Photographer Tanja Hollander’s ambitious and wide-ranging project, “Are You Really My Friend,” currently on exhibit at Mass MoCA, employs formal portraiture, snapshots, ephemera, Post-it notes, and other media to address ideas and questions about friendship in the new millennium.

The challenge: how to frame a clear narrative for a two-hundred page book out of a vast archive of material—more than 6000 images, 1800 Instagram posts, emails, text exchanges, etc.

We began by establishing a definition of friendship that made clear the connection between her dual themes of friendship and travel. Our next step was to figure out how that might set in motion a narrative arc: as a female artist traveling solo, constantly seeking new experiences exposes you to risk—but also to joy. Now, we had a way to categorize images and text, as well as a clear sense of direction. Most important, Tanja had a way to focus the project so that the enormity of her previous undertaking didn’t swamp this new version of her story.


Poet Dzvinia Orlowsky is an accomplished Ukrainian-American poet, translator, editor, and professor. She is the author of five poetry collections and was the co-recipient, with Jeffrey Friedman, of a National Endowment for the Arts 2016 Translation Fellowship. Her sixth collection, Bad Harvest, forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in the fall of 2018, represents a departure from her previous work.

The challenge: Dzvinia’s career was established before having an online presence and being active on social media were necessities.

Since the topics of Dzvinia’s heritage and personal history are both addressed in the new book (and her father was a talented photographer), I asked her to pull together a cache of between 25-40 images and to scan them for use in social media posts. We discussed the type and variety of posts that would be most effective and hit upon a perfect solution for a poet: her plan is to use juxtapositions of image and language, lyricism and wit to deepen and complicate audience perceptions of both her author persona and her work.


Eric Boermeester is a fiction writer and a high school English teacher who co-created, a site of interconnected (and potentially interactive) serial stories that all take place within an island community. The site’s goal was to create a self-contained multimedia hub where content and merchandise (books, short films, albums, artwork, t-shirts, etc.) all related to the stories taking place on the island—but due to time and resource constraints, the project had stalled just short of a full launch.

The challenge: the speed of technological advancements on the web made every new possibility seem like a necessary option the site simply had to have. What to do?

I proposed a two-pronged approach: Version A—a web story venue that used the conceit of an island peopled with eccentrics and rife with mystery to create intersections between different areas of extended, multi-part plot lines. That site was very close to done, so I simply gave Eric a hit list for what was needed to finish it. Following that, a soft launch, and then…he and his partner could start working toward Version B—a cultural distribution hub built around the same conceit that includes story content by multiple writers, as well as short films, music podcasts, and visual art for sale.


Jenny Belardi is a fiction writer and the Director of Development for the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She has completed a science fiction manuscript—in the dystopian vein of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake trilogy—and was in the process of shopping her manuscript to agents.

The challenge: as an emerging writer and working mom with a demanding job, Jenny wasn’t sure how to go about building greater visibility for herself as a creative artist.

On viewing Jenny’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, it became clear that her online identity revolved around motherhood, family, and work. What wasn’t clear was that she is an avid writer and reader with a passion for science fiction. I asked her about a line in her bio that intrigued me: “I constantly learn about and ruminate on the state of technology and its impact on society”—which we then used as a jumping- off point for brainstorming ways to integrate her professional and creative roles. I also saw elements of a clear feminist perspective re: female leadership and influence on cultural matters—another useful frame for selecting and shaping content to share.