WBEZ | Writers http://www.wbez.org/tags/writers Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago to house American Writers Museum http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-house-american-writers-museum-113526 <p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Writers%20Museum.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 620px;" title="The museum will include interactive displays and constantly changing exhibits, including an exhibit celebrating Chicago’s rich literary heritage. (Courtesy of the American Writers Museum)" /></div></div><div>At first glance, the authors Dr. Seuss and Kurt Vonnegut don&rsquo;t seem to have much in common.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But soon, these two American writers and others like them will be on display at the American Writers Museum, the city&rsquo;s newest cultural institution on the Magnificent Mile.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;People are fascinated by writers,&rdquo; museum founder Malcolm O&rsquo;Hagan said. &ldquo;They want to see the people, they want to meet them, they want to understand how they do what they do.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The interactive museum, which has been in the works for a few years, is expected to open its doors at 180 North Michigan Avenue in March of 2017.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s especially significant that this institution is located in Chicago &mdash; home over the decades for so many great writers,&rdquo; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Several famous authors like Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg and Ernest Hemingway, have connections to the city. In addition to Hemingway&rsquo;s house located in Oak Park, the museum says it&rsquo;s collaborating with 50 authors&rsquo; homes and museums around the U.S.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Alderman Ed Burke, an author himself, who has supported the effort for the last five years, estimates the museum will draw 120,000 visitors a year &mdash; a number O&rsquo;Hagan says is a &ldquo;conservative&rdquo; estimate.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So, where did the idea come from?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Well I&rsquo;m Irish,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Hagan said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a great writers museum in Dublin. One time when I came back and I wondered where the American counterpart is, and I was astounded to find out it didn&rsquo;t exist. So then I started thinking, well, maybe it should.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>O&rsquo;Hagan said he hopes the museum will appeal not only to bookworms, but all readers.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We have to be careful not to appeal just to the academics,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Hagan said, &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t want to be too high-brow or too low-brow because we want this to have broad appeal.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He added because there&rsquo;s such a long list of American writers and a limited amount of space, the museum will be constantly changing exhibits.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;One of the challenges and one of the exciting things we have to deal with is the fact that we have such a richness in terms of the number of writers we could profile and present,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Hagan said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Andy Anway with Amaze Design is creating the museum exhibits. He says the designers have to figure out how to make a writing museum relevant in a digital world.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Most people think immediately of a library setting or something that&rsquo;s much more cerebral than you think of typically with a museum exhibition,&rdquo; Anway said. &ldquo;So one of the things we&rsquo;ve been really working on is trying to figure out a way to both present writing in a way that gets at the intimacy &hellip; which very much relates to your personal experience and reading, and also expresses the larger story about both individual authors and the context of writing.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>For example, one of the interactive exhibits will be called, &ldquo;Are you a Bukowski or Vonnegut?&rdquo; in which visitors take a quiz to learn what writers they align with.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Visitors will also be able to create their own stories after learning the writing techniques that make a &ldquo;master work.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The museum will include new media, newly emerging authors, author readings and educational programs.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The museum will be privately funded by donors. It also received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Chicago Community Trust. Museum officials say there&rsquo;s still about $5 million left to raise to reach their goal.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Meredith Francis is a WBEZ news intern. Follower her @MMLFrancis</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 27 Oct 2015 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-house-american-writers-museum-113526 Henry Dumas wrote about black people killed by cops. Then he was killed by a cop. http://www.wbez.org/news/henry-dumas-wrote-about-black-people-killed-cops-then-he-was-killed-cop-113143 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/HenryDumas.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&quot;A young black man, Henry Dumas, went through a turnstile at a New York City subway station,&quot; reads an invitation by Toni Morrison for a posthumous book-launch party she threw for Dumas in 1974, six years after he died. &quot;A transit cop&quot; &mdash; who was white &mdash; &quot;shot him in the chest and killed him. Circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear. Before that happened, however, he had written some of the most beautiful, moving and profound poetry and fiction that I have ever in my life read.&quot;</p><p>In the nearly 50 years since Henry Dumas was killed, not much more has come to light about what happened on the night of his death. No witnesses came forward to testify. Police records were lost in a bureaucratic shuffle. Harlem, where Dumas moved as a young man after growing up in rural Arkansas, had&nbsp;<a href="https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/nycdata/disasters/riots-harlem_1964.html">erupted</a>&nbsp;in large-scale protests over the police killings of black and brown men several times before the writer was killed. But Dumas&#39; death hardly made the news. With so little information to draw from, it&#39;s as if the last pages of his life were torn out.</p><p>Dumas&#39; final scene echoed a theme he turned to again and again in his writing: violent confrontations between white men and black men. The work he left behind &mdash; short stories that range from hard realism to science fiction, an almost finished novel, volumes of poetry, and even a few accompaniments to the work of the mystical jazz legend Sun Ra &mdash; contains bitingly sharp depictions of racial tension in America that, in an almost unbelievably eerie way, speak to his own fate.</p><p>It is, of course, a fate that many black men and women had and would suffer under dubious circumstances &mdash; from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/harlem-riots-1943-echo-today-article-1.2216788">Robert Bandy</a>&nbsp;in 1935,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vice.com/read/race-riots-then-and-now-501">James Powell</a>&nbsp;in 1964, 10-year-old&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/nyregion/fired-at-queens-boy-fatal-1973-police-shot-still-reverberates.html">Clifford Glover</a>&nbsp;in 1973, and&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-09-12/news/9909120226_1_officers-lawyer-chicago-police-supt-joseph-roddy">LaTanya Haggerty</a>&nbsp;in 1999 to the more recent deaths of Michael Brown,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/crime/article15728675.html">Janisha Fonville</a>, Eric Garner,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/01/tanisha_anderson_was_restraine.html">Tanisha Anderson</a>&nbsp;and Freddie Gray, to name only a few.</p><p>&quot;His work and, in fact, his death, investigated and illustrated the ways in which black lives were at best peripheral to most white people &mdash; especially those running and policing the country,&quot; says James Smethurst, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst professor who has written extensively about 1960s and &#39;70s black writers.</p><p>Much of Dumas&#39; writing is considered to be a part of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/blackarts/historical.htm">Black Arts Movement</a>&nbsp;&mdash; the artistic manifestation of the Black Power struggle of the 1960s &mdash; an effort that Smethurst believes has a lot of resonance with the Black Lives Matter movement. While interest in Dumas has increased somewhat in recent years, he says, &quot;We still have a long way to go before he gets the sort of attention he deserves.&quot;</p><p><strong>&#39;The People Get Tired Of Dying&#39;</strong></p><p>One of the only known accounts of the night Dumas was killed comes from an obituary in&nbsp;<em>The Amsterdam News</em>,&nbsp;a black-owned newspaper in New York City that was founded in 1909. &quot;Police said Dumas and an unidentified man were scuffling in the subway when the officer walked up to them and attempted to stop the fracas,&quot; the obit reads. &quot;Police said Dumas, resentful at the interference, slashed the officer who shot and killed him.&quot;</p><p>Without the benefit of photographic evidence or firsthand witnesses to accompany the official police report, it is impossible to know the full story of what happened that night. It&#39;s also impossible to take in Dumas&#39; story without acknowledging that the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/samuel-dubose-cops-corroberating-unarmed-black-death">track record of believability</a>, when it comes to official accounts of black deaths at the hands of law enforcement,&nbsp;<a href="http://kxan.com/2014/08/22/family-of-woman-shot-killed-by-bastrop-county-sheriffs-deputy-seeks-damages/">isn&#39;t a clean one</a>.</p><p>Dumas wrote stories that echo cases like that of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland who was killed&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-30220700">seconds after</a>&nbsp;a police vehicle pulled up to where he was playing. &quot;When a Negro boy is shot and killed by policemen who do not check the situation before pulling their guns, the people get angry. It is a simple law of nature. ... The people get tired of dying,&quot; says one of Dumas&#39; characters in a short story called &quot;Riot or Revolt.&quot;</p><p>Published most recently in a 2003 collection of Dumas&#39; work called&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Echo-Tree-Collected-Fiction-Movement/dp/1566891493">Echo Tree</a>, that story follows a young black man named Harold through the aftermath of violent public protest across Harlem:</p><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;The police barricades squatted on the sidewalk surrounding each place where mobs had struck.</em></p><p><em>&quot;Harold stood on the ramp in the middle of Seventh Avenue and 125th Street and surveyed the area which the night before had swarmed with police and angry Harlemites. A youth had been slain by the police in Brooklyn.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><div id="res437321514"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="A view of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem circa 1970." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/03/national-bookstore-getty_custom-263741acaf9cdad5decfc88cff572694dce03c46-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 397px; width: 600px;" title="A view of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem circa 1970. (Jack Garofalo/Paris Match via Getty Images)" /></div></div><p>Those who have studied Dumas&#39; life and work believe the fictional LeMoor Brothers&#39; Bookstore in that story was modeled on the real National Memorial African Bookstore, which stood a short walk from the 135th Street subway station where Dumas was killed. Owned by Lewis Michaux, a bookseller and black civil rights leader who encouraged his neighbors to read the books he stocked on African history, culture and philosophy even if they couldn&#39;t afford to buy them, the store&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/vaunda-micheaux-nelson/no-crystal-stair/">attracted</a>&nbsp;figures like Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Muhammad Ali.</p><p>Not unlike Dumas&#39; LeMoor, Michaux had a lot to say about black Americans&#39; struggle for power. &quot;We&#39;ve been neglected for three hundred years,&quot; <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1966/09/03/the-professor-4">he</a><a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1966/09/03/the-professor-4">&nbsp;told</a><a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1966/09/03/the-professor-4">&nbsp;a<em> New Yorker</em>&nbsp;reporter in 1966</a>. &quot;As much as I hate to see what&#39;s going to happen, I believe that when the Negro knocks this time and nobody open the door, he&#39;s just going to knock it right down.&quot;</p><p>In &quot;Riot or Revolt,&quot; city officials stop in to speak to the owners of LeMoor Brothers&#39; Bookstore, which had been left untouched by the looters who ravaged nearly every other store on the street. The officers want to know what made his shop so exceptional, but its owner, Micheval LeMoor, takes issue with the fact that city officials seemed to visit Harlem only when its frustrated residents reached a breaking point:</p><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;You want to come visit here and get the notions about things being better, while right now some disrespectful guardian of the citizens beats a black man&#39;s head in. It doesn&#39;t matter if he&#39;s guilty or not anymore. Your honor, what you are facing is the full anger of a man who has been under attack for years. Unless you call off the attackers, be they merchants, disrespectful policemen, or the American majority, then the black minority is going to tear your house down.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><p>While &quot;Riot or Revolt&quot; may have been closely inspired by actual people if not actual events, other Dumas stories are imaginative forays into allegorical fables and otherworldly realms. Dumas&#39; vast range captivated many of his fellow writers, before and after his death. The poet and civil rights activist&nbsp;<a href="http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/haki-madhubuti">Haki R. Madhubati</a>&nbsp;called him &quot;a poet of complex melodies,&quot; and Amiri Baraka called him an &quot;Afro-surreal expressionist&quot; who delivered &quot;a new blackness.&quot;</p><div id="res444198122"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Three of the published works of Dumas." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/28/dumas-books_custom-a24dcbd804e2efd2e6d60adc2472052f719f56b9-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 289px; width: 600px;" title="Three of the published works of Dumas. (Courtesy of Eugene B. Redmond)" /></div><div><div><p>&quot;I was impressed with his boldness of language and his boldness of breadth,&quot; Maya Angelou said in a 1988 interview published in an issue of the&nbsp;<em>Black American Literature Forum</em>&nbsp;dedicated entirely to Dumas&#39; work. &quot;Dumas continued to set us up for the loneliness, aloneness, and desperation, sometimes even desolation. But he never leaves us there. With him as our guide, we&#39;re always brought through to a better place.&quot;</p></div></div></div><p><strong>&#39;Part Invitation, Part Consolation&#39;</strong></p><p>By the time Dumas died, just a few of his poems and short stories had been published in small literary journals, geared toward a black audience. Writers and critics who knew him say he would have followed the uphill trajectory of his friends &mdash; including Robert Pinsky and Baraka &mdash; had he lived.</p><p>&quot;I think he would&#39;ve been a lot more famous in some respects if he had been able to live and write for 50 more years,&quot; says Smethurst, the University of Massachusetts professor. &quot;What if Toni Morrison had died after she wrote&nbsp;<em>The Bluest Eye&nbsp;</em>and only had a few stories?&quot;</p><p>In fact, Morrison played a role in inspiring what Smethurst calls the &quot;cult&quot; of Dumas. She first encountered Dumas in the form of a slim collection published posthumously by Southern Illinois University, where he taught an experimental program during the last year of his life. Then an editor at Random House and the author of&nbsp;<em>The Bluest Eye</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Sula</em>,&nbsp;Morrison was struck by the circumstances of Dumas&#39; death and wanted to publish more of his writing.</p><p><img alt="Dumas, when he was a high school student in New York." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/03/dumas-teen_custom-90683d6bd20dbed852889b91760df7de33f10263-s200-c85.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; height: 374px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Dumas, when he was a high school student in New York. (Courtesy of Eugene B. Redmond)" /></p><p>Random House had recently committed itself to publishing more minority writers. Through her position there, Morrison would shepherd through the work of several of the era&#39;s most notable black writers and activists, from Toni Cade Bambara and Gayle Jones to Angela Davis and Huey P. Newton.</p><div id="res437323230"><div><div><p>But she knew that generating attention for Dumas, a writer who was not only practically unknown but also deceased, would not be easy. To create hype for the collections she wanted to release &mdash; a book of poetry titled&nbsp;<em>Play Ebony Play Ivory</em>&nbsp;and a short story collection called&nbsp;Ark of Bones&nbsp;&mdash; Morrison organized a release event with a glamorous guest list comprising the most renowned black writers of the time.</p></div></div></div><p>&quot;He was thirty-three years old when he was killed,&quot; Morrison wrote in the announcement for the party, a note that was&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/magazine/the-radical-vision-of-toni-morrison.html&amp;assetType=nyt_now?&amp;assetType=nyt_now">described</a>&nbsp;as &quot;part invitation, part consolation&quot; in a recent&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;profile of Morrison. &quot;But in those thirty-three years he had completed work the quality and quantity of which are almost never achieved in several lifetimes.&quot;</p><p><strong>&#39;Creative Writing Slave&#39;</strong></p><p>In 1934, Dumas was born to Appliance Porter, a 19-year-old housekeeper in Sweet Home, Ark., a small town just outside Little Rock. His father, Henry Dumas Sr., or &quot;Big Henry&quot; as he was called, was largely absent from the life of his son, and his mother worked long hours. With his parents often away, Dumas spent much of his time in the fields where his aunts and uncles picked cotton, milked cows and shared stories.</p><p>While his cousins were busy playing sports, Dumas&#39; family recalled to Dumas biographer Jeffrey B. Leak, he preferred to spend his time examining insects or developing skits in which he played all the roles. When Dumas was 10, he and his family followed the course taken by thousands of other black families during the first part of the 20th century by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/books/review/Oshinsky-t.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">moving north</a>. Dumas brought with him to Harlem an intellectual curiosity that impressed his teachers at his integrated Manhattan high school.</p><div id="res437333283"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Dumas and his wife, Loretta Dumas (Ponton), on their wedding day." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/03/dumas-wedding_custom-4f5433a2c1f2996ce38b97100e8f654f52d11178-s200-c85.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left; height: 366px; width: 300px;" title="Dumas and his wife, Loretta Dumas Ponton, on their wedding day. (Courtesy of Eugene B. Redmond)" /></div><div><div><p>It may have been there that Dumas&#39; individual struggles became part of a more complex struggle: one in which black people searched for belonging in spaces where they were neither warmly welcomed nor explicitly barred. It&#39;s unclear when he began to take up writing seriously, but his move to a more racially diverse environment may have had something to do with it. Beneath his senior photo in the 1953 High School of Commerce yearbook someone &mdash; perhaps even Dumas himself &mdash; chose to inscribe this description of him: &quot;Creative writing slave.&quot;</p></div></div></div><p>After a brief stint at the City University of New York that ended with what Leak notes might have been &quot;a crisis of confidence,&quot; Dumas joined the U.S. Air Force within a year of his high school graduation. Tours of Saudi Arabia and Mexico deepened his interest in sketching worlds that blurred black-and-white interpretations of race.</p><p>At the age of 21, Dumas returned to the U.S., in 1955, and married Loretta Ponton, a beautiful young secretary he had met by chance on a snowy evening on the street in New York just before enlisting. The daughter of a Baptist deacon, Loretta held strong Christian values and a traditional sense of familial responsibility. While Dumas shared her beliefs during the early years of their marriage, he would veer from them in coming years.</p><p>One of just a few black students at Rutgers University, where Dumas studied from 1958 to 1965 and where the couple&#39;s two sons were born, Dumas&#39; commitment to his writing, curiosities about the Nation of Islam, engagement with the civil rights movement, plus alcohol and drug use began to drive a wedge between him and Loretta.</p><p>He also had several affairs with white women. Lois Wright (nee Silber), with whom he had an affair that lasted three years, recalled in a letter to Dumas&#39; friend and fellow poet Jay Wright (whom she would later marry) that the two could only venture out to select spots in New York; the jazz clubs Dumas frequented weren&#39;t welcoming to Wright, and she resented Dumas&#39; friends for referring to her as &quot;the white chick.&quot;</p><p>&quot;For Dumas, crossing racial divides represented possibility and opportunity for both himself as a black man, but also from an imaginative standpoint,&quot; Leak, whose biography of Dumas,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Visible-Man-Life-Henry-Dumas/dp/0820328707">Visible Man</a>, came out last year, said in an interview. &quot;I think he thought that if you can cross boundaries in the social realm, then you can cross other boundaries in the literary realm. In both spaces, he found it to be even more complicated than he had anticipated.&quot;</p><p>Dumas explores those complexities in &quot;Will The Circle Be Unbroken?,&quot; a short story in which three white musicians and critics want to enter a black jazz club, arguing they should be let in because they know a lot about the genre. The black patrons finally agree to let them in, but warn that use of an ancient, rare horn may be too intense for their &quot;uninitiated&quot; ears. The music &quot;vibrated the freedom of freedom&quot; for its black listeners, but when the set ends, consternation rises when the three white people are found dead. They had been slain by music that wasn&#39;t meant for them.</p><div id="res443129714"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="From left: Henry Dumas, William G. Davis and Eugene B. Redmond in 1967, during their tenure as teacher-counselors at the Experiment in Higher Education at Southern Illinois University. (Courtesy of Eugene B. Redmond)" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/24/dumas-orange_custom-0e395d04cd38d945d99b93cdc8a25b20aeaee5b9-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 448px; width: 600px;" title="From left: Henry Dumas, William G. Davis and Eugene B. Redmond in 1967, during their tenure as teacher-counselors at the Experiment in Higher Education at Southern Illinois University. (Courtesy of Eugene B. Redmond)" /></div><div><p>For many, the story offers a look at some of the central questions of the civil rights movement: What did it mean to be black? How could black identity adapt to an integrated world? What racial boundaries should remain unbroken?</p></div></div><p>In an essay on the story for a 1988 issue of the&nbsp;<em>Black American Literary Forum</em>&nbsp;dedicated to Dumas&#39; work, an acquaintance of Dumas&#39; put it this way: &quot;Black people had a feeling of always being on stage for white folks.&quot; Dumas&#39; story on the jazz club held that the work of black artists should be guarded and protected, a notion that still resonates in a world where it&#39;s been said many times that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/emaoconnor/rue-just-perfectly-defined-cultural-appropriation">black cultural products are valued while black lives are not</a>.</p><p>www.newyorker.com/magazine/1966/09/03/the-professor-4On no one, perhaps, has Dumas made a greater impression than Eugene Redmond. An&nbsp;<a href="http://eugenebredmond.com/home/">accomplished poet</a>&nbsp;in his own right, Redmond has spent the past four decades editing and promoting the work of Dumas, even though the two men knew one another for only just under a year. Redmond met Dumas when the older writer came to teach English at an experimental college at the University of Southern Illinois in Redmond&#39;s hometown of East St. Louis in 1967. &quot;We bonded quickly,&quot; Redmond told me in a phone interview from the house of Loretta, Dumas&#39; widow.</p><p>The 77-year-old has served for decades as the literary executor of Dumas&#39; estate and was staying with Loretta for an annual commemoration of Dumas&#39; life and work that he helps organize every year on the anniversary of the shooting. Bringing together Dumas&#39; friends and family over poetry readings and jazz performances, Redmond, a Pushcart Prize recipient and the author of 25 books of poetry, has carried the torch for Dumas alongside his own teaching and writing career.</p><p>&quot;Every time I stepped into a classroom after I met him, I had a turntable,&quot; said Redmond, who said he picked up on Dumas&#39; tradition of playing music 15 minutes before each of his classes began. &quot;Every class that I taught, I published the students in a spiral-bound or saddle-stitched booklet. I got that from him.&quot; Redmond fondly recalls eating raw honey and listening to jazz with Dumas, to whom he attributes his love of some of the era&#39;s greatest musicians, from Miles Davis to John Coltrane. &quot;At the time,&quot; Redmond said, &quot;he seemed to be at the farthest most forward point of what black expression, black culture, and black people were all about.&quot;</p><p>In his day-to-day life, Dumas insisted on making space for himself &mdash; and forcing others to acknowledge his right to exist. &quot;He would even walk around East St. Louis and other places, and ask, &#39;Do you see me? Feel my arm. I&#39;m here, ain&#39;t I?&#39;&quot; said Leak, who conducted many interviews with those close to Dumas for his book. &quot;His point was: We&#39;re not invisible. The idea is a direct corollary to Black Lives Matter, the idea that flesh and blood do matter, and we&#39;re going to insist on being seen and being heard.&quot;</p><p>Redmond hopes the Black Lives Matter movement will help introduce Dumas to a whole new audience and help bolster the foundation that the movement rests upon. &quot;You gotta have someplace to come from before you know where you&#39;re going,&quot; he says.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/10/01/433229181/henry-dumas-wrote-about-black-people-killed-by-cops-then-he-was-killed-by-a-cop"><em>via NPR&#39;s Code Switch</em></a></p></p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 13:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/henry-dumas-wrote-about-black-people-killed-cops-then-he-was-killed-cop-113143 15 female TV writers you should know http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-11/15-female-tv-writers-you-should-know-109073 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" jordin="" of="" showtime="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jordin%20Althaus%3AShowtime.jpg" states="" the="" title="Diablo Cody on the set of her Showtime series &quot;The United States of Tara.&quot; (Jordin Althaus/Showtime)" united="" /></div><p>Headlines about women in television can be confusing and contradictory. Some say progress for female TV writers is moving at <a href="http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/wga-releases-annual-writing-report-and-women-make-small-progress" target="_blank">a snail&#39;s pace</a>, while others&nbsp;say 2013 is a great year to be a woman breaking into Hollywood&#39;s &quot;cigar-chomping&quot; <a href="http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/2013/08/meet-the-women-who-run-your-favorite-movies-and-tv-shows#slide=1" target="_blank">boy&#39;s club</a>.</p><p>My take? We&#39;ve come a long way since Irma Kalish of &quot;All in the Family&quot; and Susan Harris of &quot;The Golden Girls&quot; first paved the road for women to be taken seriously as TV writers and showrunners, but we still have a long way to go.</p><p>The Hollywood Reporter&nbsp;just announced their&nbsp;annual list of Top 50 Showrunners, and only <a href="http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/the-hollywood-reporter-announced-the-top-50-showrunners" target="_blank">10 women</a> (many of them working in teams with men) made the cut.</p><p>Still, just a brief glance at the progress that&#39;s been made &ndash; from Chicago native Agnes Nixon creating the TV <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Nixon" target="_blank">soap opera</a>&nbsp;in 1968, to Tina Fey becoming the first female head writer at &quot;Saturday Night Live&quot; in 1999, to Lena Dunham inspiring a million <a href="http://splitsider.com/2012/04/24-thinkpieces-about-girls/" target="_blank">Internet think pieces</a> with each zeitgeist-y episode of &quot;Girls&quot; &ndash; is enough to see that times are slowly but surely changing for the better.</p><p>And despite numerous sexist roadblocks that still need to be torn down (shows like &quot;Californication,&quot; and &quot;Veep&quot; <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/03/28/1787671/from-californication-to-veep-the-tv-shows-that-hired-no-women-or-writers-of-color-in-2011-2012/" target="_blank">did not employ a single female writer </a>during their 2011-2012 seasons), plenty of women in television are making waves by taking charge.&nbsp;</p><p>In no particular order, here are 15 groundbreaking female TV writers you should know:&nbsp;</p><p><strong>1. Jenji Kohan</strong></p><p>Kohan started out writing for shows like &quot;Will and Grace,&quot; &quot;Gilmore Girls,&quot; and &quot;Sex and the City;&quot; and in 1997, won an Emmy Award as supervising producer of the HBO sketch comedy series &quot;Tracey Takes On...&quot; In 2005, Kohan become the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of the dark comedy &quot;Weeds,&quot; starring Mary Louise Parker, which ran for eight seasons on Showtime. Today, Kohan is the co-creator and executive producer of the Netflix prison dramedy &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenji_Kohan" target="_blank">Orange is the New Black</a>,&quot; which is gearing up for a highly-anticipated Season 2.</p><p><strong>2. Elizabeth Meriwether</strong></p><p>Meriwether is a Yale University graduate who got her start as a playwright before transitioning to film and TV. She got her big break writing the screenplay for the 2011 film &quot;No Strings Attached,&quot;landing her a spot in &quot;<a href="http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/liz-meriwether" target="_blank">The Fempire</a>&quot;&nbsp;next to fellow female screenwriters Dana Fox and Lorene Scafaria. Meriwether went on to write for the Adult Swim series &quot;Children&#39;s Hospital&quot; and is now the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of &quot;New Girl&quot; on Fox.</p><p><strong>3. Michelle Ashford</strong></p><p>Ashford has a long list of writing credits to her name, including two Emmy-winning television miniseries: 2008&#39;s &quot;John Adams&quot; and 2010&#39;s &quot;The Pacific.&quot; However, Ashford&#39;s most prominent role to date is as creator and showrunner of the new Showtime drama &quot;Masters of Sex,&quot; which premiered in September to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Sex" target="_blank">widespread critical acclaim</a> and has already been renewed for a second season in 2014.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>4. Amy Sherman-Palladino</strong></p><p>Sherman-Palladino is best known for creating the whip-smart and heartwarming series &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilmore_Girls" target="_blank">Gilmore Girls</a>,&quot; which debuted on The WB in 2000 and became a tentpole for the network. The show that would make huge stars of Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham, and Melissa McCarthy later moved to WB&#39;s successor network The CW, where it ended after seven seasons in 2007. Sherman-Palladino went on to create the ballet dramedy &quot;Bunheads&quot; for ABC Family in 2012; but much to fans&#39; disappointment, the series was not renewed for a second season.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5. Nahnatcha Khan</strong></p><p>Khan has written and produced a slew of creative shows, from the Saturday morning cartoon series &quot;Pepper Ann&quot; to the Seth MacFarlane vehicle &quot;American Dad!&quot; In 2012, Khan created her own ABC sitcom called &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Trust_the_B----_in_Apartment_23" target="_blank">Don&#39;t Trust the B---- in Apartment 3</a>,&quot; which, despite its questionable title, turned out to be a shining example of truly great yet underrated comedic television. Unfortunately, not enough viewers tuned in to watch James Van Der Beek play a hilarious washed-up version of himsef, and the show was cancelled after two seasons in January.</p><p><strong>6. Shonda Rhimes</strong></p><p>Rhimes is a Chicago native and graduate of Dartmouth College. She also is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of the long-running ABC medical drama &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy&quot; and its shorter-lived spinoff &quot;Private Practice,&quot; as well as creator and showrunner of the current ABC smash hit &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandal_(TV_series)" target="_blank">Scandal</a>.&quot; To date, Rhimes is the first African-American &ndash; man or woman &ndash; to create and produce a top-rated, one-hour series that has run for more than one season. &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy&quot; is now in Season 10.</p><p><strong>7. Julie Plec</strong></p><p>Plec graduated from Northwestern University in 1994, and went on to write scripts for Wes Craven&#39;s (&quot;Scream&quot; and &quot;Cursed&quot;) and the ABC Family sci-fi series &quot;Kyle XY.&quot; Plec hit the television big leagues in 2009, when she co-created <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vampire_Diaries" target="_blank">&quot;The Vampire Diaries&quot;</a> with Kevin Williamson for The CW. The supernatural teen drama has become a domestic and international juggernaut, prompting Plec to create a spinoff called &quot;The Originals&quot; in 2013. Plec also co-created a third series for the CW this year: &quot;The Tomorrow People,&quot;&nbsp;based on the popular British science fiction TV series of the same name.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>8. Liz Sarnoff</strong></p><p>Sarnoff got her start writing episodes of &quot;NYPD Blue&quot; and &quot;Crossing Jordan&quot; before joining the crew of &quot;Deadwood&quot; in 2004 as an executive story editor and writer for Season 1. The following year, Sarnoff joined the writing team of &quot;Lost&quot; in the series&#39; second season, and won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic Series for her work. She was promoted to co-executive producer of &quot;Lost&quot; for Season 5, and executive producer in the show&#39;s sixth and final season. In 2011, Sarnoff co-created the Fox series &quot;Alcatraz,&quot; an ambitious <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcatraz_(TV_series)" target="_blank">J.J. Abrams-produced prison series</a> that lasted 13 episodes.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>9. Jane Espenson</strong></p><p>Espenson had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on &quot;Buffy the Vampire Slayer,&quot; followed by work on the sci-fi cult classic &quot;Battlestar Galactica&quot; and its prequel spinoff &quot;Caprica.&quot; In 2010, she wrote an episode of HBO&#39;s &quot;Game of Thrones&quot; and joined the writing staff for Season 4 of the British television program &quot;Torchwood.&quot; Espenson also has written episodes for Joss Whedon&#39;s &quot;Firefly,&quot; &quot;Angel,&quot; &quot;Tru Calling,&quot; and the ABC fairy tale series &quot;Once Upon a Time.&quot; Currently, Espenson is the co-creator, writer, and producer of a sitcom web series called &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husbands_(sitcom)" target="_blank">Husbands</a>,&quot; now in Season 3 on The CW Seed.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>10. Mindy Kaling</strong></p><p>Kaling first joined NBC&#39;s &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Office_(U.S._TV_series)" target="_blank">The Office</a>&quot; as a writer at the age of 24, and as the only woman on a team of eight. She later took on the role of Kelly Kapoor, while still writing and directing episodes. In 2010, she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series with Greg Daniels for the episode &quot;Niagara.&quot; After &quot;The Office&quot; came to end earlier this year, Kaling became the first South Asian-American woman to create, write, and star in her own network television show: &quot;The Mindy Project,&quot; now in Season 2. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>11. Ann Biderman</strong></p><p>Biderman won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Drama Series for an episode of the police procedural &quot;NYPD Blue,&quot; and went on to become the creator and executive producer of the &nbsp;NBC/TNT series &quot;Southland.&quot; Now, Biderman is the creator and showrunner of &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Donovan_(TV_series)" target="_blank">Ray Donovan</a>,&quot; a powerful crime drama on Showtime starring Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight. A second season of &quot;Ray Donovan&quot; will air in 2014.</p><p><strong>12. Emily Kapneck</strong></p><p>Kapneck created the popular animated program &quot;As Told by Ginger,&quot; which ran on Nickelodeon from 2000-2009. She also has served as a consulting producer on NBC&#39;s &quot;Parks and Recreation&quot; and is currently the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of the ABC sitcom &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suburgatory" target="_blank">Suburgatory</a>.&quot;</p><p><strong>13. Kay Cannon</strong></p><p>Cannon received her B.A. in Theatre from Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. and trained in improvisation at both The Second City and The I.O. Theater ( formerly ImprovOlympic) in Chicago. She went on to write for the NBC series &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kay_Cannon" target="_blank">30 Rock</a>,&quot; winning three Writer&#39;s Guild of America Awards and later a Peabody Award in 2008 for her work on the show. Cannon also wrote the screenplay for the 2012 sleeper hit film &quot;Pitch Perfect.&quot;</p><p><strong>14. Issa Rae</strong></p><p>Rae is the creator of the YouTube comedy series &quot;<a href="http://www.issarae.com" target="_blank">The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl</a>,&quot; in addition to the vlog series &quot;Ratchetplace Theatre&quot; and a collaboration with Black&amp;Sexy TV called &quot;RoomieLoverFriends.&quot; A new comedy series for HBO, co-written with Larry Wilmore and starring Rae, is currently in development.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>15. Diablo Cody</strong></p><p>Cody may be best known for writing the 2007 indie film &quot;Juno,&quot; but the Chicago native also has found a great deal of success in television. She created &quot;The United States of Tara&quot; in 2009, an Emmy-Award winning drama starring Toni Collette that ran for three seasons on Showtime. Cody also has recently been tapped to create a new &quot;<a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/diablo-cody-and-josh-schwartz-are-developing-a-new,103923/" target="_blank">smart, sassy teen girl drama</a>&quot; for Fox, alongside &quot;The O.C.&quot; producers Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz.</p><p>To end this list: an adorable video of Amy Poehler interviewing her TV idol, pioneering comedy writer Irma Kalish:</p><p style="margin-left:.25in;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5seuoKvXvSc" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-11/15-female-tv-writers-you-should-know-109073 The Jory John and Avery Monsen Interview http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-04/jory-john-and-avery-monsen-interview-98365 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/all%20my%20friends%202_flickr-phil%20king.jpg" style="height: 463px; width: 620px;" title="A page from John and Monsen's 'All My Friends Are Dead.' (Flickr/Phil King)" /></div><p>Avery Monsen is an actor, artist, and writer who lives in New York City. He performs frequently at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. You can follow him on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/averymonsen">@averymonsen</a>. Jory John is a writer, editor, and journalist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You should follow him, too:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/joryjohn">@joryjohn.</a> Together, they co-wrote&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0811874559/ref=cm_sw_su_dp">All My Friends Are Dead</a></em>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/All-Friends-Are-Still-Dead/dp/1452106967/ref=pd_sim_b_4"><em>All My Friends Are Still Dea</em>d</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Feel-Relatively-Neutral-About-York/dp/0811874567/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3"><em>I Feel Relatively Neutral About New Yor</em>k</a>,&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Log-Handbook-Aspiring-Swashbucklers/dp/0811864359/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_5">Pirate&#39;s Log: A Handbook For Aspiring Swashbucklers</a></em>,&nbsp;and the upcoming&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Knifeball-An-Alphabet-Terrible-Advice/dp/1452103313">K is for Knifeball</a></em>.&nbsp;In their spare time, they make t-shirts at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bigstonehead.net/">bigstonehead.net</a>.</p><div><strong>A lot of people seem to think writing for kids is easy. What have you found is the hardest part about writing for a young audience?&nbsp;</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:</strong>&nbsp;We definitely think of ourselves more as humor writers than children&#39;s book authors.&nbsp;When we published <em>All My Friends Are Dead</em>, we knew it was going to look like a&nbsp;children&#39;s&nbsp;book, but not necessarily read like one.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are all kinds of things in there that kids do seem to enjoy. It is illustrated, after all. And we&#39;ve heard from classrooms who have taken our idea and run with it and created their own little storybooks and such. But we&#39;d call most of what we do &quot;children&#39;s&nbsp;book for adults,&quot; whatever that means.&nbsp;Here&#39;s what it means: there&#39;s a little spread in <em>AMFAD</em> where a ventriloquist passionately kisses his dummy ... and you probably wouldn&#39;t see that in a <em>Berenstain Bears</em> book.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Our first Chronicle book, published back in 2008, was called <em>Pirate&#39;s Log: A Handbook For Aspiring Swashbucklers</em>, which is a writing and activity guide, and that was definitely intended as a&nbsp;children&#39;s&nbsp;book. But then we heard from our editor that adults seemed to be gravitating toward it and all the inside jokes that we tried to cram in there and it was kind of hazy who the intended audience was. We were all, &quot;Whoops!&quot;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY:</strong> With all that said, we do have a bunch of ideas for&nbsp;children&#39;s&nbsp;books. For example, we have a new one in the works called, <em>Puppeteer Making Out With His Puppet</em>. It&#39;s gonna get NAAAAASTY. But it still has heart, hopefully.&nbsp;Like, it&#39;s definitely raunchy but, in many ways, still very sweet and tender and strangely erotic. That&#39;s our newest children&#39;s book. Does that answer your question?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>What were your favorite books when you were kids?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>I read tons of stuff by Shel Silverstein, James Thurber and a fantasy writer named Piers Anthony, who had this endless series of books where everybody got a different power. I also had a love for cartoonists and comics collections like <em>Calvin &amp; Hobbes</em> and <em>The Far Side</em> and <em>Peanuts</em>. I&#39;d say that <em>The Prehistory of The Far Side</em> influenced me as a kid more than any book I can remember. I loved having the comics there alongside Gary Larson&#39;s explanations. I should also point out that very little in my reading tastes have changed.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong>I read a lot of Roald Dahl when I was a kid. I especially loved <em>Matilda</em>. That book led to me trying to teach myself telekinesis from age 8 until today. So far: very little success.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>JORY:</strong> That&#39;s the same reason that I love John Travolta&#39;s <em>Phenomenon</em>.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY:</strong> It&#39;s also the same reason I love John Travolta&#39;s <em>Face/Off</em>.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>JORY:</strong>&nbsp;Claire, is this how you were hoping this interview would go?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>You&rsquo;ve thought way outside the box when it comes to publicizing your books. What are some of your favorite publicity moves by other authors?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>I remember hearing about some early Dave Eggers readings where, say, Vince Vaughn would suddenly stand up in the audience and ask a question. I thought that was great. I like when authors hold readings outside of traditional venues, too. McSweeney&#39;s is super creative about their approaches, sometimes involving food or music or just a cross-section of different types of writers and artists at one venue.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>What&rsquo;s your favorite thing online lately, whether it&rsquo;s a gif, article, blog, facebook post?</strong></div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong><a href="http://i.imgur.com/i2wZM.gif">This</a>.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>JORY: </strong><a href="http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/516980/2009.gif"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">This.</span></a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>What did you differently for&nbsp;</strong><em><strong>All My Friends Are Still Dead</strong></em><strong>&nbsp;in terms of writing, illustrating, publicity?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>At first, we were actually going to go in a totally different direction. It was still going to be an illustrated book about death, etc., but not necessarily an <em>All My Friends</em> ... book.</div><div>Then, we reconsidered because we felt that we had plenty of ideas left that we didn&#39;t use in the first book. So there are some of the same characters, but there plenty of new ones, too.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Also, I think we felt like we could go a little bit further with the jokes. What&#39;s the point of doing a sequel if you don&#39;t go further? We were confident that if people liked that first one, they&#39;d want to see how far we could go with this. For example, there&#39;s an angel who pops up in the beginning of the book and admits that, out of boredom, he&#39;s going to go watch some living people showering. Later in the book, we return to him, peering down from a cloud ... just ... watching. Also, SPOILER ALERT: We kill everybody in the end.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY:</strong> We&#39;ll probably regret killing everyone off if Chronicle Books asks us to write a three-quel.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Avery, who are some of your favorite illustrators?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:</strong>&nbsp;I&#39;ll go ahead and answer this one. Avery&#39;s favorite illustrators include both &quot;Painters of Light,&quot; J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Kincade. (Too soon?)&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY:</strong> I&#39;m a big fan of both light and painters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Explain this as if you were talking to my parents: What&rsquo;s Tumblr and how can you be the king of it?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:</strong>&nbsp;Tumblr is like that doily over there and we&#39;re like the tea cup sitting on top of that doily. (We figure your parents are really into teacups and doilies.) So, when somebody wants to get their teacup out to as many sub-doilies as possible, they put that cup on the main-doily that is Tumblr and hope like hell that it gets a bunch of reblogs. Avery?&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong>The important thing to remember is that tea doesn&#39;t taste very good without sugar. Animated GIFs are the sugar of the internet, in the sense that they are delicious but also cause irreversible tooth decay. (We&#39;re so sorry about all this.)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>What are some great book ideas that you haven&rsquo;t pulled off yet?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>We&#39;re interested in creating a book that also serves as a life-companion. Basically, a husband or a wife.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong>So far, the hardest part has been to make the book&#39;s texture mimic the feel of human flesh. Sidebar: Is this the most terrifying thing ever written on <a href="http://zulkey.com/">Zulkey.com</a>?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>I read that&nbsp;</strong><em><strong>All My Friends Are Dead&nbsp;</strong></em><strong>started off as a button: Were there any buttons you made that could conceivably become good books?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:</strong>&nbsp;You&#39;ve done your research, Zulkey! I remember two other button ideas that we created at the same time, neither of which would make a good book. One was a dog asking, &quot;Does anybody have any poo I could roll around in?&quot; The other was a half-apple/half-cat, which we named &quot;Apple-Cat.&quot; Those sold for a dollar, each.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong>Remember, though, that this was back in 2004. In today&#39;s currency, they were probably only worth about &cent;95.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em><strong>What&rsquo;s the last nonelectronic book either of you bought?</strong></em></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>Those are the only types of books I buy!&nbsp;The last one I purchased was an instructional manual called, <em>How to Make Electronic Books</em>. Good one, huh? If you want an honest answer, I bought a book of Hunter Thompson&#39;s letters, recently, which I&#39;m loving.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong>I just bought the <em>Hark! A Vagrant</em> book. Kate Beaton is the very best.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>What&rsquo;s next that we can see from you?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>We have a book coming out this fall called <em>K is for Knifeball: An Alphabet of Terrible Advice</em>. It&#39;s illustrated and written in verse. Avery, you want to give them a stanza?&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY: </strong>C is for cop with a big, shiny gun.</div><div>Sneak up and tickle him! That&#39;ll be fun!</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>How does it feel to be the 310th and 311th people interviewed for&nbsp;<a href="http://zulkey.com/">Zulkey.com</a>/WBEZ?</strong></div><div><strong>JORY:&nbsp;</strong>As the 310th person interviewed, I&#39;m just glad I got in here before Avery.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>AVERY:</strong> I get the final word, though. And that last word is: doilies. (I should have chosen that last word more carefully.) And now the last word is: carefully.</div></p> Thu, 19 Apr 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-04/jory-john-and-avery-monsen-interview-98365 When (dead) writers Tweet: The art of concise imitation http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-30/when-dead-writers-tweet-art-concise-imitation-91315 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-31/Little House_Flickr_Susy Morris.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Twitter may seem like an annoying, hyperactive, self-important and cursory way to communicate, but you have to admit, it's addictive. And lately, it has become far more than a way to share your favorite VMA performance with 500 people at once (for the record: Beyonce baby bump!). Through Twitter, users have fomented revolutions, rallied around political candidates and broken news. Artists are also using the short format to express themselves: comedians use it as a wit stream, poets experiment with short verse and so on. But perhaps the most compelling use of Twitter comes from the performance artists — those users who take on new identities under the guise of an @ handle.</p><p>Among the new Twitter performers, the most popular seem to be those who have adopted the identities of famous authors, both living and dead. There is no pretense of reality in these imitations — it is a game, an inside joke — and people are really getting into it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, and who better to flatter via the written word than one's favorite writers? It only makes sense that Twitter, with its text-based delivery formula, would become fertile ground for literary mockingbirds.</p><p>One of the first (and most popular) of the faux-author accounts to pop up, out of the hundreds that exist now, was <a href="twitter.com/halfpintingalls">@halfpintingalls</a>, the "authentic" feed of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The user's bio read, "I was born in 1867 in a log cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin." Her tweets tapped into a deep nostalgia that members of the Twitter generation could easily relate to (many read the <em>Little House </em>books obsessively as children). She tweeted irreverently about prairie life, with updates like, "Curling your bangs with a slate pencil works pretty well. Giving yourself a pedicure with a spinning wheel? Not so much." and "Anyone know how to pry loose a hoopskirt stuck in a privy doorway?! Asking for a friend."</p><p>HalfPintIngalls turned out to be the alter ego of <a href="http://www.facebook.com/TheWilderLife">Wendy McClure</a>, whose book about Wilder, <em>The Wilder Life</em>, came out in April of this year. For McClure, playing Wilder was both book research and marketing scheme.</p><p>"It started for the same reason I have done anything on the Internet, which is just to amuse myself," said McClure when we caught up with her about her Twitter exploits. "HalfPint was a precursor to my book project, and it later became a testing ground for the kind of irreverence that <em>Little House </em>fans would put up with — turns out they all have a great sense of humor."</p><p>McClure says that she did not begin the account with subversive performance in mind. "I wouldn't go so far as to say it is art," she says. "It was just interesting to me. And I couldn't help but think that looking at the differences between the way we live now and the way they lived then, that you just have to do something absurd juxtaposed with modern technology."</p><p>@HalfPintIngalls did not lead McClure directly to her book deal (as several Twitter accounts have done for others, like <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/shitmydadsays">@sh*tmydadsays</a>), but she recognized the value of it when she was able to write <em>The Wilder Life. </em>"I didn't want to turn HalfPint into advertising for the book, but working on Twitter really helped me while I was writing to gauge the way people responded to her."</p><p>McClure is unique in that she is tweeting as Wilder at least semi-professionally, but most of the 140 character impersonators are not working with any kind of commercial imperative. They are simply trying to break down writers' iconic styles into 140 characters as a labor of love or comedy, often playing with the novelty of pairing an author's style with the technology of the modern age.</p><p>Some of the accounts are loving homages: See <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/bcollinspoetry">@billycollins</a>, <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/flanneryoconnor">@flanneryoconnor</a>, and <a href="twitter.com/borgesknowsbest">@borgesknowsbest</a>. Some are parodies: <a href="twitter.com/shakespearesays">@shakespearesays</a>, <a href="twitter.com/hemingsteen">@hemingsteen</a>. There's <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/InTheGreenLight">Fitzgerald</a>, <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/WilliamFalkner">Faulkner</a>, <a href="twitter.com/joandidion">Didion</a>. <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/NothingButDick">Melville</a>, <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/itssylviaplath">Plath</a>, <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/MrJDSalinger">Salinger</a>, <a href="http://www.twitter.com/msdorothyparker">Dorothy Parker</a>.</p><p>For almost every author you can think of, someone is out there working a fake Twitter feed. It has become a club of obsession, a contest of one-upmanship based on insider knowledge of an author's tone, personal life, and historial era. The best accounts, like that of <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/DrSamuelJohnson">Samuel Johnson</a> are successful research projects as well as gags.</p><p>What do you think? Are we entering a new age of literary knowledge and scholarship, played out one tweet at a time? Or are you sick of all the fake accounts trading on the reputation of great longform writers? Tell us what you think of this new trend.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Tue, 30 Aug 2011 14:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-30/when-dead-writers-tweet-art-concise-imitation-91315