HIGHLAND PARK – What happens when you have “Tongue-In-Cheek Speed Dating” that involves putting visual artists on one side of the table and writers on the other side of the table to work together for five minutes before they move on to the next person?
“From that program we got a good amount of collaborative work, and it was very exciting,” said Judith MK Kaufman, editor-in-chief of East on Central, a Journal of Arts and Letters from Highland Park, Illinois in reference to last year’s Creative Exchange section. “We went back to our core concept of ‘mutual inspiration and published collaborations.’”
It’s those innovative ideas that have kept East on Central going strong for 15 years, and in celebration a publication party will be held on Sept. 28, at The Art Center (TAC) of Highland Park.
“We’re happy to have a mix of ages and styles,” said Kaufman. “Part of our mission is to encourage people who might not otherwise have work to be published.” Some of the teachers from TAC are also published in the journal.
This year’s theme for the Creative Exchange is Black and White and East on Central has left it up to the contributors’ interpretations. Kaufman said it will be a mix of black and white and color art to encourage the concept of Yin and Yang, balance and opposites in every field.
Kaufman explained that her poem was inspired by The Lady in the Van, a film starring Maggie Smith about an elderly woman who lived in a van in a writer’s driveway.
“The writer portrays himself as two people, the writer and the man who lived his life,” she said. “I wrote a poem implying it to myself in that one of us couldn’t live without the other, and we came across a submitted piece that was an ambivalent gender person and I thought that was kind of perfect to fit next to my poem.”
The people on the board are divided into one committee for art, and the other for writing.
“Throughout the book we try to find art that doesn’t illustrate the writing, but works that complement each other,” said Kaufman. “One year there was a poem about a Mouse in the House and opposite it was a photograph titled Elephant in the Room. It was a playful connection. Putting this book together is a fun job, because you have to use your imagination.”
Kaufman said the journal has more poetry than prose, but prose is always longer. While some of the stories are longer than the recommended 2,500 words, there are also some short pieces.
Another interesting poetry premise came from Kaufman’s daughter, Rachel Tepfer in the 10th anniversary Memories of Highland Park edition of East on Central. “It’s called “Coffee” and she used where she drank her coffee at various places throughout her life, as a metaphor for coming of age,” said Kaufman.
She enjoys having returning writers, artists and poets. For example, poet Maureen Perkins appeared in the first few issues. She was a student studying writing when she began, and years later she sent in a submission. She moved away out of state and came back and now she’s in this year’s edition of East on Central and she also became Kaufman’s intern. “Maureen’s a wonderful writer,” she said.
East on Central tried something new this year that will be available at the publishing party.
“We have two progressive novellas that we self-published with people who have contributed to East on Central,” said Kaufman. “A progressive novel is basically when someone starts with a chapter and turns it over to someone else to write the next chapter.”
WhoWhatWhenWhereWhy & Works on Paper: Two Collaborative Novels by East on Central are the names of the two stories under one cover.
“WhoWhatWhenWhereWhy is a mystery that takes place in the world of business and has a bit to do with thought control, while Works on Paper is about the history of the ownership of a particular painting, and how the painting and the artist affected the lives of those people,” she said. About five or six writers contributed to the stories, some were involved in both, and Kaufman edited each of the two stories.
Mike Pickard was the author of the first chapter of WhoWhatWhenWhereWhy, as well as co-author of the afterword of the same novella. You can find the novellas online at Amazon and CreateSpace.
The non-profit volunteer organization hosts community events to support the arts.
Kaufman said many of the contributors have had books published both by publishers or self-published “which is becoming more and more respectable, as the conventional publishers are becoming narrower and narrower in who they accept.”
That’s why East On Central hosted the Local Authors’ Book Fair last May at the Highland Park Library whom they also work with. About 34 authors came to the fair and East On Central had to turn some away, because they were running out of room. Next year it might be rescheduled in November before the holidays.
East on Central‘s next program Turnabout Is Fair Play will be held at the Heller Nature Center on October 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. “The program, is about artists trying to write poetry and writers learning how to draw,” said Kaufman. “We’ll have pictures for both.”
When Kaufman isn’t writing poetry, she is working on a series of memoir pieces about her parents. “There’s another group in Highland Park called Short Story Theatre of Highwood featuring four storytellers who meet once a month at Miramar Bistro in Highwood, and I’ve been invited to tell some of my parents’ stories there,” she said. “It’s a wonderful arts community in this town.”
Kaufman said East on Central has come a long way from its inaugural black & white 70 page issue 15 years ago. By the third year it was in full color. Every year the journal has grown and this year it’s going to be 164 pages, she added.
“The artwork is amazing and the printer we use does a fantastic job in replicating it on high quality paper,” she said. “We’re not Architectural Digest, but we do the best we can. We’ve gotten a few younger people on board so hopefully we’re going to keep going.”
Kaufman said about 120 people have been coming to the publication parties, where artists, writers and poets gather to meet and have a chance to purchase copies of East on Central. Poets and writers will read selections from the journal, and artwork will be on display. Appetizers, wine and desserts will be served at the Wednesday, September 28 event from 6:45 to 9 p.m., at TAC, 1957 Sheridan Road.
To sign up for events, and for submission information visit http://eastoncentral.org/