Staff Bios

Claudia Rogge

Basel Al-Aswad (Columnist, Via Basel), father of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad,is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, public speaking, teaching, and social engagement.

Nancy Heather Brown (Television Columnist, Life in the Box) has had the unique experience of producing, writing, and editing non-fiction television as part of a broadcasting career that spans four decades. Today, she uses gems from this treasure trove of life stories to add sparkle to her reflections on the creative process. She’s harvested these jewels in the Midwest, namely Iowa and Illinois. A little slide show of her career, prepared for a reunion with Illinois State University television students, is available on YouTube, and some videos from her favorite series, “Living in Iowa,” are posted online at Iowa Public Television.

Seana Graham (Book Review Editor) worked for many years in an independent bookstore in Santa Cruz, California. More recently, she spends her time on various writing pursuits. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of literary journals, most recently in The First Line, and have appeared in several anthologies, including The Very Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Santa Cruz Noir. As a reader, her tastes run the gamut from crime fiction to Finnegans Wake, which she is currently reading with a group in Santa Cruz devoted to this project. She writes several blogs, the most widely read being Confessions of Ignorance, where she explores the many things she comes across in life that she doesn’t fully understand.

Kathleen Kirk (Poetry Editor, Editor at Large) joined Escape Into Life in the summer of 2010 as a featured poet, later filling the vacant poetry editor position at the request of founding editor Chris Al-Aswad. She serves also as an editor at large, scouting artists, photographers, and writers, contributing to the EIL Blog, and bringing on new editors and columnists. She has a bachelor’s degree in Poetry and Political Philosophy from Kenyon College and a master’s degree in English from DePaul University, where she taught literature, composition, and creative writing. Her first job out of college was as an encyclopedia editor, and she was an associate editor for Poetry East while in graduate school and then a co-editor of RHINO Magazine for a decade. Kathleen is the author of several poetry chapbooks, most recently The Towns (Unicorn Press, 2018) Spiritual Midwifery (Red Bird, 2019) and Postcards to the World, published within the Spring 2022 issue of Poetry East. She blogs  intermittently at  Wait! I Have a Blog?!

Kim Kishbaugh (Social Media Editor and Columnist, Accidental Critic) is no kind of artist at all, but a lover of art in many different forms. She travels through life with an open mind and open eyes in search of magic, and sometimes finds it. She is Escape Into Life’s social media editor and a long-time journalist with an unsettling history of seeing the companies she works for go out of business. She blogs occasionally at  

Scott Klavan (Theatre Reviewer) is an actor, director, and playwright in New York. Scott performed on Broadway in Irena’s Vow, with Tovah Feldshuh, in regional theater, and in numerous shows Off Broadway, including The Joy Luck Club. His stage adaption of Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral” was produced off-Broadway by Theater by the Blind (TBTB, now Theater Breaking Through Barriers), and his play Double Murder was published inBest American Short Plays of 2006-2007. For twenty years, Scott was Script and Story Analyst for the legendary actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. In 2014, he starred in A Soldier’s Notes, an episode of the new Web Series Small Miracles, alongside Judd Hirsch, earning him a nomination for Outstanding Actor in the LA Web Series Festival 2015.  He directed the one-woman show My Stubborn Tongue, written and performed by Anna Fishbeyn, off-Broadway at The New Ohio Theater and at the United Solo Festival. Scott directed and appeared in the solo play Canada Geese, by George Klas, in the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival. He is currently directing and developing the play One Moment, by Broadway producer James Fuld, Jr. In 2017, he directed and co-wrote with Del Fidanque Off-Line and directed Night Shadows by Lynda Crawford, in Emerging Artists Theatre’s (EAT) New Work Series. He is a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio and a member of the Studio’s Playwright/Directors Workshop. He teaches at the 92nd St. Y and other arts organizations.

Phil Maish (Comics Columnist, Toon Musings) is a freelance cartoonist of no repute. His modest efforts may be viewed at He has worked for the Government, the Opera, and a Soulless Corporation. Self-taught and beholden only to his formidable wife and amazing son, he spends his free time gadding about in his vintage autogyro and, with his faithful manservant Nicopol, exploring untrammeled wildernesses discovering hitherto unknown animal species, smashing spy rings, and regaling fellow members of the League of Intrepid Adventurers with tales of his intrepid adventures. He resides in Heartland America.

Dan Ursini (Music for Music columnist) and his wife Valerie live in Oak Park, Illinois. Over the years he has done many kinds of writing. Ursini served as the first resident playwright for the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago (1978-1983). His play, Sandbar Flatland, directed by John Malkovich, was produced in 1978 during the dawn of the legendary Off-Loop Theater scene in Chicago. In 1990 Chicago Magazine selected it as one of the ten best shows of the preceding 25 years. Beyond this, Ursini worked for ten years as a Contributing Editor for Puerto Del Sol magazine; he wrote performance art pieces presented at such Chicago venues as Club Lower Links and Club Dreamerz. Ursini wrote radio theatre presented on NPR in the early 1990s. Throughout all this, he has worked full-time at the Law Library at DePaul University where for a decade he also wrote articles for Dialogue, the DePaul law school’s alumni publication. In addition, he was active for some years as a bass guitarist in various Chicago blues/gospel/funk/lounge configurations. Currently Ursini is working on his latest novel. A play he wrote with Robert Rothman, A Mensch Among Men, a fictionalized account of real-life Jewish Chicago-area gangsters, has had two staged readings in Chicago. Dan can be reached at:

Rowene Weems (Artist Watch Editor), fine art photographer and retired museum curator, was given her first camera at age twelve. Over the forty years, her images have been part of numerous exhibits and online competitions across the country,  including New York Center for Photographic Art, Santa Fe Photography Workshop, NYC Limner Gallery, Fort Collins Center for Fine Art Photography, Nicolaysen Art Museum, and Minneapolis Praxis Gallery. Weems received a BA in Fine Arts from Kenyon College, with additional artistic study at Boston Museum School, the University of Colorado, Santa Fe Photography Workshops, and Rocky Mountain School of Photography. Her published work includes Princeton Press: Tippet Rise Art Center, Architectural Digest, ICM Photography Magazine as featured artist and most recently, Poetry East cover image. 


  • A Tribute To The Founder

    Chris Al-Aswad (1979 - 2010)
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