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John “Sloop” Biederman
John “Sloop” Biederman's fate as a writer was sealed in grade school, thanks to encouragement from teachers and his parents. He even won a school-wide, Earth Day poetry contest in the late ’70s. (The award, a blue spruce sapling, towers today by his parents’ home in Northern Illinois’ Ringwood.) Moved by Poe and Tolkien, in junior high he crafted adventures for Dungeons & Dragons and figured he’d eventually become a sci-fi/fantasy novelist. In high school, Sloop was an award-winning humor columnist/editor and picked journalism as (ahem) a practical career.
Sloop chased rock star dreams from his teens through three semesters at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) in the mid-’80s, when his folks yanked the money thanks to his party-first study style. He moved home for a multi-year funk and grunt jobs, pitching sci-fi/fantasy to magazines, earning good feedback and a first unpaid “sale” (poetry), though the rag failed before publication. Yet those goals competed with boozing, which led to DUI, a move to Chicago for public trans and a 1991 trip to Big Rehab. Boggled by rehab’s religiosity--which screwed him up worse--he volunteered for an alternative, Rational Recovery, editing its Midwest newsletter and running meetings. Pitching Gauntlet Magazine on a critique of the 12 Steps (later published), he snagged his first paid gig (1993) covering a stripper and a 12-year-old’s birthday party. He founded a writers’ group, but the rehab angle for a novel didn’t hit until more than a year after it.
Sloop returned to college (Columbia College Chicago) for journalism while pitching Hab to agents. He penned a humor column for Columbia’s The Chronicle, rose to editor-in-chief and interned at MAD Magazine, which prompted a cartooning course and award-winning editorial cartoons. Rejected by 100+ agents, Sloop let Hab lie. He was perhaps too close to the material, a rookie and the subject… Well, one agent scolded him for “attacking a beloved institution”. Pondering the novel’s future in the Internet Age, Sloop indulged new creative directions.
Through college, Sloop hit poetry readings as a social outlet and his rhyming humor stuck-out amid mostly free verse, earning him paid gigs (Chicago Cultural Center, etc.). On graduating (1997), he founded a poetry scene newspaper, for which he first penned “News Poetry.” Tunnel Rat was popular yet buried him in debt, though it landed him as editor of Chicago Artists’ News. In 1999, for the 10th National Poetry Slam, Sloop hosted the Limerick Slam, founding DailyLimerick.net to plug it. (A forum for “News Limericks” and humor.) He met the woman who’d one day become his ex-wife, who moved him to California, where he worked at the L.A. Daily News and plied stand-up and “Stand-Up Poetry” at the Laugh Factory, Comedy Store, etc.
Sloop hated L.A., so he returned to Chicago and expanded his freelance with theater reviews (CenterstageChicago.com), sports (humor for The Heckler) and more. He scored his sweetest gig, News Limericks for the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye, and when it axed freelance, placed “The News of Our Time--In Rhyme” at Continental Features. As the Great Recession disemboweled print journalism, Sloop translated performing experience into acting gigs (TV, commercials, indie films), even stumbling into directing/producing an interactive theater troupe (Family Shoe Players). Sloop took a wizened crack at reworking Hab, again pitching that to agents, before turning to the e-book market as he returned to his writer roots…mostly. Today he also indulges his Performing Jones through his band, Sloop and the Magnificent Musical Nut Wagon, and emceeing live shows, which, he’s found, he enjoys more than poetry, stand-up or acting.