Welcome to Island in the City. I’m René Ostberg, the writer of this newsletter and of lots of other good things. You can expect to receive this newsletter once or twice a month.

I started this newsletter for fun and community during an un-fun time when many of us are still practicing some level of social distancing. I use this newsletter to dive into some topics that have preoccupied my mind during the long days and nights of the pandemic: creativity & productivity, loneliness, favorite artists, places & people, aging & ageism, class & classism, storytelling, and the life and geography of big cities & tiny islands.

That seems like a wide net, I know. But during periods of solitude and loneliness, the mind can be a far-ranging traveler. Reading my newsletter, you might be surprised at some of the connections I make between disparate topics. That’s what Island in the City is all about—seeking connection through singularity, and recognizing the singular in the crowd.

You have probably never heard of me. I’m a middle-aged woman of very modest accomplishments living in the Midwest. I guess that makes me an outsider myself. I’m a native of Chicago who now lives outside the city. (That’s me in my city living days above.) I grew up in a large family and multi-generational household, but I now live on my own with 4 cats. I look after them and my elderly parents. My life is pretty quiet and anonymous on the outside.

Still, I have some writing credentials. I’ve published articles and essays on:

I’ve written Catholic-y book reviews and aging hipster song recommendations, interviewed poets, novelists, artists, filmmakers, urban planners, and uh, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and published a small handful of short stories in lit journals. I’ve also written some very bad poetry that I won’t link to. (You can google it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.) I have a website with all the dirty links should you be curious.

A little more background that will add context to some of the topics in this newsletter…. In my 20s I studied culinary arts at a Chicago-area community college. Believe it or not, this led to me working several summers on a tiny island in Ireland (Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands). (That’s me below at age 23 or 24 on the island.) Now you might get the island theme. I worked for years in food service and hospitality. Eventually I went back to school and got my bachelor’s in English from an underrated state university in southern Illinois, which led to a career as a publishing drone in Chicago.

In 2008 I left Chicago to start a tour company (Wayfaring Women Tours) and travel, starting with a cross-country, month-long Greyhound journey through the south and southwest United States. I also hit up France, Australia, Mexico, Bolivia, Spain, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and Ireland (my heart, again and again). I authored a blog during this time called Writing and Wayfaring. I don’t get around as much these days—actually not at all. But the writing has stuck.

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A newsletter about outsider art and Chicago by an artist living outside Chicago, with occasional island diversions.