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In Business: a hands-free art magazine

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A few years ago Wendy Miller, a Los Angeles-based cartoonist and writer, suffered a head injury and went into a coma. She says she was vaguely aware of being in a hospital room with nurses monitoring her and her family sitting beside her. Despite being unresponsive, she also remembers hearing a struggling contestant on Wheel of Fortune.

"I opened my eyes and looked at the TV set," she says. Suddenly, she sat up in bed and cried, "Statue of Liberty!," solving the puzzle and startling everyone in the room. Just as suddenly, she lay down and fell back into a coma for several more days.

Miller is fine now. The story may even be true. Her tale is track 11 on the first edition of Writers' Block Party: An Audio Magazine, a CD that showcases an eclectic mix of writers, humorists, monologuists, poets, and musicians from around the country. "Writers' Block Party" is also the title of a new, intermittently airing variety segment featuring local talent on WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight.

The CD and radio segment are the creations of Chicago humorist Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the result of a midnight epiphany several years ago. "It was literally one of those things, like a cliche," she says. "I sat up in bed, turned the light on and went, 'Wow!' I scribbled down the words 'writers' block party.'"

The next morning she tacked the scrap of paper to her wall. "I wasn't sure what it was going to be," she says. "Was it going to be an event? A product? Would I do 'Writers' Block Party: The Carnival' or would it be this thing you could buy and put in your pocket?"

Envisioning a showcase for her idiosyncratic tastes, she quickly figured she wasn't up to staging an elaborate event with poets and bands and short stage plays. Then she hit on the idea of producing a CD. She corralled contributors like pop rocker Jonny Polonsky, baton-twirling folksinger Christine Lavin, Neo-Futurist Greg Allen, humorist Cynthia Kaplan, poet Kenneth Koch, and--the coup de grace--the poet laureate of the United States, Billy Collins.

"It's a new kind of thing," she says. "You take a music CD and marinate it overnight in a magazine, a radio show, and maybe one of those mix tapes you made in college."

Billed as "the magazine you can enjoy while driving," the CD will be available February 19 at book and record stores as well as on-line at www.writersblockparty.com. Krouse Rosenthal will host a free release party Thursday, February 21, from 7 to 9 PM at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park. Ralph Covert, Greg Allen, and Hugh Musick will perform, as will the bands the Good and Starball. Eight Forty-Eight host Steve Edwards will also say a few words. Space is limited; call 773-348-7592 or E-mail missamykr@yahoo.com for more information. On Wednesday, April 3, at 7:30 the Guild Complex will host another release party at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Call 773-227-6117.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J.B. Spector.

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