Writing is my Livelihood

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My interest in wordplay began in childhood. Growing up in North Omaha I found myself attracted to the wonder of certain words, usually multi-syllabic tongue twisters I heard television talking-heads wittily brandish. I also fell under the near fatal spell of alliteration.

I believe my real fascination with language stemmed from seeing my late father working his crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper and occasionally immersing himself in a book. Then there was the colorful vernacular he used around the house and that my extended family, who lived in South Omaha, used. Sprinkled in with the cuss words were  idiomatic descriptives favored by my father’s white-collar clan, whose expressions were just different enough from those of my mother’s blue-collar bunch, to stand them apart. Further seasoning this verbal stew were stray Polish words from my father’s side and occasional Italian words from my mother’s side. It was a multicultural linguistics education. As our all-white inner-city neighborhood became mixed, African-Americans introduced me to another rich vein of language flavored by their Southern roots and urban Northern street culture.

“….the simple joy of playing with words is the main

appeal to me.”

Even with all those influences I do not believe I would have been drawn to writing were it not for the Marvel comic books and high school English lit books I inherited from my older brothers. These stimulating hand-me-downs were enhanced by the periodicals that came into our home, particularly Sports Illustrated. By the time my brother Dan started writing his own personal sports column, just for the sheer pleasure of it. I, too, discovered writing could be fun. Later I found out what hard work it is. As teachers encouraged my efforts, I stretched myself. In high school I was recruited to write for the school paper and that led me to study journalism in college.

Even now, as a journalist and author, the simple joy of playing with words is the main appeal to me. Follow my work telling the stories of people, their passions and magnificent obsessions at leoadambiga.wordpress.com or http://www.facebook.com/LeoAdamBiga.

About Adam

Leo Adam Biga is a working journalist who contributes articles to newspapers and magazines. He is also the author of Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film, a collectionleo of the writer’s extensive journalism about the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Additionally, Biga is the coeditor if Memories of the Jewish Midwest: Mom and Pop Grocery Stores and the author of two e-books for the Omaha Public Schools.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate worked in public relations (Joslyn Art Museum) before becoming a freelance writer. His published stories for dailies, weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies number well over a thousand. As a generalist he writes about a broad range of subjects, though most of his work is arts and culture-based.

He is finishing the biography of a retired Catholic priest who served marginalized populations around the world and he has plans for more nonfiction books. A new edition of his Payne book is in-progress.

Sample his eclectic work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com or http://www.facebook.com/LeoAdamBiga.

NOTE: His partner, artist Pamela Jo Berry, is a past Livelihood subject. Read more about Pamela Jo Berry here: http://bit.ly/YAt45c.

Fiction is my Livelihood


As a farm boy, I was a spectacular failure. I wandered off from my chores, lost in imagination, mumbling to myself as I walked in circles. Today such a child would be drugged and counseled. My parents, however, let me roam; one of the paths I trod through a patch of weeds is still weedless to this day – nothing ever grew to cover my steps. Today, I pace as I write fiction, with my laptop propped on a fat dictionary atop the kitchen counter. I mutter aloud, considering the rhythms of words, performing lines of dialogue. I do have a writing desk in a writing room but I do no writing there. I need to be up and about fussing with things, my stories coming together on the sly. For me, I guess, writing must always involve wandering away from chores, and it must never become the chore itself.

Whether you’re a writer or not, you’re developing your own art of moving from point to point.

A teacher once accused me of wanting to avoid “the dog work” of writing fiction. She said I didn’t put enough effort in moving the characters from point A to point B – she said I just wanted to jump from one vivid detail to the next. She was right, and she meant to scold, but I found myself inclined to rebel. Why must a character be moved from point A to point B? Why must there even be a point A and a point B at all? Of course I eventually came to understand that plot and technique didn’t have to muddle the art of the thing. But I remain baffled by those writers who consider fiction an obligation. (A novelist I once knew even likened writing to “factory work.”) And I’ve always found it curious that one is said to “indulge” the imagination, as if the imagination was too pleasurable to politely allow. Imagination and creativity guide your every move — you’re not just relying on your intellect and your sentiment to navigate your days; you’re inventing your own character as you go along, devising a kind of mythology based on all the aspects of your own spirit, and sense, and gesture, your daily tasks, your loves, your frustrations. Whether you’re a writer or not, you’re developing your own art of moving from point to point.

Please join us for (downtown) omaha lit fest on Sept 12-13 for literary readings, panel discussions, and an opening night party. “Like” us on Facebook (Omaha Lit Fest) or visit www.omahalitfest.com.

About Timothy

Timothy Schaffert is the author of five novels, most recently The Swan Gondola, set Timothy Schaffert 1_by Michael Lionstaramong the humbug artists and theatrical types of turn-of-the-century Omaha. His work has been a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, an Oprah.com Book of the Week, and recognized in the O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories anthologies. Novelist Kurt Andersen called Schaffert a “master of Great Plains gothic” on his public radio program Studio 360; on the NPR program On Point, Paul Ingram said “[Schaffert] is an Omaha writer the way Faulkner is a Mississippi writer – he has a deep historical connection to the area, and you learn so much.” Schaffert grew up on a farm in Nebraska; he lives in Omaha and is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is founder/director of (downtown) omaha lit fest, to be held Sept 12-13, 2014 at W. Dale Clark Library. www.omahalitfest.com

Theatre Is My Livelihood

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Recommended Reading For Girls – Two Dogs Photos

I sometimes have trouble throwing things away.  I still have this ratty (but exceedingly comfortable) t-shirt that I picked up in high school.  The lettering on the front reads, “If you love me, tell me a story.”  I like the simplicity of it.  It sounds like the truth.

While I identify professionally as a playwright, I have tumbled through a few art forms on my way here.  I was deeply serious about music (but not so deeply talented).   Music is a beautiful foundation for any rigorous discipline.  There are no shortcuts. It requires daily commitment and offers opportunities to be part of something greater than oneself.  Music teaches listening.  It is excellent training for writing.

I studied creative nonfiction in undergraduate school, which was excellent training for arts administration.  I studied that at an art school– while learning about voice.  In visual art, it is easy to see the individual.  Even when the still life is the same for everyone, the interpretation and line is unique to each artist.

It is a story and a present; it is an expression of love.

Working in arts administration has taught me to appreciate the entire collective.  Making arts accessible to everyone is a group project.   I am proud to live in a state that supports the arts and am exceedingly grateful for the Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment.  The cultural landscape of a state requires a chorus of unique voices working together.

I love that theatre makes use of all these skills.  I can have music, language, and art together.  I can keep everything and get a little bit extra.  There is a generosity in our theatre community that continues to astound me.  When we make a new play, directors, actors, designers and writers collaborate.  Ultimately, the play is a series of gifts, much like our cultural endowment.  The playwright gives the play to a director, the director gives it to the actors and designers, everyone works together to give the play to an audience.  It is a story and a present; it is an expression of love.  For me, it is an art form that wears well.

About Ellen

Ellen Struve is an Omaha-based, Omaha-raised playwright.  Her TAG and OEA award-winning play, Recommended Reading for Girls, was part of Omaha Community Playhouse’s 2012-13 season.  She is a Great Plains Theatre Conference StageWriteEllenStruve Headshot(11) (2) and Mainstage playwright.  She is a WhyArts? Resident Artist and Literary Manager at Shelterbelt Theatre.  Her plays have been produced in five states.  She is a Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist Fellow.  She has degrees from University of Iowa and School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  This fall she will be working with Great Plains Theatre Conference and Omaha Community Playhouse to develop a new work.

To read more about Ellen’s projects:



Arts Advocacy Is My Livelihood

Gretchen Peters serves on the Advisory

Board of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

To learn more about what the NCE does: http://www.nebraskaculturalendowment.org/

Forest Floor

Forest Floor

There is something about hanging art on a wall in your house.  It reflects who you are, what you’re interested in, what you see as beautiful or provocative. It can hang there for a really long time, or just a while. It is part of the whole space. There’s the furniture and rugs and books but when the art goes up, it makes the space come to life, it makes the soul.

Appreciating and learning about visual art, and all the arts, can be a lifetime exploration. Living with art and seeking out art makes us all more interested and interesting. It’s for everybody.

It is so important to educate the whole child, the whole human being.

To make it possible for everybody, it’s important to teach little kids about art so they can make their own creative choices about what goes up on their walls, or the sounds that go in their ears or the sights on their screens. In the current learning cycle, students are drilled with rigorous repetition of words and numbers and are missing the joy of creativity and invention. It is so important to educate the whole child, the whole human being.

Frost on Hosta

Frost on Hosta

As for the way I make art, I work with nature’s forms, making representational pencil drawings in blocks of color and movement. Like Georgia O’Keeffe’s floral explorations, I am interested in shapes of color that travel the eye on the page. And then adding light and shadow to shift over those surfaces to build depth and interest.

About Gretchen
Gretchen Peters is an advocate for the arts. She volunteers for the arts, makes art and gpteaches art.

She taught art at Gering High School for 35 years and now makes art derived from her surroundings using colored pencil as the medium. She has received numerous awards for her teaching and drawing skills and her works are in collections across the country.
She serves on the boards of  Humanities Nebraska, Judicial Nominating Commission, West Nebraska Arts Center, Theatre West and the Advisory Board for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.  Gretchen’s  previous board work includes: Nebraskans for the Arts, Nebraska Arts Council, and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Gretchen earned degrees at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Chadron State College. She works and resides in Gering, Nebraska.

For inquiries about Gretchen Peters’ work email gpeters4@charter.net

Fashion Design Is My Livelihood

Nebraska Cultural Endowment:

Originally posted March 2014, read about fashion designer, Buf Reynolds on the cusp of presenting Phaesporia, a beautiful new collection that strikes a balance between art and fashion. To experience Buf’s collection go to http://omahafashionweek.ticketleap.com/phaesporia/
Omaha Fashion Week begins August 18 and runs through August 23, 2014. For more information: http://omahafashionweek.com/schedule/

Originally posted on What's Your Livelihood?:

Buf’s Storyimage001
I am a fashion designer.

I am so much more than that, though. I am simultaneously a designer, coordinator, seamstress, manager, parent, partner, doughnut-eater, Sherlock enthusiast, and plenty more. Some of those are more important than others, but many require a great deal of time and energy.

I have been a designer for a greater amount of years of my life than not. If I had to say one thing is my livelihood it would have to be that. It pushes me to my limits. It tests my strengths and sheds light on my weaknesses. Designing has become its own being inside of me that I need to nourish, control, and discipline.image

Accepting the label “designer” took a long time to do. I kept thinking that there were some special qualifying factors that came into play that when I achieved them, I would be able to validate the label…

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