John "Sloop" Biederman
John “Sloop” Biederman's fate as a writer was sealed early, through encouragement from his parents and teachers. In grade school, he wrote old-time “radio” plays and won an Earth Day poetry contest in the late ’70s. (The blue spruce “sapling” prize now towers by his former family home in Ringwood, Ill.) His folks spurred his budding humorist through their favorite classics, from Laurel and Hardy to “Pink Panther” movies. Moved by authors including Poe, Tolkien and Twain, in junior high he crafted Dungeons & Dragons adventures and figured he’d grow up to be a humorous 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 ’80s. When rampant partying prompted his folks to yank the money, he moved home for a Multi-Year Funk and grunt jobs, pitching sci-fi/fantasy to magazines, earning feedback and a first unpaid “sale” (poetry), though the rag failed before publication. He moved to Chicago in 1991 and founded the first of two writers’ groups. Members loved his Floyd Pinkerton, from a one-off sci-fi story, so much they even wrote their own Floyd tales!
Sloop landed in alcohol rehab and was screwed-up worse by its religiosity. Pitching Gauntlet Magazine on a 12 Steps critique (later published), he snagged his first paid story (1993), analyzing a then media circus involving child’s birthday party stripper. Rehab became his first novel’s theme (‘Hab: The Other Side of Rehab, 1993; reedited and published on Smashwords in 2013). He returned to journalism school (Columbia College Chicago) in 1994, wrote a humor column for the school’s Chronicle, rose to editor-in-chief and interned at MAD Magazine. Dismayed at the Internet’s effects on writing careers, Sloop indulged new creative directions.
Sloop hit poetry readings socially and his humor verse landed paid gigs (Chicago Cultural Center, etc.). On graduating (1997), he founded a poetry scene rag, Tunnel Rat, which buried him in debt but landed him as editor of Chicago Artists’ News. In 1999, for the 10th National Poetry Slam, he hosted the Limerick Slam, founding DailyLimerick.net to plug it. (“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, freelanced (San Fran Chronicle, MAD, etc.) and plied stand-up and comic verse at the Laugh Factory, Comedy Store, etc.
Sloop hated L.A., so returned home, bolstered clips with theater (CenterstageChicago.com) and sports (The Heckler) and scored his sweetest gig, News Limericks for the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye. When RedEye axed freelance, he placed “The News of Our Time--In Rhyme” at Continental Features. As writing income waned, Sloop translated stage experience into emceeing and acting gigs (TV, ads, indie films), even stumbling into directing/producing a theater troupe (Family Shoe Players) and a regular gig playing a tour bus gangster for Untouchable Tours.
The Great Recession/Internet tag team launched Sloop’s second Multi-Year Funk. While pleased he’d reinvented himself creatively, with his lifelong identity as a writer, he was now identity-challenged. After his parents’ deaths (2012 and 2014), he reclaimed his original identity by reworking the original Pinkerton tale into Drunk Space Driving in the Twenty-First Century, prelude to the novel series The Cosmic Misadventures of Floyd Pinkerton, Space Crock.
Awards and Recognition
- Community Service Award, from Red Path Theater (Chicago), for my poetry scene publication, Tunnel Rat (1998).