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Interview Thu May 30 2013

A Look at Chicago Literati, a New Online Outlet for All Things Literary

Thumbnail image for Red Logo 2.jpgThe city's literary community welcomes a new addition with Chicago Literati, part of Tribune Media's ChicagoNow blogger union. Chicago Literati captures the essence of the lit scene with book reviews, live reading reviews, event postings, reading lists, creative nonfiction essays, and even a bit of fiction and poetry every now and again. The site began last November as an independent project of recent Columbia College Chicago fiction writing graduate Abby Sheaffer. As acting editor-in-chief, Sheaffer wears many hats to maintain the site. She writes articles, reviews content, edits submissions, and solicits new contributors.

"I really work hard to make Chicago Literati feel like a community," says Sheaffer. "I think the greatest part of the Chicago literary community is the sense of family and how open everyone is to expression."

A community is building around the site's growing content. This includes the dedicated staff Sheaffer has amassed. "They're all so unique and talented," she says.

Many are students or recent graduates who are looking for a place to share their work. Even as young writers they are tackling subjects that apply to writers at most any level of experience. A recent post discussed how writers combat writers block.

"I encourage my staff to write articles in an intimate and colloquial tone as they would use with a friend." This sentiment is evident a recent piece entitled, It's Complicated: How I Became a Writer from contributor Liz Baudler. In this creative essay Baudler describes what she perceives as her first writing failure when she received a D+ on a research paper and happened to be reading Ayn Rand. As a staff writer, Sheaffer's articles follow the same guidelines that direct her contributors.

"I love not being limited," explains Sheaffer. "There are readers of Chicago Literati who love long reads, and there are others who want to be able to read something on their lunch break or commute. I like being able to cater to those audiences."

Lucky for fans of literary culture in Chicago, there's a lot to chose from when it comes to getting news, but Sheaffer says Chicago Literati stands out.

"The cornerstone of Chicago Literati, or what makes us different, is our reading series reviews," says Sheaffer. "Most literary magazines simply feature a press release, and that's good, but when you imagine all the work that the curators put into a single show, and the labor of love for the performers, and the lighting directors, the publicity team, etc., you just have to give them due credit."

In a city with so such a vibrant literary identity, there's a lot of pressure to hold submissions to a high standard.

"I look for honesty in pieces that are submitted," Sheaffer says. "I want it to be a place where all writers and readers can commingle without pretension, where expression is the most important thing, because that's what it comes right down to--being able to express yourself freely in a safe environment--that's what I want with Chicago Literati."

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

Editor: Andrew Huff, ah@gapersblock.com
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