Archive for the 'writing' Category



Here’s a cure for the winter blues

Our flight from O’Hare to Washington, DC was cancelled Friday afternoon, but after re-booking and enduring Two additional flight delays, we finally arrived in DC at midnight.

Nine hours in an airport provides a couple with a lot of time to come up with great ideas about housekeeping, budgets, writing, Academy award nominees, work, Facebook, Hackney’s, Flo, the upcoming baseball season, the 2016 Presidential election, books, dog names, groceries, Fresh Air interviews, jazz music, bartenders, aquariums, business ideas, and…blogs!

And so, here’s the thing: Mike enjoys writing guest blog posts, and we get oodles of positive comments on my Safe & Sound blog when we publish his posts, so while sitting at Gate B19 with Seeing Eye dog Whitney lying patiently at our feet, we got to thinking, hey, why not have Mike Knezovich write a post once a week, and the decision was made. Starting February 3, 2014, readers can look forward to our Mondays with Mike segment every week on the Safe & Sound blog.

Before the feast: That's Michael and Susie Bowers, Pick, and moi. Hank's in the kitchen....

Before the feast: That’s Michael and Susie Bowers, Pick, and moi. Hank’s in the kitchen….

As for the weekend trip to visit our dear friends Pick an Hank in Washington, DC, the wait at O’Hare Friday was well worth it. Visits with Pick and Hank are always a joy, and the highlight of this one was dinner at their condo with mutual friends Mike and Susie Bowers. Hank prepared a fresh salad with homemade dressing, followed by scrumptious filet mignon with roasted brussel sprouts and beautiful russet baked potatoes. And then? Cheesecake for dessert. Pick provided musical entertainment, and if you link here you can hear me joining him for a blues number on the piano. It was as cold in DC as it was in Chicago over the weekend, but it’s amazing how much being with friends, and especially, playing music together, can warm the heart.

Lindy

Just got word that my friend Lindy Bergman died. Lindy was a well-known art collector who found a way to continue living and loving her life after losing her sight. She was very smart and extremely charming, but you know what I liked best about Lindy? Her surprisingly wicked sense of humor. The frigid weather, combined with a bad cold I picked up a few days ago, kept me away from the memorial service today, but in her honor I’m reblogging a post I published about Lindy here back in 2012. You sure are gonna be missed, Lindy.

My friend Lindy Bergman was an art collector. Then macular degeneration set in.

When the disease became so severe that Lindy could no longer see the surrealist works on her apartment walls, she donated the collection to the Art Institute of Chicago. From a New York Times review of the Art Institute’s new modern wing:

The unsinkable Lindy Bergman

…and a wonderful little tropical fantasy by Leonora Carrington. This last work is part of the museum’s extraordinary Bergman Collection of mostly Surrealist art, which forms a kind of cabinet of curiosities at the heart of the third-floor galleries.

The Bergman trove includes a phalanx of 30 boxes by Joseph Cornell, an American. That collection contains the only artists on this floor who developed outside Europe, primarily Arshile Gorky, Matta and Wifredo Lam. (The exception is the Parisian expatriate Man Ray, who is in the Bergman collection and elsewhere in these galleries.)

After donating her collection, Lindy took to writing. Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind chronicles Lindy’s journey with macular degeneration and offers suggestions on how to keep your head above water when vision loss is trying to pull you under. Lindy is the perfect role model. In her 90s now, she swims a quarter mile each day, works out with her trainer, serves as a board member for a number of organizations, and goes to concerts and lectures. She is particularly enthusiastic about the audio cassette that comes along with her book — it features recordings of classical music as well as Lindy’s children and grandchildren. I recognized the voices of a few of the experts on the cassette — they are the same caring University of Chicago doctors that did my eye surgeries back in the 1980s. “I didn’t want it to just be my old voice droning on and on. Who’d want to listen to that?” she says with a self-deprecating laugh.”I wanted the book to be uplifting, not depressing!”

My friend Bonita has known Lindy a long time and was wise enough to introduce us when Mike and I moved to Chicago. On our first lunch date, I showed Lindy how to fix her talking watch so it’d quit announcing the time out loud every hour on the hour. She was so appreciative for what I saw as a small gesture. We’ve been friends ever since.

The stories Lindy tells me about tracking down art with her late husband Ed sound like Hemingway novels. “Ed always was a collector of something or other,” Lindy says with a shrug, describing a sun porch full of aquariums when Ed was collecting tropical fish, or his enormous shell collection.

“Not just a few shells. We had a lot of them. So he really was always a collector, and I just went along with it.” They’d already been married about 10 years when she and Ed decided to take a course on the Great Books at University of Chicago. A teacher there recommended a book by the Museum of Modern Art called Masters in Modern Art. “We had a lot of books to read for class, but every night we would start reading about art. That’s how it all began. We really educated ourselves.” By the late 1950s, the Bergmans were established as Surrealist collectors. They met Wifredo Lam on a visit to Cuba in the mid-50s, and the painter met them again in Paris in 1959 to show them around. Aside from that Salvador Dali poster with the melting clocks we hung in our college dorm rooms, I don’t know a whole lot about surrealism. Lindy met a couple artists in Paris whose names I actually do recognize, though: Man Ray and Max Ernst. She and Ed met Dali on another trip to Europe.

Time flies when I’m with Lindy. She loves hearing stories about my travels with my Seeing Eye dogs, and delights when Hanni — and now, Harper — sneak away from me under the table to lie on her feet. “It keeps me warm!” she laughs. The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind is honoring Lindy Bergman at a gala at The Four Seasons tonight, and Bonita is generously sponsoring me to attend. A description of Lindy from the invitation reads like this:

Lindy has been living with macular degeneration for nearly fifteen years and has become an exemplary benefactor of The Chicago Lighthouse. In 2009, she was among those who played a critical role in helping The Lighthouse realize its goal of a new building addition. Most recently, she has helped establish the Bergman Institute for Psychological Support, where our professional rehabilitation staff counsel people who are blind or are losing their sight. Finally, she has partnered with our professional rehabilitation staff on a second “Lighthouse” edition of her book on macular degeneration, Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind.

With all of Lindy’s accomplishments, the one area where she lacks confidence is … public speaking. At our last dinner together, and in subsequent phone calls, I’ve been coaching her for the short talk she’s been asked to give at tonight’s gala. I know she’s gonna wow them. She sure has wowed me!

A confession

Which is which?

The Kenilworth kindergartners squealed with delight when Whitney led me into their school wearing snow boots. “That‘s our special guest Mrs. Fink,” their teacher announced. “And that’s Hanni, the dog from the book, too!”

We’d arrived late (our commuter train had been delayed in Chicago due to weather) and our opening assembly had to be cut back to 15 minutes. After that, Whit and I gave separate fifteen-minute sessions for all the kindergarten and first grade classes at Joseph Sears Elementary School.

Fifteen minutes was not enough time to explain that Hanni, the star of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound had retired, that this was a new dog, I’d had to decide when it was time for Hanni to retire, I could have kept Hanni as a pet or brought her back to the Seeing eye but I decided to find friends to adopt her, that she’s doing fine and is living an enviable retirement in Urbana, that I had another dog after that, his name was Harper, he retired, and now, this new dog is Whitney, and she’s a ball of energy.

And so, I did what I had to do. I referred to the dog at my feet generically. She was “my Seeing Eye dog.” Ick snay on it-whey ee-nay. The questions during the classroom visits reflected what the kindergartners and first-graders are learning to do in school:

  • How do you put on your shoes?
  • How can you print your name if you can’t see the paper?
  • How do you read those green signs that tell you what street it is?
  • How do you get dressed?
  • Can you tell time?
  • Does your dog really know right from left?

I had to be honest with the little girl who asked that last question. I really wasn’t sure. “We say the word ‘left’ when we want our dogs to turn left,” I told her. I went on, then, explaining how Seeing Eye trainers teach us to point to the left and face our shoulders left, too, at the same time we give the “left” command. “So I don’t know if my Seeing Eye dog understands the word ‘left’ or she sees my body language… .” I could hear the kids starting to fidget. I was losing my audience. Gee whiz, Beth. Stop talking! Just show them how it works

In the real world, out on the street, a blind person memorizes or knows the route before leaving home. The pair gets themselves situated on the sidewalk and faces the direction they’ll start. The blind person commands “Forward!” and the dog guides them safely to the curb. When the dog stops, the person stops. That’s how a blind person using a guide dog knows they have arrived at an intersection.

If the person wants to turn right or left at that corner, the person commands the direction, simultaneously turning their upper body in that direction and pointing in that direction, too. The dog turns, and the blind companion follows the dog’s lead.

Back in the school classroom, I wake up the dog sleeping at my feet and lift the harness off her back. And then, uh-oh, it dawns on me. These kids all think this dog is Hanni.

Dog is my co-pilot. I offer a quick prayer. “Please, Whitney, go along with the ruse.” I point both shoulders and my right finger left and command, “Hanni, left!”

My dog heads left with more exuberance than usual. She’s on to the fake. I give her another command. “Hanni, outside!” She leads me to the door.

Dear Sears School kids who are reading this: I’m sorry I lied.

Dear Safe & Sound blog readers: any of you have a phone number for a dog psychiatrist that specializes in identity issues?

I’ll bring hammer and nails just in case

There's Whit...on a commuter train platform.

There’s Whit…on a commuter train platform.

The Chicago network of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) emailed me late last year to see if I’d do a program for their January 11, 2014 meeting on how to build a platform. “Your name came up as a possible speaker on this topic,” the message said, “because you are someone who, as a writer, has built a name for yourself across multiple platforms.”

Confession: unless you’re talking about the thing I stand on when I’m waiting for a train, or the kind of shoes Elton John wore at those concerts I went to in the 70s, I really don’t know what a platform is. I didn’t tell them that, though. I was so flattered by their invitation that I said yes.

The program is this Saturday morning. My friend Ellen Sandmeyer of Sandmeyer’s Bookstore is coming along and bringing books (I sign them in print and in Braille, too, of course, and if the weather warms up by then I hope some of you Chicagoland blog readers might come on out and see what I come up with to talk about! The program is free, and you don’t have to be a member of SCBWI to attend. You do need to RSVP, though, so I’ll leave you here with the invitation they sent out:

January 11, Saturday, 10 A.M. – 11:30 A.M.
BUILDING YOUR PLATFORM

Where: 920 W. Wilson, Chicago, IL 60640, Garden Room, off lobby

Parking is available on the street (paybox). Also accessible by CTA Redline, bus #78 and bus #151.

RSVP to janehertenstein@gmail.comIn today’s publishing environment a writer has to do MORE than write. Marketing and promotion requires an author to perform on many platforms. Often an agent or editor will ask: Does he/she have a platform?

Beth Finke is an award-winning author, NPR commentator, blogger, and participates in numerous school visits. As a journalist she has used many different mediums and media to deliver a message. Come hear Beth speak and get your 2014 writing career off to a good start. (She might even tell us about how her part-time job modeling nude for university art students led to an essay on NPR’s Morning Edition and an appearance on Oprah!)

She’s gonna get lots of gifts from me tomorrow

My great-niece Floey turns eight years old tomorrow, and gee whiz, what a coincidence that this extremely flattering

The irrepressible Annmarie.

The irrepressible Annmarie.

email arrived in my in box just when I was thinking about what to get for her for her birthday – she wrote it as a report for her second grade class:

Beth Finke unfortunaly is my aunt. She is also a great athor, but I like her better as my aunt. She’s actually my GREAT anunt (I’m not just saying that) and she has always been. She’s 54 and is married to my Uncle Mike (Who is coo-coo). He has an aquarium. Aunt Beth is VERY kind.

Thank you Floey. You’re very kind, too! See (okay, hear) you tomorrow….

“Author of” interviews . . . me!

Kate Hannigan Issa’s The Good Fun! book and my Safe & Sound book were both illustrated by the talented Anthony Alex Letourneau and published by the fabulous Blue Marlin Publications. Kate lives in Chicago, too, and while
waiting for Disney-Hyperion to publish her second book this May she squeezes in time to promote other authors on her “Author of” blog. And I’m delighted that she chose to interview me in a recent post…here it is:

Beth Finke’s ‘Safe and Sound’ Makes an Inspiring Holiday Gift

Christmastime for me growing up meant one thing: my annual plea for a dog. I was obsessed with them, begged Santa to slip one under the tree, read all sorts of books about them, memorized every breed. For kids and families with an interest in dogs, Chicago author Beth Finke’s beautiful story of her relationship with her Seeing Eye dog, Hanni, makes a fascinating, uplifting holiday gift.

Read the full blog and interview at Author of

Donna Tartt sure smells good

My husband Mike was at the Greenbuild convention in Philadelphia last week. Left with so much time on my own, I started reading The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s new 771-page novel. I had a hard time putting it down, and I wasn’t the only one. In a New York Times book review, Michiko Kakutani says Donna Tartt’s new book “pulls together all her remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading.”

And that I did. Stay up all night to finish it, I mean.Goldfinch

Nothing holds my attention more than a story about grief and bereavement, and this book is full of that. and more. It starts when 13-year-old Theo Decker and his beloved mother find themselves inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a terrorist bomb explodes. Theo’s mother dies, and the story takes off to Las Vegas, Amsterdam and then back to Manhattan from there.

I always wait until I’m done reading a book before reading the reviews (don’t want to spoil the plot) and after staying up late Wednesday night to finish The Goldfinch,, I woke up and read the reviews Thursday morning. Brilliant, they said. Dickensian. With all the gushing, though, none of them remembered to compliment the clever ways Donna Tartt weaves the sense of smell into her writing. I mean, sure, her editor at Little, Brown & Company said that Goldfinch readers “never doubt for a second that you’re experiencing something real,” but he neglected to mention how using the sense of smell is one of the best ways to draw readers in. If The Goldfinch had been published before I gave my Smelling is Believing workshop at Northwestern University’s Summer Writers’ Conference last August, I could have used it as a textbook.

Writers often overuse similes when describing odors, aromas and fragrances, but saying something smells like lemon, like chocolate, like rotten eggs, whatever can sound tedious. In The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s main character Theo weaves aromas into his descriptions smoothly. Some examples:

  • With his deadbeat Dad in a room in Las Vegas: “The air was overly chilled with a stale, refrigerated smell, sitting motionless for hours. The filament of smoke from his Viceroy floated to the ceiling like a thread of incense.”
  • Waking up in a bedroom near the furniture restoration shop: “Lying very still under the eiderdown, I breathed the dark air of dried out potpourri, and burnt fireplace wood, and, very faint, the evergreen tang of turpentine, resin, and varnish.”
  • Buying flowers to bring to a dinner party: “In the tiny, overheated shop, their fragrance hit me exactly the wrong way, and only at the cash register did I realize why. Their scent was the same sick wholesome sweetness of my mother’s memorial service,”
  • A close-talker startles him with “a gin-crocked blast that almost knocked me over.”
  • A young hip New York City restaurant: “The smells were overwhelming. Wine and garlic. Perfume and sweat. Sizzling platters of lemon grass chicken hurried out of the kitchen.”

Funny. Those examples all focus on the sense of smell, but don’t you just picture yourself in those scenes? Forgive me, I just can’t help myself here, I gotta say it: Donna Tartt’s new book? It smells of success.

Fifty years later, and it’s still hard to talk about

LBJ being sworn in on Air Force One, November 22, 1963.

A writer in the Monday memoir class I lead worked for Life Magazine in 1963. Giovanna Breu was at the magazine’s New York office when legendary editor Richard Stolley was negotiating for the right to reprint stills from footage of the assassination filmed by Abraham Zapruder.

The Zapruder film arrived at the Life Magazine office before Giovanna left to cover President Kennedy’s funeral, and in an essay she wrote for class, she describes sitting with her fellow reporters in New York to review the film frame by painful frame. “It was horrific,” she wrote, explaining that out of decency and respect for the President’s family, they decided not to publish every single frame.

Giovanna left the New York office then to catch a train to Washington, D.C. and work with Life photographer Bob Gomel from two different locations to photograph the funeral. “We had credentials to a rooftop where we watched Jackie Kennedy walk with a long stride and a firm step behind her husband’s body to St Matthew’s Cathedral,” she said, reading her essay out loud in class. “Our second spot was at St. Matthew’s Cathedral where little John Kennedy saluted the body of his father as he lay on the caisson.”

Every writer in class reads their completed assignment out loud every week, so I ask them to keep their pieces short. “No more than 500 words!” I tell them. I may not be able to see who I’m wagging my finger at, but after weeks of hearing their stories, I know who they are.

The 500-word limit encourages writers to edit their work. They learn to use stronger words to express themselves. And no matter how busy these seniors are, 500 words a week is an attainable goal. Asking Giovanna to limit this story to 500 words was probably asking too much, though. Her essay read more like a piece of journalism than a memoir. When she was done reading, I reminded all the writers that the word limit was just for class. “If you want to write longer pieces for your family, or even for yourself, that’s fine,” I said. “We just have to stick to this 500 –word rule in class, you know, so everyone has enough time to read.”

I turned towards Giovanna then to suggest she add more emotion to this piece, that she tell her readers how these events made her feel. Giovanna mulled this idea over for a long time, and the class stayed uncharacteristically silent. Her response finally came in two sad, simple words:” I can’t.”

Go ahead and brag

Bennett and his companion dog Journey.

Bennett and his companion dog Journey.

Remember my post about Vision Forward, the conference about educating kids who are blind? I signed more Braille copies of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound at that conference than print ones, and this thank-you note from the mom of a five-year-old boy I met there was so moving that I wrote her back to ask if I could share it with my blog readers:

Dear Beth,

I met you at the Vision Forward Conference in Milwaukee this past weekend. I purchased your book, Safe and Sound, for my blind 5 1/2 year old son, Bennett.

My husband read it with him tonight, while I worked on homework with my 9 year old. Bennett was so excited about the book. He told me, “I loved that book you got me. It’s a true story mom. And no one ever writes true stories for kids about people who are blind like me.”

His reaction caused me to think. He is right. If I look on Amazon, there isn’t much out there. Thank you for writing this story and reaching out to children who can not see. Bennett has a Children’s Companion Dog and he said when the story started, he thought for sure it was about his dog Journey.

Thanks again. And it was a pleasure meeting you. Keep writing and we will keep reading :)

I swear, any time I’m feeling blue, all I gotta do is read this note. It always makes me smile. A lot of thoughtful people teamed together to make sure Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound came out in Braille the exact same day it was published in print. That hardly ever, ever happens: Braille is so expensive to publish that “braile presses” usually wait until a book becomes a best-seller before putting it out in Braille.

Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound is available in a Print-and-Braille format. The Braille and print match line for line, with the print just above the Braille (no pictures). I can tell you first hand, so to speak, that it’s “good Braille” = the dots are stiff, they stand up straight, They’re easy to read. The only problem for me? The Braille version of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound was produced in contracted Braille, a form of Braille I’ve never been able to master.

Contracted Braille has a bunch of shorthand symbols (contractions) for commonly used words and parts of words: there’s a cell for the word “and,” another for the word “the,” and so on. Most of the letters of the alphabet are also used as shorthand for common words, such as “c” for “can” and “l” for “like.” Kind of like texting, only you can’t make as many mistakes!

When I wrote Bennett’s mom back to thank her for her note,  I apologized that my book was only available in contracted Braille, and poor five-year-old Bennett would have a hard time reading it. No problem, she said. Bennett started learning Braille this past summer. “He knows the whole alphabet, all of the “secret” words for the letters when they are alone, and he just started the words that have 2 Braille letters together, like bc for because,” she said. “Not to brag, but this little guy is a genius!”

I say she should go ahead and brag. Not only about Bennett, but about herself and her husband, too, and the family they are raising, all of them supporting Bennett’s love for reading. A little known fact about Braille: less than 20% of the 50,000 blind children in the United States are proficient in Braille. The American Foundation for the Blind reports a severe shortage of certified teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs), especially in rural areas or in small school districts, and without qualified teachers, it can be a lot easier for parents of children who are blind to just let their kids listen to books on audio or hear words on a talking computer. Technology is cool, but if children who are blind never learn Braille, how will they ever learn to spell correctly? How will they know where to put commas, quotation marks, paragraph breaks and so on?

My children’s book publisher, Blue Marlin Publications, teamed up with Seedlings Braille Books for Children (a non-profit organization in Michigan that creates Braille books for kids who can’t see) to produce my children’s book at a reasonable price — the Braille/print version is actually less expensive than the print version. .Blue Marlin didn’t charge Seedlings a penny for the rights to publish the book in Braille, and wait, there’s more: Blue Marlin Publications also decided to donate a portion of the sales of the print version of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound to Seedlings so they can continue creating books in Braille at a reasonable cost for kids who need them.

I do know enough contracted Braille to read the first couple of pages of my children’s book out loud, and with Safe & Sound available in Braille, I’ve been able to read it aloud at school presentations and show kids what Braille looks like and how it works.

I brought a Braille copy along to a visit with the fourth graders at Crow Island School in Winnetka yesterday, but those kids didn’t need any explanation of what Braille is: Jalena, a smart and cheerful 9-year-old in their class, is blind. I invited Jalena to sit with me and help me during the Q & A part of yesterday’s presentation, and she was happy to do so. We answered questions about whether we feel sad not being able to see colors, if we sleep with our eyes open, and how we put our pierced earrings in our ears without looking in a mirror. Not one kid at Crow Island asked about Braille, though: they’re all experts! Lots of Jalena’s sighted friends are in the school’s Braille Club and have learned uncontracted Braille, the version I know.

When the afternoon was over, I thanked Jalena by giving her the Braille copy of Safe & Sound that I’d brought along, and she was delighted. Gail Wilson, her TVI, told me later that after school sometimes Jalena reads with a book buddy who can see. “We have a hard time finding print/Braille books like yours,” she said. “I know for sure what they’ll be reading later today!”

To find out how to order a copy of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound in print/Braille, or to donate to Seedlings to help them create more books in Braille for kids, link to www.seedlings.org.

Read all about it! Blind blogger interviews video producer!

My book club pick was a flop. Maybe because everyone else read it in print, and I got to hear Academy Award winner Rita Moreno read the audio version? When all was said and done, the only member who liked Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World as much as I did was Jamie Ceaser.

Always knew that Jamie woman had good taste.

Award-winning producer Jamie Ceaser.

Award-winning producer Jamie Ceaser.

When Jamie isn’t reading fascinating books like My Beloved World, she’s busy putting videos and films together. She’s been producing shows for Chicago’s public TV station WTTW for years, and one of her latest productions debuts nationally tonight. Local, USA is a weekly 30-minute compilation of stories produced by independent producers, content creators, and public television stations across the country. Jamie and her co-producer Eddie Griffin have already put 13 Local, USA episodes together, each one exploring a particular theme. It’s a busy time for Jamie, but she was kind enough to answer a few questions about Local, USA for my blog readers.

  • Me: How’d you get involved in Local, USA?
  • Jamie: V.J. McAleer — He’s Senior Vice President of Production at WTTW — got approached by WGBH in Boston about working with them on a new show. VJ is my boss, and my biggest advocate, too. He called when I was in Florida on a Tuesday and said we’d need a proposal by Friday. So I tanned and wrote.
  • Me: Are you doing it all by yourself?
  • Jamie: I’m co-producing it with Ed Griffin. Maggie Ness is associate producer.
  • You drive me to book club sometimes, and I always love hearing about your work during those drives. You’ve produced programs on everyone from Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd to baseball icon Bill Veeck. What makes this project different from other ones you’ve produced?
  • Jamie: Well, To be honest, this project does bring back memories of something I’ve done before: my first show at WTTW. That was Image Union, also a show for independent producers. But it was way back–way before youtube and iPhones and Quicktime and even DVDs.
  • Me: How were things different then?
  • Jamie: Films would come on 16 mm reels or videos in VHS cases. Local, USA may end up being a similar show, but the technology has changed so much. Now people send weblinks to screen their films and videos., And i can screen all of the shows I’ve produced so far — on my iPhone!
  • Me: What do producers do?
  • Jamie: Production can mean a lot of different things – it all depends on the type of show you’re working on, and the studio where you’re working. Show development, researching, interviewing people, shooting, editing, or even gentle coercion — production includes whatever you need to do to get the project completed.
  • Me: So what did you have to do to get this one completed?
  • Jamie: For this program, basically, we’re screening videos, logging them and cataloging them by theme and seeing what works together organically. After that we script the show and videotape the hosts on location.
  • Me: Who are the hosts?
  • Jamie: Niccole Thurman, a performer from Second City, and Evan Allen-Gessesse, an independent producer.
  • Me: How long did it take to put these episodes together?
  • Jamie: It was a lightning-fast season — we started in March and finished 13 shows by the end of June. That’s a pretty quick production schedule.
  • Me: What can viewers look forward to on the first episode this week?
  • Jamie: The first show has four stories about times gone by.
  • Me: Any favorites?
  • Jamie: My favorite one is produced by a teenager. It’s about his grandfather with Alzheimer’s Disease. He intercuts old family films to link his father’s early memories with his grandfather, and those memories aren’t available to his grandfather any more. It’s very poignant and sweet.

Jamie says the first season (13 shows) focuses on human interest stories and art pieces. “The shows we’re working on right now are more social justice-oriented.” Local, USA debuts on The World Channel tonight, October 21, at 9:00 p.m. Central Time and will continue to air on Monday nights after that, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Blog readers who live in the Chicago area can also tune in to WTTW Channel 11 to catch it on Thursday nights at 11:00 p.m.


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