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Events Tue Apr 30 2013

Celebrate Eight Years of Reading Under the Influence

"Life changes, but stories live on, right?" poses Reading Under the Influence hostess Julia Borcherts. Along with Amy Guth, and Rob Duffer, Borcherts is one of the founders and current hosts of RUI, which celebrates its eighth year on Wednesday, May 1, at 7pm at Sheffield's, located at 3258 N. Sheffield Ave. The reading series has become a staple in the literary community, known for great monthly lineups and energetic hosts and that readers are, as the name suggests, under the influence.
June 2011 Sheffields.jpg
The series began in 2005 as a project to finance a formal thesis showcase by the hosts, then in graduate school in Columbia College Chicago's Fiction Writing Department. "And a way to legitimize going to a bar to have some drinks with our friends," jokes Borcherts.

The success of the series was modest at the start, garnering attention from friends and fellow classmates. Having a drink after class or work to share writing is something that others around the city wanted to be part of. These days, RUI books published writers, students, emerging talent, story tellers, and more, every month.

"We were having fun every month so we just kept it going," said Borcherts. "Good stories are a great way to bring people together and for strangers to become friends."

The modest $3 cover helped hosts purchase books, literary journals, and zines from their invited readers to build up a prize selection for trivia, which is based on the theme of the night. The money also goes towards purchasing readers a shot before they take to the stage.

In its eighth year, RUI is still evolving. Over the years co-founders Joe Tower, Mandy Snyder, Carly Huegelmann, and Jesse Jordan stepped down for various reasons from moving to California to starting a family. The remaining hosts are now dealing with similar decisions.

"Putting together a reading series takes a lot of effort and Rob, Amy, and I also have family responsibilities and crazy work schedules," says Borcherts. "We're proud of what we've created and there really isn't anything else like it in Chicago, so we didn't want to just let it go. We decided that it was time to invite in some new hosts."

Rob Duffer, photo credit Ray Lumpp.jpg
Now, interns help schedule the readers and promote the series. Borcherts and Duffer are faculty members in Columbia's Fiction Writing Department and enlist their students to provide young writers a chance to learn the ropes in planning an ongoing literary event. Erin Nederbo was one of their first interns and has joined the ranks of hosts, along with five others, all with work backgrounds in the literary community.

Jon Natzke ran the literary zine Half Nelson Press; Behnam Riahi was press coordinator for Criminal Class Press; Frankie Migacz hosted the now defunct literary series Revolutions along with Riahi; Bronwyn Mead is a freelance writer; and Naomi Huffman is the literary editor for Newcity. "They're all community oriented go-getters who we felt embodied the best things about RUI, and were capable of bringing some fresh perspectives," explains Borcherts.

What does this mean for the current hosts, the familiar faces and voices regulars and attendees have come to endear? After this month's show, Duffer, Guth and Borcherts will be allowing the new hosts to take the reigns. "But that doesn't mean that the three of us will disappear," says Borcherts.

Duffer and Borcherts are teachers, freelance writers, and parents, and Guth is Social Media Manager at the Chicago Tribune. With all their accomplishments, they are definitely ready for a sabbatical.

For RUI's eighth anniversary reading, there are eight readers, one for each year, all of whom have been part of the staff throughout the years. Readers include RUI hosts Rob Duffer, Amy Guth, and Julia Borcherts. Co-founders Jesse Jordan and Carly Huegelmann will return for the night, joined by new hosts, Erin Nederbo, Bronwyn Mead, and Jon Natzke. Frankie Migacz and Behnam Riahi will take on hosting. Borcherts will get to take it easy and switch perspectives, watching her series from the audience. She will get to enjoy RUI as many others have over the years, many who have come back month after month.

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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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