(This Student Spotlight was originally included in the M.S. in Written Communication program monthly newsletter, Write On! If you’d like to receive the newsletter, please email CASWriters@nl.edu)
Write On! proudly focuses on some of the talents, skills and accomplishments of our very own students. This Student Spotlight is on Stephanie Rogers. She is married, mother of a teen son and the creator/ producer of Story Jam, a local live lit showcase.
WO! When did you begin the M.S. in Written Communication program at National Louis University?
SR: I am on the slow train in this program! I started two years ago, and I’m only halfway through.
WO! What have been some of your favorite classes?
SR: I loved Women’s Lives Into Literature and Advanced Expository Writing, both with Dr. Koch, and I got a lot out of Online Publishing and Editing For Publication. All of my classes have been excellent! I am learning so much in this program. I’m currently taking Young Adult Fiction with the extraordinary Laurie Lawlor. It’s definitely not a comfortable genre for me, but I love Laurie, the challenge of writing fiction and all the cool, imaginative ideas my fellow students bring to class each week.
WO! What is your professional/musical background?
SR: I was a theater major in undergrad, and even after spending time acting in LA and Chicago, I kept coming back to music. I didn’t have a TV or telephone when I lived in LA, so in my copious free time, I spent tons of time practicing guitar and writing songs. I had been in a couple indie bands at Northwestern as a hobby. At some point, I started getting more singing gigs, and I eventually created my own label, Hipchick Records (named after a funk band I was in called Hipbone), and released my first CD.
WO! What is Story Jam and how does it work?
SR: Story Jam is a live lit and live music show which features a diverse range of storytellers and a 10-piece band. I write a song for each story, which the band performs, and we spotlight six or seven stories at each show. We also include an open mic segment, as well as one or two little surprises. It’s very lively and fun, but also filled with beautifully told, personal stories that deeply move and entertain the audience. Most of the tellers have won Moth StorySLAMs and GrandSLAMs, so they are typically very skilled. However, sometimes I recruit a gifted rookie.
A good storyteller can make a benign trip to the gas station seem interesting…
WO! Where did you get the idea for Story Jam?
SR: Story Jam was created out of two situations. After singing with rock bands for about 30 years, I had eased into leading my own event orchestra. In 2014, we were playing mostly weddings, corporate functions and fundraisers when I contracted severe tinnitus (which is a constant ringing in the ears). I had to stop leading the orchestra because it was just too much noise for my painfully sensitive ears. Just before that, I had been attending storytelling events in Chicago, and I was taking a solo show writing class at Chicago Dramatists with an incredible performer/teacher named Arlene Malinowski. I was thinking about developing a one-woman show at the time, and I felt that every solo show or storytelling event I attended was missing the chance to fully incorporate music. Some shows had background folksy-type sounds or opening acts, but none of them conjoined the music and stories. I thought: writing songs that echo the stories would be a great melding of non-fiction lit and music, my two passions. Plus, I could still front a great band, and my ears could enjoy a break during the stories.
WO! Where does Story Jam take place? We do shows in Chicago and Wilmette, Ill. We started in my town, at The Wilmette Theatre, where we still perform.
It’s a great venue for live performance, and it draws the perfect crowd for sharing diversity of cultures, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and physical, mental, and sexual differences.
We also perform at City Winery on Randolph and at Artifact Events in Ravenswood. There is no set schedule. You have to go to our website in order to find out where we’ll be next!
WO! What makes a good story teller?
SR: A good storyteller can make a benign trip to the gas station seem interesting by loading up the story with fascinating details and personal insights. Sometimes a good story leads us down another path, with rawness and honesty, so that we, too, have our own moment of personal insight. The best stories definitely pull in some humor as well!
WO! What are some other interests or hobbies?
SR: I am a mom to a teenage boy, and I play competitive tennis. I like to listen to NPR and various story podcasts, and I perform acoustic originals and covers at a coffeehouse every Saturday morning. I also love to cook for friends, and I enjoy watching “This is Us” with my husband.
WO! What do you hope to do with your degree from the M.S. in Written Communication program?
SR: I hope to be a better writer and develop more skills as an editor/writer for Story Jam and my websites. Quite possibly — maybe one day — I’ll even write that one-person show!