In researching the fertility business in Chicago for Conceivable Options, Debra Pickett found dozens of compelling stories. She bracketed her report with some of the dilemmas presented by unique cases. "These questions, ethical and philosophical, about all the choices we make—those were the stories that were just grabbing me," Pickett says. "That was what I took home with me." A former Sun-Times columnist, Pickett has two children under the age of two, so her personal experience enhanced her perspective. Talking to women undergoing fertility treatment, she broke some news: Cute babies become screaming toddlers. "That doesn’t seem to deter people," she says.

Chicago’s comedy scene is "an extraordinary Petri dish of talent," says Robert Buscemi, who wrote profiles of 12 comedians worth seeing for "Gag Order" in Service Desk this month. A standup comic himself, Buscemi is filming an hourlong live show at The Annoyance Theatre on December 17th for his second DVD.

K. Tighe, the new editor in chief of Venus Zine, spent a rainy Saturday polling girls at American Girl Place for "Girl Talk" with Cassie Walker, the editor of Arena, and Chrissy Mahlmeister, an editorial intern. The survey introduced Tighe to possible future readers of Venus Zine. "Because I work at a magazine geared toward women, it’s interesting to see where these young girls put their priorities," she says.

Missing, a memoir on the impact of a long-ago event on later generations, is excerpted for this month’s Reflection column, "Love, Bill," by Cornelia Maude Spelman. In it, Spelman—the author of ten picture books for young children—visits The New Yorker‘s fiction editor William Maxwell, an old friend of her parents, and explores the effects of grief, success, and friendship. "What I’m always writing about is emotion,"
she says.

"I was trying to stay true to Jeff Ruby’s vision of the Man of Beef," says John Kenzie, who illustrated The Closer‘s Steak Man comic this month. While also working full-time for Chicago doing production and systems administration, Kenzie has produced freelance illustrations for the Chicago Tribune Magazine, Playboy, and several ‘zines.