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Thursday, May 23

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This week's question was submitted by Aldo. Thanks very much!

Q: I moved to Chicago in August 2002 and I have yet to meet a local fiction writer. I meet poets, performer poets, performance artists, monologuists, writer/actors, playwrights, journalists, musician/songwriters, and people who do a combination of the above with fiction on the side. ... Where do fiction writers socialize in Chicago?

Chicago is a city with a rich literary heritage, and it has been home to some of this country's best-known and well-respected writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Richard Wright and L. Frank Baum. Today the city claims Sara Paretsky, Scott Turow, Sandra Cisneros and countless others.

Start your search for local fiction writers by checking out the Illinois Writers Directory. The directory was started in 1998 and lists the publication and contact information for hundreds of Illinois authors. You may search by name or go straight to the Fiction category. You may even use the submission form to add your own information to the directory.

However, now that you know some of their names, how do you find them? Where do these folks congregate when they're not writing? The following list, while far from exhaustive, will hopefully give you some ideas for where to meet your writer colleagues.

Colleges and Universities

Not surprisingly, many published novelists can be found among the faculty and staff of the English or writing departments of local colleges and universities, and, like the rest of us, these folks do at least some of their socializing at work-related events. Many schools sponsor programs and events that are open to the public, and attending these events might be a way to meet and network with other local writers. Here's just a couple of local schools with active events programming:

Columbia College Chicago: Fiction Writing Department
Columbia College Chicago sponsors an annual Story Week Festival of Writers that attracts writers from Chicago and around the country to give readings and lead discussions about their work. This year the Story Week Festival takes place March 18-27. Unfortunately, a complete events listing is not yet available.

University of Illinois at Chicago: English Department
Check out the Program for Writers at UIC, which features regular readings by UIC graduate students and other local and nationally known writers. The Jak's Tap series, for example, features monthly readings/get-togethers at Jak's Tap at 901 West Jackson. See the Program for Writers website for details.

Organizations

Many national organizations for writers have local sections that meet in the Chicago area, and the city also boasts several local organizations through which it might be possible to meet other fiction writers. Here is a sampling of what the city has to offer:

The Guild Complex
Although you may find many hyphenate writer/performers here, the Guild Complex is "independent, not for profit cultural center that serves as a forum for literary cross cultural expression, discussion and education in combination with other arts." This Chicago-based organization was founded in 1989, and their events and workshops seem to focus primarily on fiction and poetry. The Guild Complex also publishes books by local and national writers under the Tia Chucha Press name.

Mystery Writers of America: Midwest Chapter
Although the Midwest chapter represents members from Nebraska to Ohio, meetings are held on the second Wednesday of every month, from September through May, right here in Chicago. The group also sponsors an annual seminar in June. Check out the list of authors in the Midwest chapter, which boasts many local authors such as Barbara D'Amato and Scott Turow.

Neighborhood Writing Alliance
The NWA is a non-profit organization that hosts free writing groups all over Chicago. The organization also publishes the quarterly Journal of Ordinary Thought, featuring works written by workshop participants. See the website for more information.

New Town Writers
New Town Writers is a gay and lesbian writers' salon based in Chicago that holds bi-weekly meetings where writers can share and critique their works-in-progress. Visit the website for upcoming meeting times and locations.

Romance Writers of America: Chicago-North Chapter
The website includes a list of authors, local news, and events announcements. The Chicago-North Chapter also sponsors a bi-annual writers' conference. The next conference is scheduled for April 24.

Special Events and Other Programs

2004 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference
The 2004 conference for this organization supporting writers in higher education takes place March 24-27 right here in Chicago, so local writers are bound to have a strong presence. Visit the website for registration and program information.

Chicago Humanities Festival
Although broad in scope, the Chicago Humanities Festival does offer literary programs featuring local and national authors. In additional to the annual fall festival, the Chicago Humanities Festival sponsors additional programming throughout the year. See the website for details.

Libraries and Bookstores

I would be terribly remiss if I did not mention the Chicago Public Library as a potential meeting ground for local fiction writers. CPL sponsors dozens of events every month including author readings and other literary programs. Visit the online calendar to see upcoming events.

Literary programs at bookstores around the city may also provide meeting opportunities. Barbara's Bookstore, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, and Women & Children First are just a couple of the local bookstores that frequently sponsor author events and other literary programs.

As I mentioned above, this list is not exhaustive, and it's possible you have already tried many of these avenues without success. However, I hope this list can act as a starting point for exploring Chicago's vibrant literary community. Good luck, and if anyone knows of any glaring omissions, please feel free to add to this list in the comments below.

Have a topic you would like to see in "Ask the Librarian?" Send your suggestions to librarian@gapersblock and it may be featured in a future column.

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Comments

mike / March 4, 2004 6:05 PM

Also, anyone can contact me if they are interested in submitting and/or becoming involved with a new literary magazine in Chicago called "Make." thanks.

Wendy / March 5, 2004 10:15 AM

Don't forget the Printers Row Book Fair in June. There's usually at least a few local folks doing readings or workshops there.

M.S. Manley / March 9, 2004 10:05 AM

Also, there's the SF/Fantasy/Horror writer's group that meets at the Red Lion Pub. See http://www.twilighttales.com/ for details.

cushie / March 9, 2004 11:01 AM

The MFA in creative writing at the Art Institute has some pretty heavy hitting faculty, and I would imagine the students are good too.

Jason / March 9, 2004 3:03 PM

The question "where the heck are all the fiction writers in Chicago" has an easy answer: they're all in Minneapolis!

Jason / March 9, 2004 3:03 PM

The question "where the heck are all the fiction writers in Chicago" has an easy answer: they're all in Minneapolis!

 

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