Amanda Delheimer Dimond
Artistic and Executive Director, 2nd Story
In 2012, 2nd Story celebrated its tenth anniversary with the publication of its first anthology, “Briefly Knocked Unconscious By A Low-Flying Duck,”co-edited by longtime literary director Megan Stielstra. In the last eleven years, 2nd Story has established itself as the city’s largest storytelling collective, hosting numerous live events each month and continuing to offer classes and internships that focus on the art of oral performance, collaboration, and creative expression. Amanda Delheimer Dimond has been artistic director since 2007, and has collaborated with Steppenwolf, Goodman (where she runs the theater’s summer program for teens) and Court Theatre, among several others. Delheimer also serves as an artistic associate with Adventure Stage Chicago, and regularly works as a teaching artist with local public schools.
Executive Director, Ragdale
With its fifty acres of rolling green prairies it would seem feasible to forget the city is just thirty minutes south of the artists’ retreat Ragdale. Here, executive director Jeffery Meeuwsen runs the nonprofit dedicated to giving artists a serene and ideal creative space to work on their art during their two to six week retreat. Since he took over as director in 2012, Ragdale offered a new opportunity to involve designers across the nation with the Ragdale Ring project, a contest where architects redesigned an outdoor performance structure initially built in 1912. Once the project winner Stephen Lee’s design is complete, audience members will experience performances under the new structure built for the next century.
After spending years doing his “Sunday Papers” radio show on WGN, Kogan moved his whiskey-and-tobacco-seasoned voice over to WBEZ, where he served six months as interim host for “The Afternoon Shift.” Unfortunately, he took his singular perspective off the air when the interim devolved into indefinite, leaving his growing legions of fans to find him with his first love, newspapers, where he writes the “Sidewalks” column for the Sunday Tribune, and the “Literary Saloon” column for Tribune’s Printers Row Journal. In Chicago, he’s the go-to guy for literate and literary hosting, whether its the Tribune’s Chicago Live! series, or an annual Story Week night of his creation. We’d be surprised if we don’t hear his gravelly baritone on the airwaves again soon, but he insists that right now he’s finishing up a children’s book he’s been working on for fifteen years.
Donald G. Evans
Executive Director, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame
Founder Don Evans has worked tirelessly to bring his vision of a Chicago Literary Hall of Fame into being, and this year its fourth class will be inducted. (Newcity editor Brian Hieggelke served on this year’s selection committee.) With a commitment to meticulous process, diversity in both nominee and nominators, and a growing legion of supporters, the CLHOF certainly looks like it will be around for the posterity it aims to preserve.
Director, Northwestern University Press
Before taking over as Northwestern University Press director, Jane Bunker started her career in the literary world as associate director and editor in chief at SUNY Press in Albany, New York. Since her move to Evanston, which she admits is partially due to its proximity to Lake Michigan, the press continues its tradition of publishing award-winning work—Nikky Finney’s poetry collection “Head Off & Split,” published by the TriQuarterly imprint, won the 2011 National Book Award; a year later A.E. Stallings’ “Olives” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Founder, Poetry Slam Movement
Marc Smith redefined the perception of poetry by unleashing his poems through performance rather than simple recitation. The slam-poetry founder started the longest-running poetry show in the country back in 1984 at the now-defunct Get Me High Lounge. Today, the weekly show carries on the tradition every Sunday night at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. Entering the local bar is like falling down the rabbit hole where the etiquette of typical poetry readings is turned on its head. Rather than sitting in silence as the poet reads, audience members shout, hiss, or praise the reader and enhance each performance through their participation. With his raw emotion and a rhythmic syntax that approaches the spontaneity of jazz, Smith melted together the worlds of poetry and theater to create a bona fide movement.
Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times
Longtime Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg is the author of seven books, including “Hatless Jack,” “Drunkard” and, most recently, “You Were Never in Chicago.” The latter sparked an uproar in April when DePaul University theater professor Rachel Shteir slammed it (along with another book by local writers) in an essay that appeared in the New York Times Book Review panning Chicago, its political flaws and its boastfulness. The city rallied around Steinberg, not surprisingly, and what was certainly a really bad day for the author ended up raising his local profile so high that he’s now in contention to become top dog among those turning out daily columns in newsprint—a lofty perch in the Chicago of Hecht and Royko. If only he’d leave Northbrook and move here.
Acquisitions Editor, Curbside Splendor Publishing
Jacob Knabb is Victor David Giron’s right hand man at Curbside Splendor, which means he’s responsible for the myriad duties associated with managing an up-and-coming press: book acquisition, editorial and event planning (including the popular Pop-Up Book Fair, Karaoke Idol, Madame ZuZu’s Presents “Salon Splendor” and Words + Music events). Recently, Knabb nabbed a position at Lake Forest College to teach writing and publishing, and to help run Lake Forest College Press and &NOW Books.
Editor, Printers Row Journal
The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal is like a long-lost relative you never knew you had. Since its launch in early 2012, PRJ has been showing us just exactly what we’ve been missing, like interviews with writers Cheryl Strayed, Dave Eggers and Colson Whitehead, and publishing new fiction in each weekly issue. It also frequently hosts exclusive author talks and built the Printers Row Book of the Month forum. Editor Jennifer Day, who’s been contributing to the Tribune since 2008, has so far focused on stimulating and supporting Chicago’s literary community. Though the jury’s still out on whether this experimental publication from a big publisher will pay off, we’re pulling for it. Of course, we’d really love to see it added to the Sunday Tribune’s full distribution, giving the Midwest a literary supplement to rival the New York Times Book Review.
Founder, Dollhouse Reading Series
Founder of the very highly regarded Dollhouse Reading Series, which she hosts from her own apartment, Dolly Lemke is a strong supporter of Chicago’s poetry scene. She’s the poetry editor for the online journal Pinwheel, which will be releasing its third issue mid-summer. Dolly promises the issue will include “mind-blowing new work” from poets around the country. She’s also the author of two chapbooks, “O Town Heights,” which was published last year by DoubleCross Press and “I’m so into you,” forthcoming from plumberries press.