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Author Tue Mar 12 2013

Gapers Block Prepares for Story Week: an Interview with Jane Hamilton

The annual literary celebration Story Week Festival of Writers is next week March 17 through 22. Sponsored by Columbia College Chicago's Fiction Writing Department, the festival brings together talent from across the nation in panels, readings, and performances. The year's theme, Vision and Voice, paints writers as modern day visionaries.

Featured guests which include Saphire (Push), Joe Meno (Office Girl), Audrey Niffenegger (Her Fearful Symmetry), and T. Geronimo Johnson (Hold It 'Til It Hurts). All events are free and open to the public.
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Thursday, March 21, events feature author Jane Hamilton (Laura Rider's Masterpiece), whose work has been chosen by Oprah's Book Club, adapted to film, and named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. See Hamilton at a 1pm panel at Columbia College, located at 618 S. Wabash Ave., and later, at the festival's dynamic Literary Rock and Roll event at the Metro, located at 3730 N. Clark St. at 6pm.

Hamilton is as Midwest as they come, in fact, she grew up right in Oak Park. These days she lives Wisconsin, where most of her stories take place. Gaper's Block got to ask her some questions in preparation for her appearances next week.

The theme for Story Week this year is Vision and Voice. How did you find your voice as a writer?

I'm not a religious person per say, but in the larger realm, voice is a gift from god. In the more local realm, it's a result of a habit of being: reading, observing, listening.

How do you feel the Midwest has played an impact on your writing?

For the most part I've always lived in the Midwest. How can I step back and assess what even especially distinguishes the Midwest? I'm steeped in it; I am of it; it's in me. So, defining how it's impacted me is like having full self-knowledge, which I think is always somewhat impossible. I think one of the more defining pieces of my life is having been a deeply loved baby of the family. I am happy and trusting, and basically have the temperament of a golden retriever.

You were also a resident at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, IL. How did an experience like that help define and establish your process?

It made it possible for me to put my head down and write for weeks at a time, keep hold of the thread of the work, to sink into the pleasure of being in the work, and to feel, because of the peace and time, that all things were possible. A very heady feeling.

Having had the time to find your vision and voice as a writer, what would be one piece of advice you could share with emerging writers?

Throw away your smart phones.

What are you excited to experience during this year's Story Week?

The rock and roll night is bound to be riotous. The energy of the community will be beautiful.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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