the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies,
you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule I know of
babies. God damn it, you've got to be kind." -God Bless You Mister Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut

My favorite book of all time: Changes frequently but I'll go with Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

I’m currently reading: Scarce Resources, 18 Weird Stories by Brendan Detzner (local Chicago writer)

My guilty pleasure book: Walter the Farting Dog.

I can’t write without:
My laptop. It pretty much goes where I go, in a suitcase, which helps
me build the arm strength that is an indispensable aspect of my hotness. I have a mild learning disability that makes me absolutely hopeless at penmanship, I'd have been screwed in the pre-typewriting era.

Worst line I ever wrote: "Lead me, nymph, to the sweetest of all rest, as I absorb myself, into
your dark infinities."

Brief Bio:
I've been writing things pretty continuously since high school. Wrote a bunch of plays for student theatre company at the University of llinois Urbana-Champaign. I then founded my own theatre company, American Demigods, which produces original works by me and other people that I think are cool. Our next production is one of mine, it's called The Factory That Makes Devils. It's an evening of short plays with horror themes. Some are genuinely scary, others are more comedic. That's going to be in June of 2012. I've also got a short story being published in an anthology by Lonely Robot Comics and I'm writing a sci fi novel based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

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Abraham Levitan’s show compels me, which is why I’m writing about it, but it also confuses me so I’ll let him explain.

Our Town So what's the show's premise?
Abraham Levitan I'll try to explain this as simply as possible, which is a little tricky in the case of Shame That Tune. Each show features three contestants, who come onstage one at a time for about 10 minutes each. First, they spin a Wheel-of-Fortune-style wheel, divided among various musical sub-genres. (Recent categories include R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet", Dixie Chicks, Twisted Sister, and Glenn Miller.) Then the contestant spends 3 minutes telling an embarrassing anecdote -- the best contestants usually read straight from a junior-high diary. Then my co-host, Brian Costello (who's a novelist, Reader contributor, and drummer in a great band called Outer Minds), interviews them for 4 minutes. And at the end of the interview, I perform a song about their anecdote, in the style chosen by the wheel. At the end of the whole show, the audience votes for its favorite contestant, via a Human Applause-O-Meter.

OT How was the show conceived?
AL I have a little bit of a history doing these instant-response songs -- I used to do them for a reading series at The Hideout called The Dollar Store, and I've done them for a few WBEZ events too. Meanwhile, Brian used to have his own live talk show at the Empty Bottle. So, it's kind of a fusion our backgrounds. We wanted to make it a game show because we feel like there are already a large number of awesome reading series in Chicago, and this was our way of doing something distinctive.

OT You have a number of regulars—what does each person bring?
AL Aside from Brian and me, we have two regulars onstage at all times. Our intern is played by Jeanine O'Toole (The 1900's, Bare Mutants, and a host of other bands/projects). In her other projects, Jeanine is confident and charismatic. But on this show, she plays a bumbling intern, incapable of adjusting a mic stand without turning it into a huge physical-comedy event. She's excellent. It's basically a non-speaking role. Our other regular, a new addition, is Nick Rouley, a Chicago stand-up. He plays the Life Coach, who guides our contestants with some very West Coast-flavored self-help shtick. He also lights incense sticks when the guests are running long with their stories -- sort of our version of the orchestra starting to play at the Oscars.

OT What’s it like to have to write a song in four minutes?
AL You'd think it would be stressful -- but I actually don't feel that way. The song was written in four minutes -- of course it's gonna be terrible! Any time I start to clam up, I just think, "This is supposed to be really bad," and things start moving again. I also have two cocktails beforehand, which is helpful.

OT How are contestants chosen?
AL Initially they were drawn from our circle of friends -- mostly fellow musician dudes/dudettes, since both Brian and I play in bands. As the show has grown, we've had more stand-up comics as contestants, which is awesome. Whenever we have a contestant on the show, we ask them for recommendations for future contestants.

OT Why tell teenage anecdotes?
AL Most of our contestants are in their 30's, with maybe a little spillover into late 20's, early 40's, etc. By this point in the game, the hope is that we can laugh at our adolescence. Or, if we're still traumatized by it, maybe reading about it in public can be a kind of exorcism. I guess from the pure comedy perspective, adolescence is the most direct shot to embarrassment.

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It’s no secret that I live under a rock. (I have a hell of a time receiving packages and dinner parties go downhill fast when it rains. Literally. On the plus side, my student loan company can’t find me and I’ve become great friends with a family of worms.)
But seriously folks, I’m frequently oblivious to the obvious. Case in point, I’d already written two Our Town blogs before I realized I was writing for The Sun Times. I’m not sure what I thought. Maybe “I’m wearing dirty pajamas and getting paid, no angry customers are talking to me as if I’m the product of an unholy union between a lemur and a catfish, and I didn’t take three buses to get here so this can’t be real.” Truly, there’s no viable explanation. Nor is there any reason for me to have lived in Chicago for six years and only now discover Amy Matheny.

Currently making her Timeline Theatre debut in Enron, Amy has worked for more than a decade in Chicago's GLBT community as a radio personality, producer and event host. In addition, Amy was an Artistic Associate of About Face Theatre for a decade and has appeared in more theatre productions than you can shake a stick at. (I can personally attest to this. Shaking a stick is a primary source of entertainment when you live under a rock.)

It’s pretty much obscene and speaks only to my charming obliviousness that Amy came to my attention at this late date. But nothing says belated reverence like a giant telescope aimed right at a Chicago Celebrity’s house. That’s right, Amy Matheny is March’s Chicago crush!

Full Name: Amy Matheny
Hometown: Cleveland, Tennessee
Profession: Actor, Producer, Talk show host, Sr. Account Manager for Windy City Media Group - "Renaissance Woman"
Hobbies: pilates, theatre, travel, walks with my dog, dinner w/friends, singing, guitar, collecting rocks

Our Town Enron’s made quite a splash. How has the experience been?
Amy Matheny I love being in this show! It is risky, divisive and very funny. Having the opportunity to play a strong, smart, successful Southern woman is rare. True Story: I took classes in the late 80's from a woman in Tennessee who taught Southern businesswomen how to lose their accents so they were taken seriously. And my accent was thick! Her theory was that there is the perception that being Southern and being a woman equals to most people that you are not capable or smart. Well, Claudia Roe, my character gets to be smart and capable in a male-dominated world. And she uses every asset she has...charm, brains and body. Enron is a man's world. And it is exhausting [and a] rush to play a woman who successfully navigates that world and in 5 inch heels!

OT Was working in radio always a dream?
AM Not at all. I fell into it. I was doing some voiceover work and became the What's Happening? segment girl on LesBiGay Radio (the nation's first daily gay radio show). Normally I pre-recorded my segment [but] one day I went live on the air and talked with the host the whole two hours. Afterwards he said, “you are natural. I want you to do this with me.” That was 1998 and I have been talking on the radio--now podcasting-- ever since.

OT You’ve had the opportunity to interview everyone from Margaret Cho to Patti LaBelle. Any standouts?
AM Sandra Bernhard. We've talked many times over the years. She is fresh, smart and outrageous. Also Lynda Carter. I was a Wonder Woman fan as a child, so that was a thrill. Though mostly I love talking to parents of gay and lesbians. They always move me. There is nothing more beautiful than those stories, those journeys.

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Photo by John Reilly

I first encountered Carol Anshaw’s work at a Milwaukee library. Just out of college I’d moved to Wisconsin for a relationship, was peripherally trying to initiate an acting career, maybe for an audience of dairy cows. I’m forever moving to the wrong place for the wrong reason, case in point, a few years later I would relocate to LA for another relationship and fall into a job as a sales consultant. Next thing I’ll head to Sweden in January to beat depression. At loose ends in Milwaukee, I was compelled by Anshaw’s deftly crafted characters, drawn into their imperfect world. What truly enthralled me though, was Anshaw’s voice, this amalgamation of finger-on-the-pulse authority and hot chocolate hominess. I felt certain I knew exactly what Anshaw’s life would look like, her relationships, her home.

In 2006 I prepared to move cross-country to pursue an MFA rather than a girl. A few months before the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s semester began, I spoke to a counselor. Had I chosen an advisor? he wanted to know. Thirty floors above downtown Los Angeles, I swiveled in my office chair.

“Who are my options,” I asked.
“Well, we have Carol Anshaw.”
“Wait, I’m sorry who?” Though my heart accelerated, I couldn’t initially place the name. “She’s written, oh let’s see, Lucky in the Corner, Seven Moves, Aquamarine.”

“You’re scaring the clients,” my boss tapped me on the shoulder. “Stop shrieking, did someone die?”
“I’m sorry,” I mouthed. Then into the phone, “I’ll take her,” as if Carol was a purebred dog or a shiny Corvette.

Six years later, Carol and I live within walking distance, a coincidence, I swear. We go to yoga together (She’s the type who cracks jokes during class.) and she and her partner spoil my dog with steak dinners.

I probably shouldn’t say this, because authors get huffy when readers claim to know them based only on their work (as if what one writes is somehow separate from one’s truest self), but turn a couple dials a few notches and Carol’s what I imagined, more caustic, more generous but otherwise the same.

Her much lauded new book Carry the One comes out March 6th and it was my absolute pleasure to sit at her kitchen table and discuss it while she made fun of my tape recorder and a storm whipped up outside.

Carol Anshaw That thing looks forty years old.
Our Town I think it is.
CA Does it take a cassette? I just got rid of some old ones; I wish I’d known.
OT It’s okay. Walgreen’s should be getting a new shipment from 1982 any day now. So, writing was a lifelong ambition for you-
CA As soon as I could read I wanted to write books. Where did that come from? My parents were not educated people. They could take me to the library but they couldn’t point me in the right direction, so it was just innate.

OT When did writing begin to seem achievable?
CA I was blessed with my ignorance. I wasn’t like you; I didn’t have all this information going in. I was kind of groping around in a cave. It was a whole different process.

OT Your early work-
CA First I wrote a novel that never saw the light of day, but it taught me about scene structure and all that. Then I had a novel published in seventy-eight and I thought, well, I’m on my way! But I didn’t have anything published till Aquamarine fourteen years later.That’s why I tell students until you’ve been crawling through a tunnel over broken glass for fourteen years don’t come bitching to me. During that time I wrote a lot more, I wrote a second book that went right into a drawer. Then I wrote something under a pseudonym, but it was a long tunnel.

OT Whenever I interview a writer I ask about their writing process-
CA What writing process?

OT Do you have one? Do you sit down at 2:01 p.m. exactly with your cup of earl grey just to the left of your parchment and-
CA No! I think people think that. I was reading an interview with Alice Munro and she writes from nine to one every day and I thought wow, that must be so great. I just write when I can.

OT When Aquamarine was published I assume having a lesbian main character was still a potential stumbling block. Have things changed?
CA I think so. Nobody blinked at my new book. But also in ninety-two it was a good kind of exotic, a sort of curiosity. Maybe I got in through that gate.

OT In feminism and gay rights we always talk about benefiting from the work of those who came before, but with a long career like yours, is there a way in which the work your earlier books did pushing the envelope in terms of gay acceptance or at least a queer presence in literature is something you yourself have come to benefit from?
CA Maybe. I don’t know if my books had enough reach to influence anybody about anything.

OT Take credit.
CA When I started, there was more of a cultural assumption that many readers would find gay characters irrelevant or repugnant. I was only one of many queer writers out there trying to cut through all that antagonism. For whatever reason, I don’t think it’s that big a deal now. In the beginning you just had lesbian novels about women being lesbians—that was all they did. But now you have people who are queer, but living lives that are about a million other things.

OT Speaking of change, the literary world itself has changed significantly during your career. Are the changes positive?
CA There used to be only three routes: mainstream publishers, university/small presses and self-publishing. But self-publishing was on a really low rung. Now not so much, now you can instantly publish your book, you can get an ISBN number and be on Amazon and eventually get a publisher and wider distribution. I think publishing is going to be split into more little pieces. But this fragmenting of the market has really been helpful. More different kind of books are being published. I don’t know where everything is going but I’m pretty confident that people like books—the objects. So I’m going to go on that—they’re not going to disappear. For instance, we’re talking about your really tragic cassette player, the tape you’re making here, you can’t play on any other item in your house, probably. You can have all these old LPs but you might not have a player. But my books are right over there on the shelf; I can pull them down any time I want.

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