Saturday! Feast on franks with your favorite inter-dimensional travelers at Chowdown at Sundown(ers), Challengers Comics' cook out with special guests, and creators of the Sundowners comic series, Sean Dove, Tim Seeley, and Jim Terry, 4 - 8 pm.
Saturday! Make your way to Quimby's to enjoy Lane Milburn's new graphic novel, Twelve Gems, described by Robot 6 as "'80s-indie black-and-white space-opera," 7 pm.
Stare was an independent publication released from 1976 to 1991 by artist, print maker and teacher Kevin Riordan. The publication collected irreverent, arresting graphic art and writing with equal attention to how it was printed and bound. To celebrate Stare's legacy, Riordan approached Spudnik Press to host the exhibit Recombinant Stare. The show includes issues of the magazine as well as books, posters, press sheets, and photographs. It brings together recent and selected works by some of Stare's contributors, including Wayne Bertola, Mike Brehm, Elroy Christy, Peter Hannan, Jean Riordan and the late Fritz Wolfmeyer. The exhibit will also be the impetus for a new publication, the first in over two decades, curated by Riordan.
In order to fully understand the scope of Stare, I emailed its creator for an interview. Riordan discusses his printing process and the subsequent release parties thrown over the years. He talks of lofts spaces, early punk bands, and DIY printing. In doing so, he also provides a glimpse into the history of Chicago's independent print community. This is a tremendous story of a passionate artist and how he made his publication come to life.
Glancing at Roxane Gay's latest title, Bad Feminist, I cannot help but imagine someone with a rolled up newspaper, whapping well-meaners on the nose: "Bad feminist! Baaad feminist. Look what you did!"
Now take that picture and imagine that, instead of a newspaper, Gay is wielding a rolled up zeitgeist: all the news, TV, film, music, and literature that have managed to slip through the cracks. (To pull an example from the book, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" became a song. A popular song. Let's all take a moment to wonder how that happened.)
Wrapped in hilarious prose, Bad Feminist is a lab experiment in media dissection. Throughout the anthology, Gay employs dry wit to pick apart thirty-plus essays worth of cultural phenomena; and when not making case studies of Girls or The Help, she analyzes feminism as a whole and its exclusionary tendencies. What does it mean, she asks, to be a woman of color and a feminist? What does it mean to be queer and be feminist?
This Wednesday, August 27th, Roxane will be reading and discussing Bad Feminist at Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St.) at 7:30 pm. Stop by to chip away at those pieces of culture that subtly undermine feminism -- and maybe to love-bash The Bachelor.
Throughout a number of works, local writer and artist H. Melt has made a project of documenting the intersections of Chicago's history with the lives of its often overlooked transgender and queer communities. Just last year they (Melt's preferred personal pronoun) published SIRvival in the Second City, a collection of poems that emerged from within and around queer institutions such as Dyke March and Big Chicks. This month, Melt opens up the floor with the release of compilation zine Second to None: Queer and Trans Chicago Voices. It debuts with a reading and celebration this Wednesday, August 13, at Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark), at 7:30pm.
Melt seems to have curated Second to None from a place of both love and frustration. They note in the preface that "While Chicago is home to many organizations that provide social, medical, and legal services for queer and trans people, there is not enough support for writers and artists, which often forces them to move elsewhere. Our thriving, underground culture is often overlooked outside of the city." And yet, in the experience of assembling this collection, "a critical queer, nonfiction literary voice has emerged that is strongly rooted in Chicago. Several themes connect these pieces, including the need to talk more openly about race, class, and privilege, the power of community support, and of course, the experience of living in Chicago itself."
On the heels of the new James Brown biopic, Daryl Brown, the son of James Brown, comes to Chicago to promote his new book, My Father, the Godfather, Thursday, Aug. 14 at 6:30pm, at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie.
As the child who got to know James Brown the most, Daryl released his memoir (co-written by Michael Chabries) which takes an in depth look at the life of his father and their relationship. Waldorf Press released the book just before the James Brown biopic hit theaters this August. The book addresses issues not touched upon in the movie, such as drug usage, adultery, and religion. "How can Universal Studios distribute a movie about my dad without even talking to those that were closest to my dad, including me?" said Daryl Brown in press for the book. As son of the famous Godfather of Soul, Daryl toured with his father for eight years and traveled the world with him. The books includes intimate details and stories from his perspective.
The event is free and open to the public. Books will be available at the event.
Lyra Hill, creator of the anarchic and elaborate live comics series Brain Frame, has dark hair and round eyes. She often looks tired as she is, often, tired these days.
She speaks with her hands clasped, and looks at those who speak to her with expectation and attention. Standing atop the stage at the historic, newly restored Thalia Hall she is unmistakably a person in charge.
The interior is massive and neo-gothic. The theater chairs that make up its balcony once belonged to a middle school auditorium. The folding chairs above, rumor has it, were at one point courtside seats for the Lakers. Its stage recalls the Phantom of the Opera and Amadeus - in fact, the entire structure has the feel of Prague's neo-everything city center. No mistake, as it was modeled in 1892 after the Prague Opera House, a romantic, expensive-looking venue in the midst of a burgeoning, colorful neighborhood - in this case, Pilsen. Lawn chairs, plastic cones and colorful rope often impede parking on side streets.
Soon the theater will fill with people of all ilk and experience. Fans of Brain Frame are diverse: in the hour Lyra and company scout the space, most mention is made of whose parents are coming (5 of 8 performers present). However, Brain Frame's 3rd Anniversary/Grand Finale show (Brain Frame 19) will likely draw a crowd larger than the average middle school recital. This "homage to ancestral experimentation" is a sort of rite in Chicago. Commonly acknowledged as a "live comix reading", BF nevertheless doesn't shy from ambiguity.
At lunch months earlier, I offer Gertrude Stein as a comparison.
"It's like a salon," I propose. She shrugs.
For all the lonely hearts who've experienced summer romance go south for the winter, don't fret. This Friday, Aug. 8, Quimby's Bookstore at 1854 W. North hosts a Break Up Party with Vice Versa Press author Julia Arredondo and her new zine Baltimore Breakups: A Pop-Up Memoir.
Baltimore resident Arredondo is no stranger to writing about dating, as her past works include zines: Guide to Dating Gangsters Vol. 1 and Guide to Being Alone. Her casual tone delivers the straight dish on heartbreak. This memoir zine, constructed as a pop-up book, resonates a little deeper with imagery jumping out as you flip through the pages.
Also reading will be local fashion icon Vanessa Viruet and relationship eulogist Melissa Smith.
Zines will be available for sale. The event is free and all ages. The tears begins to fall at 7pm. Its BYOT (Bring your own tissue).
"A writer," Thomas Mann once noted, "is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." For me, at least, the blank page is a tundra, inhospitable and endless, and one inches toward it only while calculating escape routes -- I can go back to this minimized Chrome window at any time; if I get stuck I can stop at 9 o'clock.
To help generate the courage needed to charge across it, local author Jac Jemc (My Only Wife) has devised a workshop called Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing), which she'll offer this Saturday, August 9, at the Chicago Publishers Resource Center (858 N. Ashland) at 1 p.m. Over the course of three hours, she'll delve into tactics such as creating "language banks" and accessing "gluts of memory" to get unstuck. The workshop fee is $25, although another generous source of writerly bravery -- Jemc's own rejections blog -- is free.
Reading series Two Cookie Minimum kicks off its 4th year tomorrow, Tuesday August 5th, 9pm at Hungry Brain 2319 W. Belmont.
For the last four years, this series has provided a stage for emerging talent, notably those who self-publish books, zines and indie comics. This month's lineup features the talents of writer Franki Jo Beckwith, sketch comedy performer Tom Simmons, indie comic artist Ian McDuffie, writer John Wilmes, and zinester Josh Piotrowski (aka GAS MASK HORSE).
Keeping with the series' name, there will be free cookies. Get there by 9 so you can snag a seat and a plate (and bring some friends to share with). There is no cover.
Another weekly installment of what the weekend has in store for lit lovers:
Tonight! Author Tom Lukas will be at the Book Cellar reading from his debut novel, Special Operations, 7 pm.
Saturday! Beloved weekly live lit show Paper Machete introduces some new players this Saturday with the first show of their Fresh Meat series. Head over to the Green Mill to check out the new blood's debuts. (Don't worry, although he's a regular Chad the Bird will still be making an appearance.) 3 pm.
Saturday! Live lit show You're Being Ridiculous returns to Mary's Attic (above Hamburger Mary's) for their August show. This month, expect a fantastic line-up of readers who promise to be absurd, over-the-top, and absolutely positively ridiculous, $15, 7:30 pm.
Sunday! The Book Cellar brings us more authorial goodness with readings from The Hundred-Year House, a new novel by Rebecca Makkai, 7 pm.
Sunday! Test your judgment of fact or fiction with the Truth or Lie reading series. This weekend's show, to be held at Firecat Projects, features six readers presenting either a true story or total hooey. Is it true? That's up to you, 7:30 pm.
Sunday! Formerly known as Here's the Story, live lit show and potluck dinner Here, Chicago will return to Stage 773 for an evening of tales and tapas. Check out their website to learn more about the readers in store, and try your hand at cooking up a dish for the potluck! $8 or free with a potluck dish, 7:30 pm.
Tonight! Author Catherine Fitzpatrick presents her novel Going on Nine at the Book Cellar, 7 pm.
Tonight! Itching for graphic novel goodness? Get Over It! with artist and author Corinne Mucha's reading at Quimby's, 7 pm.
Saturday! Newberry brings you the Bughouse Square Debates. Held in Washington Square Park, the freedom-of-speech-fest promises debates, speeches, and heartily encourages heckling, 12 - 4 pm.
Saturday! Ever dream of cycling across the country? It may do you good to hear the tale from the horse's mouth: Brian Benson presents his book Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America at City Lit Books, 5 pm.
Saturday and Sunday! Catch bookstore Women & Children First's Used Book Sale at Andersonville Sdiewalk Sale.
Sunday! The Museum of Contemporary Art hosts Word Weekend, a celebration of all things wordy including a book fair, live readings, hip-hop performances, a play premiere, and graffiti workshops, 12 - 5 pm.
We at Book Club are suckers for books (duh), which is why one participating business catches our eye. Feminist bookstore Women & Children First will be holding their used book sale this Saturday, July 26 from 10:00am - 6:00pm and Sunday, July 27 from 11:00am - 5:00pm.
The sale -- which will feature fiction, nonfiction, children's books, LGBTQ titles, CDs, DVDs, and collectibles -- benefits the Women's Voices Fund, a nonprofit arm of WFC dedicated to fostering discussion of feminist issues and culture, and to nurturing children's delight in books. Support women's issues, children's literacy, and your hungry bookshelves by coming out this weekend and seeing what Women & Children First has to offer!
"Wait, it's already almost August?" you holler at your computer screen, already pre-mourning the impending end of summer. Almost-August means almost-fall means soon the outdoors will again be closed off by a wall of dreaded, frostbiting, withering cold! There was so much you wanted to do! So much you wanted to see! Winter is coming.
Alright, alright, take a breath. The onset of August also means one whole month of summer remains, so it's time to hit the town and soak in all the city has to offer! Our suggestion? Ring in your month with the 72nd installment of eclectic live lit series Tuesday Funk. Swing by Hopleaf at 7:30pm on Aug. 5 to see featured readers Hannah Gamble, David Daskal, Christine Simokaitis, Britt Julious and Leah Thomas, all co-hosted by Eden Robins and Gapers Block editor Andrew Huff. RSVP on Facebook here, and we'll see you in August!
Did you enjoy Chicago's first Independent Bookstore Day, or take in a reading at the Book Fort at Pitchfork? Well, the literary love fest continues in Chicago this weekend, thanks to the efforts of The Newberry Library. You'll have a chance to shop--and shout--till you drop. Never has "you can't have too much of a good thing" seemed like a real possibility.
The Newberry Library kicks things off with its 30th Annual Book Fair, which runs from July 24 through July 27. Thursday is the Preview Night for members only, but don't worry, there will be plenty of books left for Friday through Sunday. Most books are $2 each, and psst, become half off on Sunday. It's the perfect time to build your personal library with fiction, cookbooks, or art books, as well as to track down rare collectibles: you could snag a first edition of The Lord of the Rings, or get an autographed copy of one of President Obama's works.
Join others to say, "Na zdrowie!" this Sunday July 27th, 6pm, in celebration for the book release of Images of America Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village (on Arcadia Publishing) at the Podlasie Club, 2918 N. Central Park. The book catalogs the neighborhood's rich cultural history, supported by over a hundred photographs (see below) and a foreword from notable Chicago biographer Dominic Pacyga. The book was co-authored by Jacob Kaplan, Dan Pogorzelski, Rob Reid and Elisa Addlesperger.
I connected with one of the authors, Dan "Pogo" Pogorzelski, to discuss this book and how the writers encapsulated the cultural relevance of this neighborhood. Pogo holds authority when telling the story of the Polish Village, the neighborhood where he was born. His professional career has allowed him to stay active in the community. He can be seen at neighborhood farmer's markers as a community outreach assistant for a state Senator, online as a writer for Forgotten Chicago, and as a preservationist with his appointment as Vice President of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society. He is no stranger to authoring books about beloved Chicago neighborhoods as he was involved two books in Arcadia's Images of America series documenting Bridgeport and Portage Park (which was co-authored by John Maloof, director of Finding Vivian Maier).
To begin, what was the initial motivation to write this book, one centered on Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village?
"The neighborhood that built Chicago" has a charm that intrigued all four of us co-authors. In my case, I was born in this neighborhood, and I still remember my father helping collect donations for POMOST, a local anti-communist organization, outside of St. Hyacinth Basilica every week after mass. This aspect of the history of Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village is just one facet of what makes this area interesting. While the heart of Polish Chicago certainly has beat strong in this neighborhood during Poland's struggles for independence, other ethnic voices have always been a vital part of its evolution and development, just like in every other hallowed ethnic enclave in our city. Industry, Labor, the Progressive Movement, the Interstate Highway System have all left a visible mark here. The person whom we chose to dedicate our book to, a longtime community activist by the name of Joe Jurek, had political guru David Axelrod run his campaign for public office well before Axelrod sprang to fame (thanks to electing Barack Obama as President). Our aim was to weave all of these intriguing strands into one narrative, one that intersects with notable figures such as Street Photographer Vivian Maier, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Pope John Paul II, the elites of Polish Rock music, as well as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar from the film Wayne's World.
This Wednesday, July 23 will be Batman Day, marking the 75th anniversary of the caped crusader. The bat symbol has become an internationally recognized icon and to celebrate, Batman publisher DC Comics will be releasing a special anniversary issue of Detective Comics #27, Batman's first appearance way back in 1939 (thanks Bob Kane for creating this legendary symbol). The book will be available for free while supplies last.
The dark knight has seen his share of successes over the years, from the campy Adam West television show to print fame with Frank Miller's the Dark Knight, to the big screen with Michael Keaton and Christian Bale (not really gonna mention others cast in the role, ahem). DC is also releasing a timeline poster highlighting these and other various major events in Bat-history.
Locally, Challengers Comics and Conversations, at 1845 N. Western Ave., will be celebrating Batman Day all day long from 11am to 7pm. They'll have comics giveaways, discounts on all Batman merch (hint, if you sport the batman logo anywhere on your person, you'll get an even bigger discount), and other tricks up their sleeves.
Local author Lori Rader-Day, crime writer extraordinaire and vice president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, will be celebrating the launch of her new novel, The Black Hour at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square -- 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave. This event is as homegrown as it gets -- the novel is a dark mystery that takes place on a Chicagoland college campus, is written by a Chicago native and celebrated at a Chicago independent bookstore.
The event will be held on Saturday, July 19, starts at 7:00pm, and is free! Support your local bookstores and your local authors!
Local arts organization Sixty Inches from Center has been busy lately. The band of archivists, writers, and allied creative folks--always attuned to, as they put it, "art as it exists outside of mainstream institutions in Chicago"--has steadily been building steam since their founding a few years ago, and just last month they launched the first issue of an eponymous new magazine (online only, at least for now).
The theme of that collection was "Margins," a topic they're by no means done exploring. On Thursday, July 17, at 6pm in the Zhou B Art Center's Centerline Cafe (1029 W. 35th St.), they'll convene a panel discussion titled "Margins--Who Do You Write For?" As you might expect, the featured speakers tend to define themselves equally as writers and as artists or activists. Among them: Jenny Lam, whose playfully conceptual pieces have tended to invite viewers to help in their creation; poet and Chicago Latino Writers Initiative founder Diana Pando; and visual journalist Sophia Nahli Allison, just to name a few. Preregistration and a $5 donation are both appreciated but not required.
The nine participating bookstores have put together a day of events that will appeal to book lovers from all over the city, and will move book lovers all over the city. Head from Andersonville to Hyde Park, from Lakeview to Logan Square, and make a pit stop in the South Loop to scoop up free (sometimes book-filled) tote bags and take advantage of special discounts and promotions. You can also meet some of your favorite local authors and take in a reading or two, as well as graze on tasty pastries and veggie treats.
It's a truism that much of the audience at any given literary reading will consist of other writers. The organizers of the Napkin Poetry reading series don't just acknowledge this--they force the issue, encouraging the audience to take part in the performance whether they're on the lineup or not. Their manifesto reads, in part:
We highlight working writers embedded in community performances. We engage many dialogues -- to this end all can lecture, argue, proclaim, and complain . . . . Because poetry is only alive in conversation, our community talks back . . . . For us to live with poets we have to be them too.
To that end, many of their events include an open mic (although not this one) and Q&A segment.
Next Tuesday July 8, Chicago author Stuart Dybek reads at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie. at 6:30pm. Dybek released two story collections this year, Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern, the latter focusing on love stories. Chicago is fortunate to have one America's top writers right in our backyard. Don't miss this opportunity.
The event is free. Books will be on sale at City Lit. Hang around after and look to get your book signed or meet the author.
Sure, you could fill your whole Fourth of July weekend with sunshine, barbecue, and beer. But if you ask me there's no better antidote to a day of sunburn and crowd fatigue than retreating to a nice, cool indoor space that smells like paper for the next couple days. This Saturday and Sunday, July 5 and 6, the Chicago Publishers Resource Center provides just such an oasis and celebrates its first birthday with a pair of all-ages events.
As CHIPRC frames it, self-publishing means something far more hands-on than sending your book off to a vanity press--it's likely to involve stapling, collating, maybe even illustrating. On Saturday at 4 p.m., a lineup of local zine-makers takes the stage: Jim Joyce (Or Let It Sink), Collin Brennan (Continental Interlude), Jonas Cannon (Cheer the Eff Up and story collection The Greatest Most Traveling Circus), and Ben Spies (No More Coffee). There'll also be zine-themed door prizes for the audience, and the blackboard will display an ultra-limited-edition comic in chalk by Alex Nall.
On Sunday, guests can stop in to explore an even smaller format of self-expression: buttons. Amy Gooch will give a hands-on workshop on designing and producing buttons in two different sizes. A $5 donation is requested for each event.
This Tuesday, July 1, Chicago's own more-than-a reading series Two Cookie Minimum celebrates four years bringing together writers, musicians, artists, and representatives of the local indie publishing community. In that time, it's moved from Fritz Pastry (hence the name) to the Hungry Brain (2319 W. Belmont) and built a 200-strong roster of alumni. Starting at 9pm, they'll add to it this month with a typically eclectic lineup.
Performance-oriented poet Kevin Kern holds down the more traditionally writerly end of things, and from there the event takes a more visual turn. Leslie Perrine and Keiler Roberts present comics, zine publisher Eric Bartholomew invites the audience to join an interactive game, and sister duo Jill Summers and Susie Kirkwood put on one of the spooky, literary-minded shadow-puppet shows that have become their trademark. The (vegan) cookies are free, as is admission.
Saturday! Grow your brain all day long with the first installation of Learn-a-Palooza in Wicker Park! Make a Zine, Keep some Bees, Produce a Play, or try your fist at Self Defense! The day, which lasts from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm, holds those workshops and more. Check out learnapaloozachi.com for more classes.
Saturday! Richard N. Cote will Skype in to discuss his career and book In Search of Gentle Death: The Fight for Your Right to Die With Dignity at the Edgewater Branch Library, 2 pm.
Saturday! Printers Ball returns for its tenth anniversary of readings, workshops and featured artists, all under the theme of "Chatter." Be sure to RSVP to attend, 4 pm - 8 pm.
Saturday! Kam Oi Lee reads from her work of speculative fiction at Bucket o' Blood Books and Records, 5 pm.
Sunday! Author Jonathan Lethem discusses his book Dissident Gardens with Printers Row editor Jennifer Day at Logan Square Auditorium, 3 pm.
Sunday! Make your way to Block Rock Pub for Salon Chicago, a live lit series featuring readings from Arnie Bernstein, Tessa Mellas, Kate Milliken, and Ben Tanzer, 7 pm.
Three days before Independence Day, Tuesday Funk will celebrate its independence from genre! The 71st edition of Chicago's eclectic monthly reading series will feature Norman Doucet, Lisa Kirchner, Evan Okun, Sheri Reda and Lisa White. Gapers Block's own Andrew Huff and Eden Robins will stand defiant as cohosts.
The reading gets underway on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 7:30pm in the upstairs lounge at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St., Chicago. Doors open at 7pm sharp -- but not earlier, as much as we'd like to l et you in. Arrive early for a table and grab a beer from Mark at the bar. Arrive even earlier or stay afterwards for a full meal downstairs. Admission is free, but you must be 21 or older.
Grab your tuxes, grab your gowns, the Printers Ball is coming to town! The printmaking and poetry celebration's big tenth anniversary is upon us this Saturday; the schedule is jam-packed, and it isn't difficult to see why. With contributors and curators from the likes of Spudnik Press Cooperative , MAKE Magazine, Black Lodge Press, The Post Family, and the Chicago Humanities Festival involved, it seems that every creative in Chicago has a tie to the event.
As any attendee of Zine Fest or Chicago Alternative Comics Expo will tell you, the culmination of so much talent in one place can inspire a glee akin to ADHD, making this year's Printers Ball theme of "Chatter" an appropriate choice. The festivities promise to be abuzz with staccato pop-up performances, featured artists, book swaps, and hands-on workshops. To name just a few, reading series' Brain Frame*, Danny's, Dollhouse, The Swell, Salonathon, Guild Literary Complex, Next Objectivists, Artificial Ear, Young Chicago Authors, and Urban Sandbox all promise to make appearances.
Between shorter performances, drop into a workshop with featured Brooklyn-based performer and artist Tim Fite, where you will dream up the next big smartphone innovation, create an App Development Template on the Vandercook Press, and then use pencils, crayons, markers, and rubber stamps, to bring the inevitable entrepreneurial goldmines to life!
Its officially summer which is the perfect time to get out of the house and check out your neighborhood. That's the idea behind Learnapalooza, a neighborhood festival that partners organizations and community members together to bring free classes to you!
This weekend, Saturday June 28th, Learnapalooza comes to Wicker Park bringing with it dozens of opportunities for learning a new skill. Classes range from dancing, cooking, self defense, and even bee keeping. For our literary friends, there are some great free workshops we wanted to share with you.
Guess what, Chicago? The third Wednesday of the month is now Ladies' Night. Not the type of ladies' night that abounds on Rush Street, that's more about consuming watered down drinks and diluting the douche factor than fostering any real sense of community among Chicago women. No, third Wednesdays are Miss Spoken night at Gallery Cabaret, 2020 N. Oakley Ave., where "girls talk" and everyone listens.
Created and hosted by Carly Oishi (who also co-founded Solo in the 2nd City) and former Book Club editor Rosamund Lannin, Miss Spoken is a newcomer to Chicago's flourishing live lit scene. The reading series will be similar to established shows, with changing themes and speakeasy environs, and will of course feature local writers and performers. However, Miss Spoken's monthly lineup will be made up of only female performers, and with a debut show that included Samantha Irby and Alicia Swiz, the fellas aren't being missed.
But they are absolutely welcome! Seriously, everyone (21 and over) should head to Gallery Cabaret this Wednesday to see what this month's readers have to say about debt. You'll hear about the monetary musings, or perhaps the emotional investments, of writer and performer Gwynn Fulcher, Gapers Block music editor Anne Holub, Natasha Mulholland and Rachel Collins. The show starts at 7pm, and although you don't need to bring a girlfriend to get a two-fer since admission is free, you wouldn't be much of a friend if you let someone miss out on Miss Spoken.
Tonight! Author Susan Jane Gilman reads from her debut novel The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street at Women & Children First, 7:30 pm.
Tonight! The Book Cellar hosts monthly comedic Live Lit show The Kates, 8 pm.
Saturday! The Book Table hosts author Leah Hager Cohen in a discussion of her career, including such works as No Book but the World and Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World, 7 pm.
Saturday! Metal Fans, make your way to Quimby's for a discussion of Mike "McBeardo" Padden's Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Eye- and Ear-Ripping Big Screen Films Ever! 7 pm.
Saturday! Tamale Hut Café puts up another installment of the Tamale Hut Reading Series, featuring Robert Rodi, Regina Buccola and Tina Jens, 7 pm.
Sunday! Curbside Splendor's very own live lit series The Marrow returns to The Punch House, 7:30 pm.
Two decades ago, Gwendolyn Brooks--Pulitzer winner, Poet Laureate of Illinois, and creator of all-around astonishing verses--founded a very personal and unusual poetry contest. The winner would be decided in a public reading; the check, says Guild Literary Complex, would be cut by Brooks herself. Brooks died in 2000, but Guild Complex has picked up the tradition, and submissions are open for this year's Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award.
The details: you have until June 30 to submit your poem. The only stylistic guideline? You have to be able to read it in under three minutes. (So epicists should also be auctioneers.) And you have to be willing to perform it live, in front of a paying audience, at the Chopin Theatre on Wednesday, July 23--the audience will decide who gets the $500 prize from a field of 20 semifinalists. There's a $5 entrance fee, which, the organizers note, gets you into the performance even if your work isn't selected.
This weekend marks the annual Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, or Puerto Rican Festival and Parade, one of the largest Latino events in the country. Centered around the gorgeous Humboldt Park, the festival lasts for four days, and includes a parade on Division Street, as well as food, music, and games in the park.
In the midst of all the festivities, local artists and community activists hold events to educate residents and address social justice issues and cultural identity. On Friday, June 13, the Culture Creators will host a Pop-Up Shop (and Bar) at 2628 W. Division St. Founded by Michael Reyes, Culture Creators is an online label "dedicated to highlighting alternative, radical, and progressive Latino forms of cultural expression, and a platform for those who create it."
If you definitely don't want to meet any undercover super-duper top secret spies, then you definitely shouldn't not not partake in the imaginative and thoughtful story-somersaults that emerge from tutoring center 826CHI.
Since its founding in 2005, 826CHI has worked tirelessly to provide Chicago area students with free programming geared towards developing their writing skills. Currently nestled in Milwaukee Avenue's The Boring Store (though they are soon to relocate), the text spanning their front window reflects the non-profit's playful style:
"The Boring Store is absolutely, positively, unmistakably, beyond a shadow of a doubt, certifiably, fahrenheitally, categorically, conspicuously, trans-fat-freely, quite obviously, prehensilely, indubitably, most certainly NOT A SECRET AGENT STORE."
In short, it is an organization that really, truly makes learning super cool.
Embedded within this sense of play is a commitment to the community. Frequent readings and publication of students' work strengthens a sense of personal voice; encourages students to tell their stories, tell them loudly, tell them thoughtfully. This weekend, Printers Row LitFest will host the debut of 826CHI's latest Young Authors Book Project, Even a Lion Can Get Lost in the Jungle. Composed by 7th and 8th graders at the Harvard School of Excellence, this compelling collection of narrative journalism depicts positive forces within the Englewood community and surrounding neighborhoods. "This vivid collection of short narrative pieces captures the neighborhood and lives of the young writers who participated in the project," Audrey Petty, editor of Voice of Witness's High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing, said of the collection. "The authors tackle the questions at the heart of community, and they explore them in remarkable depth."
Though 826CHI will have a tent open and eager for visitors all weekend, this Saturday, June 7 at 10:30am Even a Lion's authors will read excerpts of their work in the LitFest's Mash Stage. Come out to support these young authors, their neighborhoods and their identities.
Forget the Cubs versus Sox showdown--seriously, it already happened, and no one really cares who won (cough, White Sox won, cough). Do you want to see Chicagoans, hailing from north and south of Madison Street, throw down...on the north side? Story Club Chicago celebrates its fifth anniversary with its own Crosstown Classic Extravaganza on Thursday, June 5 at the Holiday Club, 4000 N. Sheridan Rd.
Story Club O.G. and founder, Dana Norris will lead a North Side team, and share hosting duties with South Side captain, Andrew Marikis. And that is as amicable as it gets, people--Will Hindmarch will be on hand to referee this fight for money, glory, and a tiny trophy.
All Weekend! Don't forget that CAKE: Chicago Alternative Comics Expo will be holding events throughout this upcoming week! Check out the schedule here to peruse an array of events, all free and open to the public.
Tonight! City Lit books hosts Diane Raptosh and Roger Bonair-Agard in a poetry reading, 6:30 pm.
Tonight! Daisy Rockwell reads from her new novel, Taste at Women & Children First, 7:30 pm.
Saturday! Powell's Bookstore receives a visitb from author Bonnie ZoBell to discuss her debut short story collection, WHAT HAPPENED HERE, 7 pm.
Sunday! Woman Made Gallery's reading series returns with poets Renny Golden, Vandana Khanna, Mary McMyne, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Yunuen Rodriguez, and Erika Sanchez; all discussing a theme bound to send you spinning in Derrida logic circles: "The Other," 1:30 pm.
All Weekend! For those James Joyce fans out there, a theatrical adaptation of one of his classic novels entitled ULYSSES 101goes up this weekend at Cafe Logan. (Don't worry -- the 265,000 words have been slightly abridged, so it shouldn't be 8 hours long.)
Chicago has long been a hub of underground comics, and this week CAKE is rolling out a schedule of events -- all of which are free and open to the public -- that will do that history proud. The expo's third year kicks off with a live comic reading sponsored by Minneapolis-based comics publisher 2D Cloud. These works, imagineered by Edie Fake, Anna Bongiovanni, Sam Alden, Andy Burkholder, Mark Connery, Sarah Ferrick, John Holden, Scott Longo and Annie Mok -- liberally linked here for your viewing pleasure -- are intricate, expressive and beautiful. Head over to Galerie F (2381 N. Milwaukee Ave.) this Thursday at 7 pm to hear these stories told in the authors' own voices.
After the 2D reading, gear up for whole other slew of CAKE-sponsored goodness this Friday. Artist Tony Millionaire will be doing a signing at Graham Cracker Comics (77 E. Madison Ave.) from 5 - 7 pm. According to advertising, he'll sign anything, so get creative. Quimby's Bookstore (1854 W. North Ave.) will host three of CAKE's exhibitors: Elisha Lim, MariNaomi, and Mike Dawson. These critically acclaimed authors and illustrators will read from selections of their latest work. In case that isn't enough hooplah for one evening, the third option for your Friday is an Artist's Panel at DePaul's School of Cinema (14 E. Jackson St.), featuring the story artists of beloved late-night cartoon nonsense, Adventure Time: Jesse Moynihan, Michael DeForge and, making a second appearance, Sam Alden. The panel, which begins at 6 pm, will discuss how Adventure Time's collaboration with alternative comic artists has breathed new life into the form and content of animated narrative.
This Thursday, May 29, take "noir" for an answer at City Lit Books, as Dark House and Curbside host a release party for their latest title. There will be readings by Chicago authors, and The New Black contributors, Lindsay Hunter (Don't Kiss Me, Daddy's) and Joe Meno (Office Girl, Demons in the Spring. The event is free and open to the public (you can purchase the book on site). The fun starts at 6:30pm, and your host will be none other than Dark House Editor-in-Chief, Richard Thomas.
Maybe I was too in the spirit of things. I'd already told someone my name was Richard Cabernet.
"Is it French?" a nice woman asked me in line.
"Yes," I told her. She smiled. "Yeah, it's French." I couldn't explain where Cabernet came from, or whether Richard was my father's name, or his father's. But I was standing outside the Liar's Contest, wasn't I? A carnival of lies, I'd been told; probably the only truth in its advertising.
Inside I'd be lied to again and again, I was sure. There's not much else to do at a Liar's Contest, I imagined. Small talk was more fun as Mr. Cabernet, anyway. We'd all arrived early only to find a line stretching down the block.
"The email said doors open at 6:30pm," murmured a suspicious contest-goer behind me. It seemed that, too, was a lie.
Scott Whitehair, the event's founder, had told me to look for details, so I had my eyes peeled for everything: actors, miniature dramas, clever minute props and set dressing. Everything that happened, everything I saw, was pregnant with the possibility of a much younger imagination. As I listened to the lie-debunkers around me explaining to each other who Scott was, what happened last year, and what was supposedly coming to us during this year's contest, I was rocked into alertness by every movement from the church.
When I was a young punk, rubber cement and a stolen Kinko's copy key counted as top-of-the-line tools of the zinester's trade. These days, there are more elegant options. Chicago queer artist/writer collective 3rd Language produces exceptionally lovely collaborative zines, which, happily for anyone lacking the patience to get their hands on a paper copy, they also reproduce online.
As much as zine-making springs from a cut-and-paste culture, the collective is clearly excited by using the possibilities of modern DIY publishing technology to expand on, rather than supplant, than zine format. In true collaborative spirit, they're holding an Insta-zine-ing workshop this Wednesday, May 28, at the Chicago Publisher's Resource Center (858 N. Ashland) to share their techniques and ideas. Molly Berkson and Hiba Ali will demonstrate tech tricks to make collaging, layouts, and assembly easier, and the workshop will culminate in the insta-publication of a group zine to take home. The event runs from 6pm to 9pm, and a $5 donation is requested.
This June 7th and 8th, the intersection of Polk and Dearborn will be overflowing, bubbling, bursting with books. That's right, Printer's Row Lit Fest is back, and its 30th year features a schedule that would whet any literary palette. With all that to offer on top of featuring over 200 booksellers (for the low, low price of Free), Printers Row is going to need a little help.
Get involved with the festival by signing up to volunteer here! With tons of positions available, you may find yourself greeting visitors, escorting authors-- or just sticking by the good eats. Either way, a day spent surrounded by books sounds like a good day to Book Club!
Tonight! Author James Fearnley discusses his book, Here Comes Everybody at the Book Cellar, 7 pm.
Saturday! JaQuavis discusses his new book Whitehouse at CPL's West Englewood Branch, 2 pm.
Saturday! Take your self-started project to the next level with The Propeller Fund, an organization dedicated to stimulating creative growth in Chicago. Attend a workshop at Mana Contemporary Chicago to learn how to apply, 2233 S. Throop St., 1 pm to 6 pm.
Saturday! David Grubbs reads from his book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording, featuring musician John Corbett, at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 3 pm.
Sunday! Mike O'Flaherty reads from his new novel Where do You Run? at 57th Street Books, 3 pm.
Make this Memorial Day especially memorable by watching the sun rise along the lake while listening to the "terrible beauty" of one of poetry's most enduring works. It might be a little short notice, but with a three-day weekend looming, you can probably find the time to head out to Evanston on Friday night for an all-night reading of Homer's The Iliad. Inspired by The Readers of Homer and hosted by Northwestern University'sClassics Department, the marathon (hey, that's Greek, too!) reading of the epic poem will be held at the James Roscoe Miller Campus, more commonly known as The Lakefill. You can join the audience for free, but the readers, who are members of the Northwestern community, have already been selected.
Here's where you come in: after the intermission, the stage will be opened up to audience members. To participate, you must tell a true story (music acts and poetry are wonderful, but not on the event's agenda), and you must tell this story in six minutes. If you can't wrap up in time, you probably won't get pulled off stage by a giant cane, but you can bet the ending of your anecdote will end up lost in post-production. This event will be recorded for broadcast on Vocalo Radio 90.7 FM/89.5 FM WBEW and 91.5 FM WBEZ, so take advantage of your chance to be heard on the radio, and maybe give the folks at Snap Judgment a run for their money.
This is an all-ages event that is free and open to the public.
Tonight! Naked Girls Reading brings a little literary spice to your everyday nude show. $20, 7 pm.
Saturday! Head to the University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts, where Freakonomics authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner will be discussing their new book, Think Like a Freak, $30, 3 pm.
Saturday! Red Rover Reading Series at Outer Space Studio presents Kristy Bowen, Ladan Osman, Davis Schneiderman, and Keith Wilson, 7 pm.
Saturday! You won't want to miss comic artist and CAKE rep Edie Fake as he discusses his new book, Memory Palaces at Quimby's, 7 pm.
Saturday! Bucket O'Blood Books & Records welcomes author Bill Hillmann in presenting his new novel with Curbside Splendor, The Old Neighborhood, 7 pm.
Sunday! Celebrate the latest issue of december magazine at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery with readings from Marvin Bell, Susanna Lang, Dina Elenbogen, and Abby Ryder-Huth followed by a reception, 6 pm.
Sunday! Reading series Excited Utterance comes to Uncommon Ground for its second installment of LiveLit goodness! This week's show features readings from Larry O. Dean, Kenyatta Rogers, and Kathleen Rooney, 7 pm.
Sunday! Salon Chicago comes to Black Rock Bar, with readings by Edward Kelsey Moore, Paulette Livers, Phong Nguyen, and Randy Richardson, 7 pm.
The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) describes its monthly Local Authors Night as one of the shop's "most satisfying and eclectic events." This Wednesday, May 21, at 7 p.m., they'll present four writers who have, at least, a broad genre (fiction) and a general location in common--beyond that, it's hard to say. (And picking up on unexpected connections should be half the fun.)
Eric Charles May's debut novel, Bedrock Faith, sets the newly religious ex-con Stew Pot Reeves back in the South Side neighborhood where he grew up--a neighborhood which, May told the Chicago Tribune, is based on his own native Morgan Park. In her own entree into the form, Kathleen Rooney takes on a higher-profile part of the city's landscape in O, Democracy!, the tale of an aide to Illinois's Democratic senator (not that one) watching the events of 2008 unfold from a surreal distance. Lynne Raimondo's Dante's Poison--the second in her Mark Angelotti series--amps up the drama with a murder mystery concerning a controversial psychotropic drug. Finally, Kodi Scheer breaks from realistic convention in her volume of stories Incendiary Girls, filled with humans morphing into animals and even less-recognizable beings.
The Printers Ball is a little more than a month away, and the literary community in Chicago is gearing up for the annual celebration of all things print. Spudnik Press Cooperative leads the way with an opening reception for its newest exhibition, In Clipping Signal, on May 17, from 6pm-9pm, at 1821 W. Hubbard St.
The reception and exhibition, which are free and open to the public, are made possible by Poetry magazine. If you leave the event especially inspired, you can always sign up for one of Spudnik's upcoming classes.
Next Tuesday, May 20, Dave Eggers will be in town for a book signing at 826CHI's The Boring Store, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. Eggers is not only an award award-winning author, notably for his best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but also a co-founder of the 826 organizations (there are eight across the country).
He will be signing books which will also be on sale at the Boring Store. The event begins at 6:30pm and is free and open to the public. And don't forget to check out how to become involved with 826CHI, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting students ages 6-18 to work on their creative writing skills.
Writers Megan Milks and Cris Mazza both have ties to UIC, but more importantly, they both do strange things with genre. In her debut collection, Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, Milks gets messy with forms including erotica, choose-your-own-adventure books, and the Sweet Valley High series, just to name a few. On Thursday, May 8, at 7:30pm, she'll join Mazza for a reading at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. As for Mazza, she's celebrating a new edition of the novel Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls and this year's Something Wrong with Her, a "real-time memoir" exploring anorgasmia through musical scores and a companion CD in addition to more straightforward diary entries. Audiences shouldn't be surprised if the evening strays a bit from the standard literary reading.
Reading Under the Influence celebrates its 9 year anniversary this Wednesday May 7 at Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., at 7pm. Each month for almost a decade this reading, held in the back room at Sheffield's bar, will welcome a live reading unlike any other in the city.
They will turn off the flat screen televisions playing the game (don't worry, there's no Hawks game on the 7th). The bartender will serve up a few more drinks, the special being $2 domestic bottles. Then one of the hosts will begin with an introduction and rules. There will be two rounds of readers. Each will take a shot of their choice prior to reading. Trivia questions will be asked by the reader, but you must wait until the entire question is read before you can answer.
This unique performance slam pits various mediums against each other to compete for the audience favorite. Performers have six minutes to impress the judges, who are comprised of five audience members chosen at random.
Competing this month are featured performers, Ian Belknap (host of Write Club), Gage Wallace (founding member of Red Theater Chicago), Angela Vela (host of Seven Deadly Sins reading series), Shannon Matesky (slam poet), Nicole Bond (member of Chicago Slam Works), and Erica Dreisbach (writer and web designer). The night is moderated by Chicago Slam Works Executive Director J.W. Basilo.
There is an $8 cover at the door. Come on out for a night of great entertainment and a chance to vote and be part of the experience.
Free Comic Book Day is celebrated this Saturday, May 3. For a chance to see some local talent represented during this year's free comic book day, here are a few events showcasing Chicago's rich community of independent comics artists.
"It's hard not to think about other things," she said. We're exposing ourselves, she had mentioned, and the other women had laughed. Their husbands had laughed, too, maybe a bit less emphatically. They've certainly noticed each other, being five, in total; and they are certainly husbands, though one wiry twenty-something had been standing in a corner with his hands in his pockets, slouching like a deflated Fabio in a graphic tee. He had the hair, though. He looked hungry where these husbands looked proud, and careful.
"We're exposing ourselves..." began Shannyn Shcroeder, author and the night's organizer. "Exposing" got a laugh. Shannyn couldn't help herself. "It's hard not to think about other things." She's right about that. In general, since grade school, it's hard not to think about other things. But we were all sitting in the company of Chicago's premiere romance novelists. We were looking for other things. Regardless, Shannyn shook her head, "it doesn't have to be body parts! It could be secrets." This elicited a laugh, as well; it's true that not all romance writing is lusty members and taut buttocks, but Sheffield's had a playful tension that no one could call tame. It wasn't the barbeque, though the wait staff didn't quite know what to do.
"Shots?" they whispered. The bartender poured Jameson into three glasses. "Cheers," they mumbled, and made a broad gesture of discretion before gently throwing back their necks.
An earnest MC took the small stage and announced a few rounds of earnest romance novel Bingo (only one was scheduled, but it went by so quickly a second round was demanded - all the cards were the same). Instead of numbers there was a five-by-five grid of the sexy men and pearl necklaces that graced the covers of each authors' novels.
"Great cover," someone murmured.
"Lots of man chest." Laughter. The authors do not choose their own covers. They come to publishers with ideas and are often present at the photo shoots, but rarely do they have a say.
"Honey, how old are you?" asked Julie Ann Walker, at one such photo shoot. "19," he replied. The room groaned. She nodded knowingly and seemed to wink at the husbands present. "Of course only a 19-year-old has abs like that."
Next were readings from each published author. The atmosphere of the optimistically titled "Spring Into Love With Chicago's Romance Authors" (it's snowing in April) was like a modestly-sized sleepover. There was a conspiratorial edge to pronouncements of each author's style and personality, a bit of a hierarchy between published and debut authors that felt like the sort of sniping and smiling begrudging that goes on between eager underclassmen and their wise contemporaries.
"I don't have an assistant," declared Sonali Dev, who began writing romance novels after her first grey hair appeared. Adrienne Giordano and Julie Ann exchanged knowing glances that doubled as scoffs. "Once you sell, you're on deadline," said Kate Meader. "Take as much time as you want on that first book..." She trails off as if to prove her point. Being a romance novelist is like being a small business, selling oneself. Nobody snickers at this double entendre.
It seemed to me that the romance novel was the catch-all of a distinctly heroine-based genre, rather than a distinctly trashy or accessible one. Authors write what they want, in most cases (though Harlequin romance, among others, has a very specific brand that doesn't fit for many of the authors I heard read at Sheffield's).
Julie Ann Walker warned (or invited) before her reading, "there will be nipples involved!" A glance at the microphone, coupled with a certain bemused smile, was enough to lubricate the audience.
Julie Ann's selection was eloquent and coy. The heroine, boldly sexual, remarks at one point that "if it wouldn't have ruined the mood, she would have pumped the fist." Julie Ann demonstrates. "Heavy pectoral muscles," and "wonderfully crooked noses" though expected details, are rendered in a conversational and semantically aware prose that rides along smoothly like a backpack Henry Miller.
Kate Meader, on the other hand, is literally a sexy librarian. She has a bachelor's in law ("useless", her website declares), a master's in history ("not-as-useless") and another master's in library and information sciences ("yay, using!").
Her excerpt was a sexualized childbirth scene. The soon-to-be mother imagined her husband longing at her "ballooned" and sensitive breasts, "visible from the International Space Station". I described this in my notes as a "sexy-surprising" pregnancy. Some clever allusions were made; to silent screaming, pushing, throttling...as the second reader, Kate was diversifying, to say the least. With no facetiousness, I began to see the niche and clichés I expected expand before my eyes. Crown, if you will.
Jennifer Stevenson took the stage with the promise to "find new uses for old sex demons." I didn't know what this meant, and still don't, but her cathartic and violently sexual reading centered around a "slacker demon" whose tongue is large enough to attack two nipples at once. His "Greek sledgehammer" came out only after an elongated, inspired sequence wherein a tiny woman is dipped into a lobster pot full of dark chocolate and licked clean. Or dirty, I suppose.
The romance novel's world is a world unconcerned with political correctness, describing work as "European-lite", or a dog as a "Buddy the Wheaton Terrorist"; its authors are highly educated, though - often in fields as diverse as architecture, communications and political science (not to mention, in Kate Meader's case alone, degrees in law, history and library sciences).
Their processes are diverse and self-aware. Sonali Dev ("super-mom", "domestic goddess" and "world traveler") tells nonsexual stories of true love and Indian culture. Remi Hunter, a tenured Chicago police officer, writes Windy City Heat, an opportunity, she says, to "be someone else." Adrienne Giordano uses screenplay structure to achieve an energized momentum; she's cofounded the Romance University Blog and a salon in Naperville that reminded me, typically, of Gertrude Stein's own gatherings. Shannyn Schroeder writes the O'Leary series, "contemporary romances" that center around a large Irish-American family in Chicago. There's romance in all, but the genre seems designed more for the sake of selling books rather than writing them. The freedom of expression on display is staggering, as well as the freedom from pretension and "literary" expectation.
Jennifer Stevenson, the night's most explicit reader (of the sex demons), spoke about her "phoned-in" heroines who slowly turn into "raging bitches" because "I would never be so stupid as to get into the situations they do." After writing "in order of explosions" she inevitably throws out the first 100 pages.
Kate Meader "fast-drafts", pounding out the first iteration of a story within weeks. They all spoke on Julie Ann Walker's hat. "What's with the hats?" asked an audience-member. "Do you wear it in the bedroom/when you write?"
Even with a hat, it was hard not to think of other things. It was easier to imagine these women living the lives of their heroines, under covers and behind automatic weapons, diverse and empowered as they were. It was harder to imagine them writing for 8 hours a day, as many of them do.
I walked out of Sheffield's with a copy of Kate Meader's "Hot in the Kitchen" series and a novel with prominent pearl-imagery on its cover. As I checked my dating profile at the bar, I wished that the openness and camaraderie I'd seen inside - double gin and tonics, dark chocolate and all - were on display here, in the palm of my hand.
There was something very 1984 about my OKCupid profile and its percentages, micro-rejections and mass-objectification. There was something undeniably modern about a group of female authors speaking about their preferred forms of empowerment, something very Anais Niin about these women of romance, secret Dostoyevsky's of Chicago, working through sex-demons between baked cookies and family dinners. Running s-corps and readings with "nipples involved."
I brushed past a familiar face down the bar and realized I'd swiped her "right" on Tinder. She hadn't swiped me back, I guess. Maybe if my nose was pressed between the pages of a romance novel instead of my iPhone, I thought. Maybe I'd give a better, more worldly impression of my interests. It would be hard, then, not to think of something else.
The topic of sustainable food has sparked a movement on agriculture, food production, and consumption. There is an existing disparity between production and consumption in terms of access to healthy food and education. This Guildcast discussion will focus on the ability to provide quality food to all and not to just those that can afford it.
Hosted by journalist Debbie Carlson, the event welcomes a dialogue with guests Robert Nevel, urban farmer and founder of KAMII; Dave Snyder, poet, writer and member of Chicago Rarities Orchard Project; and Angela Taylor, founder of Fulton Street Flower & Vegetable Garden.
This coming Saturday the Biggest Liar Contest will grace Chicago with its presence once again. Held at 7pm in Ravenswood United Church of Christ (2050 W. Pensacola Ave.), Chicago's only tall tale contest promises "ridiculous surprises, top secret special guests, and lies of all sizes throughout the evening."
I spoke with Scott Whitehair, the event's creator, and he described the night as a theme park of lies. "Eleven of the city's most skilled storytellers will unleash their tallest tales and biggest whoppers in a Battle Royale of Bullshit for the legendary Hogwashe Cup," says the press release. WBEZ's own Don Hall is returning to claim the title once again, defending himself against such bald-faced liars as recent Moth StorySlam winner Archy Jamjun; social worker and stand-up comic Marta Lee; best-selling poet and radio host GPA; Yale Drama grad and Chicago actorJason Lindner; Miami's self-proclaimed worst dancer Craig Fitzgerald; yoga enthusiast Adam Ziemkiewicz; Emmy-award winning writer and Second City instructor Joe Janes; stand-up comedian and host of Seven Deadly Sins Angela Vela; 30-year professional storyteller Oba King; and Karen Genelly, retired CPS teacher and world traveler.
With a history dating over 100 years, this is not your typical Saturday night.
On the heels of World Book Night and C2E2 comes Free Comic Book Day: founded in 2002, Free Comic Book Day is celebrated in participating comic book shops across North America (and around the world), and is observed on the first Saturday of May (May 3 this year). And it's Stan Lee-approved!
It's easy to lose track of birthdays after a while, and when you've passed the 400 mark, even the actual date comes into question. We don't know the exact date of William Shakespeare's birthday, so it is observed on April 23, and this year marks his 450th (take that, Bilbo Baggins). Chicago has long been a Bard kind of town, so for Shakespeare's 450th, The Newberry has partnered with Chicago Shakespeare Theater and The Shakespeare Project of Chicago on a couple of events that bring to life--and bring new life to--some of the Bard's best known works.
On April 21, The Bard Is Born opened at The Newberry. This new exhibition of 40-plus items, curated by Jill Gage, focuses on items related to Henry V, which was the first play performed by Chicago Shakespeare Theater (and which will be performed once more unto the breach, er, stage later this April). It includes a First Folio, 19th century engravings, and a musical score. The exhibition is free and runs through June 21.
And this Saturday, professional actors from The Shakespeare Project of Chicago will stage a reading of All's Well That Ends Well from 10am-12pm at Ruggles Hall, 60 W. Walton St. You can jog your memory with a pre-performance "informative talk", and stay for a Q&A after the show (don't worry, it's not a quiz!). This event is also free and open to the public (no ticket or RSVP necessary).
If you're taking a long view of the Shakespeare Quadricentennial Celebration (which continues through 2016, to include his death "anniversary"), check out this preview of Our City, Our Shakespeare. The documentary--featuring Chicago Shakespeare Theater, along with many of the city's cultural and civic leaders--explores Shakespeare's lasting influence on our city.
But if you're somehow questioning whether or not there's still a reason to celebrate, take the Will's 450 is the New 30 quiz to see just how well Shakespearean quotes fit into contemporary contexts. (And maybe think about picking up a book.)
April 23 is a hallowed day for the literati: it is the (observed) birthday of William Shakespeare, and the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Book and Copyright Day. It is also World Book Night. First celebrated in the UK and Ireland in 2011, World Book Night aims to spread the love of reading, from person to person, with an emphasis on sharing books with casual or non-readers in your community.
The event is the result of efforts from individuals involved in every part of the publishing and reading process: the books are chosen by an "independent panel of librarians and booksellers"; authors waive royalties, publishers cover the costs of specially-printed World Book Night (US) editions; and bookstores and libraries volunteer to host the volunteer book givers. This Wednesday will see 25,000 volunteers give out half a million books in 6000 towns and cities.
You can see the complete list of books being given away here. You'll have to keep your eyes peeled for book givers while out and about, especially after 4pm (this is, after all, World Book Night). You can also check out one of these events right here in Chicago:
Tonight! Author Rosalind Cummings-Yeates and musician Billy Branch come together at City Lit Books to discuss book Exploring Chicago Blues, 6:30 pm.
Saturday! Tribune reporter Liam T. A. Ford discusses his book Soldier Field: A Stadium and its City at Logan Square Library, 1 pm.
Saturday! Join New Yorker musica nd rock critic Sasha Frere-Jones as he discusses his work. 3 pm at Corbett vs. Dempsey.
Saturday! Enjoy bite-sized musings with 20x2! A transplant from SXSW, 20x2 features 20 writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and even chefs, each with two minutes to answer the same question: "Where are we?" 7 pm at Schubas, $10.
Saturday! Quimby's Bookstore hosts Hillary Chute, long-time interviewer of contemporary cartoonists, in a discussion of her new book, Outside the Box, wherein she dishes all her insider's scoop. 7 pm.
I felt myself walk into a strange wilderness that cool night in early April when I stepped through a side entrance to the Harold Washington Library and joined a group of older patrons in an elevator. They were dressed "to the nines", as they might say. I had received an email informing me that cocktail attire was encouraged, if not required. I had on a new brown speckled sweater, formal slacks and a blazer I'd borrowed from my friend Julian nearly nine months prior for an event in Los Angeles. Rather than iron or dry-clean them, I put them on and did squats in my Boystown apartment kitchen before packing them in an overnight bag and heading downtown for dinner.
I smoothed the wrinkled slacks and smiled to the others in my grand gold elevator car. My car keys were jammed uncomfortably in my front pocket and my wallet, hulking with Belly cards and Subway gift certificates (but little cash), stuck out from my inner jacket pocket. I sucked at my teeth and rolled my tongue up and across my gums, trying to find the source of some odd smell I knew was coming from me. I hungered for a drink, some cologne to wash away my twentysomething strangeness. I smiled graciously again as a woman with a boa caught my eye wandering up the floor.
"What floor?" she asked.
"Nine," I said. We were going to the same place. Night In the Stacks was the only event in the library that night.
The lineup includes Albena Stambolova, author of Everything Happens as it Does (Open Letter Books). Stambolova lives in Bulgaria and when not penning novels or short stories, she works as a psychological consultant.
Joining is fellow Bulgarian writer Virginia Zaharieva, author of Nine Rabbits (Black Balloon Publishing). The book is the first of Zaharieva's to be made available in North America. It details her struggle growing up in poverty during communist rule in 1960's Bulgaria. She overcomes the odds by finding a love of cooking. Manifested in the book amidst the chapters you'll find various recipes including ones for an apple tart, potato dumplings, and borscht.
It's safe to say that practically none of us in the U.S. are reading enough literature in translation. And should you protest, well: what's the last novel you read from, say, Bulgaria? (For real, tell me about it in the comments!) This Friday, April 18, at 6pm, Seminary Co-op Bookstore (5751 S. Woodlawn) and the University of Chicago's Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies bring together two prominent Bulgarian authors with their translators. In addition to reading from their novels, Virginia Zaharieva and Albena Stambolova will discuss what it was like to collaborate on their translations with Angela Rodel and Olga Nikolova, respectively.
Zaharieva's Nine Rabbits came out in Bulgaria in 2008, and immediately won praise for its eclectic blend of memoir, feminist meditation, and even recipes, letting ambitious readers can experience the story in a sort of taste-o-vision. It tells the story of a middle-aged artist and her childhood being raised by her grandmother, a woman of "monstrous energy," on the coast of the Black Sea.
Stambolova is a somewhat weirder writer. Her debut novel, Everything Happens as It Does (originally published in 2002), does the opacity of its title justice with quotations from Wittgenstein, psychoanalytical archetypes, and elements of fairy tales. Her prose, at least as filtered through Nikolova's, is both destabilizing and humorous--for instance: "Wearing glasses had the effect of calming the vague fears the family harbored about Boris. Not that now they knew him better than before. But an introvert boy with glasses was less worrying than an introvert boy without glasses." It ought to be a joy to hear in person.
Spring grad readers include nonfiction major Amber Peckham, fiction major Jesse Eagle and poetry major Adam Lizakowski (Director of the Polish Arts and Poetry Association in Chicago). Joining these grads will be NU alum Adrienne Gunn (fiction).
The reading is in the afternoon, so to get you going early, there will be free pizza! Then enjoy various drink specials at the bar. The reading is free and 21+.
Waters will be discussing her new book, Art of Simple Food II: Recipes, Flavor, and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden, and the Edible Schoolyard Project, whose mission is to build and share an edible education curriculum for kindergarten through high school.
Both Waters and Reichl began their culinary careers in 1970s California at the beginning of a food revolution based on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. Waters is often credited as the mother of American food, starting with Chez Panisse, one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world. Waters is also recognized for bringing the Slow Food Movement to the United States, as well as being an advocate for organic foods for more than 40 years.
Reichl is the past editor of Gourmet magazine and a former restaurant critic for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, as well as the author of numerous memoirs and cookbooks. Her most recent book, a novel set for release in May 2014, is titled Delicious!.
Although tickets to the program are sold out, tickets to a reception following the event are still available here.
If you've ever wondered what Mayor Rahm Emanuel's favorite poems were, this Friday the Favorite Poem Project and Chicago's own Poetry Foundation will lift that veil. His favorites and those of five other Chicagoans will be featured in this national video initiative, begun by Chicago poet and former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky. It celebrates poetry as "a vocal art" and documents the role of poetry in Chicagoans' lives.
"A favorite poem," writes Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito, "can be a talisman or mantra, a clue, landmark or guiding star, and dwells deep down in our psyches. The readings on the videos are investigative, probing, revelatory, and ultimately autobiographical and moving. Chicago possesses a rich poetry tradition, and we invite our fellow citizens to join us in launching this poetry initiative."
During the initiative's first year-long open call for submissions, over 18,000 Americans, ranging from age 5 to 97, from every conceivable vocation and background, volunteered to share their favorite poems. Those initial ranks fostered several anthologies and collections and 50 mini-documentaries, which are available for viewing at favoritepoem.org.
This perfect pairing of city and expression will be held this Friday, April 11 at 7pm at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St., Chicago.
RSVP for this event is mandatory due to limited space, so be quick to make the list -- this is surely not an event to miss. Call Ashley Sheehan at (312) 799-8026, or in person at the Poetry Foundation.
When Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson first started Sister Spit in San Francisco in the 1994, it was an all-women, mostly-queer open-mic series. Eventually, they took it on the road, cycling in emerging writers and even eventually opening it up to, as they put it "emerging queer and queer-influenced artists of all genders." Throughout it all, the show has remained a fiercely feminist, often funny showcase for energetic poetry, prose, and spoken word.
* Jerry Lee Abram: filmmaker who'll be screening his chapter of Tea's collaborative film Valencia: The Movie/s
* Rhiannon Argo: longtime Sister Spit vet and author of The Creamsickle and Girls I've Run Away With
* Dia Felix: filmmaker (who also directed a chapter of Valencia: The Movie/s) and author of the just-out novel Nochita (which, for the record, this writer adored)
* Chinaka Hodge: poet and occasional rapper seen on Def Poetry
* Chase Joynt: a multimedia artist whose Resisterectomy exhibition was mounted at U Chicago last fall
* Beth Lisick: comedy writer and author, most notably of counterculture chronicle Everybody Into the Pool
* Lenelle Moïse: a performance-oriented poet whose work often incorporates jazz, hip hop, and musings on Haitian-American identity
* Virgie Tovar: sex educator, fat activist, and editor of the anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion
Saturday! Alexander Eisenschmidt and Jonathan Mekinda discuss Chicago's architectural future through their essay, "Chicagoisms," at the Graham Foundation, 2 - 4 pm.
Saturday! Make your way to City Lit Books to join author Scott Jacobs as he discusses his latest book, Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin (And Other Delusions of Grandeur), 5 pm.
Saturday! The Book Cellar presents the second annual "Ladder to the Moon" reading, featuring readings by Andrew Squitiro, Naomi Washer, Howard Simmons, Amy Giacalone, and Joe Meno, 7 pm.
Sunday! Stop by Logan Squre's Uncharted Books to lend an ear to Napkin Poetry, an open mic and reading, surrounding this month's theme: "EXILE." 7 pm, free.
Sunday! Stage 773 brings you another installment of LiveLit series and potluck, "Here's the Story." Listen up and then chow down with featured readings from Irv Levinson, Angelique Nelson, Nick Johne, Kelsie Huff, and Tim Witting. 8 pm, $8 OR free with a potluck dish!
This Friday, the Junior Board hosts fundraising event "Night in the Stacks" in Harold Washington Library's Winter Garden. The event will be the first major Junior Board fundraiser of this kind -- but hopefully not the last. While this night of beverage and books is now sold out, you can still donate here to support Chicago Public Libraries, and convince the Junior Board to bring Night in the Stacks back once again! If only so we can all see for ourselves what really happens in the stacks after hours.
Rejoice, ye wordsmiths, for National Poetry Writing Month, is upon us! Founded by Maureen Thorson, as an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), NaProWriMo is an annual project, spanning the month of April, in which participating poets strive to write a poem a day. The site hosts hundreds of participants and their entries, as well as posts prompts for inspiration, and features poems and presses of the day throughout the project's run.
NaPoWriMo, or "30/30", is a challenging exercise for novices and veterans, but one Chicago (by way of Detroit) poet, Stephanie Lane Sutton, is helping to make it a little easier. Sutton created NATIONAL POETRY WRITING MONTH: 30/30, a forum that "offers a private, user-driven space to promote accountability for daily writing. Additionally, this is a place for poets to connect to an online community and support each others' writing." Poets of all levels are welcome, but please note that users must register to view and/or content.
Edward Gorey fans abound in Chicago, the author's hometown, and yet Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey at the Loyola University Museum of Art (from February 15-June 15, 2014) is the first exhibition dedicated to his work. Over 170 of Gorey's collected works (on loan from the author's charitable trust) are on display, including "original pen-and-ink illustrations, preparatory sketches, unpublished drawings, sketchbooks, illustrated envelopes, book-cover ideas, theatrical costume designs, and ephemera."
You can help round out this roster by submitting your Gorey-inspired writing and artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org. To be considered for participation in the reading event on April 29th, you must submit your work by April 4, as well as be in Chicago on the night of the event. Poems, essays, short stories, photographs, and illustrations will all be considered. Click here for more info. Please note that the literary journal accepts Gorey-inspired submissions on an ongoing basis for future publication, so feel free to mine your macabre side even as the seasons (attempt to) change.
In The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa, Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade trains her sights on "the gap between foreign perception and African reality." In the Western media, Africa often exists primarily as an "underdeveloped" destination for foreign aid, with little attention paid to the ways in which Africans are already shaping their countries. From a temporary home base of Nairobi, Olopade spent time observing everyone from modest urban farmers to Ushahidi, a Kenya-founded company that develops web tools for communities to map things like incidents of violence or election fraud. Indeed, The Bright Continent frames what she learned in terms of various "maps"--the different kinds of networks that give modern African ingenuity its character and context.
On Thursday, April 3, at 6pm, Olopade will visit the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, to discuss what the rest of the world might be able to learn from these novel methods of progress. Admission's free, and books will be available for signing afterward.
Tonight! Author Jenny Bowen discusses her new book, Wish You Happy Forever at The Book Cellar, 7 pm.
Saturday! the Nelson Algren Committee celebrates the author's birthday with readings, discussions, and multimedia homage. The event is $10 and starts at 8 pm at the Bloomingdale Arts Building. Merry Birthversary, Nelson!
Sunday! Peggy Shinner discusses her book, You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body at Women & Children First, 4:30 pm.
Sunday! Stop by Black Rock Pub for reading series "Sunday Salon," featuring seasoned writers Janice Deal, Gina Frangello, Alan Grostephan, and Kelly O'Connor McNees. 7 pm, free!
Lindsay Hunter (Don't Kiss Me) hosts the event and describes Gray as "brilliant and insane. She's mesmerizing. She's fashionable and a huge nerd. She's a bona fide literary celebrity who'll flick her eyes at a new zit you're cultivating in the same way your own mother would, then offer you the perfect salicylic-acid soaked organic face-moisturizing cloth. No one writes like she does. She knows the right word for everything you could imagine. I've selected local writers who I think have a prayer of keeping up with her--the surreal and crazy charming Beau Golwitzer and the hilarious, surprisingly-soulful-at-times, great-haired Mason Johnson. And me, the Midwestern-by-way-of-Florida mom-writer who can't wait for Sunday. It's going to be a very fun reading, Chicago."
Join StoryStudio Chicago staff and prospective students for refreshments and conversation, and then stay for True or False, a free class that will have you experimenting with fiction and nonfiction. You can check out the studio and classrooms and, most importantly, the spring course catalog.
Mr. Carter has spent much of the last thirty years on diplomatic missions and in humanitarian work. He is also the author of over twenty books on subjects such as his presidency, his faith, and his work in the Middle East. His latest book, A Call To Action, focuses on the subjugation of women, which he deemed the "worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on Earth" in a recent interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell.
Please note that this is a book signing only; Mr. Carter will not be giving a talk. Pre-order the book online for admission to the event, or call 773-769-9299.
"I am afraid that I can never write the Great American Novel," she wrote. Her characters were "very simple and very vulgar and I don't think they will interest the American public."
She is Gertrude Stein, author of the Great American Novel Three Lives,and many others, many greater. She wrote "Three Lives" in Paris, inspired and nested amongst contemporaries and peers Pablo Picasso, Gustave Flaubert and Paul Cezanne. She was hostess to the Parisian salons of our bourgeois dreams; she was Ernest Hemingway's dear friend and first editor. She was of the cultural class that added the "ing" to vacation; promoting a new flavor of leisure that seemed to go on and on, continuously. Her life was large, but intimate.
Unable to find a dedicated publisher, Stein published 1,000 copies out-of-pocket, only 500 of them bound, in July 1909. By February 1910 only 75 had been sold, less than the number she had distributed on her own to reviewers, friends and idols. I would posit that, including postage, she made perhaps enough profit to buy Cezanne a new paintbrush.
Stein was entering into a genre, but only in its physical form — the loose-fitting genre of "books," rough pages bound together by clothette, stiches and glue. In all other ways, though, she was in a classification of her own — a niche-less niche, really, since she was the only one who occupied it. There was Gertrude Stein, and there were those who read Gertrude Stein. She did not confer with a movement; her most influential contemporary was Cezanne, a painter who's brush strokes she imitated in her clipped and repetitive prose and her desire to "use everything."
I was reminded of Ms. Stein last weekend at Chicago's own independently run Zine Fest.
The tacitly-titled Two Cookie Minimum (Is it a band? An improv troupe? A deep-dish pizza? No, no, much better...) is back this month with a celebration of Polish Writers and (you guessed it) cookies. The zinesters-only reading series has been a staple of Chicago's self-publishing community since 2011, bringing together emerging writers and self publishers for a conversation that cannot be rivaled on a Tuesday night at 9pm.
Literally. New City rated Two Cookie Minimum 2013's "Best Reading Series at 9pm on a Tuesday".
This April, TCM is celebrating local Polish writers. No joke, the reading will be on April 1st at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave for those approaching by land by-way-of car, bus, bike, biped or skateboard.
Readers include Kate Sierzputowski, co-founder of InsideWithin; Daniella Oiszewska, author of poetry chapbook Citizen J; Adam Lizakowski, Director of the Polish Arts and Poetry Association in America; Joshua Piotrowski, zinester and musician; Columbia College creative writing students Alison Grabowski and Karolina Stepek; and JoAnne Gazarek Bloom, writer of Bridgeport on Arcadia Publishing.
The evening will be hosted by the indomitable Johnny Misfit aka John Wawrzaszek, one of Gaper's Block's own staff writers.
After last week's Story Week at Columbia and Zine Fest the weekend prior, surely some of you have caught the self-publishing bug. This is a showcase of one of Chicago's most interesting and independently minded publishing communities.
Why not judge a book by its cover, just this once?
D.C.-based artist Tracie Ching's new exhibition, "Well Read" at Chicago's Galerie F, asks visitors to do just that.
Ching's work explores the different filters that the film industry imposes on literary classics in the process of adaptation and promotion. Undoubtably, for example, the advertising campaign for Baz Luhrman's "Great Gatsby" included broad strokes of 1920's-era pastiche; similarly Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" has been advertised with Old Testament associations. However, both campaigns operated with little fidelity to the source material; pains were made to produce material that read as "roaring twenties" and "biblical", in lowercase and with quotation marks.
Chicago is home to a thriving independent press scene, and StoryStudio Chicago wants to help you make the most of it with Editors Speak: Literary Magazine Panel. Join publishing insiders at the Chicago Studio this Saturday, March 22 for a free Q&A; you can ask for advice on getting your submissions accepted (or at least an upper-tier rejection letter), or just chat about the literary community.
The panel discussion is from 12pm-1pm at 4043 North Ravenswood. Admission is free with a canned good donation (all collections will go to a local food pantry). Please RSVP by email to email@example.com. If you're unable to make the event, but have a burning question, you can tweet it to @storystudio, and the moderator will do his/her best to have it answered for you.
It's Wednesday, and it's after 5pm, so we're already 60% done with the work week--congratulations! To celebrate, consider taking in one of tonight's Story Week events, or get a jump on your Thursday plans by checking out the schedule.
We'll close out the festival this Friday with two amazing events: first up, Jeff Toth hosts the "Come One, Come All" open mic at 11am at Columbia College Chicago, 623 South Wabash. And from 6pm-8pm, Rick Kogan presents "Chicago Classics," with special guests who will read works by their favorite Chicago authors. "Chicago Classics" will be held at the Chicago Cultural Center Preston Bradley Hall, 78 East Washington. Both events are free and open to the public.
The reading room at the Poetry Foundation is filled a quarter-way with quiet reverent conversation.
It is March's Open Door Series, featuring Brett Foster and Srikanth Reddy and the room seems intentionally wanting. An open podium stands dramatically lit at its head; scattered lights give the illusion of luminescence but it's a dim, half-hearted brightness, and the blue dusk outside seems brighter.
Beyond the podium stands a courtyard of saplings that further indict anticipation itself as the prologue to the evening. Beyond that, an impossible wall of books.
Under their seats, the March issue of the Foundation's poetry magazine. A cleaner exits a distant doorway guiding a wheeled trashcan and disappears once again, marring and complicating the shelf of numerous journals and novels and anthologies and likely many editions of To the Lighthouse.
When Robert Polito, the Poetry Foundation president, took the stand to introduce Mr. Foster and Mr. Reddy, we were at attention.
The monthly Open Door series is a means of focusing the community and celebrating specific mentors and students from Chicago's many graduate and undergraduate programs. Tonight's event attracted a fair crowd -- the applause was loud and filled the space; the laughter was real and complete; the silences were heavy and concentrated. There seems no better mascot for events like these than the Pegasus of the Poetry Foundation's logo: muscle, winged and flying.
I watched the man I thought was Barry Gifford talk to another, much quieter man, who really was Barry Gifford. The first Barry Gifford moved his hands eloquently and drew curtains in the air with his fingers. The real Barry Gifford said nothing and blinked politely.
A moment later, Barry looked me in the face.
I was a staff writer for Gaper's Block, I said. "A web publication," Joe Mino intoned with a smile.
"I'll only have a few minutes," Barry said, glancing with apology to Joe, then Kara, then me.
"That's alright," I said. "I won't need long."
His eyes are milk-white in places; not cataracts, I am sure. He gazes harder in spite of them; perhaps to spite them. As I shake his hand my wrist is limper, my voice more boyish, my smile less genuine than I'd like. I am struck by Barry Gifford. I struggle for words and thank him.
"Thank you, Mr. Gifford," I say, and age myself. I shuffle into the anonymous deck of the auditorium and hide with my iPhone set to record. I listen to Barry Gifford and I watch him, and this is what I see and hear:
This Wednesday, March 19, monthly live extravaganza the Encyclopedia Show presents the theme Nightshades at 7:30pm at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. The themes is loose, for it could reference Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" or the common tomato. The only way to know for sure is to check out the show.
Host Robbie Q. Telfer welcomes this month's lineup: writer and performer Gwynn Fulcher, shadow puppet show by sister duo Jill Summers and Susie Kirkwood, poet Eric Gaston, author of Reasons to Leave the Slaughter (Write Bloody) Ben Clark, Providence, Rhode Island poet and fiction writer Laura Brown-Lavoie, and visual artist and photographer Brett Neiman.
The series ends its run this year with only three more performances left. General admission is $9; students with ID are $6.
Next week marks the return of one of Chicago's most beloved literary events, Columbia College Chicago's Story Week Festival of Writers. Beginning on March 16 through the 21, Story Week aims to build "a city of words" says Randy Albers, founding producer of the festival and writing faculty at Columbia College, in the Story Week welcome message. This year's theme is DiverCity, the connection between diversity and the urban landscape and how they come together to celebrate the power of urban stories.
Chicago has a great many writers who exemplify this festival's theme. One of Chicago's notable writers Stuart Dybek, will be featured at the festival. He is author of the fiction Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, I Sailed with Magellan, and the poetry collections Brass Knuckles and Streets in their Own Ink. He has two upcoming story collections, Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern, which will be released in June. In his writing, the city acts as a back drop, a kinetic character. Dybek will help Albers vision this year in building a 'city of words'.
I got to ask Dybek a few questions about his new books, his events at Story Week and about the short story in general.
You will be on the Story Week panel, "Why the Short Story". You're definitely an authority on the subject with your previous fiction collections and your upcoming releases. What draws you to writing in that format?
Let me preface my answer by saying that some of the aspects that draw me to the short story are certainly not exclusive to the short story. There's a considerable overlap between literary genres and its far more accurate to see genres as arranged along a continuum rather than to treat them as if they inhabit separate gated communities. For me the short story is a good form in which to work with a kind of literary version of chamber music. Because of the scale of the story one can crank up and try to sustain intensity without fatiguing the reader. One might, of course, say the same about poetry, and an often heard observation about the short story form is that the compression it demands gives it a closer kinship to the poem than to the novel. I've long been fascinated by story collections that have some kind of unity--unity of place like Dubliners or Winesberg, Ohio , for instance, or unity of characters and action such as The Things They Carried. Sometimes such collections are given the paradoxical name, the novel in stories, which is misleading. The so called unity of such books actually emphasizes the fragmentary nature of personal life and of community. That sense of finding order, or at least patterns, within fragmentation is central to modernism.
Don't let green sprouting up around the city fool you; there's much more going on this weekend than St. Patty's Day. Friday, March 14th marks the beginning of fifth annual self-pubstravaganza Chicago Zine Fest, a weekend-long showcase dedicated to celebrating the work of small presses and independent publishers.
There are few instances in which so many creatives occupy a single space, and the effect at Zine Fest is awe-inspiring, as one might guess just taking a look at the Fest's impressive exhibitor line-up; bursting with stories, illustrations, and the powerful perspectives unique to zine work. Absorb their work through readings and exhibitions throughout the weekend, and jump into the process yourself with any of the many workshops and discussions scheduled for Saturday, March 15!
The festival kicks off this Friday at 1 pm at Columbia College's Conway Center (1104 S. Wabash Ave.) with an opening panel entitled In it for the Long Haul: A Discussion on Longevity in Zines with Cindy Crabb (Doris), Tomas Moniz (Rad Dad), and Alex Wrekk (Brainscan). The panel will be moderated by Quimby's Bookstore's own Liz Mason (Caboose)
There's something magical about a live reading. This one will not disappoint. The Open Door series, produced by Chicago's own Poetry Foundation, is a unique showcase of both students and mentors, nicely highlighting Chicago's diverse avenues of recognition, publication and growth. This Tuesday, March 18th, Open Door showcases Brett Foster, his recent student Dayna Clemons and Srikanth Reddy and his current student Clara Mitchell.
Foster is the author of two poetry volumes, The Garbage Eater (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2011) and Fall Run Road (recipient of Finish Line Press' 2011 Open Chapbook Prize); he is a professor of Renaissance literature and creative writing at Wheaton College, where Clemons studies.
Reddy's poems have appeared in the anthologies Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation and Isn't It Romantic: 100 Love Poems by Younger american Poets. He has received awards from the Whiting Foundation, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Mellon Foundation. He is the literacy director for the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Trust and teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Chicago, where Mitchell studies.
Readings will begin at 7pm, and are held at The Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.). Admission is free to these hour-long readings.
Want to get filthy rich in rising Asia? Step One: Read the book.
Wrapped in the guise of a self-help book, New York Times best-selling author Mohsin Hamid's latest novel How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia follows the rise of one man from utter poverty to vast fortune. The only twist is, that one man -- the nameless protagonist -- is you.
One of the rare novels to tackle second person narration, Hamid's text harnesses the latest life-hacking trend to turn how-to on its head. "Don't Fall in Love," one chapter begins; "Be Prepared to Use Violence." These guidelines build an arresting tension between format and content. Hamid cleverly injects a precarious and tumultuous life with certainty and determinism: you are, after all, only following the rules. Hamid's writing operates on the same plane of crisp certainty, to a point so factual you feel as though you could crack the sentences in half. He writes with the vise-tight confidence necessary to pin down the accusing, assuming "you."
"Look," the novel begins, "unless you're writing one, a self-help book is an oxymoron. You read a self-help book so someone who isn't yourself can help you, that someone being the author." If you're seeking the guidance of a self-help author, you may want to drop into First United Methodist Church (77 W. Washington St.) this Tuesday, March 11, where the Chicago Humanities Festival will be hosting Hamid in a discussion with WBEZ's Alison Cuddy. Tickets for the 6 pm talk are $15 for the general public, $10 for CHF members, and $5 for students; copies of Filthy Rich will also be available at a 10% discount, thanks to a partnership with Unabridged Bookstore. Sit in on the talk, or pick up a copy and try out the author's Get-Rich-Slow scheme for yourself!
For the last five years March has brought the Chicago Zine Fest, a celebration of independent self-published work. Being the fest's fifth anniversary, the programming commemorates other zinesters who have been publishing zines for a even longer. The festival begins with a Friday afternoon panel entitled, In it for the Long Haul: A Discussion on Longevity in Zines. Among the panelists is Tomas Moniz, writing faculty at Berkeley City College and publisher of the zine Rad Dad. He has been putting out that title for 10 years. In it, he deals with the ideal of radical parenting from various perspectives outside of the societal norms of parenting. And he should know what he's talking about, Moniz is a father of three. He has a new novella Bellies and Buffalos, a tender though chaotic story about friendship, family and Flammin Hot Cheetos.
I got to talk with Moniz and ask him a few questions about his writing and his upcoming visit to Chicago.
What was the initial motivation that prompted you to write Rad Dad?
I was going through a difficult time with my then teenage son, and reaching out for information that didn't repeat the same conversation around punishment and discipline all the books were talking about. Then I discovered The Future Generation by China Martens, a zine about parenting and anarchism. It changed everything. I wrote a letter, she answered, and then I just started a zine for fathers to talk about fathering in meaningful, feminist, anarchist ways. I started the zine I longed to read.
Recently you've decided to re-launched Rad Dad. What did was that process? Rad Dad is relaunching as a full-color, large-format magazine to push past the patriarchy with even more stories from the frontier of radical parenting. There is so much more than the mainstream representations of fathering, which are mostly white and middle class. I've learned so much from queer fathers, from trans fathers, fathers of color. Through Rad Dad, I am trying to represent fathering as a holistic, vulnerable thing. Fathers need to change--not just diapers.
One of my earliest memories of consuming media is watching barely-understood but scary news reports about AIDS in the late 1980s; today, it's conceivable that many young people might not learn about the disease until they have to take sex ed. The lower profile of AIDS today is, of course, due largely to vastly improved treatment options, but it's also dangerous, says activist Sean Strub in his new book, Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival. He contracted HIV right around the time the epidemic hit America, and spent the next years simultaneously battling the disease and, through activist organizations such as ACT UP (where, as he puts it, "high camp and high seriousness [were] uniquely compatible"), the indifference or hostility of the institutions that might have been able to help. As he sees it, allowing this history to fade from view interferes with effectively treating a disease that is still far from cured.
Body Counts is more given to lively narrative than to polemic, but Strub's seriousness of mission is clear even in his choice of reading venues: on Wednesday, March 12, he'll discuss the book at Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted, at 2pm) and then at the Test Positive Aware Network (5050 N. Broadway, at 6:30pm). Attendees can expect to hear not only about the battle against AIDS, but about the contours of an energetic life that's included working the elevators at the U.S. Capitol, running as the first HIV-positive candidate for the U.S. Senate, and crossing paths with figures as diverse as Keith Haring and Jesse Helms. Both events are free.
Last year marked the release of author Chris L. Terry's debut novel Zero Fade with Curbside Splendor publishing. Though Terry has since left Chicago for sunny California, this Saturday March 8th, the city welcomes him back for a leg of his Midwest book tour. (Touring is nothing new to Terry, he writes in his guest post for Gapers Block).
Terry will be part of a Curbside Splendor sponsored Meet the Authors panel at 826CHI, 1331 N Milwaukee Ave. at 5:30pm. The panel is geared towards students grades 7-12, giving young writers the opportunity to hear from established authors about the publishing process. Students will then work on their own writing, with time for feedback from the panelists. Joining Terry on the panel will be fellow Curbside authors Ben Tanzer (Lost in Space) and Bill Hillmann (The Old Neighborhood). Registration is required.
The tour doesn't end there. Terry and Tanzer follow up 826 CHI with a reading at Uncharted Books, 2630 N Milwaukee Ave. at 8pm. Stick around to buy a book, or chat with the authors and get them to sign a copy.
All the people came to see James Franco. But the James Franco who showed up wasn't who anyone had come to see. Some people were happy and some people were sad, and some people didn't know what to do.
Upon arriving at the poetry reading, brought to Chicago by the joint efforts of the Chicago Humanities Festival and The Poetry Foundation, I could feel the excitement in Northwestern Law School's Thorne Auditorium; one of those stiletto-shaped rooms that scoops down into a proscenium stage. It was filled with chatter like a shook box of cicadas. Making my way towards a seat near the front I stepped through three languages, many perfumes, many levels of sincere excitement and faux disdain, disinterest and ambivalence.
In front of me, folding chairs were filled by people who, I posited, had waited a long time, out in the cold, maybe, to get in before anyone else. They were a mix of twentysomethings and teenage girls, but the mean age ran on the younger side. They were James Franco Fans, with a capitol F. They'd brought glossy photographs with them and I recognized the need to clarify in the program that Franco would only be signing copies of his book of poetry, Directing Herbert White.
A door opened and Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito stepped on stage. We screamed and cheered because we knew who was coming next; and in he walked, just after Robert and just before Frank Bidart, James Franco.
Weekly reading series Paper Machete rings in a new month this Saturday afternoon, March 1st, at the Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway Ave.
Paper Machete, "Chicago's Weekly Live Magazine," prompts featured performers with current events and pop culture buzz, then lets them loose on the Green Mill. The resulting responses, which can range anywhere from essay readings to sketch comedy to vaudeville revue, never disappoint. Saturday's lineup includes Maggie Andersen and Sam Bailey, Sean Cusik and Dave Urlakis, Mike Lebovitz, Casey Ley, Tim Ryder and Jill Summers. Regular Chad the Bird will also make an appearance. And, as a reading at a jazz club could never be complete without music, the Machete welcomes musical guests the Modern Sounds. 3 pm, free.
If you're bursting with a story to tell, then this night is for you. If your tale is true to theme (this month's is "Happy"), then feel free to sign up to perform any time after doors open at 6 pm; or if you'd rather a seat of power, sign up to be a judge for the night. Then at 8pm, storytellers will be picked at random for five minutes of stage time. To be clear, this is not a reading. Storytellers are sharing true experiences. Who knows what you'll hear; it could be side-splittingly funny or totally heart wrenching.
If performing isn't your thing, join the crowd for a night of great stories you'll likely be sharing with friends at work the next day. Help cheer readers along as judges will vote on who becomes the next StorySLAM winner. This event will be a preliminary for the Moth's GrandSLAM Championship.
7Vientos is launching two works of Bellatin's: Flowers/Flores (which won the 2001 Premio Xavier Villaurrutia award) and Mishima's Illustrated Biography/Biografía ilustrada de Mishima. The hard cover edition will include the original works in their Spanish version, and for the first time will also feature the English translation.
This event celebrates Bellatin's work with readings from the author, a performance by Laboratory Dancers, and an installation by visual artist Christian Saucedo. It is free and open to the public.
This Wednesday, Feb. 19, Chicago's lit scene is blowing up with two hot events. Calm down, contain yourself, and read on to find out more. Then, get pumped and get out to them!
Not for the faint of heart, the live lit series Guts and Glory is back at their new home, Schuba's Tavern, 3159 N. Southport at 7pm. Hosts Samantha Irby and Keith Eckert welcome the talented line up of Ozzie Totten, Cara Brigandi, Monte LaMonte and Katy Maher. It's totally free so there's no excuse not to be there.
If that wasn't enough, the Guild Literary Complex welcomes the monthly bilingual poetry reading Palabra Pura at the oldest Puerto Rican restaurant in Chicago, La Bruquena, 2726 W. Division St. in Humboldt Park. Curator and host Teresa Vázquez touches upon the night's theme, "Greater Than The Sum Of Parts", with writers Lucrecia Guerrero, Emmanuel Ortiz, Elizabeth Marino and Paul Martínez-Pompa. The readings begin at 7:30pm and are also free. Get there early to grab some dinner and settle in for some great readings.
Featuring protagonists like 19th American president Rutherford B. Hayes reincarnated as a horse, a factory worker transformed into a human-silkworm hybrid, and a titular lemon-grove-dwelling vampire, Russell’s collection asks readers to surrender the distinction between animal and human, and enter worlds so confidently magic that one cannot help but suspend disbelief. Whimsical premises aside, Russell’s prose packs such punch that single sentences will stop you in your tracks.
Many wonder how Russell manages to concoct such clear and earnest fantasies, and now we get to hear the word from the non-presidential horse’s mouth. This Thursday, February 13th, the Chicago Humanities Festival will be hosting Karen Russell in a discussion of Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Make your way to the First United Methodist Church at The Chicago Temple (77 W Washington St.) at 6 pm, and you may find yourself transported.
Writer Jonathan Eig's taken on some big personalities in the course of his career: Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Al Capone. Sure, those guys all happen to be real, but the New York Times best-selling author's insights on bringing characters to life on the page ought to apply just as well to fiction writers. On Thursday, February 13, at 6:30pm, he'll visit the Lincoln Belmont branch library's monthly writer's group (1659 W. Melrose St.) and present a workshop complete with handouts and writing exercises, all focused on building characters that are both compelling and realistic. After the presentation, attendees can stick around for a free-writing session. The event is free and open to all.
Lynn Povich started work at Newsweek as a secretary fresh out of college in 1965, when a woman's career trajectory in journalism might take her from the mailroom to the fact-check department, but rarely further. Increasingly fed up with the magazine's continual refusal to promote women, in 1969 she and some fellow female colleagues sought the help of the ACLU and got (young, black) attorney Eleanor Holmes Norton to represent them. (Norton's a fascinating figure in her own right: having come of age as a civil rights activist before becoming a lawyer, she's been the District of Columbia's delegate to Congress since 1991.) The group sued in 1970, and one measure of the suit's success is the fact that five years later Povich became Newsweek's first female Senior Editor.
Now Povich has written an account of the experience, entitled The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. On Thursday, February 13, she'll appear at Kirkland & Ellis (300 N. La Salle Dr., 6th floor) in a reading and discussion sponsored by Women Employed. She won't be presenting the Newsweek 46's fight against gender discrimination as a fight that's been fully won: former Newsweek writer Jesse Ellison will join Povich to discuss the subtler forms in which sexism impacts journalism and other careers today.
The event runs from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, with time for drinks and hors d'oeuvres included. Admission is $10, or make it $25 and get a copy of the book to boot.
Curbside Splendor is prepping for the spring with a packed catalog of books. Join them at the Hideout 1345 W. Wabansia, on Sunday February 9th, 8pm for the release of Tom Williams' Don't Start Me Talkin'.
In addition to being the published author of numerous short stories, reviews, and essays, Williams is an associate editor of American Book Review and the Chair of English at Morehead State University.
Don't Start Me Talkin' follows the fictional character Brother Ben, a Delta blues musician, on the road during his final tour. It's fitting then that there will be live music after the readings provided by writer turned musician Marvin Tate (who also has an upcoming book release with Curbside).
The event is $10, which includes of copy of the book.
Williams will also be supporting his novel on Saturday, February 15th at 57th Street Books, along with a reading from writer and professor at Columbia College's Creative Writing Department, Eric Charles May.
Gina Frangello is something of a powerhouse in Chicago's literary scene. She's co-founder of Chicago-based publisher OV Books, where she's edited novels by local authors like Zoe Zolbrod and Billy Lombardo; runs Other Voices Querétaro, an international writing program; is the Sunday editor for The Rumpus and the fiction editor for The Nervous Breakdown; teaches at Columbia College and Northwestern University; and is writer of three works of fiction, the novel My Sister's Continent, the short story collection Slut Lullabies, and her latest novel (published today), A Life In Men.
Impressed? Or at least curious about how she does it all? You can ask her in person this Friday, February 7 at Women & Children First at 7:30pm for a release party for A Life in Men, a book that explores love, sex and illness through the lens of best friends Mary and Nix. Refreshments will be served.
A look around at the wealth of Chicago small presses doing interesting things these days is almost enough to make you think that the reports of print media's demise have been widely exaggerated. On Tuesday, February 11, the Society of Midland Authors brings representatives of four indie publishers to The Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan, to divulge how they do it. Some even seem to be benefitting from the condition of the larger industry: in an August interview, Curbside Splendor founder Victor David Giron noted that the current publishing climate allows the Logan Square-based upstart to work with "some really strong Chicago authors who, 10 years ago, might have been published by a New York publishing house."
Giron also estimated that about half Curbside Splendor's roster will always be composed of Chicagoans. His fellow panelist Emily Clark Victorson's Allium Press is more narrowly targeted: she publishes only fiction with a Chicago connection, and often with a historical bent. Meanwhile, Everything Goes Media will be represented by Sharon Woodhouse, who's just launched a new imprint for titles treating "ideas, history, trends, and current events," and Ian Morris reps the not-for-profit publishing sector with a look at the eclectic Fifth Star Press. A reception with snacks and a cash bar starts at 6pm, with the discussion itself at 7pm; admission's free.
Tonight! Stop by City Lit Books to hear Charles Finch discuss his new novel, The Last Enchantments, 6:30 pm.
Tonight! Head over to The Book Cellar to hear from local authors Mark Brand, Giano Cromley, Ben Tanzer, and Joseph Peterson, as they read from and discuss their latest works, 7 pm.
Saturday! You’ve finally perfected that short story collection, polished up the novel, edited the poetry down to one concise word; what next? CHI PRC hosts a submission workshop that will cover every step along the way to publishing your work, 3 - 5 pm, $10.
Saturday! Muscle your way into the sold-out 90-Second Newbery Festival, and enjoy young readers’ creative adaptations of Newbery-Award-winning books, 1.5 minutes at a time. Show goes up at the Vittum Theatre at 3 pm.
Saturday! Cole’s Bar hosts Back to Print in their 4th anniversary Jubilee, as they release their latest collection “Weather or Not”. Drop in to enjoy readings, followed by music, and, most importantly, cake. 9 pm.
Theatre Wit presentsHere’s the Story, a livelit series featuring seasoned storytellers as well as five open mike slots, all accompanied by a potluck dinner. Bring a dish, dish the dirt, $8 at 8 pm.
Imagine a short film, a minute and a half long, wherein little kids reenact their favorite children’s books. Now imagine watching a multitude of these shorts, back-to-back-to-back. Kind of triggers your ‘awww’ reflex doesn’t it?
Well such a festival isn’t hypothetical; it exists. It’s called the 90-Second Newbery Festival, and through it founder and The Order of Odd-Fish author James Kennedy challenges children to re-create Newbery-award-winning books within strict time constraints. The festival, which is only now entering its third year, has been a massive success, drawing in hundreds of submissions from around the world, all of which James watches and posts on his blog.
Even from its initial inception the concept was a hit. After losing the Newbery to Neil Gaiman in 2009, Kennedy was “embittered”. “I really wanted to win the Newbery. I really felt, in my heart of hearts, that I really deserved it [Author’s sarcasm].” After staging a fake battle with a friend dressed as Gaiman—including a series of physical challenges and ending with Kennedy’s own sacrifice at the altar of Newbery—Gaiman took notice, and took to social media about the whole spectacle. Then, when Kennedy posted the first Newbery adaptation, a 90-second A Wrinkle in Time, the concept exploded in popularity— and Neil Gaiman re-tweeting the video didn’t hurt.
After sitting down with Kennedy to discuss the upcoming festival on February 1st, it became apparent that this event is not just in it for the awww’s. “When you adapt a piece of literature, you take ownership of it,” he says of the 90-second challenge. By encouraging kids to not only read Newbery award winning books carefully, but also to pick and choose key narrative moments, they will inevitably develop opinions about that literature.
The series, which invites writers employed in technology to read their work and discuss the interplay between creative writing and art and science, will include readings from the director of digital programs at Poetry Foundation, Catherine Halley; executive director of Smart Chicago Collaborative, Daniel X. O'Neil; and the founder of Chicago Literary Map, Stephanie Plenner. Readings will be book-ended by a warm-up open mic and a post-reading Q&A.
Applied Words: Notes from the Mainframe is co-sponsored by FreeGeek Chicago and us here at Gapers Block. Our co-founder and editor Andrew Huff will host the event, sharing a few technology-themed haiku poems.
The second part of this series, curated by Dr. Stephanie Levi, founder of Science is Sexy, will be scheduled in March.
For gardeners especially, Chicago winters have to be tough: all the gleaming polar vistas of the lakefront can't entirely make up for the months of bare branches and frozen ground. Normally devoted to beautifying its neighborhood, The Historic Pullman Garden Club keeps itself and the public busy this time of year by putting on an annual Winter Lecture Series. The first of the year will be held Sunday, January 26, at 3pm at the Historic Pullman Center, 614 E. 113th St. Local author and public historian Cynthia Ogorek will shine a spotlight on first ladies with Midwestern roots and trace their connections to Chicago. The series will continue on February 28 and March 28 and refreshments will be served at each event. Those who plan to attend should RSVP by calling 773-568-2441 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo/reminder of what flowers look like courtesy of The Historic Pullman Garden Club.
The Society of Midland Authors has made something of a specialty of celebrating lesser-known corners of the Midwest's literary heritage, and with the new Cliff Dwellers Book Club series, they open up a few more--not least of which is the penthouse digs of The Cliff Dwellers (200 S. Michigan), where meetings will be held. Since 1907, the private club has been an aerie above the city for makers and supporters of literature and the arts.
Only natural, then, that the first meeting--slated for Saturday, January 25, from 11am to 2pm--will focus on William Blake Fuller's 1893 novel The Cliff-Dwellers. Fuller did not find the cliffs and canyons of Chicago's ever-busier streets particularly hospitable, and in the book he catalogues the inhabitants of one particular skyscraper with a sardonic eye.
The novel, being in the public domain, is available for free on Google Books if you don't have a copy lying around. But if you miss this meeting, you'll have other chances: the club's set to meet monthly, with upcoming reads from the likes of Ring Lardner and Richard Babcock; selected authors who are still living will be invited to attend. Throughout the series, Cliff Dwellers member Richard Reeder will keep the discussion rolling. Attendees may reserve a spot by emailing email@example.com.
The Encyclopedia Show hits 2014 hard this Wednesday, January 22, 7:30pm at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The theme "shame" will be addressed by all featured readers, which include a variety of spoken word, storytelling, music and comedy performers.
Each reader will dissect a topic relating to shame. Writer Natalie Edwards will address the unflattering and universal "walk of shame". HBO Def Poet Dan Sullivan goes back to syndicated television to recall the Batman villain Shame. Adam Moshe Levin, founder of the Young Chicago Authors' workshop Emcee WreckShop, gets serious about racial shame. Two Louder Than a Bomb college champions will read: Jasmine Alexandria Barber lives through vicarious shame, and Susie Swanton will address slut shaming. Poet Alison A. Ogunmokun invokes elementary school shame with her piece on dunce caps. Write Club host Ian Belknap will be wearing and reading about the Elizabethan Collar. And blogger Berto Saldana will speak of the shame of The Scarlet Letter heroine Hester Prynne.
The show is all ages, $9 for adults, $6 for students. This is the last season of The Encylopedia Show, so enjoy this while you can!
The annual award chooses selections in the categories of traditional and non-traditional fiction and non-fiction. The winning books of 2013 are Susan Nussbaum's Good Kings Bad Kings, Jay C. Rehak's 30 Days to Empathy, Bree Housley's We Hope You Like This Song, and David W. Berner's Any Road Will Take You There. All winning authors will read selections from their books. The event will be emceed by Tori Collins, President of Chicago Writers Association.
The event is free and open to the public. Authors will sign copies of their winning books, which will be sold at the event.
Fun facts about Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, Super Sad True Love Story and most recently, the memoir Little Failure:
He was born Igor Steinhorn (which means "stone horn") in the city formerly known as Leningrad in 1972. After he and his parents moved to America his name was changed to Gary so he wouldn't be mistaken for "Frankenstein's assistant."
And perhaps the most fun fact of all, Shteyngart will be appearing in conversation with another brilliant writer of the immigrant experience, Aleksandar Hemon, in our fair city next week!
As part of a great line-up of winter author talks, the Chicago Humanities Festival, in partnership with Unabridged Bookstore, hosts Shteyngart and Hemon on Wednesday, January 22 at 6pm at First United Methodist Church at The Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St. General admission is $15, and book and package deals are available (see the website for more info).
To whet you appetite, view the hilarious book trailer for Little Failure featuring James Franco, Rashida Jones and a few more famous hotshots.
If you're a Chicago nerd who needs a creative outlet, Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival may just be your jam. Stage 773 is currently putting together the second annual Nerdfest, inspired by their popular recurring event Hey, I'm a Big Fan, which showcases readings of original fan fiction.
The festival itself will take place from March 19-22 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (kicking off on the 19th with Hey, I'm a Big Fan), but applications to perform at the festival are due on Wednesday, January 22. You can download the application from the Chicago Nerdfest Tumblr and follow them on Facebook for even more updates.
Image courtesy of the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival Tumblr
You may know him best as the author of sci-fi classics such as Dhalgren and the Return to Nevèrÿon series. Or you may have encountered him (as I did) through works that provocatively mix memoir and queer theory, such as Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. (His beard alone probably qualifies as a major artistic contribution to American society.) Chicago audiences get to see a few of Samuel R. Delany's many sides with a pair of upcoming public readings at the University of Chicago's Harper Memorial Library, 1116 E. 59th St. They're sponsored by Critical Inquiry, the interdisciplinary journal of theory based at U of C.
The first reading, held on Friday, January 17, will focus on Delany's recent fiction. Then, on Friday, January 31, he'll return to share insights from the writing course he's been teaching, entitled The Mirror and the Maze: Scenes and Sentences in Flaubert's 'Sentimental Education' and Moore/Campbell's 'From Hell.' Both lectures start at the somewhat inconvenient hour of 4:30pm, perhaps banking on the likelihood that some people will be curious enough to find out what connects Gustave Flaubert to a graphic novel about Jack the Ripper to sneak out of work early. Both events are free.
Red Rover Series, an experimental live lit show, is sponsoring a collaborative reading with the theme "Vulnerable Times," to coincide with the MLA Convention's theme for 2014. Readers will present writing (by themselves or others) which bears some mark of vulnerability: forgotten work, work that nearly didn't exist, denied or discouraged work, etc.
This event will feature Amaranth Borsuk, Amy Catanzano, BK Fischer, Chris Glomski, Alan Golding, Rob Halpern, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Douglas Kearney, John Keene, Philip Metres, Laura Moriarty, Ladan Osman, Danielle Pafunda, Lily Robert-Foley, Kenyatta Rogers, Jennifer Scappettone, Evie Shockley, Divya Victor, Barrett Watten, Christine Wertheim, Keith Wilson, Ronaldo Wilson, Kate Zambreno, Kazim Ali and Jonathan Stalling. Red Rover series is curated by Laura Goldstein and Jennifer Karmin with special guest Laura Mullen.
The reading will take place on Saturday, Jan.11 at Outer Space Studio, 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave, (third floor walk up, not wheelchair accessible). There's a suggested donation of $4.
Photo courtesy of the Red Rover Series Facebook page.
This fall, CHIPRC held the inaugural Wasted Pages Writers' Workshop, a weekly meetup operating outside of the academic writing framework and allowing writers to work on their craft. Writers of all skill levels shared work and gave feedback. The evening will showcase the short fiction generated at the workshop.
Readers include Montserrat De Frutos, Adam Rohacs, Miden Wood (one of our own Book Club contributors), Khadi King, Ben Spies (publisher of No More Coffee zine), Ariane Kenney and Collin Brennan (poet and publisher of Continental Interlude zine).
Learn more about the Wasted Pages Writing Workshop and sign up for their any of their upcoming writing workshops on the CHIPRC website. The event is free, but donations are appreciated.
Literary Agent Joanna MacKenzie of Chicago's Browne & Miller Literary Associates and CWC Founder and Executive Director Mare Swallow will lead an hour-long discussion and ensuing Q&A covering the definition of a query letter, why it's necessary for getting published, how to write one effectively and what an agent sees when they read your letter. (A glimpse into an agent's brain? Not impossible after all!)
The $65 registration ($60 per if you register two folks at once) also includes snacks, a prize-drawing and plenty of opportunities to hobnob with fellow writers. (Take heed: according to QueryTracker, MacKenzie specializes in commercial fiction, family saga, middle grade, romance, women's fiction and young adult--those whose book falls into that genre may be extra-interested in attending.)
Future Writers Night Out workshops include: Writing Sex in Fiction on Monday, February 3, and Breaking into Self-Publishing on Monday, March 3. All workshops are held from 6:30-9pm at Lillstreet Lofts. To stay in the know, sign up for the CWC email newsletter.
This Tuesday, Jan. 7, shake off Monday's hibernation with monthly live lit series Two Cookie Minimum as it returns to kick off 2014! In addition to the promised presence of cookies, Two Cookie always showcases talented emerging writers, and this month features readers guaranteed to wake you from your wintry slumbers:
and Jessica Scott, creative writing student at Columbia College Chicago.
On top of edible and literary goodies, a Two Cookie commemorative zine will be available at the event, composed of cartoonist Alex Nall's caricatures and doodles of readers and scenes depicted at Two Cookie Minimum readings of 2013. As usual, the reading will be held at The Hungry Brain (2319 W. Belmont Ave.) at 9pm. Both the event and zine are free, though donations are always appreciated!
Punk rock, zines, and karaoke: there are some mutual affinities here. They're open even (or especially) to the untrained, they celebrate vigor and enthusiasm more than technical skill, and they're tons of fun to make. Fitting, then, that Chicago Zine Fest's first fundraiser of the year will be a night of Punk Rock Karaoke, held at Beauty Bar (1444 W. Chicago) on Thursday, January 9, at 8pm. (If you're wondering how come Bikini Kill and Black Flag don't show up in the songbooks at Spyner's or Lincoln Karaoke, it's because Punk Rock Karaoke Chicago records many of its backing tracks from scratch.) There's a $5 cover, which goes directly to the Fest--slated for March 14-15 this year, if you've unwrapped your 2014 calendars already.
I've been paying closer attention, lately, to the tail end of my morning commute: west along North Avenue from the lake to Larabee, then south. Of course, I'd always noticed the yellow-brick row houses of the Cabrini homes hunched across from my office building, behind the luxury condos and parking garages--fewer than 150 of them occupied, since the Chicago Housing Authority cleared hundreds of the units with an as-yet-unfulfilled promise that residents would return to a full-scale renovation. And although it's not on my way, the former site of the William Green Homes' last towers still shocks me with its emptiness when I happen to pass by. Lately, if I approach from the east past the shiny new Target, it even takes a moment for me to remember what that land was emptied of.
But thanks to Lawrence J. Vale's Purging the Poorest: Public Housing and the Design Politics of Twice-Cleared Communities, these days I've been looking not just at the negative space of the former Cabrini-Green area; I've also been paying attention to what, and who, has filled in the blanks. There's a strange feel to these mostly market-rate developments, swept clean of the obvious history that permeates the built environment of the other central neighborhoods. There are not a lot of public spaces and not a lot of people on the residential streets, just stretches of new brick and still-raw-looking landscaping occasionally punctuated by the profounder silence of a grass or gravel lot. The facades seem almost part of a set, unobtrusive scenery to sail past as our main characters take a drive downtown.
Welcome the New Year with 2nd Story as they celebrate their 6th annual end-of-year reading on Tuesday, December 31, 9:30pm at the Den Theater, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $50 and provide a packed NYE experience.
The evening's entertainment, curated by 2nd Story contributor Nicholas Ward and directed by Liz Rice, includes wonderfully crafted stories from student Margaret Marion; Laura Krughoff, author of the novel My Brother's Name; and civil rights activist and writer Shaun Sperling. The storytellers have worked with musicians under the direction of Eric Hazen to craft a soundtrack to their stories. There will also be live music throughout the night.
To make this an extra happy New Year, the ticket price includes delicious bites, a champagne toast at midnight and a free first drink. There will be a limited number of "Pay What You Feel" tickets at the door starting at 9pm.
Last year Quimby's Bookstore did something a bit zany (ziney?): a 24-hour zine challenge inviting zinesters to spend the night in their store and create. To capitalize on the success of year one, Quimby's is back with new antics for a second zine slumber party, as well as a new name devised by store manager Liz Mason. The Zlumber Party begins on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 9pm and runs until 9am on Sunday, Jan. 12. Participants will be calling Quimby's at 1854 W. North Ave. their home for the night.
"We realized that people don't want to be here for 24 hours, ourselves included," said Mason, who is also the creator of Caboose zine. "Really they just want to be here overnight. The novelty of being here after hours, like a big creative slumber party, was really the attraction."
All zinesters and mini-comics artists are welcome to work on their projects. This year the challenge aspect has been toned down, focusing more on stirring up creativity (and maybe some coffee). It's about having a good time. "Instead of challenging people to make a whole zine in one night, we merely supply the space, supplies and inspiration to get them started on something, and ideally that would motivate them to complete a zine," Mason said.
Participants can work on a one-page zine, a comic strip, a work in progress, or the start of something bigger. There will be materials including paper, writing supplies, staplers, tables, and even snacks to help you create your masterpiece. You simply need to bring your ideas (and any specialized resources you use like laptops, ink, drawing utensils, etc.). It's like a four-star hotel for zinesters. (Jammies and sleeping bags are optional.)
This isn't like a high school lock-in. Participants can go as they please. "Some people don't stay the whole night," says Mason.
Space is limited so registration is preferred. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at 773-342-0910.
So we have vampire boyfriends, vampire slayers, vampire babies and vampire brides. But what about vampire oncologists? Look no further. The hero of local author Jilly Langlan's debut novel, A Mile of Mayhem, is Dr. Ian Bennett, a respected oncologist at a top Chicago hospital, despite his proclivity for blood sucking...
Langlan, who wrote the self-published novel while caring for her husband during his lymphoma treatment at Northwestern Hospital, will sign copies of A Mile of Mayhem at farm-to-table restaurant Local Root (601 North McClurg Court) during their Afternoon Tea special on Tuesday, December 17 from 2-5pm.
Are you tired of seeing yet another engagement photo on Facebook this holiday season? Do you say "bah, humbug!" when everyone on Twitter seems to be planning the #most #amazing #newyears #ever? Then, the First Annual Christmas Letter Swap might be the writing project for you!
Live Lit performer and producer Scott Whitehair (This Much Is True, Story Lab Chicago) came up with the concept after his own misfortunes. "The idea stems from a conversation with friends last December," he said. "I was telling them that I wished I had sent out a weird family newsletter the year I got divorced. It would have been from 'The Whitehairs,' but with the 's' scratched out, and would have included a picture of me, clearly drunk, in an apartment that was empty except for a poorly decorated tree." From there, the idea of swapping funny and fictional Christmas newsletters began to take shape.
How does it work? Participants sign up on the website and write a letter on behalf of a completely made-up family. They then send it to five strangers and, in return, they'll receive news from five other fictional families. You can be as goofy and creative as you want, though there are samples on the site to inspire you. Pictures are strongly encouraged. Letters will be displayed on the website, and there will even be a Hall of Shame for those Scrooges who did not honor their commitment.
The deadline for signing up is Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 5pm. Participation is free, the laughs are priceless.
Image courtesy of the Christmas Letter Swap website.
As the snow starts coming down and the nights grow longer, it's hard to think of a more appealing way to spend the evening than holing up in a warm, softly lit pub and listening to the true tales of seasoned storytellers. This Tuesday, December 10, monthly series This Much Is True takes its usual place at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, 3905 N. Lincoln, at 7pm.
Headed by two of its founders (those would be improviser and farmer Stephanie Douglass and Scott Whitehair, who also runs Story Lab Chicago), this month's lineup presents a diverse mix of subjects and storytelling styles. Mama Edie Armstrong weaves together English, Spanish, and sometimes percussion to continue the storytelling traditions of her African and Native American ancestors. LeVan D. Hawkins draws on theatrical and spoken-word techniques to render explorations of family history and community. Other performers include Tekki Lomnicki, a theater artist who works with kids and adults with and without disabilities; librarian and connoisseur of awkwardness Amy Rood; and 2nd Story company member Ozzie Totten. Admission's free.
Photo of Stephanie Douglass courtesy of This Much Is True's website.
The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame is an institution that feels a little bit misplaced in time. Most of its nominees passed from the city into literary fame or footnote long ago. And yet it is not an elderly institution: it held its first induction ceremony only in 2010. Its mission is to add layers to our experience as Chicagoans by reminding us how the city has been reflected and reshaped in the works of its writers. It wishes to make sure we recall that not only did columnist Ben Hecht spend One Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago and L. Frank Baum write The Wizard of Oz from his family home on Humboldt Boulevard, but also how Leon Forrest overlaid his fictional Forest County atop our own and that Thornton Wilder taught at the University of Chicago for six years.
Along with these four luminaries, a ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 7pm in Roosevelt University's Ganz Hall (430 S. Michigan) will honor Edna Ferber (Giant, Showboat) and Jet and Ebony publisher John H. Johnson. The program will also explore the ways that the honorees' visions of the city reverberate with its current writers and other assorted arts-adjacent figures--presenters range from Joe Meno and Thomas Dyja to Sex and the City actor David Eigenberg.
Enhancing the sense of eras colliding, the awards themselves will be accepted by relatives, descendants, and friends of the inductees, including Baum's grandson and Wilder's nephew. Guests can reserve a seat at the strange and wondrous festivities for free online.
"We hope for strong inhuman voices. We are weary of stories that present luminous dialogues between men and women. We hope for less luminous dialogue. More biology." So, in part, reads Birkensnake's submissions/mission statement. It's only natural, then, that the annual fiction journal's latest production seeks to defamiliarize the very forms of the lit mag and the public reading.
To break it down by numbers: this is Birkensnake's sixth issue. Of which there are seven versions entirely different in theme, design, and content. Each of which was co-curated by two guest editors, strangers at the time they were assigned to work together. Each variant has been hand-bound by a different artist, and they are lovely objects, packaged variously inside boxes or between bright covers resembling a child's board book.
They're also not for sale. To get one, you'll have to work a little. Chicagoans get their chance this Friday, December 6, at Uncharted Books, 2630 N. Milwaukee, at 7pm. Under the guidance of guest editor Megan Milks (who helped put together a volume of "Neverending Tales"), audience members choose the version they'd like to take home and then are assigned to read a piece from it. They--and you?--will also be joined by contributors James Tadd Adcox (The Map of the System of Human Knowledge) and Wyatt Sparks. Admission's free.
You may not be able to jet over to the Greek island of Mykonos anytime soon, but international mystery writer Jeffrey Siger's latest novel, Mykonos After Midnight, just might be the next best thing. (As Mary Schmich said, reading is your discount ticket to anywhere!)
Siger will be in town on Thursday, Dec. 5 to promote Mykonos at the National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted St., 6:30-8pm.
The novel is the fifth installation in the author's series featuring Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis. (The first, Murder in Mykonos, was Greece's #1 best-selling English-language novel.) After the murder of a legendary Mykonos nightclub owner, Inspector Caldis must prove there's a far more complex solution to the murder than robbery. Caldis's ensuing struggle with a powerful, clandestine international force mirrors Greece's own struggle, amid its economic crisis, between its past and present.
Siger, a former New York lawyer who graduated to writing full time about Mykonos, is also a weekly contributor to Murder is Everywhere, a blog about the venues where ten mystery writers place their novels. (Read his post on Greek Thanksgiving cooking. Octopus and potatoes? Yes! I think?)
The event is free with museum admission ($10 for adults, $8 for seniors, faculty, students and museum members are free), light refreshments will be served, and books will be signed. Make your reservation here.
There's a lot to like about Charles Blackstone's latest novel, Vintage Attraction. The semi-autobiographical story of the romance between English teacher Peter Hapworth and world-renowned sommelier Izzy Conway invites the reader to speculate on Blackstone's own relationship with Alpana Singh. It name-drops some of Chicago's culinary haunts. There's a pug. However, one could argue that the most seductive aspect of Vintage Attraction is its depiction of the ripe vineyards of Greece, where the star-crossed lovers must face their uncertain future together.
Appropriately enough, Charles Blackstone will present his novel at The National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted St., this Thursday, November 21 at 6:30pm. He'll be joined by Jessa Crispin, editor-in-chief of Bookslut, who will lead a Q&A session. The discussion will center on Blackstone's work as well as his knowledge of Greek wines. A book signing will follow the presentation.
The event is free with museum admission. Light refreshments are provided.
The Chicago Book Expo, a day to celebrate all things literary, returns after a two year hiatus this Sunday, November 24 at St. Augustine College, 1345 West Argyle. The expo showcases local authors, organizations, book sellers and more from 11am-5pm.
Over the course of the afternoon, six tracks of simultaneous programs with presenters that include Aleksandar Hemon, Samantha Irby, Christine Sneed, and Dmitry Samarov. There will be sessions with an emphasis on bilingual and nonfiction Chicago-related programming. Make sure to grab a program upon entering the expo as there are more readings and workshops not to be missed.
What better way to fundraise for good-old-fashioned paper and ink than with good-old-fashioned Bingo? Chicago Zine Fest, the annual celebration of small press, indie publishers and self-published artists, is holding its third annual Bingo Night fundraiser this Friday, November 22, 7-9pm at 826CHI, 1331 North Milwaukee Ave.
Gather your lucky trolls and a $10 entry donation for a chance to win prizes from Handlebar restaurant, Laurie's Planet of Sound, Uncle Fun, and much more. Comic artist (of the graphic, not comedic sort) Rachel Foss will be hosting and snacks will be available, but you can BYOB. All proceeds will benefit Chicago Zine Fest, scheduled for March 14 & 15, 2014.
The line-up’s glorious, the hosts deemed “obsession-worthy,” and perhaps the trophy of James Franco’s head will actually make an appearance (#celebritysighting) (#decapitationnation)! So come on out and see for yourself. Show starts at 7pm, and is BYOB and free!
If you happen to have a simultaneous hankering for poetry and free Korean food this weekend, you're in luck. The Poetry Foundation's Poetry off the Shelf: Sijo Poetry with David McCann (held at their headquarters at 61 W. Superior) will explore the pleasures of the Korean poetic form sijo before a reception with traditional snacks, held at 3pm this Saturday, November 16.
The event will be more workshop than lecture--attendees will include students who entered the Sejong Cultural Society's sijo contest this year--and all participants are encouraged to apply what they learn to an original work of poetry during class. That shouldn't be as daunting as it may sound: sijo is something like a roomier haiku, its three lines containing 14-16 syllables each instead of haiku's 5-7-5 pattern. That leaves a lot more space for stormy human emotion alongside images borrowed from the natural world, and for humor as well as heartbreak in the signature "twist" of the poem's final line--as in the gentle 14th-century joke on aging in the earliest known sijo (tr. Larry E. Gross):
The spring breeze melted snow on the hills then quickly disappeared.
I wish I could borrow it briefly to blow over my hair
And melt away the aging frost forming now about my ears.
You can find some of McCann's own takes on the form in his collection Urban Temple: Sijo, Twisted and Straight.
Essay Fiesta is turning 4, which according to them "is about 72 in Live Lit years." Over the years, the monthly reading series has given a voice to over 100 artists, hosted nearly 200 guests, and raised close to $6,000 for 826Chi.
To celebrate their longevity, Essay Fiesta is holding an actual fiesta of first-person, non-fiction essays on Monday, November 18 at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Their top-notch line up includes Moth Grandslam Champion Shannon Cason, 826CHI Director of Education Zach Duffy, solo show performer Natasha Tsoutsouris, This Much Is True co-host Stephanie Douglass, and the return of Essay Fiesta founder Keith Ecker. Join hosts Karen Shimmin and Willy Nast, of All Write Already! fame, for this special birthday bash. Here's hoping a piñata will be part of it .
The event is free, but donations to 826CHi are much appreciated. Show begins at 7 pm.
The Tatra Eagle is set in 1683 during the Ottoman Turks invasion of Vienna, Austria. Boleslaw Radok, a young Polish boy living with his family of shepherds in the Tatra Mountains, learns of his father's death and is faced with the decision to join the fight against the Turks. Like the white eagle of the Tatra Mountains, the young warrior flies into battle.
Tomaszek will read from the book and discuss with attendees, and books will be available .
Donna Tartt's three novels have been published across the span of three decades--one for each. Her first novel, the wildly successful A Secret History was published in 1992, and her second, The Little Friend, rolled around in 2002. (Almost) right on time arrives her latest, The Goldfinch, which Tartt was in town to discuss with Jennifer Day, editor of Printer's Row literary journal, for the Chicago Humanities Fest on Saturday, November 2.
When discussing why it takes 10 years to write a book, Tartt partially attributed it to her willingness to wait for surprises. "[Some of the best ideas] come quietly to the back door," she said onstage at the Thorne Auditorium at Northwestern University Law School. (We can only hope that Tartt will deliver yet another masterpiece of moody genius come 2020-something.)
For a unique experience that joins graphic art and live music, look no further then Black Violet, a performance by Fifth House Ensemble this Sunday, November 17 at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave., 8:30pm.
Black Violet Act I: Leagues of Despair, follows the life of a black cat named Violet in 17th century London during the outbreak of the bubonic plague. The story is written, illustrated and animated by Ezra Claytan Daniels, known for his critically acclaimed graphic novel series The Changers, and a digital animated graphic novel Upgrade Soul, which was released on Opertoon. Daniels is also the creator of the Comic Art Battle, a live art event that pits artists against one another before a crowd.
Black Violet follows the protagonist through the streets of London as she looks for her owner while staving off capture; black cats were suspected plague carriers. The beautifully drawn artwork is complemented with musical accompaniment by Chicago's Fifth House Ensemble, a versatile and dynamic chamber music group. The score celebrates the works of Brahms, Walter Piston, and Jonathon Keren, among others.
I spoke with Daniels to learn more about Black Violet's partnership of music and art. He discussed collaborating with Fifth House and preparing his graphic art and text for the show.
Paranormal enthusiast Bielski is best known as the author of the Chicago Haunts book series, as well as the founder of Chicago Hauntings ghost tours. Photographer Hucke has visited and taken pictures of over 1,000 graveyards and mausolea.
The event takes place on Thursday, November 14, from 6 to 9 pm. The Nisei Lounge is located at 3439 N. Sheffield. A portion of the drink and book sales will support the restoration efforts of the historic Bachelors Grove Cemetery. The event is free, but please RSVP here.
Move over, James Franco. He might not be an A-list Hollywood celeb, but Jacob M. Appel holds nine graduate degrees, is a bioethicist, a physician, a lawyer and a social critic, not to mention a licensed NYC tour guide. And if that isn't enough to make you wonder what you've been doing with your life, he's an extremely prolific and award-winning author of plays, short stories and novels. His latest, The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock Books), tells the story of Larry Bloom, a NYC tour guide who writes a book about his first date with a woman named Starshine Hart before actually going on that date. (We've all been there, right?)
Donna Seaman says The Biology of Luck is a "nimbly satiric variation on Joyce's Ulysses....In Appel's clever, vigorously written, intently observed, and richly emotional tale, hilarious mishaps are wildly complicated by the intersections between life and Larry's novel about Starshine."
Appel will be in town to host a discussion on the literary marketplace at The Writers WorkSpace, 5443 N. Broadway on Sunday, November 17 from 2-3:30pm. The $18 ticket gets you a copy of the book and the opportunity to submit 500 words of your own prose for Appel's take on where you might submit your work. Tickets are limited, so get yours now. (Coffee and light refreshments will be served.)
Sniffling through performances on the theme of allergies and the glories of the immune system will be Natalie Edwards, David Isaacson, Charlotte Hamilton, Dave Snyder, Matt Test, Ruth McCormack, Erin Kahoa, Daniel Shapiro, Mark Chrisler, Tim Racine, Mason Johnson, and Margaret Chapman. Along with the cacophony of nose blowing, live music will be provided by Tijuana Hercules. The event is hosted by the nasally congested master of ceremonies, Chris Bower.
Commemorative event buttons and posters (with artwork by Susie Kirkwood) will be available for purchase. You must, however, bring your own tissues and nasal spray. The show is $15,10pm.
On Wednesday, Oct. 30, Elizabeth Gilbert visited Trib Nation's Printers Row to promote her new book -- and her return to fiction -- The Signature of All Things. The event took place in the Grand/State ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton and Gilbert was interviewed by Manya Brachear Pashman, the Chicago Tribune's religion reporter.
Signature tells the tale of Alma Whittaker, a 19th century botanist. At the time, botany was one of the rare sciences to which women, society's own beautiful flowers, had access. However, it was also the science of explorers, men who risked life and limb on the high seas to bring back plants from the darkest corners of the earth, especially tropical orchids. Whittaker, however, specializes in the decidedly unsexy study of moss. That's right. Moss. Gilbert realized that as a single woman, Alma wouldn't have had the freedom to travel to exotic locales. So she arranged for Alma to stumble on a great scientific discovery right outside her father's door, something that was "manageable and also enormous" and eventually allows Alma to reach the same conclusions about evolution as Charles Darwin before Darwin ever published his theories.
The University of Chicago presents a three-day conference, Forms of Fiction: The Novel in English this week from Wednesday, November 7 through Friday, November 9. Literary heavy hitters A.S Byatt (Possession: A Romance), Tom McCarthy (C), and others will discuss the novels Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses, and The Golden Bowl (sample Pride and Prejudice discussion: "A Pudding or a Machine". TELL ME MORE). Readings, book signings, and "coffee and light breakfasts" will also be on offer. The event takes place at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 East 60th St. Advance registration is suggested for each event; the conference is free and open to all. Seriously: A.S Byatt breaking it down about Middlemarch? Stars in my eyes, you guys. Stars.
Released this year on Wicker Park Press, the anthology features short fiction published in the first decade of the millennium. Edited by Mort Castle, professor of creative writing at Columbia College, the collection celebrates the unique style of American horror fiction.
At the event will be readings from contributors Sam Weller, biographer of Ray Bradbury; Wayne Allen Sallee, author of Holy Terror; New York Times bestselling author Jay Bonansinga; Wormfood author Jeff Jacobson; and Bram Stoker Award-winning author John Everson.
Books will be available, and authors will likely be signing the work, just not in their own blood. (Or will they?)
Friend. Follow. Text. is an anthology exploring the connection between social media and literary fiction. As the digital age drifts further from the printed word, it also provides the opportunity for massive amounts of published personal narratives. The book showcases work inspired by all forms of social media.
Reading will be contributors Ben Tanzer, Operations Manager of This Zine Will Change Your Life, Director of Publicity and Content Strategy at Curbside Splendor Publishing, and author of the novel Orpahns; Wyl Villacres, writer and blogger you can find on Twitter at @wyllinois; Lisa Mrock, writer and student at Columbia College's Fiction Writing Department; Steve Karas, reviewer at Review Review; and Megan Stielstra, author of the story collection Everyone Remain Calm and Literary Director of 2nd Story.
Most people know Elizabeth Gilbert as the author of Eat, Pray, Love, a memoir that recounts her globe-hopping recovery from a devastating divorce. However, before Gilbert became an icon for women seeking greater self-awareness (or a self-indulgent navel gazer, depending on who you ask), she was an award-winning fiction writer. Her short story collection Pilgrims was the winner of a Pushcart Prize, as well as a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her first novel, Stern Men, garnered rave reviews from the likes of the New York Times. Tomorrow, Gilbert will discuss her return to fiction after more than a decade with her new novel, The Signature of All Things.
A work of historical fiction set in the 19th century, The Signature of All Things tells the story of botanist Alma Whittaker. Whittaker's devotion to an as-yet-unstudied phylum of moss, as well as the decidedly unscientific pursuit of love, takes her and the reader around the world from London to Peru, to Amsterdam and Philadelphia and finally Tahiti. Gilbert conducted three years of research to create Alma's world, and skillfully weaves historical events, such as the murder of Captain Cook, into the narrative. Barbara Kingsolver in her New York Times book review describes the novel as "a bracing homage to the many natures of genius and the inevitable progress of ideas, in a world that reveals its best truths to the uncommonly patient minds." And for the naysayers who have relegated Gilbert strictly to the domain of chick lit, Aimee Levitt of the Chicago Reader grudgingly admits, "All this would be worth nothing, of course, if Gilbert couldn't write. But she can. Extremely well. Goddamn it."
Elizabeth Gilbert will appear on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7pm as part of Trib Nation's Printers Row series. The event takes place in the Grand/State ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe St). Admission is $25 per ticket or $53 for a ticket plus a copy of the new book.
Last Wednesday's 7th Annual Witty Women Writers Night opened with a song. More specifically, it began with Book Cellar owner Suzy Takacs welcoming Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, Off the Menu), Amy Guth (Three Fallen Women), Jen Lancaster (Bitter is the New Black, Here I Go Again: A Novel, The Tao of Martha) and Claire Zulkey (AN Off Year) with an original composition set to the tune of The Archies' "Sugar, Sugar":
"Witty, ah, witty women,
You are my author girls,
And you've got me readin' you."
Religious Scholar Reza Aslan made headlines last summer when Fox News anchor Lauren Green asked him, essentially, why on earth a Muslim would write a book about Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. According to The Nation, "the story was quickly framed as a battle between the right-wing Islamophobes of Fox News and Aslan, the defender of intellectual life and scholarship"-- and the author of those words has her own opinion of Aslan's credentials.
The book in question is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and you can form your own opinion of Aslan and his work this Wednesday, October 30 at the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Lower Level, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. at 6pm.
Aslan will discuss the #1 New York Times Bestseller Zealot, which frames Jesus as a rebel in the "age of zealotry" in first-century Palestine, a wandering miracle worker whose mission was "so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal."
Nikky Finney, whose poetry collection Head Off & Split won the 2011 National Book Award for poetry, will read her work at the Poetry Foundation this Wednesday, October 30. Finney's powerful poems often explore the intersection between art and the political; one poem, "The Condoleezza Suite", brings Condoleezza Rice to life, while another, "Left", evokes scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Finney is also a founding member of The Affrilachian Poets, a collective of writers committed to illustrating the diversity of the Appalachian region. The event takes place at the Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior Street, at 7pm (admission is free).
Laydeez Do Comics, a reading and discussion series that celebrates graphic work from local female artists and writers, returns to Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North Ave., on Thursday October 31, 7pm.
The event began in London and has moved across the pond, finding roots at Quimby's, Chicago's headquarters for independent publications. Each event welcomes a different panel of speakers who present their work and discuss their process. A Q&A follows, allowing fans, fellow creators and aspiring artists a chance to become part of the event.
The October lineup features cartoonist Beth Hetland, whose releases include the titles Fugue and Half Asleep. Joining Hetland is Jacyln Miller, cartoonist and Chicago Zine Fest organizer. Miller's newest work, Rememberies, documents her adventures as a kid growing up in Central Florida through her move to Chicago.
I interviewed Miller asking questions about her process, her inspirations and her work.
What initially prompted you to express yourself and your stories through comics?
A good friend of mine from high school made a post about Hourly Comic Day (every February 1st, where you make and post a small comic for every hour you're awake in that 24 hour period) back in 2010, and I decided to give it a go. It was difficult, and it took me way longer than that day to finish, but I completed the task and I was pretty much hooked on making my own auto-bio comics from that point forward.
How many times have you used the old "dust in my eye" excuse after listening to a StoryCorps interview? Keep those hankies handy because StoryCorps has released a book in honor of its tenth anniversary titled Ties That Bind: Stories of Love & Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps. StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay, dug into the archives to find stories that celebrate the human connection through one-on-one conversations. (StoryCorps has archived 50,631 of them - and counting!)
Isay's U.S. tour will stop in Chicago to celebrate StoryCorps' anniversary and promote the book on Friday, October 25 at 7pm. The event will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall (78 E. Washington St).
Story Corps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives - and make us cry.
Delia Awesome is a disappointment to her parents, a puzzle to her friends, and a problem for her boss...The super powers just make things worse.*
Sound like your kinda gal? If so, check out the launch party for the new Delia Awesome comic book series by writer/illustrator Michael Schneider and editor Jane Huh on Wednesday, October 23 at 6pm at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. DJ Phantom Power will perform a set.
The location of this party is key, seeing as Delia's "journey as a hesitant, mildly neurotic superhero" begins at the Hideout, and continues at various music venues across Chicago.
Issue #1 of the comic, described as homage to photocopied zines and underground comics by an artist who claims John Waters, Peter Bagge, and R. Crumb as his inspiration, will be available at the event; but if you can't make it, pick up a copy at Graham Cracker Comics, saki, G-Mart Comic, or more locations listed here. Or, you can view it online.
*From the comic's website. Image courtesy of Delia Awesome's Facebook page.
Rebecca Skloot is best known for her #1 New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But before becoming a writer, Skloot earned a degree in biomedical sciences and worked as a veterinary technician. For more than a decade, she worked in private practices, research labs, veterinary schools, animal morgues, and emergency rooms, among other places.
Inspired by these experiences and the ethical questions they raised, Skloot is currently working on an as-yet-untitled second book that will explore the science and ethics of the roles animals play in our lives and we in theirs. Skilled at combining science with a compelling narrative, Skloot intends to show how our relationship with animals is both beneficial and complicated - and not nearly as clear-cut as it first appears. Would someone who refuses to wear leather decline a cancer treatment based on animal research? What makes one animal a suitable service animal while another is deemed inappropriate? Why do we rescue some animals and kill others?
Rebecca Skloot will be sharing more about her new project in the program "Rebecca Skloot: Creatures Great and Small" as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival on Sunday, October 20 at 1pm at the University of Chicago. For tickets and more information, visit the Chicago Humanities Festival website.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rebecca about her upcoming book, tricking people into learning science, wild dogs, and frontal lobes.
When you think about it, the library really shouldn’t have to advertise. Essentially it’s an institutionalized version of that friend who’ll always loan you a good book, except in this case that friend has the best book collection ever. Harold Washington alone houses 9 stories of resources, both literary and technological. And have I mentioned the entire operation is free? Yet findings continually show that between the ages of 22 and 40 library patronage plummets.
So what is it going to take to put libraries back on the map for post-grads? Chicago Public Libraries have found a young-adult-advocate in the Junior Board, a sect of the Chicago Public Library Foundation composed of volunteers dedicated to bringing young professionals back to the library. Acting and founding president Suraj Patel helped to concoct the idea during consulting work he did for the Foundation. “I did a year-long project with them, and then we were asked for a five-year strategic plan,” he says, “and part of that plan was to create the Junior Board.”
“I think a lot of people use the library when they’re students, when they’re in school, and then they don’t for a while,” says Paul Bruton, Junior Board president-elect. “Then they use the library again because they’ve got kids. But in between, there’s people who aren’t taking advantage of all the library has to offer… [The Junior Board is] trying to raise awareness about the programs that the Foundation promotes, and also getting young professionals or twenty-and-thirty-somethings involved in library programming.”
Creative Nonfiction Week at Columbia College Chicago, the annual celebration of creative nonfiction and literary journalism, returns next week on October 21-24.
The schedule is packed with visual artists, storytellers, poets and writers showcasing a spectrum of forms of written expression. All events are at Columbia's Stage Two, 618 S. Michigan Ave. unless otherwise noted.
On Monday, October 21 at 4pm, theLatina Voices reading includes current and former students of the Latina Voices course, and is hosted by assistant professor in Columbia's Journalism department Teresa Puente. At 7pm, poet, writer and Emmy award winner Kwame Dawes will read.
On Tuesday, October 22 at 4pm, expect a panel on Graphic Storytelling and Nonfiction Comics. Guest include comics artists and organizers of the Chicago Alternative Comic Expo Neil Brideau, writer and academic Anne Elizabeth Moore, Darryl Holliday and Erik Rodriguez, moderated by creative writing department staff member Greg Baldino.
At 7 pm a second panel, Telling Live Stories: Performance and Discussion will feature 2nd Story members Megan Stielstra and Bobby Biedrzycki, along with Shannon Cason and Andre Perez, moderated by associate professor Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin from Columbia's journalism department.
To put it mildly, Greece is a country in chaos. As a result of its severe debt crisis, it struggles with austerity measures, labor strikes, bloated government institutions, and an unemployment rate of 27.6 percent.
But this is not the first time Greece has encountered political pandemonium. Natalie Bakopoulos' debut novel, The Green Shore, harkens us back to a similarly tumultuous time in Greek history. In 1967, a group of Greek military colonels executed a coup d'etat under the cover of night. Democracy would not be restored until seven years later.
The aftermath of the coup is seen through the eyes of four characters: French literature student Sophie, her doctor mother Eleni, her poet uncle Mihalis, and her younger sister Anna. Each character copes with the sweeping and often brutal political changes while continuing their personal stories, following dreams and passions, and experiencing new vistas physically, emotionally and politically.
After a 14-year hiatus, Bridget Jones is back in book form. This Friday, October 18, Helen Fielding--the author of Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason--will speak about the most recent addition to the Bridget Jones verse, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy in an event presented by Trib Nation Events: Printers Row; Fielding will be featured in conversation with the Chicago Tribune "Lessons for Life" columnist Jenniffer Weigel.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy follows Bridget as she navigates the modern dating world, with all its shiny new bells, whistles, and ways to communicate (it's not the '90s anymore). I can't bring myself to discuss the major plot twist that's been revealed online in the past few weeks; suffice it to say that, if you'd like to remain unspoiled and un-heartbroken, don't ask the Internet. The event takes place in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Intercontinental, 505 N. Michigan Avenue, at 7pm. Tickets for this event are $25; tickets for the event plus a copy of the book are $48.50.
Ann Hamilton's words fill several libraries, but she's not primarily an author. The artist is known for plastering floors, walls, and other surfaces with fields of words and letters, and her work is on prominent display in the public libraries of San Francisco (in the form of old catalog cards overlaid with notes and drawings) and Seattle (where a wooden floor is carved with sentences from books in the collection).
On Thursday, October 17, at 7pm at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior, Hamilton will talk about where those words come from and how they function in the context of art with two highly appropriate panelists. Sculptor, painter, and installation artist Jessica Stockholder also tends to view surfaces as part blank page, part canvas. Chicago native Srikanth Reddy, on the other hand, is a poet, but one who arranges his words in visually arresting ways. Admission is free.
Turkish poet, author and columnist Bejan Matur will read her work at the Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.) on Wednesday, October 16. A reception will be held from 6pm to 7pm and the reading will follow. The event is co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Amnesty International.
Born in Southeast Turkey, Matur was raised speaking Kurdish, which was officially banned in the region for many years. Though she writes in Turkish, she says that her writing is strongly influenced by the cadence and rhythm of her mother tongue. Her award-winning poetry has been described as shamanist, dark and mystic, and draws heavily from her experiences of village life. Her poems have been translated into 24 languages.
Trained as an attorney, Matur never practiced law and instead found her way to journalism. She regularly tackles issues such as Kurdish politics, Armenian news and women's issues. Matur is also the former director of Diyarbakır Cultural Art Foundation, and in 2011 joined the Council of Experts for the Democratic Progress Institute, whose main focus is conflict resolution.
Last Sunday evening, as part of this year's Chicago Humanities Festival, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Junot Diaz sat down with Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me! host Peter Sagal to a packed audience at Northwestern's Cahn Auditorium. "Welcome to the presentation of two bald guys from Jersey," said Sagal.
If only conversations with bald guys from New Jersey were always this intellectually stimulating.
Kathleen Wheaton knows how it feels to be an outsider. She spent twelve years in Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico working as a journalist and travel writer before returning to the U.S. with her husband, NPR reporter David Welna, and their two sons. Wheaton now resides in Bethesda, Md., and has released a book of travel-inspired short stories called Aliens and Other Stories.
Aliens and Other Stories is a loosely linked collection of tales about characters in exile, whether it be physical or emotional. They were inspired by the time Wheaton spent writing a guidebook in Argentina, which was then still emerging from the shadow of its Dirty War, a brutal military dictatorship during which as many as 30,000 people disappeared. She was struck by the nonchalance with which people recounted the traumatic experiences of being arrested, going into hiding or having relatives disappear; she wrote short stories based on these interactions.
There's a common misconception that whisky is a drink reserved for Don Draper, bros in finance, and the occasional mustached hipster. Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey will blow that stereotype out of the firewater. The book focuses on the ladies in the spirits industry from Mesopotamia beer brewers to American bootleggers to Bessie Williamson, the greatest female distiller in post-war America. Best-selling author Fred Minnick will present his latest at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., on Wednesday, October 16 at 6pm. Monique Huston of Stoller Wine & Spirits, "still stoker" Karen Sisulak Binder of Southern Sisters Spirits, Brand Ambassador of Death Door's Spirits Meg Bell, and Koval Distillery's Sonat Hart will join Mr. Minnick for a panel discussion. The event is free and open to those of legal drinking age. The author will sign books available for purchase at the event.
Currently publishing 65 new titles a year under four imprints, CRP has not only survived but thrived in a tumultuous era for the industry. This year, the River North press celebrates its 40th anniversary. Book Club caught up with Publisher Cynthia Sherry, who started her career at CRP as an accountant, moved on to editorial director in 1995, and publisher in 2004. Sherry shared insights on CRP's success, what hopeful authors need to know about submitting, and plans for the future (hint: more intriguing books!).
There's clearly an accord between John Freeman (until recently editor of Granta) and Aleksandar Hemon--the latter gets one of the longest profiles in the former's new collection of interviews with modern authors, How to Read a Novelist. On Tuesday, October 15, at the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State) at 6pm, the two will convene to talk about the book and other literary matters. Of course, any book entitled How to Read a Novelist is bound to touch on the question of why to read a novelist, and Freeman plans to make a forceful case for why "the novel is far from dead"--if the presence of the masterful author of The Lazarus Project wasn't evidence enough.
Cultural duality is a common theme in Lahiri's work, and The Lowland is no exception. The Lowland follows the divergent paths of two brothers who were once inseparable, one an earnest college student who ends up in the U.S. and the other a revolutionary with the Naxalites, a far-left radical communist movement originating in West Bengal. Lahiri's inspiration for the novel came from a story she heard as a teen from her father about a pair of brothers who were killed due to their Naxalite affiliation. The movement was particularly active -- and violent -- in Kolkata, where Lahiri often visited relatives and would overhear gossip about the Naxalites.
This Thursday, October 10, former poet laureate Robert Pinsky and musician Laurence Hobgood come together to present PoemJazz for the 59th annual Poetry Day, a reading series founded by Robert Frost. (Previously featured Poetry Day poets include W.H Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Seamus Heaney, Anne Sexton, et al.-- in other words, you're in good company.)
PoemJazz blends music and poetry, playing off their commonalities and exploring the dynamic that's created when the two forms become one (click here to watch a video of Pinsky performing).
The event will take place at 6pm in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State Street; admission is free, on a first come, first served basis, and doors open at 5pm. Come and get down.
Promotional material for last week's Nick Offerman event at The Music Box Theatre was hesistant to call it a reading. Unabridged Bookstore, one of the organizers, went so far as to say it was "in support of his forthcoming book, Paddle Your Own Canoe" but gave little detail as to what that entailed. After the Friday evening event, it was easy to see why. Unlike most book presentations which follow a predictable template of introduction-reading-applause, the Parks and Rec star offered, in true patriotic form, an American vaudevillian experience that included music, stories, and a little bit of dance.
In her new zine Spider Teeth, Ellie June Navidson calls it simply "the surgery"--an operation she traveled to Thailand to obtain, and which other similarly situated women might call gender confirmation surgery or medical transition. But for Navidson, those terms suggest a straight-line journey that doesn't reflect her own messier experience. In Spider Teeth's 90 pages, she has plenty of space to complicate the cultural picture of trans womanhood with precise descriptions of the shifting gender boundaries she inhabits.
Navidson will read from the zine at Quimby's Bookstore (1854 W. North) on Thursday, October 10, at 7pm, joined by other trans women with deep roots in performance art. Anyone who's attended the Northern Lights queer variety show at Parlour more than a couple of times is likely to recognize A.J. Durand, who only recently hung up the otherworldly mantle of her character Trandroid. Also on the lineup is Kokumo, a South Side native who's not only a writer but a musician, publisher, and community-builder focusing on black transfeminine perspectives.
Navidson's been doing some impressive community-building herself--this will be the second Spider Teeth reading she's put together in a week, with different supporting readers each time. One suspects they're just beginning to build momentum toward bringing a profusion of complex, underexplored perspectives on femininity to a wider audience.
If you convened a Barry Gifford fan club, the members might not have much to say to each other. Throughout his long career, the Chicago-born writer has worked in many different--sometimes startlingly different--modes. He's probably best known for the surreal American violence of the seven-book Sailor and Lula saga, the first of which, Wild at Heart, caught the eye of David Lynch and sparked a collaborative friendship that went on to produce the screenplay for Lost Highway.
It's this side of Gifford audiences will see on Wednesday, October 9, at 8:15pm when he stops by the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State) for a screening of the two episodes of Lynch's miniseries Hotel Room he wrote. Mysterious deaths, dark secrets, and mistaken (or are they?) identities will abound. After the screening, he'll stick around for a Q&A with Huffington Post arts writer Elysabeth Alfano, then sign books, including the recently collected Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels.
Wondering exactly who composes the Chicago Literati (and if you're one of them)? The event website makes it clear: "If you live in Chicago and you're involved in the written word, you are a part of Chicago's Literati."
Publicist and owner of Kaye Publicity Dana Kaye says she started the networking nights because many writers she encountered weren't aware of Chicago's vast literary community.
"I put on these events to bring people together and out of isolation," Kaye says. And bring people together she does. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago's fiction writing department and a native Chicagoan, Kaye (and her team) represents authors in several genres, 30 percent of which are Chicagoans.
"Rookie is a website for teenage girls," says the About page. That makes sense considering that it's edited by distressingly precocious high schooler and Oak Park native Tavi Gevinson, who first caught attention as the 11-year-old fashion maven behind the blog The Style Rookie. A look at the comments section of just about any article makes clear that it's finding its intended audience, but I also happen to know plenty of adult women who aren't embarrassed to admit they read the site. That's probably due to an editorial voice that's earnest, inclusive, and fun, as well as a penchant for topics likely to resonate with children of the '80s. (Bikini Kill, The Golden Girls, and Madonna are frequent cultural touchstones.)
So expect a mixed crowd at the release party for Rookie Yearbook Two--a print collection of pieces from the past year--on Tuesday, October 1, at 7pm at Unity Temple (875 Lake St., Oak Park). Gevinson will read, sign books, and generally make audience members of all ages feel like the coolest girls in school. She'll be joined by other contributors from the Chicago area, including Effing Dykes creator Krista Burton. Admission is $10, but you can apply the ticket price toward a copy of the book.
This Saturday will see a poetic event of truly epic proportions: the many, many writers of 100 Thousand Poets for Change will speak up on the changes they'd like to see in the world around them.
True, they won't all be reading in the same place. Still, Chicago's offshoot, a reading on the theme "Private Eyes (They're Watching You)," has a pretty numerically impressive lineup. 24 local poets will address issues of surveillance, censorship, and other topics likely to make you look over your shoulder at Outer Space Studio, 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave, on September 28 at 7 p.m. To name just a few: the just-profiled-by-Gapers-Block Daniela Olszewska; Language-affiliated eminence Barbara Barg; performance poet Noël Jones; and Nina Corwin, who curates readings at Woman Made Gallery.
The Red Rover Series and the Chicago Calling Arts Festival are cosponsors. A $4 suggested donation benefits microlending organization Kiva--letting attendees turn pocket change into real-world change while taking in some stirring words.
From small presses to reading series' to countless author events, Chicago pretty much eats, sleeps and breathes literary culture. And a new project called the Chicago Publishers Resource Center (CHIPRC) aims to "support these [literary] endeavors by helping those that work tirelessly to produce them."
At an open house on Saturday, September 28, 12-6pm, get a taste of the programming CHIPRC has up its sleeve; presentations include button-making, book-binding, zine-making, chalk art, and a FAQ about membership and other ways to support the project (view the complete schedule).
Located at the new facility at 858 N. Ashland, the event is open to the public, and programming is suitable for all ages. A suggested donation will benefit the new space and future programming.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll pounce on any chance to set foot in the awesomely elegant Music Box Theatre. But, seeing as you’re here perusing Book Club, you may think that you’d rather cozy up with your latest tome than sit in the dark and watch a movie.
Well it’s time these worlds collided! This Thursday, September 26, at 7:30pm The Book Cellar will be hosting National Book Award recipient Alice McDermott at none other than the Music Box Theatre. McDermott will be discussing her latest book, Someone, a chronicle of protagonist Marie Commeford’s lifelong search for, well, someone. The book has been hailed as masterful in its account of human life as at once ordinary and miraculously intimate; to quote The New York Times, “Almost pointedly unremarkable”. Devoid of bells and whistles, the narrative is a refreshing diversion from novels overwrought with twists, turns, and the occasional vampire.
Sound like a good read? Grab a copy of Someone at the event, available for purchase courtesy of The Book Cellar. Tickets are a well-spent $5.
Fates tells the story of a missing teenage suburban girl and the group of neighborhood boys who becomes enraptured by her disappearance. It's been compared to The Lovely Bones and The Virgin Suicides (not bad, especially for a first novel).
Pittard's fiction has won several awards. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, got her MFA at the University of Virginia, teaches at DePaul, and is currently at work on her second novel, Reunion, (Grand Central) out in 2014. Read on, and get to know Hannah Pittard.
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia Star sign: Sagittarius
What drives you to write?
A feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling in my chest. You know that time of night when it's pink? It's not every night, but some nights there's this pinkness in the air and I can feel it my chest -- this bigness, this need to capture it. Which isn't to say I'm trying to capture the night or its beauty. There's just a similarity between that feeling of pinkness and the need to write.
On Tuesday, September 24 at 7:30pm the newest edition of a new-ish Live Lit show will hit the stage at morseL, 1406 W. Morse Ave. You're Welcome, Chicago showcases the importance of personal voice in storytelling with an ingenious premise: each piece has to begin with the same first sentence, but the storyteller is free to take the opening in surprising and unprecedented directions.
Hosted by Amy Sumpter, this month's performers--Kendra Stevens, Maggie Jenkins, Mary Pat Bohan, Kristin Clifford, and Kim Morris-- will offer five unique, first-person stories that begin with "The door closed, and then the window opened." morseL will have $5 burgers and martini specials, which you can gorge on guilt-free since a portion of the proceeds from food and drink will go to the Alzheimer's Association. There is also a $5 suggested donation at the door. As a special treat, the ladies of You're Welcome, Chicago will draw next month's first sentence from audience suggestions AND the name of an audience member who'll be invited to participate in the October 22 show.
Photo courtesy of You're Welcome, Chicago's Facebook Eventpage.
As a Chicagoan of about six years' standing and a Michigander by birth, I've lived most of my life on the slightly shinier edges of the Rust Belt. That's meant watching with interest as some of its old industries have coughed out their final breaths and others (tech for Chicago, medicine for Grand Rapids) started to gain force. The institutional memory of The Society of Midland Authors, of course, reaches back much farther--all the way to 1915, when it was formed by a Chicago-centered group of writers including Clarence Darrow, Harriet Monroe, and Vachel Lindsay. On Thursday, September 19, at 6pm, president Robert Loerzel brings together three writers with a lot to say about the region's economic machinery at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, in a discussion on the theme "Reviving the Rust Belt: The Future of the Industrial Midwest and Chicago."
You young whippersnappers might be most familiar with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk from Arrested Development and Breaking Bad (respectively), but us old fogies know them best as comedy duo Bob & David from the glorious mid-'90s HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show with Bob and David. You wee toddlers may think it strange to see Tobias and Saul hit the road together on a book tour, but we octogenarians are squealing and clapping our hands like little children.
"Feminism--and feminists--have a bad rap when it comes to fashion," notes Marjorie Jolles in the 2012 collection of essays Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style (co-edited with Shira Tarrant). But whether she assiduously follows current feminine trends or tries to distance herself from them entirely, a modern American woman has no real way to opt out of the world of fashion--any look is invariably read as a statement. The writers in Jolles' and Tarrant's collection touch on the statements made by subjects ranging from Andrea Dworkin's trademark overalls to Japan's "Lolita" subculture to the plight of the nontraditional bride. At a talk titled "Gender and Style, Fashion and Feminism" at Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark St.) on Thursday, September 19, at 7:30pm, Jolles will join fellow panelists and writers Deborah Siegel and Veronica Arreola for an equally wide-ranging "conversation about the politics of what we wear, from birth on."
Siegel is equally steeped in the gender symbolism of clothing--the writer and public speaker's current project is called Tots in Genderland, a multimedia rethinking of the way children's genders are (over)determined by their guardians and cultures from infancy on. (As she related in a TEDx talk and an interview with Gapers Block earlier this year, her thinking has been informed by her own kids--twins, a boy and a girl.) The third panelist, Arreola, has been blogging for more than a decade on Latina feminism, currently at Viva la Feminista.
Photo of Deborah Siegel courtesy of the author's website.
It's an oft-repeated refrain these days, but it bears repeating nonetheless: the art of letter writing is slipping inexorably away from us, and in many ways--alas and alack!--it may be gone already. Future generations just won't be able to peruse a stack of Grandma and Grandpa's love letters. (Cue my cantankerous, pre-emptively elderly fist-shaking.) For the time being, however, all's not lost; we're still within striking distance of the days where handwritten letters were the standard, so they're still around to access and enjoy.
Tickets to the Chicago Humanities Festival go on sale to the public today. The theme this year is "Animal: What Makes Us Human", and we're going ape for the literary line-up (sorry, couldn't resist). Here's a quick rundown of the superstars shooting our way this October and November. (This list is not exhaustive, so check the site for deets, and grab your tix before they sell out!)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz discusses his life and work on Sunday, October 13.
Politician and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once said, “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”
Fictional Parks and Recreation politician Leslie Knope once said, “Maybe it’s time for more women to be in charge.” And then probably said something about waffles.
While perhaps the real-world influence of these two women is disparate (one a fictional* television character, the other a diplomat who has traveled to and managed relations in over 112 countries), the messages of both ring true. As of 2011, only 18.3% of the seats in Congress were held by women; a percentage whose growth has slowed significantly over the last decade. Considering that women constitute more than half the U.S. population, it’s past time that we achieved proportionate representation.
Sarah Aronson is presenting her new novel, Believe, at an event that doubles as a fundraiser for Curt's Cafe. Though new to the Chicagoland area, YA aficionados might recognize her as the author of the acclaimed novels, Beyond Lucky and Head Case. Her latest book tells the story of Janine Collins, who is thrust into the spotlight for being the sole survivor of a suicide bombing. Ten years after the terrible attack, and much to Janine's discomfort, she has become a symbol of hope. Friends want her to use her fame for a cause and the media is eager to revisit her story. Even worse, Dave Armstrong, the man who saved her from the rubble, believes she has healing powers. Could he be right?
The launch party is on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 11am at Curt's Cafe, 2922 Central St. in Evanston. There will be readings by Laura Ruby, Jenny Mayerhoff, Brenda Ferber, Penny Blubach, Natalie Wainwright, Ellen Reagan, Ken Krimstein, Rachel Wilson and Ilene Cooper. If that's not reason enough to get up early on a weekend, then the raffle should do the trick. Guests have a chance to win a one month gift certificate to Bikram Yoga Evanston, Hot Spices, books, a beaded necklace, and a Believe silver necklace. The Book Stall will also be doing what it does best (i.e. sell books), and the café will provide tasty treats. All proceeds support Curt's Café, a non-profit organization provides training and job placement for at-risk-youth.
Let's give Aronson a warm Chicago welcome by helping this beloved local eatery!
If you're an avid reader of the GB Book Club, you probably are a fan of storytelling and live lit events in Chicago. Perhaps you also read memoirs and creative nonfiction, or enjoy storytelling podcasts like The Moth and This American Life.
But with a love of live literature and personal storytelling, there also comes an aversion to certain topics. We've all been there. One minute you're laughing along to a hilarious, madcap story from a talented storyteller, the next you're rolling your eyes and uncomfortably shifting in your seat while someone blubbers creepily about stalking their ex-boyfriend or describes a bodily function in stomach-churning detail. Whether we are sick of a topic because it is too common or because it's just personally off-putting, we all have some storytelling pet peeves. So let's talk about a few, and then open the floor for you to share yours in the comments.
If you're like me, anything you know about Greek cuisine comes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Do yourself a favor, put down the remote and crack open Christopher Bakken's new book Honey, Olives, Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table. You won't find ruminations on pedestrian hummus or cheesy saganaki in these pages. Instead, Bakken takes readers on a journey around the archipelago that gets into the nitty-gritty of Greek staples: olives, bread, fish, cheese, meat, beans, wine, and honey. The result is a mouthwatering romp around the country, which never fails to celebrate the simplicity of ingredients nor the painstaking labor that makes that simplicity possible.
Bakken will present his book at the National Hellenic Museum on Thursday, September 12 at 6pm. The event is free with museum admission ($10 for adults, $8 for seniors/students, $7 for children over 3). Light refreshments will be served, and one can only hope that they're even half as good as the dishes he describes. Before his visit to Chicago, Book Club caught up with Bakken. We discussed impractical recipes, the Midwestern and Greek value system, the importance of grandmothers and, of course, his book.
The Poetry Foundation kicks off their fall season of programming on Wednesday, September 11 at 7pm (reception at 6pm) with an evening devoted to the music of the British composer Benjamin Britten; specifically, music inspired by the poets W.H Auden and Edith Sitwell. Presented in partnership with the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (kicking off their own second annual Collaborative Works Festival, "The Heart of the Matter: 100 Years of Benjamin Britten"), performers include soprano Kiera Duffy, pianist and CAIC executive director Shannon McGinnis, and tenor and CAIC artistic director Nicholas Phan. John Wilkinson, a poet and professor at the University of Chicago, will be on hand to provide some context. The event is free, though the limited number of advance tickets are now gone, so make sure to arrive early for this one, music and poetry lovers. And did I mention that there are refreshments being served? It's all happening at the Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior Street.
Described by Booklist as "an undisputed master of the short short story," Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge consists of 51 stories, ranging in length from a paragraph to several pages. Though Orner skips through different cities and eras, the question of the reliability of memory provides the stories' unifying thread.
Orner is a past Guggenheim fellow and two-time Pushcart Prize award-winner whose recently reissued debut collection of short stories, Esther Stories, was a 2001 New York Times notable book. He has also written two novels and two works of non-fiction, and has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review, Granta, and McSweeney's.
Billed as Chicago's "most intimate storytelling night," This Much Is True features readers both seasoned and novice, telling true stories that are humorous and heartbreaking and everything in between. Hosted by one-man storytelling juggernaut Scott Whitehair, this popular event is tucked away in a cozy lounge and has an open and friendly atmosphere, so even if you can't drag your friends along with you, you'll undoubtedly meet a new friend once you're there. TMIT is a curated show, but you can sign up to be a reader at sister show Story Lab Chicago, sharing your wonderful, embarrassing, hilarious and tragic stories... prior storytelling experience (or lack thereof) unimportant. This month's readers include Whitehair, Stephanie Douglass, Bron Batten, Ken Krimstein, Jeff Miller, Natasha Tsoutsouris, and Megan Wells.
You'll find TMIT in the second floor lounge of Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, the second Tuesday of every month. This month's show is on September 10 and starts at 7:30pm, but doors open at 6:45pm so get there early for a good seat. The show is free, but donations are always appreciated.
As veteran authors of the romance genre, Chicago-based Sherrill Bodine and Patricia Rosemoor have been crafting entangled love affairs for over two decades. Rosemoor has written 90 (that's right, 90) novels, many for the Harlequin Intrigue imprint (among others); and Bodine has written 19 novels, as well as a co-written comic book called Whispers From the Void.
In celebration of the release of the authors' first co-written novel, Written in the Stars (available in ebook format only), the duo will host a digital launch party at McNamara's restaurant (4328 West Irving Park Rd.) on Tuesday, September 10 at 6pm. The free event will also be streamed online, and viewers may download their copy at the same time (the goal is to reach 5,000 downloads in one hour.) To watch online, tune in here at 6pm on September 10.
Book Club caught up with Bodine and Rosemoor before the big event.
After attending his 20th high school reunion, Kevin Smokler realized he hadn't paid "a lick of attention" to his teachers or the books they taught-- not helpful to someone who'd always planned on writing books.
"Knowing that I hadn't read or barely remembered some of the basic greats felt like wanting to be the world's greatest florist and not knowing what photosynthesis was," Smokler said. "It was a giant hole in my education I wanted to patch up."
Hence Smokler's latest book, Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School.
"There is nothing like staying home for real comfort."
- Jane Austen, Emma
From Mr. Darcy's Pemberley to Fanny Price's Mansfield Park, the homes in Jane Austen's novels are nearly as important as the characters themselves. Growing up on the fringes of the landed gentry and relocating frequently as an adult due to uncertain financial circumstances, Austen observed and absorbed the details of homes that would become cornerstones of her novels.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is offering a series of discounted tours and free lectures in collaboration with One Book, One Chicago through spring 2014. The tours and lectures are in support of the 2013-14 One Book, One Chicago selection, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and the theme, "Migration - how has it shaped Chicago?"
The first tour is a Ukranian Village Walking Tour on Saturday, September 21, at a discounted rate of $5, while the first free lecture is a Discover Pilsen Talk on Saturday, November 16. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the Chicago Architecture Foundation or One Book, One Chicago.
Knuckles will soon be bare again. Trouble will once more be eaten and money once more shat. That's right, Book Clubbers. Starting on Monday, September 9 at 7pm, Write Club will return to Chicagoland for another season of literature as bloodsport, hosted by founder and "Overlord" Ian Belknap.
One of the driving forces behind the local and international "live lit" movement, which is growing fast, Write Club was named earlier this year the "Best Literary Event" by the Chicago Reader and the "Best Reading Series" by Chicago magazine, and for good reason. Back when the show first started in 2010, Belknap told TimeOut Chicago, "I want the show to take a can opener to my skull and punch me in the brain." And he meant it. Write Club packs one hell of a gray matter wallop.
Let's face it, in a summer chock full of news, you've probably spent more time debating Skyler White's virtues than, say, discussing Syria. This might seem like another sign of humanity's imminent demise, but the truth is pop culture influences our society beyond meme creations. When you consider that Americans consume 1.27 TRILLION hours of media, you can't help but wonder the effect these messages have upon our psyche, especially when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality.
This fall is going to be busy for Chicago publisher Curbside Splendor as they are releasing six titles. The release party is part of the fourth installment of Words and Music this Thursday, September 5 at 9pm at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. The event pairs reading with live music (hence the name) featuring authors of upcoming Curbside titles.
Ever been embroiled in a book-club debate and wish you could just call up the author to ask what she was thinking? Oak Park's Buzz Café (905 S. Lombard) will go you one better: why not simply invite the author to the book-club meeting in person? On Thursday, September 19, at 7pm, the inaugural Community Book Club Night welcomes local author E.C. Diskin to chat about her Chicago-based legal thriller The Green Line with readers.
As readers nibble on a spread of appetizers and desserts, they'll delve into a discussion of naive lawyer protagonist Abby's quest to unravel a mystery she stumbles into late one night when she accidentally gets off the train in the Austin neighborhood. $10 gets you admission and snacks, or stop in ahead of time and pick up the book for an extra $14. The plot moves along at a clip, so attendees should still have plenty of time to read up.
Catch both of these whip-smart memoirists on Wednesday, September 4 at The Wine Goddess, 702 Main St. in Evanston at 6pm. The authors will read from and sign books at an event appropriately titled Read Between the Wines; the $5 cover includes a glass of wine that pairs with the reading. Who needs cheese when you've got great lit?
With a monthly lineup as lovingly crafted as its host establishment's beer list, there is always something to love at Tuesday Funk... whether it's the fiction, the essays, the booze, or some combination thereof. Your hosts William Shunn and GB's own Andrew Huff keep the crowd entertained with poems about dogs and Chicago-themed haiku, and did I mention there's beer? This is Hopleaf, after all.
Tuesday Funk is on Tuesday (duh), September 3, and the first Tuesday of every month, at Hopleaf Bar, at 5148 N. Clark St., upstairs lounge. Show starts at 7:30 pm and is free. You must be 21+ to enter. Insider tip: the doors open at 7:00 pm, and you may just want to show up early to get a good seat. Readings are often standing room only.
After a summer of leaks, government surveillance, and Miley's terrifying army of giant teddy bears, we might have to explore our feelings of persecution. The Pre-PostHumanists Present: have your back. (Or do they???) The new reading series debuts on Wednesday, August 28 at 8:00 pm at Strawdog Theatre Company, 3829 North Broadway.
Unlike most Live Lit events in which the author is also the performer of his or her own piece, The Pre-PostHumanists Present: rework accepted submissions to bring the piece to life. After initial edits, the story is given to a director and cast of actors who will stage a performance based on the written work. The first installment will showcase stories by James Tadd Adcox and C. James Bye. Adcox is the author of The Map of the Systems of Human Knowledge, and his work has appeared in TriQuarterly, Barrelhouse Magazine, and n+1. Bye is the co-founder/Managing Editor of Knee-Jerk Magazine, and the co-editor of The Way We Sleep, an anthology of prose and comics about sleep published by Curbside Splendor in 2012. Brandon Eells and Eleni Pappageorge star; Sara Gorsky, Matt Kahler, John B Leen, Kayla Pulley, Benjamin Vigeant, and Johnard Washington round out the cast. The show is directed by Alex Huntsberger.
Tickets are $10. Doors and bar open at 7 pm. This month's topic is "Paranoia." This intriguing collaboration between Live Lit and theater could very well ease our suspicion of others through the power of story. (Or will it make it worse????)
Published by Winter Goose Publishing, Terroir follows a female protagonist who runs a winery. During a perfect growing season, the character's life begins to unravel-- to find out why, you'll have to come to the reading.
The Book Cellar offers bar service, so get there early to grab a seat and a glass of wine, an apt pairing for this story. Books will be available with a signing to follow. There is no cover.
If you regularly attend live lit events in Chicago, you've probably considered contributing your own work at least once. Maybe you've been lurking in the back of the audience for years, longing to join in. Maybe you're an aspiring writer with no performance experience. Maybe you're a fan of a particular series, but just have no clue how to get involved.
If you fall into any of these categories, this guide is for you. No matter your level of experience or expertise, you can break into Chicago's live lit scene. All it takes is a little persistent effort and an intelligent use of your time. Here are some pointers.
Step #1: Find a "Home"
There are many, many live literary events in Chicago spanning a variety of topics, settings, and audiences. If you're new to the scene, it's tempting to adopt a scatter-shot approach, applying willy-nilly to any and every show you can think of. But if you're a new writer/performer, cool your jets. Focus on shows that are amenable to your own style and topics of interest.
Establish a rapport with the show (or shows) you'd like to submit to. Each show is its own microcosm within the live lit community, and to become a member of that community you must show your face. Hang around and chat with contributors after the show, or send the show's organizers a nice email or Facebook post.
Attend a show multiple times before submitting your work to its hosts. This will improve your chances in two ways. First, it will allow your to learn the show's unique style, and second, it will convince the show's hosts that you are a thoughtful, decent member of the live lit community (and not a foaming psychopath)-- both of which will vastly improve your odds.
Step #3: Learn the House Style
Every live lit series has its own unique style, and the only way to master the style is to attend regularly and pay close attention. Before submitting work to a series, ask yourself the following: How long is the average piece? Do contributions ever contain explicit content? Do contributors use the first person, or is it more journalistic? Do readers use notes or do they speak extemporaneously? Is work laugh-a-minute, or more subdued and serious? How irreverent are the stories? How conversational are they?
Once you have a good sense of a series' style (and what distinguishes it from other shows), you are ready to start writing. As you write your piece, never lose track of the desired tone, length, and style. The ideal submission should be a perfect amalgam of the show's overall sensibility and your own unique voice.
Step #4: Find the Appropriate Submission Channel
Live lit shows accept new work in a variety of ways. Make sure you play by a show's particular rules so you don't irritate the hosts and organizers with emails or in-person queries that don't follow the standard procedure. Usually you can find the appropriate submissions method on the series' website or on their social media pages.
Some shows, like Do Not Submit, Story Club, and The Moth run on an open-mic basis, in which case the only way to participate is to show up early, put your name in, and wait for the opportunity to share. Other shows, like Essay Fiesta, Fictlicious, and Write Club accept online submissions. In some cases, shows have dedicated open mic nights that are distinct from the main show, but give new writers the opportunity to try out material and eventually snag a spot at the main event. For example, The Paper Machete, runs an open-mic writing group the first Wednesday of every month that occasionally feeds new writers into the main show.
Step #5: Be Not Afraid!
Even if you carefully study the show you are submitting to, attend it often, schmooze with the hosts, and craft a piece you are utterly happy with, you might face disappointment. Before you swear off live lit entirely, remember that work is rejected for all kinds of reasons. Maybe your story wasn't appropriate for the venue or the event. Maybe the hosts have a big backlog of performers on their schedule. Maybe you're close to the appropriate style or tone, but haven't quite perfected it.
A rejection does not mean that your writing is terrible or that the hosts dislike you. Try again! Almost no one gets a story into a show the first time they try. Learning to respond to criticism or rejection is a crucial stage of development as a writer or a performer.
Anecdote in point: Earlier this summer, I sent a few samples to Karen and Willy at Essay Fiesta. At first they gave me the kindest, most encouraging rejection ever. The pieces I sent just weren't right, but they were close, and I was encouraged to submit again. I spent more time editing some other work and attending Essay Fiesta, then I submitted two more pieces a few months later and got into the show. I'm sure most writers have had similar experiences with live lit shows (or lit mags). Tenacity and sensitivity to criticism can really pay off in both cases!
Step #6: Do it! Now!
There you have it! You now have the tools to begin a foray into live lit. Actually, you probably had all of these tools before you even clicked on this piece. If you're an avid attendee of lit events in Chicago, you already know a great deal about what works and what doesn't in live storytelling. So use your knowledge, write a piece, and take it out on the town.
'Tis the season for beloved old reading series of yore to revisit us as briefly and brightly as the one last 90-degree week before fall. Apparently. Along with Quickies' visit to The Hideout tonight, Uncalled-for Readings Chicago will return for a one-off version of the "mostly queer, mostly prose" event on Friday, August 30, at Uncharted Books (2630 N. Milwaukee) at 7pm.
Past installments have achieved a blend of the experimental and the ultra-personal--sometimes in the same piece--and Friday's lineup seems poised to stay true to form. Series cofounder Megan Milks hosts four readers that includes other cofounder Tim Jones-Yelvington, whose phenomenally entertaining performances draw on celebrity culture and a sort of teen-idol-from-outer-space sartorial style. Jackie Wang also works in many modes--her many projects include, intriguingly, an in-the-works book about "revolutionary loneliness" for Semiotext(e)--as does Jillian Soto. Finally, there's Vicky Lim, whose zines have included Dear Jaguar and the newer Abstract Door.
By the time it went on hiatus in 2011, Quickies seemed to have perfected the reading-series formula. First: get lots and lots of readers, and you're guaranteed a good crowd. Second: favor an edgy, funny sensibility that makes the crowd sit up and pay attention. Third: have it at a good bar (usually the Innertown Pub). And finally: strictly enforce a limit of four minutes of prose to cut any potential boredom off at the pass. It all made for a laid-back, exceedingly accessible night out on the town.
Mary Hamilton, Lindsay Hunter, and company will try to recreate that magic in a one-off event at The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) on Monday, August 26 at 8pm. The lineup is packed with Quickies alums and other local-lit movers and shakers. Hunter herself has just published short-story collection Don't Kiss Me, and she'll be joined by readers including Samantha Irby (Meaty), Jac Jemc (My Only Wife), Jonathan Messinger, and Chris Terry. Plus a half-dozen others. Time your trips to the bar or the bathroom wisely so as not to miss your favorites.
No matter how old I get, the end of summer will always mean the sound of school bells, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the thrill of tearing open a shiny new Trapper Keeper. It's back-to-school time! What better way to celebrate than with an installment of Story Sessions that is themed "Schooled"? Story Sessions is a monthly storytelling series that presents true personal stories, and it's been selling out since it debuted in April. (We Chicagoans like our stories.) Hosted as always by Deanna Moffitt, this month's show will feature performances by Heather Schwartz, Darwyn Jones, Arlene Malinowski, Linda Montgomery, Shannon Cason, Stephanie Rogers and Molly Meacham, as well as house band Dog 1 and the artistry of Betsy Cypert. If you're interested, don't just show up The Dog's Bollox on Sunday, August 25 at 7pm. Buy your $7 tickets in advance, get there early, and be prepared to laugh and aww and maybe even learn something.
Johnson started his journey at Columbia College studying fiction writing. As a student he hosted Columbia's Silver Tongue student reading series. This was the start of his love of being on stage and commanding an audience. After graduation, he started P. Fanatics, the now-defunct monthly reading series held at Cole's. His day job is writing content for CBS Chicago online, but he still finds ways to get on stage, most recently to address audiences as a co-host and judge of the Curbside Splendor sponsored Karaoke Idol.
It's August in Chicago, which means everyone is sweating. Unfortunately, there are also those among us (ehem) who not only perspire in the heat but do so in front of a prospective date, potential lover, or unrequited crush. Lucky for us, we can find solace in Solo in the 2nd City: Sweatin' in Chicago on Tuesday, August 20 at 8:00 pm at Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago Avenue. The reading series, hosted by bloggers and storytellers Carly Oishi & Melinda McIntire, will highlight personal essays about summer dating, sex, and relationships. This month's readers include Tequila Tales host Isaac Paul, comedian Bobby Hill, storyteller Dena Saper, and local author Joe Meno. Meno is a fiction writer and playwright who's won multiple awards including the Nelson Algren Literary Award and a Pushcart Prize. Author of six novels and two short story collections, Meno's work has been published in the likes of McSweeney's, TriQuarterly, Chicago Magazine, and The New York Times.
The event is 21 and over and free. Donations are collected for Chicago Women's Health Center. Who knows? You might find the love of your life sitting in the crowd. At the very least, you'll fall head over heels for the night's amusing tales of woe.
Chicago meets Brooklyn this Wednesday August 21 with Two Authors Talking at City Lit Books 2523 N. Kedzie. Presented by City Lit Books and MAKE Literary Productions, the two authors representing their perspective cities are NYC based author Amy Shearn and hometown author of The Slide and Logan Square resident Kyle Beachy. Shearn is promoting her newest novel The Mermaid of Brooklyn. Beachy is a contributing editor at MAKE who's collaboration with Chicago comics artists Anders Nilsen will appear in the magazine's upcoming issue themed 'Visual Culture'.
The event will feature readings from the authors followed by a conversation covering topics such as their process and writing in their perspective cities. Gapers Block got to ask Beachy a few questions in prep for this event.
The Greenhouse Theater Center is hosting a book drive on Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18 from 10 am-6pm to benefit the creation of a drama bookstall to be opened in October.
The idea for a bookshop that catered to the Chicago theater community was prompted by--what else?--a Facebook post back in June. When local writer, performer, director, and producer of The Gogo ShowMary Rose O'Connor asked on Facebook why there was no drama bookshop in the city, she received 60+ comments on the subject. Clearly, a niche needed to be filled. Fortunately for her (and all of us), the Executive Director of the Greenhouse Theater Center Jason Epperson expressed interest in housing the project.
"First and foremost, we want to serve as a literary hub for theatre makers in Chicago," said O'Connor about the bookstall's goals. "Right now, our biggest thing is making The Greenhouse Theater THE place where artists can access research materials, work, meet, rehearse, and hangout." In addition, she also hopes the bookstore is the first step to creating an academic environment where writers and directors can collaborate and foster new plays.
The Greenhouse is looking for gently used plays and books on theater, performing arts, film, dance, music, and design. Donation receipts are available. Free coffee and donuts will be served. The address for the Greenhouse Theater is 2257 N Lincoln Ave.
James McBride's newest historical novel is called The Good Lord Bird, which sounds like it might be a paean to Charlie Parker. It's not, but the jazz connection is no illusion. In addition to staying busy as an author and screenwriter (Miracle at St. Anna, adapted from his own novel), McBride maintains serious saxophone chops and has written material for luminaries including Anita Baker. All that will likely come out in McBride's talk at Tribune Tower (435 N. Michigan) on Tuesday, August 20, at 7pm.--he'll have Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich as an interlocutor on stage. The audience may also get a taste of Bird, a rousing tale of a young escaped slave accidentally forced into maintaining his disguise as a girl after he's taken on as a sidekick by abolitionist John Brown. Those who purchase tickets online can enter the code "BIRD" and get $5 off.
As a civil rights activist in mid-century America, Bayard Rustin was ahead of his time. The organizer of the monumental 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Bayard is credited with counseling Martin Luther King, Jr. in the non-violent modes of protest he learned by studying Gandhi. In 1947 Rustin organized a group of interracial men to challenge segregated seating on interstate buses, 14 years before the renowned Freedom Riders of the 1960s. And if he wasn't enough of a renegade already, Rustin was openly gay at a time when being gay usually meant being (deep) in the closet.
Now's the time to discover and celebrate the life and work of Rustin; in this month of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the White House announced this week that Rustin, along with 16 others, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor, the highest civilian award in the country.
Rustin died in 1987 of a perforated appendix and was survived by Walter Naegle, his partner of ten years. To bone up on Rustin before the event, read this fun-to-read profile by Steve Hendrix for the Washington Post, and check out Brother Outsider, a 2003 documentary directed by Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer.
Writers, rejoice! As the summer days dwindle, the dreadful season of literary magazine "reading periods" is finally ending, too. Usually spanning the months of May-September, reading periods give editors the opportunity to shutter their doors, shut down their online submissions pages, and catch up on the manuscript backlog. For aspiring authors, summer means a dry spell of no submission opportunities and numerous rejection emails from magazines they don't even remember sending work to.
But fear not! The following awesome Chicago-based lit mags are now open for business and accepting new work:
No Assholes! is a zine-like publication based informally out of DePaul, featuring poetry of all styles and the occasional smattering of fiction. The editors also hold relaxed, approachable reading events in their personal residences, and I've always been dazzled by the caliber of their work and the speed at which they churn out new issues. They are currently accepting submissions for their sixth and seventh issues; check out their Tumblr for more info.
Chicago Quarterly Review is a slightly more highbrow but still very accessible publication seeking full-length short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, and even photography! They've recently switched to online submissions and are now open, so float them a piece of up to 5,000 words.
Literary Orphans is completely online, but don't let that deter you: their taste is top-notch. Each month's issue is named after/inspired by a prominent author of days gone by (this month is Wordsworth), and the work they publish is contemporary yet classic. Submissions are always open for new flash fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and there is currently a call out for superhero-inspired stories.
Curbside Splendor is a gritty, witty press that publishes long works as well as its own monthly e-zine. In fact, they're about to release Samantha Irby's new book of essays, Meaty, in September (and eleven other titles this fall). This is definitely a wagon you want to hitch yourself to. Submission are currently open for their magazine, including poetry and fiction under 3,000 words.
Chicago Review is also welcoming new work, so if "traditional" literary fiction is your bag, it's time to polish up a story of under 5,000 words and ship it off for consideration. Since this magazine is among the top 50 literary publications in the country according to EveryWritersResource.com, it's definitely not one to pass up. Submit poetry and fiction under 5,000 words.
Of course, this is a small selection of the numerous fantastic literary magazines produced in Chicago. Which excellent publications (large or small) did I overlook? Any tips for writers looking to find a home for their work? Hit me up with comments.
I don't know about you, but to me, an event that combines art, complimentary cocktails, and--by virtue of the venue--the potential for a bro-down about experimental hairstyles essentially sounds like the white-hot center of the universe. Salon Strange Beauty Show and Quimby's Bookstore are partnering up to present On the Wall: Zine Art Meets Gallery Art on August 15th from 7-10 pm (take heed, readers: the event is at Strange Beauty Show [1118 N. Ashland] and not Quimby's). Check out work from artists Jami Sailor, Danielle Chenette, Lyra Hill, and Book Club's own John Wawrzaszek, and--if the spirit moves you!--sing a song with Shameless Karaoke. I know I'll be there.
Poets Thelma T. Reyna, Jennifer Dotson, and Lucia Blinn will be reading at Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark) on Wednesday, August 14 at 7:30pm. Reyna's most recent publication, Hearts in Common, features "poems about the dreams, labors, and heartbreaks of immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam, and other parts of the world" (author's website); Jennifer Dotson's collection Clever Gretel, published by Chicago Poetry Press, was awarded their first Journal of Modern Poetry Book Award. Lucia Blinn is the author of We Called it "The Country", in addition to her previous collections, Passing for Normal and Navigating the Night.
Hosted by Rachel Hyman of Anthology of Chicago and Paul Dailing of 1,001 Chicago Afternoons, the night features a lit-star-studded line-up, including: Bill Savage, writer and Chicago literary scholar, on Rogers Park; Dmitry Samarov, author of Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab, on Beverly; Shannon Cason, storyteller with The Moth and NPR's Snap Judgment, on Bronzeville; Kimberly Dixon-Mays, poet and audience strategist, on Hyde Park; Paul Durica, founder of "Pocket Guide to Hell" tours and reenactments, on Pilsen; Robert Loerzel, author of Alchemy of Bones, on Lakeview; Sarah Gonzalez, co-founder of Brown and Proud Press, Xicana poet, and educator, on Pilsen; Molly Meacham, Chicago Public Schools teacher, on Roscoe Village; and Melanie LaForce, sporadic writer of internet essays, on Logan Square
The free event is a benefit for literacy programs at Open Books, so drink all you want--it's for the children.
If you've had a hankering to geek out over your favorite comic books, get gussied up as Jedi Mario, and rub elbows with the likes of Stan Lee, Robert Rodriguez, and various WWE Superstars, well, brother, you're in luck. This weekend is the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, and it is a four-day parade of delectable, nerdy madness.
However, if hiding in a basement with a typewriter and a tumbler of whiskey is more your speed, don't worry, the Con also features a number of writing and publishing workshops. Find out how to maintain your creative streak, learn the ins and outs of self-publishing, get tips on designing fictional fantasy worlds, and even discover the "pitfalls of writing." As if you didn't already know.
The complete schedule of events, lectures, workshops, and sci-fi speed dating interludes is available online for your perusal. Wizard World Chicago Comic Con runs from Thursday, August 8 through Sunday, August 11 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 9301 Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont, Ill. A ticket to all four days will set you back $90 online or $100 at the door, and one-day tickets range from $50-$70, depending on the day. Check out the Tickets page for more information.
Photo courtesy of UGO.com and credited to Bill Watters.
"There is a tendency for trans people to write autobiography, or semi autobiographical stuff, or basically tell their own life story, as though it weren't real, because trans people have no other stories they know of. There are no archetypes or narratives constructed for trans people," author Red Durkin told Lambda Literary in April. With an ambitious lineup of fiction that's centered on fresh, engaging storytelling as much as it is on transgender characters, Topside Press is changing that. A quintet of authors from its roster roll through Powell's Bookstore (1218 S. Halsted) for a free reading on Saturday, August 10, at 7pm.
Along with Durkin, the readers include nun-turned-genderqueer-comic Kelli Dunham, novelist Imogen Binnie (Nevada), Katherine Scott Nelson, and Riley Calais Harris. If their work for Topside is any indication, audiences can expect frequently funny stories on topics such as the world of competitive eating (Durkin) to worries about "getting kicked off the Internet" for breaches of message-board etiquette (Binnie).
If art is highbrow, pornography--conventional wisdom would have it--is so lowbrow as to be practically simian, a distant and disreputable evolutionary relative. And yet there's much in its cultural condition for any artist to envy. Art is looked at, literature is read, but porn is consumed. It commands and engages the senses directly and deeply; its utility, at least, is never in question.
Curated by writer, artist and sometime sex worker Robin Hustle, Slippery Slope takes porn aesthetics and plasters them on the walls of Woman Made Gallery (685 N. Milwaukee). The show's been garnering rave reviews since it opened in mid-July, and on Thursday, August 8, at 6 pm, it expands its gloriously messy genre-mixing in an event that will include a reading from Megan Milks, chats with multimedia artists Sarah Weis and Noelle Mason, and a screening of stag-film title sequences drawn from the Chicago Film Archives' collection.
Milks plans to read from her collaborative project-in-progress Traumarama, inspired partly by the collections of fluid-centric girlhood embarrassments familiar to any reader of Seventeen magazine. (The project will soon debut on Tumblr, adding to a body of work that so far has included the Sweet Valley High riff Twins and the short book/long story Kill Marguerite, which will anchor Milks' forthcoming first collection of fiction.) Stop by what she calls "a cool mixed-media, mixed-mode feminist/queer event" and get seduced, grossed out, or moved to thought. Probably all three.
Last month, reading series Two Cookie Minimum celebrated its third anniversary.Tuesday, August 6th brings another year of author, comics artist, and zinester readings to the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont at 9pm.
The night's theme may have been "Cruel Summer: Stories of Learning the Hard Way," but 2nd Story's first-ever appearance at City Winery last Monday gave audience members the giddy feeling of a summer fling. Combining storytelling and live music against the backdrop of the gorgeous City Winery stage, the event was perhaps one of the most carefully crafted storytelling soirees of the season. Director and curator Jess Kadish turned a mundane Monday evening into one hell of a summer bash.
"Cruel Summer" started off with a bang as the first storyteller, Sarah Zematis, regaled us with the tale of losing her virginity at the local Renaissance Faire (pardon the pun). Any piece containing the phrase, "I had been carrying this burden, otherwise known as my hymen, for far too long," will be received with great cheer by an attentive crowd. The joyous ruckus continued as Zematis owned up to any fake British accent, ridiculous madrigal or Medieval pick-up line that her performance required. Mike Przygaod and The Przmatics, who provided original material between each set, added a rich layer to the story by accompanying the action with a precise soundtrack. In fact, these two elements were what stood out the most to a 2nd Story newbie like myself: the performer's commitment to the theatricality of their work and the use of music as a storytelling device.
Take the second storyteller, Khanisha Foster. Her heartbreaking (and often laugh-out-loud funny) account of trying to make it as an actor despite her ethnically ambiguous looks showcased her chameleon-like ability to imitate everyone from a shady theater director to Gilda Radner. Foster's performance was easily the most bittersweet of the night. Her vulnerability was palpable as she described the struggles of wanting to be seen as a talented thespian while being obscured by her "Latina" looks. (Foster's mother is white and her father is black.) Her versatility as an actor allowed her to easily transition from one character to another, making the piece even more poignant.
Bobby Biedrzycki was the last storyteller to take the stage. At that point, the evening had taken a melancholy turn and Biedrzycki delivered a performance to match the mood. His exploration of love as defined by moments, interspersed with reflections about his drug-addiction, was a satisfying though slightly subdued end to the evening.
2nd Story has been part of Chicago's Live Lit scene since 2002, making it one of the longest running storytelling events in the city. Ozzie Totten, company member and the night's MC, repeated 2nd Story's mission statement a few times during the show: "We share the first story so you can share the second story." It is, of course, impossible to gauge how many audience members will do that. However, as I saw the enraptured and oftentimes interactive audience, I have little doubt that the stories heard that evening demonstrated "the power to educate, connect, and inspire."
Much like the literal spring slush we all must endure to reach Chicago's few blissful summer months, so must the writer tromp through the gloomy "slush pile" if she ever wants to see her work published. The way out of the literary slush, however, is much muddier than even a Chicago April. Luckily, the Chicago Writers Conference is hosting a workshop called "Get Past the Slush Pile", in which editor, writer, and founder of Chicago's own Story Club, Dana Norris, will guide you through all its peculiarities, including what editors are really looking for, who's reading your stuff, and how to better read their minds. Spots are limited, so hie thee hence. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, August 5, at 6:30pm near Foster & Broadway (exact address will be disclosed to registered attendees via email). Cost is $45.
And once you've got all those new skills and insights under your belt, why not register for the Chicago Writers Conference eponymous conference (September 27-29), too? You'll get to rub shoulders with editors, agents, and writerly luminaries from near and far. Take a peek at the schedule and see if it don't whet your whistle.
Graphic courtesy of the Chicago Writers Conference website
For a different kind of reading, join Chicago author Joe Meno and D.C.-based band The Caribbean for a conversation and performance on Saturday, August 3 at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie Ave., at 6pm.
The evening will be recorded for the Labor, a new podcast hosted by The Caribbean featuring interviews with authors and artists who share their work and process. For attendees, it'll be like you're part of a live literary studio audience.
Joe Meno latest book, Office Girl, was released last year.
It might look like an ice cream cart, but instead of soft-serve, BiblioTreka offers scoops of Chicago-related print media. Adopted by Read/Write Library after Gabriel Levinson's Book Bike project came to a halt, the pop-up library's goal is to showcase the city's cultural history. At Printers Ball, the BiblioTreka will present materials such as community newspapers, artist books, intriguing self-published books of cocktail recipes from the '30s, and much more.
"[We hope to] get the publications and the history out there directly in the form of the words and images of the people who created it," said Nell Taylor, founder of Read/Write Library. "The experience of interacting with the BiblioTreka and encountering media in an unusual, hands-on form is also important to making it feel more accessible to the public. Giving people something fun and approachable is a great way to get them interested in the kinds of materials we have-- things that they may never notice or value otherwise."
Joel Craig, a founder of the Chicago literary stalwart Danny's Reading Series, has created a poetry reading for Printers Ball centered around experimental writing and poetics and the independent local presses who make such work their focus. From 2 to 3pm, audiences will hear from Devin King, editor of Green Lantern Press and author of CLOPS; Holms Troelstrup, from Bloomington, Indiana's co-im-press and author of Within Mutiny; and Jeanette Gomes, editor at Love Symbol Press and author of Small Breaks of Light.
After their individual readings, the poets will join forces in a "collaborative performance" of "Mostly About the Sentence" from Hannah Weiner's Open House, which features an array of mostly-unpublished work from Weiner, including (according to the publisher's website): "performance texts, early New York School influenced lyric poems, odes and remembrances to/of Mac Low and Ted Berrigan, and later 'clair-style' works." "Clair-style", put simply, is a term Weiner applied to poetics written using clairvoyance. In other words, it's rock and roll time.
Plenty of bartenders on the craft cocktail circuit might consider what they do an art. But for drink-slingers Joseph Rynkiewicz and Graham Hogan, what goes in the glass isn't their only artistic concern. As they'll likely share if you strike up a chat at their bar station during Printers Ball, all the tips they collect go directly to fund the lending art library that is Hornswaggler Arts.
It works like this: at arts events around town, the Hornswaggler crew designs and serves a one-of-a-kind menu of craft cocktails--at Printer's Ball, the theme is "summer spritzers." Then, they sink the proceeds into their unusual collection: a gallery of more than 50 pieces, including the creepy-cute organic wooden squiggles of Sighn, and the bright, intricately geometric prints from Delicious Design League, to name a few. If you like a piece in the collection, you can take it home--but not for good. Instead, you pay a small fee to cover things like transportation and installation, hang it on your wall for three months or longer, and then return it to the collection. The program, as they say on their Facebook page, is "designed to directly stimulate and activate the art community." Their refreshing drinks and conversation should help stimulate and activate anyone who stops by Printers Ball as well.
Let's say you live in Chicago, and you'd like to go get a taste of the city's abundant literary culture, but it's oppressively hot or mind-numbingly cold outside. Thankfully, you can take in some of Chi-town's best literary events without ever leaving your apartment. How? Through the magic of podcasting. Shut-ins, rejoice! Here's a list of some of the city's best literary podcasts.
All Write, Already!
Hosted and curated by Essay Fiesta hosts Willy Nast and Karen Shimmin, AWA! is a delight for aspiring writers and devoted readers alike. The bi-monthly podcast consists of three parts: first, Karen and Willy discuss a piece of recent literary news; then the hosts throw the mic to a Chicago author, who reads an excerpt of their work; finally, the cast closes with an interview with the author. This show is enlightening, inspiring and informative.
The Paper Machete
Each week, WBEZ podcasts a selection from The Green Mill's weekly, rip-roarious live magazine, The Paper Machete. Each week's episode features a short snippet from the previous week's live music performance, followed by a short, select essay from the show's full program of humorous, on-point cultural criticism. It's a great way to keep up with the show if you miss a week, and the music recording and mixing is high caliber.
Chicago's one-and-only fiction reading series, Fictlicious had a delightful podcast covering the full length of each live show. Since the show only occurs four times a year, this is a fantastic way to stave off your cravings until the next live event. The show's awesome live music is included, too!
Chicago Humanities Festival
Every year, the Chicago Humanities Festival delights and frustrates the city's denizens with a massive list of amazing events headed by famous authors, artists, and commentators. While the selection is always dazzling, the sad reality cannot be ignored: no one has the money or time to attend every event. Thankfully, the Chicago Humanities Festival podcast makes it possible for the broke or time-starved Chicagoan to catch up on their culture.
Which podcasts did I miss? Hit up the comments section with suggestions.
Innis-Jiménez's presentation of Steel Barrio, a history of the thousands of Mexican-Americans who lived, worked, and formed communities in South Chicago's steel mill neighborhoods in the 20th century, is sponsored in partnership with the Southeast Chicago Historical Society and the City's popular "One Book, One Chicago" program. This year's "One Chicago, One Book" selection, Isabel Wilkerson's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Warmth of Other Suns, explores the Great Migration, when millions of African-Americans moved out of the rural South to Chicago and other urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest, and West between World War I and the 1970s.
Innis-Jiménez is assistant professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Alabama. His research focuses on Latino/a immigration to the American Midwest and South, Latino/a labor, and urban studies.
This Saturday, July 27, celebrate Saturday Strip: Comic Day at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Free with museum admission, events are scheduled from 10am-5pm. Comic Day comes on the heels of current exhibit Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes showcasing the work of the legendary comic artist.
There's artwork, film screenings, and performances all day long. It begins right upon entry to the museum. The cartoonist collective Trubble Club will work on a large chalk drawing on the front plaza over the course of the day. As you step into the lobby, Quimby's Bookstore and the MCA bookstore will present a small scale comic fair with publications for sale until 6pm.
Image: Paul Hornschemeier: Bubbleheads, courtesy of the MCA website.
Sometimes it's not what you write but how it looks on paper. Paper arts are an undervalued form in our era of HTML and CSS coding, so come out to Printers Ball this Saturday for some free print shop demos with Brad Vetter and Alex Valentine.
"Alex and I will be doing rotating demos. I will be there in the afternoon (2-5:30pm) cranking out some letterpress prints. I will be using both alternative and traditional letterpress techniques to create a multiple color letterpress print. Using the 1950's era Vandercook #4 letterpress, I want to showcase that such an archaic process can still be innovative and progressive in modern times," said Vetter, who creates letterpress posters at the renown Nashville print shop, Hatch Show Print.
Co-host Valentine, a local print designer who consistently shows work around town, will be demonstrating offset printing, a type of printing done with custom made rubber stamps. Catch these two and maybe make some new art for your walls.
Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick is a man of many talents. If you've laid eyes on one of his stunning, layered collages, you know the feeling of falling down a beautiful rabbit hole, but poetry, playwriting, and acting are all in his wheelhouse.
At this Saturday's Printers Ball, from 5pm to 6pm, Fitzpatrick will be in conversation with Fred Sasaki, associate editor of Poetry magazine, on the subject of art and friendship. (The February 2009 issue of Poetry showcased Fitzpatrick's work in response to Hurricane Katrina; check it out for some soul-stirring, eye-popping works of art.) Per a recent chat with Fitzpatrick, topics could range from the concept of collaboration--"communal energy"-- to what we can learn from our friendships artistically, to the idea that engaging in "good will" can enhance our creative lives. Artists of all stripes can identify with these themes, so the exchange is sure to provide food for thought (and friendship). As a special bonus, Fitzpatrick will be showing some new work as a part of the presentation.
The 29th Annual Newberry Book Fair kicks off on Thursday, July 25th, and runs until Sunday the 29th at the Newberry Public Library, 60 W. Walton Street. The event will offer over 120,000 donated books spread out across six packed rooms, as well as DVDs, tapes, CDs, and records. The library asks that you bring your own shopping bag. But, since most of the books are priced at $2 or under, we suggest bringing your lucky wheelbarrow or sidecar.
Fun fact: At the sale two years ago I found a handwritten note stuffed in a book that was in the Old & Collectible room. It was dated 1938 and from a high school girl warning a high school boy not to get involved with her friend, because her friend was not "smart and astitute," while she, the note writer, was very smart, very astute, and really thought the beau was handsome. Gold.
The sale goes from 12-8pm Thursday & Friday, and 10am-6pm Saturday & Sunday. Admission is free and all proceeds go to the Newberry.
This Thursday, Acts of Love, an international book-giving charity, will be kicking off its second-annual "Love Young People" tour by distributing over 1,000 books to children and young adults in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. This event is the first of twelve such occasions slated to occur in Chicago throughout this month and August, in which 10,000 total books will be given to residents of various troubled communities.
Beginning at 6:30pm in Hamilton Park (513 W. 72nd Street), a team of volunteers will scour Englewood, one Chicago's most under-privileged communities, giving out book bags full of donated books to local residents. Adult residents will also be asked to take the "Acts of Love" pledge to support children in their communities and promote reading in their homes. According to the organization's Facebook page, volunteers for this kick-off are still needed, and are welcome to check-in at the Hamilton Park Play Lot at 6:30pm the night of the event.
In addition to its neighborhood visits, Acts of Love will have tents set up at several festivals in the next month, including Family Fun Fest and the Chicago Westside Music Festival. The organization will be accepting book donations at all these events, as well as distributing book gifts to local children and families in attendance.
Here is Acts of Love's full schedule:
July 25th - Englewood (Hamilton Park)
July 27th - Taste of WVON
July 28th - Garfield Park
August 1st - North Lawndale
August 9th - Humboldt Park
August 10th - Altgeld Gardens
August 11th - Roseland
August 12th - Washington Park
August 13th - Bronzeville
August 14th - Dearborn Homes
August 17th - Family Fun Fest
August 25th - Chicago Westside Music Festival
The photography exhibition currently at the Poetry Foundation gallery (61 West Superior Street), Shame Every Rose: Images of Afghanistan, combines poetry and imagery in a compelling way. Seamus Murphy, an award-winning photographer and filmmaker, traveled to Afghanistan with journalist Eliza Griswold, and the results of their work--featured in the June 2013 issue of Poetry, in addition to the exhibit--are both arresting and important. These aren't images you've ever seen.
Poetry's June 2013 issue is devoted entirely to a form of poetry from Afghanistan called a landay, which functions as a couplet; it's comprised of twenty-two syllables, with nine syllables in the first line and thirteen in the second. The landay is chiefly the province of the women who belong to the Pashtun people--an ethnic group within Afghanistan--and its existence goes back centuries. Accompanying these landays are images from Afghanistan captured by Seamus Murphy over an eighteen-year period. Eliza Griswold leads the reader through the history behind the landays, and the world of the women she encounters, which is often one of subjugation and silence. Landays, however, are strong stuff--the word means "short, poisonous snake", which speaks volumes about their tone and content. death, sex, sorrow, love, Americans, the Taliban--universal and specific themes alike combine to create brief, powerful poems. Poetry becomes a form of protest.
The photography exhibit pairs the pictures in twos in order to emulate the landays, and the results are beautiful (and unnerving). In one set of images, the first shows a man peeking at a woman who watches him over her shoulder from a short distance; the second shows a blood-red slab of meat slung over someone's back. In another, stacks of scrolls are paired with birds in flight. Blood, flowers, burqa-clad women: all of these and more make appearances, and the viewer is challenged to connect the emotional dots between the words of a poem and the images of a photograph. Part of the response to any work of art is an attempt to relate, and in this instance--confronted not only by the intersection of poetry and photography, but by the existence of a world so different from our own--time must be taken to stop, look, and process. The results are rewarding.
The exhibit is free and open to the public through August 24. I highly recommend not only making the trip to see it; make sure to read the June issue of Poetry, and to watch Snake, a short film Seamus Murphy created while in Afghanistan. Appreciate the artistry behind the photographs and the beauty of the landays, but appreciate, too, the opportunity to learn more about the stories that lay behind them. These are faces that should be seen and voices that should be heard.
In anticipation of this juicy affair-- which features readings and performances, live printmaking demos and workshops, exhibitions and food and drink tastings-- Book Club will be featuring "Printer's Ball Previews" beginning next week. These brief sketches will offer background on the artists and writers exhibiting at the Ball, and fill you in on what they plan to share.
Big goings-on for Papa's 114th birthday (July 21) this weekend in the author's home town of Oak Park, Ill.
The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park's "Hemingway Birthday Celebration" will feature a weekend of events including a sidewalk Hemingway book sale, tours of the Victorian house where Hemingway was born, and a program Sunday by guest speaker and scholar Liesl Olson that promises to shed light on the little-known part of Hemingway's history that took place in downtown Chicago.
Festivities will culminate at a reception Sunday evening where the Foundation's first Writer in Residence will be announced. The winner will work on his or her next work in the attic of the home where Hemingway lived until he was five years old. Tickets are $30 for adults and are good for events both Saturday and Sunday.
Attending readings is the perfect way to find out if you want to hear more of what the writer has to say, and when it comes to Kate Christensen, I most definitely do. Kate was engaging and hilarious. Before she began reading, she spoke about living in East Village in New York City. She was post-MFA, working crappy jobs and had no book published. Her thirtieth birthday was approaching and having accomplished none of the things she'd hoped for, she was depressed. This is when she began reading food memoirs, and she says reading about food made her feel safe.
Kate talked about the process of turning a blog about her life and love of food into a book, and about telling her story as if she herself were a fictional character. One of the chapters she read described her time in France as an eighteen year old. She was fresh out of high school and became an au pair to four boys. Learning to cook French food when she didn't know the language was a challenge. When baking a birthday cake, she put in salt instead of baking soda because she couldn't read French labels.
Kate told the audience, "My relationship with food has been rocky. It has gone back and forth from aestheticism to overindulgence many times throughout my life." She said Blue Plate Special is "what food has been and is for me."
This book is not just a food memoir. It's about the life of a passionate and funny writer struggling toward success. It's about family and being abandoned by a parent. It's about sex, alcohol, writing, and yes, it's about food. And who doesn't love food?
There's still time to register for this weekend's Five Powers of Poetry seminar at the Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.). A three day intensive held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (July 19, 20 and 21), this program is designed to provide secondary school teachers with a greater comfort level in the reading and teaching of contemporary poetry. Registration is free and limited to 30 attendees. You must be able to attend all three sessions.
'Tis the season to celebrate America's Pastime, so join Zisk Zinein the release of their anthology Fan Interference: A Collection of Baseball Rants and Reflection on Friday, July 19 at Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 North Ave. at 7pm.
Zisk Zine, a "baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines", has been published since 1999. Edited by longtime writers Mike Faloon (Go Metric zine) and Steve Reynolds, the anthology covers the last 15 years of the publication. Contributors range from punk musicians, writers and, of course, fans of the 3-2-6 double play. The issue includes work by Sean Carswell and Todd Taylor (founders of Razorcake magazine), Brian Cogan (The Encyclopedia of Punk), John Shiffert (author of Base Ball in Philadelphia), Charlie Vascellaro (the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times), and Rev Norb (musician and former writer of Maximum Rocknroll).
Chicago is replete with live lit events and reading series. Nearly any weekday of the month, you can spit and land on a bookstore, bar, coffee shop, or combination thereof full of writerly-performery people reading things they've created. These events span all topics and probe all levels of analysis: there's the personal but professional-grade creative nonfiction of Essay Fiesta; the witty sort-of journalism of The Paper Machete; the personal, confessional narratives of Story Club, Guts & Glory and The Moth; there's the eclecticism of Seven Deadly Sins and Tuesday Funk; the vigorous debate of Write Club. Hell, there's poetry too, in the form of Uptown Poetry Slam.
But in this performative literary oasis, there are barely any fiction reading series to be found. The one exception is Fictlicious, which delivers original fictional work from Chicago-area writers with a side of live music, but sadly, it's only a quarterly event. You can find fictional pieces in, for example, Seven Deadly Sins; there is character work in The Paper Machete. And if you really are starved for fictional narrative, you can always go to a book signing at Women & Children First or The Book Cellar and find an author reading a snippet. But there is no regularly-schedule sample platter of fictional literary creations.
Blonde Art Books promotes independent publications by artists and small presses with their blog and bookstore. The tour looks to begin dialogues and make connections with artists and writers working on self publications. To spark the discussion, there will be a traveling collection of materials curated by Sonel Breslav, the founder Blonde Art Books.
"The tour allows me to share the books that I have curated into exhibitions, written about on my blog and sold out of my shop in Brooklyn," says Breslav. "I am physically bringing the books to a new audience that may otherwise not have access to them. In turn I am gaining insight into print and self-publishing culture in cities outside of New York."
Does what you do for a paycheck match what you daydreamed of doing as a kid? If not, head to Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave.) this Friday, July 12 to hear Eleanor C. Whitney read from Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job. Whitney is a writer, rock musician, educator, and arts administrator who has led various workshops on zine making, social media, grant writing and fund raising. Amy Cuevas Schroeder of Venus Zine and the DIY Business Association says, "Eleanor Whitney breaks down the daunting process of earning a living as a creative person into chewable, bite-size bits. With easy-to-digest, step-by-step tips and tangible examples from working artists, Eleanor's expert advice is some of the most sought-after content."
While reading Sarah Bruni's debut novel The Night Gwen Stacy Died, I remembered, quite wistfully, all the stupid things I did when I was 17. Granted, I was no Sheila Gower, Bruni's bored teenage protagonist who allows herself to be kidnapped at gunpoint by a restless, cab-driving stranger who calls himself Peter Parker (as in Spider-Man). But thanks to Bruni's thoughtful prose and carefully-drawn characters, I can understand why she goes for it, absconding with him for weeks in Chicago, where neither knows exactly what they're doing, or why (until a wild coyote Sheila is drawn to begins to clear that up for them).
I like Bruni's Sheila -- she has no friends (except for the equally marginalized Anthony Pignatelli ("The 'G' is fucking silent anytime it comes before an 'N'," he says; I wished there was more of him!), she works in a gas station in small-town Iowa, and she confides in a taxidermied museum coyote, whom she'll probably miss when she finally delivers herself to Paris after graduation. She's the quintessential unimpressed-romantic-loner-teenage girl, and if a movie based on this book is ever made, Christina Ricci should totally teleport the 1998 version of herself to play the role.
One of Bruni's deftest moves was her choice of title. The Night Gwen Stacy Dies is also the name of issues #121-122 of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book series, in which Spider-Man battles the Green Goblin and -- spoiler alert! -- his girlfriend Gwen Stacy dies at the end. When Peter begins to refer to Sheila as Gwen Stacy and she goes along with it, even wearing a Gwen-esque dress and doing comic book-y things, my concern for her fate kept me turning the pages right through an unpredictable, impressionistic, and lyrical denouement.
You don't have to know the Spider-Man story, or even be curious about it, to enjoy this book. Read it if you have a soft spot for teenage loners and star-crossed lovers, or for coming-of-age novels that are not your typical coming-of-age novel.
You can pick up a copy of The Night Gwen Stacy Died this Friday, July 12 at 7:30pm at Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., where Bruni will read and sign books.
As they do, RUI mixes two all-American activities: drinking and writing. Each reader takes a shot and then reads twice: once from original work, once from published work relating to the theme (followed by a round of trivia).
Featured readers this month include Newcity editor Brian Hieggelke, Write Club host Ian
Belknap, author Tina Jens (The Blues Ain't Nothin'), and Germania Solorzano, an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago.
The $3 cover supports a friend of RUI, author and co-founder of The Handshake magazine Kevin Kane, who is battling cancer. RUI encourages you to to donate whatever you can to help.
The theme of the 24th annual Chicago Humanities Festival is (drum roll)..."Animal: What makes us human?" More than 100 programs exploring that theme will take place throughout October and November in addition to the following speakers:
Jonathan Safran Foer author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Eating Animals
Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the All the Wrong Questions series (also, he's an accordionist)
Poet and fiction writer Anne Carson
Latin Grammy® Award-winning soprano Ana María Martínez
Conceptual artist Mark Dion
Yale Law Professor and authority on crime prevention and community capacity building Tracey L. Meares
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, authors of Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection between Human and Animal Health
Craig Packer, leading expert on African wildlife and founder of the Serengeti Lion Project
Tickets go on sale to CHF members on Tuesday, Sept. 3 and to the general public on Monday, Sept. 16. Tickets range from $5-28, with free and reduced-price tickets available for students and teachers (with valid ID). The full schedule and a listing of all programs will be available at chicagohumanities.org in August.
The fair welcomes back over 40 local independent publishers, presses and organizations for an expo market from 12:30pm until 5pm. Quimby's Bookstore will be on hand with a selection of self-published books and zines. Other expo participants include 826chi, Another Chicago Magazine, Chicago Zine Fest, Haymarket Books, Criminal Class Press and more. There will something for every lover of the printed word.
To complement the visual component of the expo, there will be audio accompaniment throughout the day. Live DJ Sets are scheduled by DJ Nagasaki, DJ Goldie Bear, DJ "2nd Cousin, Twice Removed", DJ Kale Party, KRUBREDNUF, DJ Heavy Inspinuation, & DJ DG.
Don't forget, the bar will be open for those early afternoon cocktails. There is a $5 cover, but free if you RSVP. 21+ unless minors are accompanied by an adult.
On Tuesday July 2 the Put 'Em Up series at Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark, showcases a live reading from Scottsman turned Chicagoan Irvine Welsh. Welsh will read from a work-in-progress called Creatives (working title). The piece, said to be a dark comedy thriller, is co-written by fellow Chicago author Don De Grazia (American Skin). Both authors are known for gritty, slice-of-life storytelling.
The reading begins at 7:30pm, a $7 cover includes a free drink.
The Chicago comics collective known as the Ladydrawers will be running their exhibit Sex. Money. Race. Gender. at Columbia College Chicago's A&D Gallery, 619 S. Wabash from June 27 through July 27. Art and visual work exploring those themes will be open to the public during regular hours. Supplemental programming will run weekly, including the following workshops geared toward addressing the exhibit's themes.
On June 29 join May Summer Farnsworth, Jamie Davida Lee, and Fran Syass for Radical Noticing: Riot Grrrl Press and Contemporary Comic with hands-on demonstrations on making comics and zines.
July 11 Esther Pearl Watson and Terri Kapsalis lead the discussion Lexicon of Sexicana exploring sexual health and language.
July 18 Delia Jean Hickey and Sarah Jaffe talk about Life and Labor exploring making an honest living with a focus on the service industry.
To round out the exhibit's workshops, join Việt Lê and Morgan Claire on July 25 for a Boi Band Poser Poster Workshop looking at identity through pop culture.
All events are free and open to the public. Poster art by Joyce Rice (Symbolia magazine).
This Saturday, June 29, the Tamale Hut Cafe (8300 W. Cermak Rd. in North Riverside) Reading Series presents Michael Penkas. A mainstay at local readings such as Bad Grammar Theater and the Gumbo Fiction Salon, Penkas is the website editor for online fantasy magazine Black Gate. His story collection Dead Boys came out this past May. The reading is at 7pm; an open mic follows. BYOB.
Imagine that you’re riding on top of a freight train. Behind you, rampant gang warfare, a constant threat to your life and your family. Ahead, a foreign country, where you know no one, have no prospects. You will most likely be put on trial and, if so, be expected to represent yourself.
Now imagine that you’re 15 years old. Younger.
These are the circumstances journalist Sonia Nazario describes in her recent New York Times article, “Child Migrants, Alone in Court”. The accounts within are just the latest in a long career of immigration research for Nazario, with particular emphasis on the international borders that all too often separate mothers and children. Her 2003 feature, “Enrique’s Journey,” details a Honduran boy’s Odyssean journey to find his mother in the U.S. The story earned her, among other considerable acclaim, the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Once adapted into a book, Enrique’s Journey went on to become a national best seller, as well as required reading at a number of colleges and high schools across the country.
Immigration is a contentious subject, especially now. What better way to gain a more informed viewpoint than to learn from the journalist herself? This Thursday, June 27 from 6 to 8 pm, DePaul University’s College of Education hosts Nazario in a public discussion on the subject of immigration. The talk is an installation in DePaul’s second annual Facing History and Ourselves Summer Institute, and will be held at Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont St. Free!
I love the library. Always have. I love rows and rows of books and the silence, pierced by the occasional beep of a scanned barcode. When Chicago library hours were reduced, I was really, really sad, and still am. Perhaps irrationally, I worry for the future of libraries. That's why it's heartening to know that the American Library Association will bring its annual conference and exhibition to McCormick Place this Thursday, June 27 through Tuesday, July 2.
But let's face it, if you're not already registered, you're probably not going to pop $150 for a one-day pass. It's still pretty awesome to recognize that this conference signals a thriving library industry. This week the Tribune's Christopher Borrelli wrote a nice article on the flourishing reference desk at the Mount Prospect Public Library.
This Thursday, June 27, Anton DiSclafani will visit the Tribune Tower (435 N. Michigan Ave.) to read from her debut novel The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls in discussion with the Tribune's Heidi Stevens. Set in 1930, the novel tells the tale of 15-year-old Thea Atwell as she arrives at an all-girl, Southern equestrienne boarding school full of complex social strata. Thea leaves behind a family scandal in Florida that slowly unspools throughout the narrative.
Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times calls it, "this summer's first romantic page turner. By cutting back and forth between the events that took Thea to Yonahlossee and her experiences in school, Ms. DiSclafani methodically builds suspense. The reader's attention rarely wavers, thanks to Ms. DiSclafani's knowledge of how to keep her foot on her story's gas pedal, and her sympathy for her spirited, unbridled heroine."
Sounds like it might give Mad Men fans a bit of a Sally Draper fix now that the season is over. DiSclafani is reported to have earned a $1 million advance for the publishing rights, and the book was chosen as a most anticipated book for summer 2013 by The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly and NPR. 7pm, $15.
Unabridged Bookstore welcomes Dan Savage of the internationally syndicated sex advice column and podcast Savage Love on his book tour this Thursday June 20 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. Savage, a Chicago native, returns to his home town for two shows at 7pm and 10pm to support his new book American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. Savage's trademark wit and sarcasm shine through in his new book concerning subjects such as healthcare, gun control, parenting and marriage equality.
Tickets grant entry and a copy of the new book. If you have a ticket and want to pick up your copy of American Savage before Friday, bring your confirmation email to Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway Ave.
Performance poets, submit your work revolving around "Diversity and CommUNITY." From the event press release: "In a society that is divided too often along racial lines, we are requesting expressions of unity. Poems should focus on aspirational or inspirational themes around diversity and integration."
Performances should not exceed five minutes in length, and a video demo is required for submission. Filmmakers are also invited to submit short films that are no longer than ten minutes in length and revolve around the same theme.
Panel judges include Kartemquin Film's Steve James; author, jazz performer and Columbia College professor George Bailey; community human rights activist and artist Abdi "Fuerza" Maya; and lead singer of the jazz fusion group Organic Flow Liam Bird.
Submission deadline is July 5. Click here to learn more about categories, cash prizes and submission guidelines. Click here to submit.
UPDATE: The Pleasant Home Foundation announced that the Poetry Exchange has postponed. The statement read, in part, "The Housing Center remains committed to bringing this dynamic event to Oak Park and the region. However, we have realized that we did not provide enough advance outreach to hold the event this summer. Look for the event to be held next year with an even more exciting format!"
The night will include readings by issue contributors Jeffrey Allen, Okla Elliott, Baird Harper, Colleen O'Connor, Dawn Tefft and Russ Woods.
This issue's print run is limited with sales only available through Curbside's website and a few select Chicago outlets. Copies will be available for sale at the reading, so get one before they're gone.
Living in a city, it’s sometimes easy to let an exciting event slip by unnoticed. I had heard of the TribunePress variety show Chicago Live! in passing, but it was mentally categorized in the column entitled “Should Go to That One of These Days.” Now, having attended the program firsthand at Printer’s Row Litfest, it has rightfully relocated to the “Must-See” list.*
With features ranging from live jazz to Second City sketches to political interviews, it’s hard to pinpoint which quality of Chicago Live! proved so engaging. Perhaps it was the nimble fingers of blues guitarist John Primer, or the refreshing candor on the part of interviewed Chicago Aldermen. Perhaps it was the wry musings of MC Rick Kogan, or his intermittent reminders to “keep in mind that it’s free” (thanks to sponsorship by Nielsen). So free in fact that you can watch a webcast of the whole show here!
This Saturday, June 15, the Book Cellar hosts an off site event at Thousand Waves Spa (1220 W. Belmont Ave.) for Susan Schorn, reading from her martial arts related memoir Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly. Author Mark Salzman says, "This is a memoir I'll be thinking and talking about for a long time. To begin with, the voice is unique - trust me, you've never heard anyone talk about coping with fear and anger the way Susan Schorn does. The writing is hilarious at times, dead serious when it needs to be, and always brilliant. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and I will make sure never to get into a fistfight with its author." Does the venue change mean there will be karate lessons? Show up and find out. 4pm.
This Saturday, June 15, the Chicago Public Library, West Town branch (1625 W. Chicago Ave.) welcomes Kevin Coval. Coval is the co-founder of Young Chicago Authors and the Louder Than A Bomb teen poetry slam held annually throughout the Chicago area. He'll be reading from his latest poetry collection, Schtick Exploring themes of Jewish assimilation, its discontents and diaspora, comedian Marc Maron says, "Coval does for the Jews what Whitman did for America." 12noon.
The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) returns for its second year this weekend June 15 and 16 at the Center on Halsted, located at 3656 N. Halsted St. The event has now become one of the biggest independent comics festivals in the country.
The weekend's festivities begin with a slew of events on Friday, June 14. The first official event is a signing by special guest exhibitor Kim Deitch at Chicago Comics, located 3244 N. Clark St., at 6pm.
Break for dinner and then check out a signing with three visiting comics artists at Quimby's Bookstore, at 1854 W. North Ave., at 9pm. Michael DeForge and Patrick Kyle (Black Mass), both from Toronto (Very Casual, Koyama Press), and Lisa Hanawalt from New York (Drawn & Quarterly), will be signing their work before it is available at the expo.
This Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8, Strawdog Theater (3829 N. Broadway St.) celebrates the work of that late, great Waukegan native at the Ray Bradbury Festival. Events include panel discussions, live performances of Fahrenheit 451, live performances of The Ray Bradbury Radio Hour, and an artists gallery of Bradbury inspired work from Yusef Abonamah, Rebecca Dowsett, and Zach Sayers. Produced by OtherWorld Theatre Company, all events are free with suggested $5 donation. Click here for schedule of events.
"People tend to think of grandiose, depressing poetry like the stuff that Jim Morrison used to do," Kase says in the press release, and Dean agrees. "It's almost become a stereotype," Dean says. "Ken, Nana and I are doing something quite different. We're musicians who just happen to be writers."
The reading, happening Saturday, June 8 at 7:30pm at Transistor, 3819 N. Lincoln Ave.,
celebrates new releases from all three poets. Dean's Brief Nudity was published by the Ireland-based Salmon Poetry in February. Says Dean, the book is "concerned with the juxtaposition between elegy and irreverence...it also deals with popular culture's stranglehold on our collective unconscious."
Kase's debut, Seven Sonnets, features illustrations by St. Louis cartoonist John Blair Moore and is available for purchase as an ebook on Amazon. Žabić's Slovenian-English bilingual Po(jest)zija/Po(eat)ry is a collaboration with fellow feminist activist Ivana Percl. The poems are written in lyric, experimental and recipe formats with illustrations by comic book artist Dunja Jankovic.
This Friday, June 7, would have been the 96th Birthday of iconic Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks. To commemorate the occasion, the Guild Literary Complex, along with the American Writers Museum , and Chicago-based Third World Press (one of Brooks' primary publishers), is holding Chicago's first Brooksday. The event will celebrate Brooks' legacy by featuring more than 60 performers reading her work from 9am until 7:30pm at the Chicago Cultural Center at 78 E. Washington St.
"By creating a central event that is free and accessible to everyone, we expect to expose many newcomers to Brooks' writing, as well as welcome long-term admirers," says John Rich, Director of the Guild Literary Complex.
Brooksday was fathomed within the Guild Literary Complex by a board member who was inspired by Bloomsday, the annual marathon reading of James Joyce's Ulysses. The Guild has had a long history working with Brooks, including a Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, now in its twentieth year. The inaugural Brooksday event will set the stage for the Guild's city-wide celebration of Brooks' 100th birthday, set for 2017.
StoryStudio, a center for writing and writers located at 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., #222, is hosting a free class Wednesday, June 5 as part of an Open House. The class, Create A Character, promises tips on creating vivid characters, a discussion of literary archetypes, and writing exercises to help develop your own memorable cast.
The Open House is from 6-8pm, class is from 6:45-7:15pm. All are welcome, but visit the registration page to RSVP.
The class is taught by historical romance novelist Jennifer Ann Coffeen, who is also an original member of the female-only comedy group, the kates.
This Saturday, June 1, Jordan Matter presents his new book, Dancers Among Us, at City Lit Books (2523 N. Kedzie Blvd.). A series of photos of dancers in everyday settings that celebrate the joy and possibility in everyday life, actor Alan Cumming says, "This book is something you should pick up every time you have forgotten that there is wit and beauty in the world - literally all around us." 3pm.
Wanna rub elbows with YA legend Judy Blume, famed cartoonist Art Spiegelman, celebrity chef Rick Bayless and (no description required) Sting? Volunteer at the Chicago Tribune's annual Printers Row Lit Fest and you may get your chance. Follow this link to the the volunteer application-- it's the first step in getting a behind-the-book-flap experience at the Midwest's largest outdoor literary event, not to mention a free t-shirt and lunch.
The June 8 and 9 event is held at historic Printers Row, on and around the area of Dearborn Street, from Congress to Polk streets. Tickets will be available to the general public beginning May 27. More information about this year's presenters and other FAQs can be found at: printersrowlitfest.org.
The summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the comforts of a good book. But for something a bit more social, here are a few upcoming events and festivals scheduled you should know about:
1. The city's most recognized literary event Printers Row Lit Fest will be held June 8 and 9 in the historic Printer's Row section of the South Loop. Along Dearborn Street, tents and tables of vendors line up from Harrison to Polk Streets. The weekend is filled with panels, demonstrations, live readings, and discussions.
Some of the Saturday highlights include a conversation with newscaster Walter Jacobson and writer Keith Koeneman, hosted by Rick Kogan. Also check out a conversation with author Irvine Welsh, and a cooking demonstration with chef Rick Bayless.
Sunday's highlights include a panel on graphic novels with Anders Nilsen, Laura Park, Zak Sally, and Jeffrey Brown. Get there early to check out a conversation with notable children's book author Judy Blume at the Harold Washington Library. Events are free and open to the public, with some requiring advanced registration. Check the schedule for more details.
2. The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) on June 15 and 16 brings together creators and publishers of underground and alternative comics. In its second year, the expo will be held from 11am-6pm at the Center on Halsted, located at 3656 N. Halsted St. The expo will have over a hundred independent and self-published authors and artists selling their work. This year's special guests include Chris Ware, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Deb Sokolow.
(photo of Printers Row Lit Fest, Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)
“I won’t lie to you. Before your kid is born, you aren’t expecting it to be pretty. You know the birth will be a little messy. But it’s fairly shocking when the doctor holds up your baby and it looks like a prop from one of those horror flicks that gets called a ‘cult’ flick because 42 fat dipshits on the internet like it a lot. The baby was covered in blood, head to toe, screaming. Screaming, I assume, for a shower.”
According to his first blog, Father Knows Shit, this is how, one day in 2006, Drew Magary became a father. And then proceeded to document said fatherhood in accounts both heartfelt and unflinchingly sassy*.
This Thursday, May 23, at 7 pm the father himself will be stopping into the Book Cellar (4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.) to share some pearls of parental wisdom from his new book. Whether you are a parent, a babysitter, or have just seen a baby before in passing, Magary’s work is brimming with wit, and definitely worth a listen.
*”Sassy”, you may think, is a flippant or sarcastic choice here. But read any one of Magary’s GQ articles and you’ll find it’s the only word astute in assessing his deft mockery talents. I revere his sass. He is a SassMaster.
Every few mornings, my mom will e-mail me my horoscope.
It's not that we take serious stock in the just-vague-enough-to-be-accurate predictions. We know it's silly. It's just a nice tradition; our kooky way of keeping in touch. I don't believe in what the horoscopes say, and that is the truth.
The truth, nine tenths of the truth, almost entirely true, so help me Libra.
Okay, I don't open those e-mails expecting to learn exactly what my day holds. It's only that, after reading them, they tend to sit in the back of my mind. If my horoscope tells me my "patience will be tested," and later that day I have to wait twenty minutes for the bus, a small part of me will think, "Oh! Thanks for the heads up, Mom/Universe!"
The reason my subconscious clings to the horoscope isn't that I actually believe it, nor is it a predictive measure comparable to data-based statistical forecasting (no offense, Cosmos). Rather, this behavior, and the popularity of astrology in general, is a prime example of the way in which we as a species tend to despise uncertainty.
In his book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't, statistician Nate Silver pinpoints this very aversion to uncertainty as a major cause of faulty predictions. We are wired to detect patterns. We are predisposed to lean towards our subjective bias. We tend to see in the data what we want to see. And considering the ever-amassing amount of information available, it is not difficult to lose the signal (true, relevant data) amidst the noise (everything else).
Horoscopes may be a hoax, but when it comes to predictions, Mr. Silver is the next best thing. He has gained notoriety throughout his career for the astoundingly accurate predictions of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, various senatorial elections, as well as the performance of many Major League Baseball players. He was named one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People" by Time magazine, and his blog, FiveThirtyEight.com, was licensed for publication by the New York Times.
If you're looking to add to your cultural calendar this month the Chicago Humanities Festival is offering a special 25% discount deal on tickets to Stages, Sights, and Sounds --its international theater and performance festival.
You can get tickets to performances by any of the six international troupes by entering the code PROMO25 until Friday, May 17 at 9 am. At $5 for children and $11 for adults, tickets are already reasonable, especially considering the high quality performances the Festival delivers.
This Saturday, May 18, the Librarian Pub Crawl meets at at the Atlantic Bar and Grill (5062 N. Lincoln Ave.) at 6:15pm; click here for complete list of stops on the tour. Since 2010, the Librarian Pub Crawl has gathered librarians and literature fans of all stripes for fun and the support of a worthy charity (this year's is Bernie's Book Bank). Costumes encouraged; think literary character or sexy librarian. Prizes awarded for best costume (or winning raffle ticket if costumes aren't your thing). Wristbands are only $10 ahead of time, $15 day of (drinks not included but raffle tickets and other goodies are). Online registration encouraged.
The success of last month's Salon Splendor has prompted Chicago's Curbside Splendor Publishing to reprise the event with another night of readings, music, and world-class tea, on Thursday, May 16, at 7:30pm. The show will take place at Madame Zuzu's 582 Roger Williams Ave. in Highland Park.
Tomorrow night, May 10, Eve Ensler will be at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N. Clark St.). Best known for her international stage smash The Vagina Monologues, Ensler's latest, In the Body of the World, is a memoir about her lifelong feeling of disconnect from her body, her struggles with uterine cancer, and her work in the Congo. Poet Mary Oliver calls it "astonishing" and Isabel Allende says, "[Ensler's] heart and body are broken, her anger is like fire, and the passion of her writing rattles your soul. This is true literature and true activism." Event sponsored by Women and Children First bookstore. 7pm.
The reading begins at 7:30pm in the upstairs lounge at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St.; doors open at 7pm and no earlier. Arrive early for a table and grab a beer from Mark at the bar (where credit cards are now accepted!) Admission is always free, but you must be 21 or older. And come early or stay late after for some great Belgian-style food downstairs. Hope to see you there!
This Saturday, May 6, Loren Glass reads from Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde at Seminary Co-Op (5751 S. Woodlawn). An alternative press founded in 1951, and still around today as Grove/Atlantic, Inc., Grove went to court several times on obscenity charges (for Lady Chatterley's Lover, The Tropic of Cancer, and Naked Lunch). Grove was also the subject of the 2007 documentary Obscene. Of Glass' tome, Stanford University English professor Mark McGurl says, "I had such a good time reading Loren Glass's study of the Grove Press, I barely noticed that he had packed a whole education in the American reception of the European avant-garde into its pages. Brimming with as many colorful and brilliant personalities as it is with good ideas and cogent analyses, this book fills in a major gap in our knowledge of postwar American culture, and will appeal to anyone who has ever felt the lure of dangerously sexy ideas." 3pm.
This Thursday, May 2, the Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) welcomes Richard Hell reading from I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. A stalwart of the '70s New York punk scene, Hell was one of the founding members of Television; Patti Smith wrote one of the first reviews of the group. Book Forum says "There are many shivery, illicit pleasures in this louche memoir... Hell is a virtuoso of taste, a critic with a sensibility so fine and unconventional it bordered on its own form of art...weird and singular and superbly self-aware." 7pm.
"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.
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."
Self Publishers of Chicago (SPOC) celebrates their one year anniversary on Friday April 26 at Uncharted Books, located at 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave. SPOC is a community organization sponsoring workshops and skill shares for writers, zinesters, and artists.
Founder Nicki Yowell will deliver the he State of SPOC Address and do some first year reflecting. In its first year, SPOC released publications including Fire Dogs, Ghostly Stories (their Halloween issue) and a collage zine.
The evening kicks off at 7pm with a performance lineup that's as kooky as they come and worth nothing in full:
-Eric Bartholomew of Junk Drawer will regale the audience with an interactive survey of junk items the world over.
-Jonas Cannon will read his not-so-haunted tale from SPOC's second zine "Ghostly Stories."
-Meghan McGrath will bring back the glory of Fire Dogs, SPOC's first zine, with a fire dog career booth and performance.
-Grant Reynolds has a brand new SPOC theme song accompanied by a resplendent slideshow.
-Elizabeth Tieri of the Back to Print Publishing reads her poem from "Ghostly Stories" (about a black light poster).
This Sunday, April 28, Katherine Preston reads from Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice at Lovely Bake Shop (1130 N. Milwaukee Ave.). A stutterer since age seven, Preston left her London home at 24 to travel around America in search of a cure. Along with her own story, Out With It includes interviews with speech pathologists as well as celebrities, writers, musicians and a host of others who shared her struggles. Carl Bernstein (author of A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton) says "Katherine Preston is an extraordinary new literary voice and a triumphant storyteller of her generation. How she got there is a captivating tale and we are all the richer for her experience and her arrival." Event sponsored by The Book Table. 6pm.
This Friday, April 26, at 6:30pm, author Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors and Wolf at the Table) will be reading from his newest book This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can't. This unconventional self-help book addresses all of those areas you think you can't, and turns your self-defeating argument on its head. The book will be available with a signing to follow.
Next Monday, April 29, at 7pm, Unabridged hosts an exciting talk with Keith Koeneman, author of the forthcoming biography of former Chicago Mayor Daley First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley out on the University of Chicago Press. Koeneman is the foremost expert on all things Daley. The book showcases all sides of Daley's life, from childhood in Bridgeport to City Hall. There will be a short reading followed by an insightful discussion.
Seating at Unabridged is first come, first serve. Arrive early to catch either of these events.
This Thursday, April 25, Robert Perišic reads from Our Man In Iraq at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore (5757 S. University Ave.). Set in Croatia in 2003, the book is a satiric novel about a jaded journalist who sends his eccentric, ne'er-do-well cousin to cover the Iraq War and the complications that ensue. Publisher's Weekly said "What's most compelling about Perišic's novel are the relentlessly insightful one-liners, offering poignant commentary on the unsettled day-to-day of a society trying to find its footing after devastating violence and in the throes of nascent capitalism...this smart, cutting book powerfully illustrates the horrible hangover of war." The book was one of themillions.com's most anticipated books of 2013.
Perišic is a best-selling author in Croatia; Our Man In Iraq is the first of his books to be translated into English. The event is cosponsored by the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in Chicago and Asymptote Journal. 6pm.
Graze Magazine, a literary food publication with a personal essay bent, is throwing its issue 3 release party on Saturday, April 20, replete with delicious drinks and some serious culinary offerings befitting its food focused content.
Guests will have free reign over the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art's permanent collection, along with its special exhibit, "An Ill Wind Blowing." The museum, located at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave., is a unique experience in itself as the only non-profit organization showcasing outsider artwork. The setting feels connected with Graze's mission, too, as food can be very much intertwined with life on the margins, however individuals interpret that space.
Curbside Splendor Publishing and Madame ZuZu's cordially invite you to Salon Splendor, a night of intimate reading and conversation this Friday, April 19. Madame Zuzu's Teahouse, located at 582 Roger Williams Rd., right by the Ravinia Metra station in Highland Park, is notable for its selection of teas (and its owner, Chicago alt-rock luminary, Billy Corgan).
The night's theme is Origins is befitting for the event's first installment. Reading original work based on that theme will be Kathleen Rooney, Okla Elliott, and James Tadd Adcox. There will be light tunes, too, by Good Evening, all hosted by Curbside Splendor's Senior Editor, the outlandish Jacob S. Knabb.
Space is limited so reservations are strongly recommended. RSVP at email@example.com.
Festivities commence at 8pm. Get there early to grab a seat and to try Madame Zuzu's delightful teas and treats.
Gilbert Hernandez, one-third of the Los Bros Hernandez trio of Love and Rockets fame, will be at Quimby's this Thursday, April 18. He'll be presenting his brand new (out today!) graphic novel Marble Season, a semiautobiographical tale of growing up in suburban California in the '60s and the redemptive power of childhood storytelling. Corey Creekmur (in the aferword) says, "Perhaps no other current creators of comics recognize (or vividly remember) the ways actual kids think, talk, or even stand and walk as accurately as the Hernandez brothers, and no other comics artists so delicately intertwine moments of childhood trauma with the goofy logic that otherwise sustains kids when they begin to sense that they live in an irrational world." Quimby's, 1854 W. North Ave., 7pm.
Newly formed storytelling series Guts and Glory returns this Wednesday, April 17, at Powell's Bookstore, located at Chicago 2850 N. Lincoln Ave. The series calls forth performers to tell-it-like-it-is in this series, which prides itself on being uninhibited. Hosts Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby welcome this month's readers Lara Levitan (a fellow Gapers Block Book Club staff), Gwynn Fulcher, Jacob Knabb (editor of Another Chicago Magazine), Ellie Navidson, and Luis Antonio Perez.
Donations, all of which go to either children's or animal care charities, are strongly encouraged. It's BYOB, so consider the donation money saved from avoiding a bar tab. The show starts at 7pm.
Greetings from sunny Seattle, where women are “gals,” people are “folks,” a little bit is a “skosh,” if you’re tired you’re “logy,” if something is slightly off it’s “hinky,” you can’t sit Indian-style but you can sit “crisscross applesauce,” when the sun comes out it’s never called “sun,” but always “sunshine,” boyfriends and girlfriends are “partners,” nobody swears but someone might occasionally “drop the f-bomb,” you’re allowed to cough but only into your elbow, and any request, reasonable or unreasonable, is met with “no worries.”
Have I mentioned how much I hate it here?”
This excerpt, the first paragraph in a 15-page tirade against Seattle, is just a sample of the scathing witticisms Maria Semple has to offer in her recent novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette? The book is the latest in a long list of Semple’s accomplishments, including her first book, This One is Mine, as well as her work as a writer on a number of television series, including “Arrested Development,” “Mad About You,” and “Ellen.” Bernadette is also slated to be made into a motion picture, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of Summer) and produced by Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games film series) and Brad Simpson.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Semple just before her reading and talk-back, “Printers Row: Maria Semple,” hosted at the Tribune Tower by Trib Nation. There we discussed Maria’s relationship with Seattle, her writing process, and her perspective on the success of her book.
As the bus pulls up to the curb outside Tribune Tower, I am nervous for two reasons. The first is, knowing I am about to meet face to face with a writer for “Arrested Development,” it will take every professional fiber of my being to not let this interview devolve into an episode of The Chris Farley Show. (“Remember Gob…? Yeah. He’s awesome.”)
The second reason I’m nervous I already acknowledge as ridiculous. But, having read Semple’s commentary on Seattle, I can’t help but wonder if her bite is as bad as her bark. I saw what she did to that city. Would she chew up Chicago with the same contemptuous mockery? I half expect Bernadette herself, enormous sunglasses atop her nose, to come marching in decrying our unpredictable weather and monochromatic wardrobes.
I know I’m to blame for this recent rift. I’ve been absent, unavailable—and even when I am around, our encounters are brief and unsatisfying. I look back longingly on all those wonderful Sunday mornings we spent together; those brief, flirtatious meetings on the El; the five alarms I snooze most mornings just to be with it…
It’s not that I don’t love Sleep. It’s just that for the past two days I’ve been distracted by the latest book occupying my nightstand: The Way We Sleep. An anthology of short and flash fiction, comics, and interviews, Sleep examines those moments in which the waking and sleeping life collide. The collection, at once comical and poignant, contains stories dynamic enough to stand alone, yet all the more enticing in their juxtaposition. From page to page the reader unfolds a richer, more complex notion of sleep; what it means to us, and the culture that surrounds it.
Some say I need a solid eight hours; I say I need a less interesting book.
If you, like me, are looking to catch a good read about catching z’s, The Book Cellar (4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.) will be honoring the recent publication of The Way We Sleep with a reading from the collection this Saturday, April 13, at 7pm. The reading will feature contributors Billy Lombardo, Ben Tanzer, Dakota Sexton, and Natalie Edwards, as well as a shadow puppet show presented by Jill Summers and Susie Kirkwood.
Copies of the anthology, and other books by contributors, will be available for sale at the event. RSVP at their event page.
This week the Chicago Public Library hosts three events at the Harold Washington Library Center's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, located at 400 S. State St.
First, on Tuesday, April 16, join academy award winning director of classic films "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist," William Friedkin, as he discusses his new memoir The Friedkin Connection. The book takes readers from the streets of Chicago to the suites of Hollywood, and through time from the sixties to today. Adam Kempenaar, host of the film podcast Filmspotting, will moderate the discussion. Books will be available with a signing to follow.
Check out One Book, One Chicago's panel discussion on Wednesday, April 17, entitled The New Chicagoans, on this year's One Book selection The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. The panel includes Adolfo Hernandez, director of the Chicago Office of New Americans and Tuyet Le, executive director of the Asian American Institute. They will look at Chicago as a gateway for migrants today like Wilkerson's novel.
Close out the week's events on Thursday, April 18, with author Thomas Dyja's discussion of his new book The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream. The book tells the story of postwar Chicago and explains its profound impact on modern America. Books will be available with a signing to immediately follow.
All events begin at 6pm and are free and open the public.
Performance based comic reading Brain Frame hosts a fundraiser for CAKE (Chicago Area Comics Expo) on Friday, April 12 at Peanut Gallery, located at 1000 N. California Ave. Brain Frame supports the comics community giving artists a stage to perform their work, a natural collaboration with CAKE, Chicago's premier comics festival.
Winners who live in the Chicagoland area include Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg for You Were Never in Chicago in the adult nonfiction category, and Jonathan Messinger, former books editor for TimeOut Chicago, receives the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism.
Click here to see the full list of winners past and present.
This weekend, Chicago historical reenactment group Pocket Guide to Hell honors children’s entertainment past and present with an afternoon of acts that will knock your big, floppy shoes off! Join Pocket Guide performers Fred Sasaki (the Magician); Kenneth Morrison (the Clown); Professor Justin Amolsch and his Big Brass Band; and Martin Billheimer (the Star) in their second installment of The Chicago Television Project: a variety hour homage entitled The Chicago Children’s TV Show. The 50’s-era-style revue, which includes everything from music to magic to mischief, goes up at Gallery Cabaret (2020 N. Oakley Ave.) on Sunday, April 14.
Pocket Guide’s owner and proprietor Paul Durica says of the retro style and revue format, “Many early children’s shows, such as Super Circus, used the variety show format, which allowed for the program to stay fresh and flexible but also to highlight the talents of a range of groups and individuals… Each contemporary group will be linked to a historic show, such as Kukla, Fran, & Ollie or Garfield Goose, so that past and present will meet at this event. We want the event to be a celebration of local creativity and imagination.”
As if that weren’t enough incentive, there will also be an assortment of kids’ prizes, generously donated by Busy Beaver Button Company; Derek Erdman; Kathleen Judge; Hansen Mansion; Barrel of Monkeys; Poetry; Drinking & Writing Theater; the Haymarket Pub & Brewery; Victory Gardens Theater; Wee Hairy Beasties; Uncle Fun; and the Chicago History Museum.
So embrace your inner child and make your way to the Hideout for either of two performances: a 3 pm family-friendly run, and a 5 pm showing for everybody else. Free! RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Sunday, April 7, Mary Driver-Thiel reads from The World Undone at Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark St.). It's the story of Sylvia, a woman who goes in search of her sister Callie, given up for adoption, and how their lives and their mother's are changed when Sylvia goes in search of Callie. 4:30pm.
This Saturday, April 6 is the Willow Books Lit Fest at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University (9501 S. King Drive). Most events are free and open to the public but require registration. Events include workshops, manuscript sessions, panel discussions, an open mic and a Willow Brooks Literature Awards finalists reading and ceremony. Participants include social media expert Leslie McGraw and associate professor Quraysh Ali Lansana, among others. Radio personality Jay Scott Smith emcees. Event runs 8am-5pm; see full schedule of events here.
If you missed the Chicago Zine Fest last month, don't despair. The Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St., is hosting two programs this spring to help quench your thirst for underground, dissident and alternative publishing.
"Outsiders: Zines, Samizdat and Alternative Publishing" is a free panel discussion on Saturday, April 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Focusing on self-produced books and pamphlets that express individualized, unconventional, controversial, or prohibited messages, the panel will include alt publishing heavy hitters Anne Elizabeth Moore (New Girl Law: Drafting a Future for Cambodia), Lisa Gitelman (Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture) and Jenna Freedman (Pinko vs. Punk: a Generational Comparison of Alternative Press Publications and Zines), among others. Coffee will be provided, and Quimby's will be selling DIY and other alt press materials.
After the discussion, explore the historical roots of zine culture with the Newberry's "Politics, Piety, and Poison," an exhibition of French pamphlets from 1600-1800, through April 13. A highlight of the exhibit is a series of engraved scenes that depicts the crimes, trial and eventual execution of a Parisian grocer accused of poisoning the wife and son of an associate. This 18th century "zine" is a graphic depiction of a sensational case that captivated all of Paris. Mon dieu!
Reading Under the Influence has to be one of the city's most outrageous reading series. Following April Fool's Day, RUI is back Wednesday, April 3, at Sheffield's, located at 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., with the theme the Transmogrifier. Go ahead, grab your dictionary or get to Googling, unless you're a fan of Calvin and Hobbes and already know that the Transmogrifier is Calvin's invention that turns one thing into another. RUI should have picked this theme years ago as each month its event transmogrifies from a reading into an all out party.
The two-round reading begins with published works selected in keeping with the theme; in round two, readers present a piece of their original work and are encouraged to spice things up.
This month join Chicago writers Melinda McIntire (the host of the reading series Solo In The 2nd City and fellow Gapers Block Book Club staff), Shannon Cason (The MOTH Story Slam All-city Champion), Michael Meyer, and C.J. Arellano (of the comedy web-series, The Pathetic). The event begins at 7pm. Domestics are $2 and there is a $3 cover.
Attention Lyrics-Lovers! Looking for your next poetry fix? Look no further: Join MAKE Literary Productions, Rational Park, Black Ocean, and Danny's Reading Series as they celebrate Mark Zapruder's song collection Pink Thunder: an amalgamation of poetry and music that tests the bounds of artistic disciplines, and confirms that one-hundred-plus heads may just be better than one.
Born on 50-day poetry tour Poetrybus, Pink Thunder represents the collected influence of hundreds of poets and contributions from over forty musicians. The tour stopped in fifty cities nationwide, and now, Pink Thunder hits Chicago in a multi-part collaboration celebration. The first of these opened at Rational Park (2557 W. North Ave.), on March 22 and features a display of 22 portmanteaus, each containing a song from Pink Thunder. This exhibit is by appointment only through April 12.
Rather listen live? This Tuesday, April 2nd at 7:30 pm, Danny's Reading Series at Danny's Tavern (1951 W. Dickens Ave.) will host Michael Zapruder in one of his premier Chicago performances of songs from the Pink Thunder collection, along with Billy Blake and the Vagabonds, also performing songs from their most recent album. The concert will be followed by a Q & A on the performers' work and the nature of poetic collaboration.
The Pink Thunder vinyl album and CD will be available at the performance, as well as the book of poems, published by Black Ocean.
It's hard not to get knocked unconscious by the 2nd Story, especially these days. These story tellers have been all over the city promoting the release of their first anthology, Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck. Their next stop brings them to Logan Square where neighborhood, bookseller City Lit Books, is sponsoring a reading on Tuesday, April 2 at Revolution Brewing, located at 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Anthology contributors Bobby Biedrzycki (who is also the director of 2nd Story), Lott Hill, and Earliana McLaurin will read at 7pm but the drinks go until closing. The reading is free, but you can pick up a copy of the book if you like what you hear.
This Thursday, March 28, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will discuss Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead at at the the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe St.). Sandberg is one of Fortune magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. Building on her 2010 TED Talk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers, Lean In aims to uncover the root causes that stall womens' paths to success. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says "Sheryl provides practical suggestions or managing and overcoming the challenges that arise on the 'jungle gym' of career advancement. I nodded my head in agreement and laughed out loud as I read these pages. Lean In is a superb, witty, candid, and meaningful read for women (and men) of all generations."
Sandberg will be joined by Joycelyn Winnecke, vice president and associate editor of the Chicago Tribune. Presented by Trib Nation Events and sponsored by Nielsen. $40, begins at 6pm.
UPDATE: The event is sold out, and there is a considerable wait list (over 400), but a live stream will be available online beginning at 6pm.
Acclaimed food writer Elissa Altman visits The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Avenue, on Thursday, March 28 at 7 p.m.
Altman will read from her freshly-released Poor Man's Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking (Chronicle Books).
In Poor Man's Feast Altman, who won a 2012 James Beard Award for Individual Food Blog for PoorMansFeast.com, tells the story of a childhood defined by "fancy." Altman writes: "In my family, we aim for the swank and the rococo, as if this way of living offers some sort of inherent security and protection from the...more unpredictable parts of life."
Replete with 27 recipes (from Poached Asparagus with Prosciutto and Duck Eggs to Warm Tomato Sandwich), the book chronicles Altman's evolution from the little girl who dined with her "food-fanatic" father at La Grenouille in secret from her "food-phobic" mother, eventually becoming a respected food writer and editor, to the woman who found love and, consequently, peaceful un-fanciness, in the kitchen and life.
This Thursday, March 28, poetry lovers rejoice as Poetry Made of Lions is at Uncharted Books, 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Join host Russ Woods and sponsor Love Symbol Press as they bring together poets, Laura Goldstein, Joshua Young, James Bakken, Erin Watson and Zack Baber (visiting from San Francisco). The words fly at 7pm.
This Saturday, March 23, Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series (8300 W. Cermak Road, North Riverside) welcomes Sara Ross Witt. Former co-producer and co-host of the Tuesday Funk reading series, Sara is a blogger, technical writer, New School MFA, and short story author. BYOB; open mic to follow. 7pm.
This Sunday and Monday, March 24 and 25, the Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.) presents Poetry As Comedy. This being the Poetry Foundation, don't expect to hear drunkards sharing limericks scribbled on the el that day, but the classics. Under the direction of Second City founder Bernard Sahlins, a trio of actors will bring to life bring the works of W. H. Auden, John Updike and Dorothy Parker, among others. Sunday program begins at 3pm; Monday program begins at 7pm.
Besemer is featured in the new anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books). The book, which features the poems and poetic statements of 55 poets, sold out at Nightboat's table at the AWP Conference last week. According to Besemer, Troubling the Line is the first anthology focused on "making space" for poets who identify as trans or genderqueer.
"This is a book that is not just for us, but for the young trans and genderqueer writers looking for mentors and role models," Besemer said. "It's important for our allies and families, too, because it helps to illuminate what being trans, being genderqueer, could mean."
All events are free and open to the public. Check out one of Story Week's hallmark events, Literary Rock and Roll, on Thursday, March 21 at 6pm at the Metro, located at 3730 N. Clark St.
This "Girl Trouble" themed rock and roll extravaganza will feature readings by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), Jane Hamilton (Laura Rider's Masterpiece), and Joe Meno (Office Girl). Settle in for a post-reading set by the female-fronted The Right Now. Get there early to snag a seat.
The 'badass' storytelling series Guts and Glory is back on Wednesday March 20 at Powell's Bookstore, located at 2850 N. Lincoln Ave., at 7pm. Co-hosts Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby have prepared an envelope pushing line up that will no doubt bring the goods.
Featured guests include playwright Chris Bower, host of the literary series Essay Fiesta Willy Nast, writer Jill Summers, producer of Stoop-Style Stories Lily Be, and writer Amanda Glasbrenner. The event is free but donations will be accepted for charity (supporting puppies and children).
Want to avoid all things shamrock green this weekend and go for something a bit more high-minded? You are not alone. This Sunday, Pocket Guide to Hell is throwing a jubilant reenactment of the First Ward Ball at 8pm at the Hideout, located at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. The ball unites aldermen, priests, madams, highfalutin' politician poets, and ladies of the night -- all long dead, of course.
Pocket Guide to Hell Tours maestro Paul Durica brings together steampunk and hobo-inspired musical acts (Spears and Gears, Meredith Axelrod, Jamie Alberts), Vaudeville comedy, burlesque (Lady Ginger), the scantily clad literati (Chicago Poetry Bordello), and history academics (Bill Savage), for his take on Chicago's most infamous turn-of-the-century celebration.
The First Ward Ball brought the Chicago underworld and political powerhouses together for a resplendent period from 1896 to 1909. Under the auspices of fundraising, the ball was a haven for characters like alderman "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and the Everly Sisters, Chicago's own impresario madams. Costumed partygoers took debauchery to new and epic levels, and converted the Chicago Coliseum into a palace of vice for one evening.
Durica, who has tackled other large-scale history-meets-performance events, including a reenactment of the Haymarket riots two years ago, is drawn to the ball's inherent contradictions.
"The ball was an event where high society rubbed elbows with the underworld," he said. "That social mixing is less common. [...] The same level of local corruption exists today but the characters aren't as colorful."
Several actors including Scott Priz, Elisa and Schoenberger will join Durica in bringing these figures back from the dead for schmoozing. To curb the cast of Victorian miscreants, Jerry Boyle will be playing a priest who busts the tawdry action.
Doors open at 7pm. The show commences at 8pm. Suggested donation of $10 to benefit Pocket Guide to Hell.
You always meant to go to one of those One Book, One Chicago discussions, right? Now that the "citywide book club" has expanded from a monthly, twice-a-year offering to a yearlong event, you'll have no excuse not to check out some of the excellent programming offered by the Chicago Public Library sponsored initiative.
The new format kicks off this April with Isabel Wilkerson'sThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. In Other Suns, Wilkerson, the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in the history of American journalism, and the first black American to win for individual reporting, explores the Great Migration of black Americans from the American South to the North and West, changing the cultural and political landscape of America.
According to CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon, the book inspired the expansion of One Book, One Chicago. "The ideas and discussions [the book] sparks are simply too big to be contained in a single month," Bannon stated in a press release. "We look forward to engaging with all Chicagoans to hear their story, to hear how they helped to create the tapestry of our city."
This Saturday, March 16, stop by the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) at 2pm for Superhero Expo. WBEZ's Allison Cuddy hosts a panel discussion with comic artists Jill Thompson, Lyra Hill and Jenny Frison. In addition, there will be a screening of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. Film Threat magazine says of Wonder Women!: "It's the personal stories that really got to me. I'm a tough nut to crack in terms of crying at a movie, but when the little girls started talking about what Wonder Woman means to them and how their moms are the real heroes, it was Niagara-fucking-Falls. If you have a daughter, it is a moral imperative that you show her this film as soon as possible."
The event is presented by WTTW Channel 11 and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in partnership with Chicago Foundation For Women, Eileen Fisher Foundation, Project Onward and Quimby's Bookstore.
This Friday, March 15, Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave.) hosts readings from Hair Lit, Vol. 1. Edited by Nick Ostdick and released by local indie publisher Orange Alert Press, it's a tribute to the rockers and power balladeers of '80s and '90s metal bands. Contributors Matt Rowan, Lindsay Hunter, and Mike Joyce read their contributions, tales of sex and drugs and how Tommy used to work on the docks. Reading starts at at 7pm.
Ray's Tap Reading Series, produced and hosted by Chris Bower, will be presenting "Manners Please" at the Prop Theater (3502 N. Elston Ave.) on Saturday, March 16 at 9pm. The event is described as: "A show about Manners, Etiquette and Politeness and what other words might be out there to describe how we should behave and interact with each other and how we actually do."
The series is held twice a year and includes Chicago area writers, artists and musicians. Saturday's edition will feature Martha Bayne, Brian Nemtusak, Robin Cline, Ian Belknap, Mason Johnson, Dave Synder in tandem with Naomi Washer, Matt Test, Megan Larmer, Daniel Shapiro, Randall Colburn, Margaret Chapman, Chris Schoen, and the music of Tijuana Hercules.
The show is $15 or-pay-what-you-can. All proceeds go directly to the artists. A cash bar will be on hand, and audience members are encouraged to come and go as they please. The show should go late into the morning hours. A great lineup not to be missed!
Author Tao Lin's autobiographical novel Shoplifting at American Apparel has been turned into a documentary of the same name. The film is coming to the Logan Theatre, 2646 N. Milwaukee Ave., on March 14 at 7:30pm as part of its national tour.
Lin, known for his unorthodox column in Vice magazine, worked with a crew of indie filmmakers to adapt his work for the screen. The film is a mix between Lin's novel and the crew's process of making the film. Presale tickets are available for $11.
A Q&A with director Pirooz Kalayeh and the film's screen writer, Brad Warner, will follow the screening, along with a reading in the theater's renovated lobby and bar. Readers include Cean Gamalinda, Dylan York, Scott McClanahan and Heiko Julien.
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.
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.
This weekend, March 8 and 9, is the fourth annual Chicago Zine Fest. The Chicago Zine Fest is an independent event that provides an outlet for small press and independent publishers to showcase their work together in one place.
Events kick off Friday, March 8 at 1pm at Columbia College Chicago's historic Ludington building, located at 1104 S. Wabash Ave., with the panel Writing about Health, Disability, and Accessibility in Zines. Panelists include zinesters Kerri Radley (Deafula), Maranda Elizabeth (Telegraph), and Dave Roche (On Subbing).
Friday programming continues with a pair of youth readers, followed by a reading from festival exhibitors Zine at 826CHI 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. at 6pm. End the night with some fun at Zine, Lose or Draw event, hosted by Neil Brideau (Oh Boy! comics) at Quimby's bookstore at 9:30pm.
"We're excited about all the things we've put together and can't wait to enjoy the weekend with everyone!" says Leslie Perrine, a festival organizer since the inaugural year.
On Saturday, the festival's exhibition will be supported with workshops on various topics including self-publishing efforts, a hands-on kid's zine-making area, an art room full of exhibitor work, a photo booth provided by Glitter Guts, and demonstrations presented by Columbia's Center for Book and Paper Arts.
"It's great to see how many people are excited about CZF," says Lynne Monsoon, a first-time organizer for 2013. "We don't want anyone to think that the only way to enjoy CZF is by tabling. There's so much to do!"
Eric Bartholomew of Junk Drawer zine from the 2012 fest (photo by Oscar Arriola)
The Chicago Zine Fest is sponsored by Columbia College Chicago's Silver Tongue Reading Series, Quimby's Bookstore, Spudnik Press, and 826CHI.
All events are free and open to the public. Friday afternoon's panel will have CART (Communication Access Real Time Translation) services available. Friday night's readings will have ASL interpretation.
Tomorrow night, March 8, kick off Chicago Zine Fest weekend with "Zine, Lose or Draw" at Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave.). Neil Brideau, co-organizer of Chicago Alternative Comics Expo and creator of Oh Boy! Comics, hosts a Pictionary-style game with a self-publishing theme. Come mingle with the comics community and check out their spontaneous creations. Starts at 9:30pm. Quimby's is a co-sponsor of the Chicago Zine Fest; complete schedule of the weekend's events here.
Highlighting artists like Michael Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Grace Jones and Meshell Ndegeocello, Royster explores how the eccentric, offbeat or queer performances of post-civil rights black musicians were influenced by the civil rights, black nationalist, feminist, and LGBTQ movements, and how they've consequently influenced pop music today.
Sounds heady, but Royster's writing style is accessible and often playful, so fans of these artists, pop music, or African American or queer theory studies, might enjoy Royster's spin.
Reading Under the Influence encourages its readers to drink before they perform, so it makes perfect sense that the its March 6 reading should be "Madness" themed, right? Show up at Sheffield's, located at 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., at 7pm to partake in libations, literature and laughter.
Making sure madness ensues, featured readers include, 2nd Story member Darwyn Jones, author of Little Known FactsChristine Sneed, Columbia College fiction writing professor Shawn Shiflett, and Columbia College fiction writing undergrad Wyl Villacres.
Each performer will read twice, once from original work, and the second, from a piece of madness related published work. Following the readings, participate in a round of trivia for prizes including books and drink tickets. This usually consists of a free-for-all of shouts and half-joking responses. Come to think of it, every month at RUI could be construed as madness.
Drop in at 7pm and grab a drink. There is a $3 cover.
Louder Than a Bomb, the city wide slam poetry festival with over 750 teenagers and college students participating, will be hosting the preliminary, semi-finals, and finals over the next week.
Louder Than a Bomb, or LTAB, was founded in 2001 by poet Kevin Coval and Ana West through Young Chicago Authors. It has now become the largest youth poetry festival in the world. The festival was created to give Chicago youth the stage and the space to tell their own stories. Both teams and individuals compete in the festival.
Logan Square's City Lit Books hits a three pointer with their night of Books, Beer, and Basketball at Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Sunday, March 3.
Sports editor and author Jonathan Eig will interview local authors Rus Bradburd (Make It, Take It) and Michael Lenehan (Ramblers: The Team that Changed the Color of Basketball) about their latest books, which deal with basketball, of course. Order up one of Revolution's craft beers and settle in for the discussion. For the game winner, pick up a copy of the authors' books. The trifecta begins at 7pm.
Laydeez Do Comics, London's monthly comics salon now with a branch in Chicago, is set to host its next reading on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Quimby's Bookstore, located 1854 W. North Ave.
This will be the second Laydeez Chicago installment, bringing together female comics creators to discuss their past work, future projects, and creative process. Ladies this month include Laura Szumowski, David Mitchell, and MK Czerwiec.
After a being away for a brief second, this Friday, February 22, marks the triumphant return of reading series Funny Ha-Ha at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. Host Claire Zulkey will usher in performances by Samantha Irby; host of Story ClubDana Norris; Megan Stielstra from the 2nd Story; Christopher Piatt, curator of Paper Machete reading series; Amy Sumpter and filmmaker Steve Delahoyde.
This Saturday, February 23, is the Spudnik Press Hashbrown Chili Cookoff fundraiser held at their office (1821 W. Hubbard St., Suite 302). Twelve of Chicago's finest organizations devoted to printmaking and self-publishing will duke it out for the title of best chili. This year's participants include Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, The Printstitute, Center for Book and Paper Arts, Read/Write Library and Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, among others. In less than six years, Spudnik Press has enabled over 800 artists to create their own prints and has worked with many youths through field trips and in-school programs. This past fall, they added The Annex to serve Chicago's writing, comics and zine comunities. $10 gets you five tickets and $25 gets you a VIP package (five large chili portions, a golden spoon and a complimentary signature cocktail). Event runs 6pm-10pm.
After 20 years working as a Human Resources Director and Business Partner at a major corporation, Chicagoland resident Lori Fox quit her job. As a closeted transgender woman, she could no longer stand working in a business culture that didn't protect or support gender identity and expression.
After coming out at work in the corporate diversity office (which ultimately led to her
leaving), and also coming out to her family, Fox found success on her own terms--those that allowed her to be herself, completely. She started Lori Fox Diversity Consulting and now works with human resources and management departments at large corporations to create cultures of inclusion. She also consults with individuals to help guide their personal and professional transitions.
The envelope pushing reading series Guts and Glory will hold its next reading on Wednesday, February 20, at 7pm at Powell's Bookstores, located at 2850 N. Lincoln Ave. The hosts, Samantha Irby and Kieth Ecker, stay true to the series tag line, "Live Lit for the Lionhearted," showcasing the raw and gritty side of storytelling.
The night's performers include comedian Kelsie Huff, poet Emily Rose, comic Adam Guerino, Funny Story Show producer Caitlin Bergh, and Patrick Allen Carberry.
This event is BYOB. Collected donations go to charity.
Author Justin Maurer reads Tuesday, February 19, at Quimby's Bookstore, located at 1854 W. North Ave. Maurer, an LA based writer and musician, will read from his book Seven Television (Vol 1 Brooklyn), a humorous portrayal of life from mundane dead-end jobs to family crisis. His tenure as a touring musician in bands like the garage rock outfit, Clorox Girls, provides a wealth of experience to cull from.
Maurer will be joined by Ear Eater host and author of Throne of Blood (Solar Luxuriance), Cassandra Troyan, and zinester, teacher, and author of On Subbing, Dave Roche.
The free event begins at 7pm. Quimby's will have the authors' books in stock, so stick around to pick up a copy and talk with the writers.
If you wanted diamonds for Valentine's day, but didn't get them, there's still a chance. Poetry Made of Diamonds' reading series returns Sunday, February 17, at 7pm at Uncharted Books, located at 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Join host Russ Woods and sponsor Love Symbol Press for this Logan Square poetry series, aptly titled, Poetry Made of More Winter.
This Sunday, February 17, Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark St.) welcomes transgender author and activist S. Bear Bergman. The author (Butch Is A Noun), editor (Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, co-edited with Kate Bornstein) and award winning solo performer promises "not just a reading; a Speakeasy is a whole show. Expect jokes, stories, smut, and rough drafts, plus Improv Storytime, where the audience provides the story topic and Bear tells a fresh, unrehearsed story." Doors open at 6pm. Cover is pay what you can (suggested donation $15).
Come back to the Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) this Saturday, February 16, when Ben Hellwarth reads from SEALAB: America's Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor. The tale of the abandoned U.S. Navy program from the early '60s, author Neal Bascomb calls it "A remarkably stirring narrative filled with an awe-inducing cast of scientific adventurers who risked life and limb to not only explore the ocean's depths, but to make them their own. What Tom Wolfe revealed in such riveting detail of the space program in The Right Stuff, Ben Hellwarth matches here for underwater discovery." Reading starts at 7pm.
This Friday, February 15, the Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) welcomes Rosie Schaap, reading from Drinking With Men. A memoir about time spent drinking in bars and partaking in the culture, it's no paean to new-found sobriety; rather, says author Kate Christensen, "there is so much joy in this book! It's a great, comforting, wonderful, funny, inspiring, moving memoir about community and belief and the immense redemptive powers of alcohol drunk properly." Schaap is a contributor to the This American Life radio show and npr.org and writes the monthly "Drink" column for the New York Times. Reading starts at 7pm.
Reading series Solo in the 2nd City has its one year anniversary tomorrow, Feb. 13 at 7pm at Beauty Bar Chicago, located at 1444 W. Chicago Ave. To commemorate the occasion, hosts Melinda McIntire and Carly Oishi, will welcome back guests who've appeared throughout the past year. This special b-day lineup includes performances by Samantha Irby, Charlotte Hamilton, Jasmine Davila, Chris Bower, and Blake Dinwiddie. Music will be provided by DJ Continental.
If that's not enough to celebrate, how about the fact that the first hour will have a free champagne reception with RSVP.
Stop by and raise a glass wishing this series another great year.
Chicago author Bree Housley will read and sign her memoirWe Hope You Like This Song: An Overly Honest Story About Friendship, Death, and Mix Tapes on Tuesday, February 12 at City Lit Books in Logan Square at 6:30 p.m.
Housley's book details her best friend Shelly's early death from complications of preeclampsia a week after giving birth to her daughter, and the ensuing adventure Housley and her sister undertook in Shelly's memory. The adventure--choosing a "Shelly-like" resolution each week and completing it in seven days--formed the premise for the blog fifty2resolutions, and eventually the memoir.
Tomorrow night, February 7, Myiti Sengstacke Rice will be at Radcliffe Hunter House (3800 S. Michigan Ave.) signing copies of her book Chicago Defender. The author is a direct descendant of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, who founded the Chicago Defender newspaper in 1905. Starting out humbly, printed in his land lady's kitchen, the Defender quickly made Abbott one of the few black millionaires of his time. The influential paper successfully promoted the "Great Migration" of 1.5 million Southern blacks to the North between 1915 and 1925. It also campaigned for anti-lynching legislation and integrated sports. Langston Hughes was a columnist and its pages published the early poems of Gwendolyn Brooks. Sengstacke Rice is the founder of Sengstacke Media Advisors and has been published in Ebony, Jet, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Reading begins at 6pm.
Wednesday, February 6, marks the 2013 return of the established Reading Under the Influence series at Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave. The month's theme, "Tainted Love," will be tackled by featured readers Zak Mucha, author of Heavyweight Champion of Nothing; Adam Guerino, host of the Word Is Out reading series and the Queer Comedy showcase at Zanies; Tyler Coulson, author of Attorneys After the Crash; and Jill Howe, the co-founder of Kindling Tales.
Guests read twice, starting with a piece of original work, and then an excerpt from a published work that reflects the month's theme. Readings are followed by trivia with prizes, including books and drink tickets (to make sure you are truly reading under the influence).
Drop in at 7pm and grab a domestic drink special ($2 Bud and Miller products). There is a $3 cover.
Local independent publishing group Back to Print celebrates its birthday Saturday, February 2, with the third annual Jubilee at Multi Kulti Q4 Gallery, at 1000 N. Milwaukee Ave. at 9pm.
Back to Print started during the winter of 2009 as a publishing apartment of storytellers that worked together to create publications like the now defunct monthly periodical The Deadline. Since then, the group's efforts refocused on bookbinding and zine print projects.
Back to Print does not have a website, in favor of working offline to build a community of writers and artists through face to face contact.
"Staying offline has been a large component of our mission since day one," says Elizabeth Tieri, the creative force behind Back to Print. "The best way to find out more about us or to connect with our community is by coming out to one of our events or by picking up one of our books around town."
Back to Print's birthday Jubilee is more about showcasing the local independent publishing community than it is promoting Back to Print's efforts.
"This annual event is truly a celebration of the community we have found and fostered," says Tieri. "A huge part of who we are is about connecting faces to names and being in the same room with all these creative people."
The Jubilee will also mark the release of the publisher's newest anthology The Family Album.
"[It] is a collection of family stories through fiction, poetry, and artwork that expresses the concepts of age, (dis)connection, and self that define each of us," explains Tieri. "The book is printed locally and is assembled and bound by hand by our crew." The care and construction for each publication is thanks in part to the support of their volunteers, friends, and fans who make up the Back to Print family.
The night's festivities include readings from the anthology, live music from the Bribes, raffles, and more. Donations will be accepted at the door (cash only) to benefit future Back to Print efforts.
"There will be cake," says Tieri. "It is, after all, a birthday party."
Tomorrow night at 7pm, the Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.) presents the Drinking Gourd Poetry Prize Chapbook Series. The prize is a first book award for emerging poets of color, a combined effort of Northwestern's Poetry and Poetics Colloquium and Northwestern University Press. Inaugural prize winner Kristiana Rae Colón will be joined by renowned poet Ed Roberson, with vocal performances by Timothy McNair and contemporary dance choreographed by Devin Buchanan and performed by Giordano Dance Chicago.
It's not news that ladies do comics. It is noteworthy, however, that Laydeez Do Comics, the UK based female centric comics salon is extending its operations to Chicago.
Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave.) will host the first monthly meeting, to fall on the last Thursday of every month, on January 31 at 7pm. Contrary to the event's title, the forum is open to everyone interested in hearing comics creators speak about their work, their process, and future plans.
In keeping with practices made standard by Laydeez founders, Nicola Streeten (Billy, Me, and You) and Sarah Lightman (The Book of Sarah, Graphic Details), three distinguished speakers will lead the event; Kris Dresen (Max & Lilly, Manya, She Said), Corinne Mucha (Freshman, My Alaskan Summer, Chicago Magazine), and Rinko Endo (Aggression Management Manga, The Cage) will kick off the series. All attendees are asked to come ready to discuss their own work, too.
MaryKay (MK) Czerwiec, a nurse and comics artist, is the Chicago point person for Laydeez events. Like many comic makers, her inspiration comes directly from grappling with the realities of her everyday life.
"I was an AIDs nurse during the AIDs crisis here in Chicago and during that time struggled with how to process what I was witnessing," Czerwiec said. "Drawing is an incredible way of thinking. I studied in the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program--the use of literature in Medicine--at Northwestern."
Czerwiec hopes that the monthly gathering will lead to a strong and vocal community of comic artists with diverse backgrounds.
"I realized I don't know the people who do comics in Chicago," Czerwiec said. "Nicola and Sarah's attitude is that it's important to create this environment in which they can talk about their work."
How much do you love Jane Austen? If it's enough to listen to or read selected chapters of Pride and Prejudice in public before an audience of passersby, you're in luck. On Monday, January 28, the Jane Austen Society of North America - Greater Chicago Region (JASNA-GRC) presents the first ever Pride and Prejudice: A Live Reading.
The event, to be held in the Block 37 pedway at 108 N. State St. from 7am to 7pm, is the brainchild of Debra Ann Miller of the JASNA-GRC.
"When Jane's own copy of Pride and Prejudice arrived at her home at Chawton, one of the elderly ladies from the village was expected for dinner that evening," Miller said. "Jane and her mother 'set fairly at it and read half the first volume to her.'"
The situation, described by Austen in a letter to her sister, inspired Miller's live reading idea.
But amateurs fear not--volunteers are still needed to fill the hour-long slots (an estimated three to four people are required for each hour), and acting experience and costumes are definitely not necessary.
"This live reading is all about the text," Miller said. "Perfect Hampshire accents are not required, just your own unique voice, and your love for Pride and Prejudice."
Email Debra Ann Miller at email@example.com for more info.
The 2nd Story hosts a reading from their recent anthology, Briefly Knocked Unconscious By a Low-flying Duck, at 6pm this Friday, Jan. 25, at 57th Street Books in their new location, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave. Enjoy lively performances from 2nd Story's Literary Director Megan Stielstra, Chair of the Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing program Randy Albers and Columbia College faculty member Lott Hill. Readers are all featured contributors in the anthology. Pick up a copy and hang around after to chat with the readers.
MAKE literary magazine holds a release party for its current "Architectural" issue this Thursday, January 24, at 7pm at the Hideout, located at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. The night will kick off with a Q &A with the city's official cultural historian, Tim Samuelson, hosted by comedian Adam Burke, followed by readings from issue contributors Tovah Burstein and Ted Mathys. The entertainment will be rounded out by musical performances from Like Pioneers and Soft Speaker. Come out and sign up for a MAKE subscription, get down on drink specials, and enjoy the night's programming. There is an $10 cover, 21+.
Brain Frame returns for its tenth show this Friday, January 18, at the Happy Dog Gallery space, located at 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave. on the 2nd floor. The series welcomes comics artists, illustrators and writers for a one-of-a-kind collaborative event unlike any other in the city.
Wednesday night, January 16, give your brain a workout at Automatic Writing: A Surreal Spin on Poetry at Spudnik Press (1821 W. Hubbard St.). Eric Unger will provide students with writing exercises inspired by poet Jack Spicer, the idea of "poet as a spirit medium" and channeling the outside world into their own poetry. Class is 6:30-9:30pm, $10 suggested donation.
The words fly between friends and foes on Tuesday, January 17, with Write Club at the Hideout, located at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. Incase your need the refresher or are hearing about it for the first time, Write Club is a reading series that pits contestants against one other, as they write on assigned opposing theme. After three seven minute bouts, the the audience votes on the winners. All readers pick a charity to donate proceeds from the door if they win.
This month the literary combatants and their themes include Mason Johnson on Friend vs. Dave Snyder on Foe, Dana Norris on Pride vs. Natalie Edwards on Prejudice, and Keith Ecker on Show vs. Jim DeWan on Tell. The honorable Ian Belknap hosts. The event begins at 7pm and there is a $10 cover.
Kathryn Born's The Blue Kind begins with the main character, Alison, describing the city Neom, a place that has been taken over by drugs, or "mugs," as the character calls them. The drug pushers are taking over, and newer, harder drugs are entering the market. Everyone is high all the time, smoking, popping, pushing, and snorting every drug out there. The hipsters live in the part of Neom called Runaway Village where we find Alison, her husband Cory, and friend Ray living in an abandoned theater. Alison battles with her broken relationship with her husband and tries to escape from the rising drug lord, Atom, all the while drifting in and out of a drug haze that alters her memory.
Kathryn Born does not disappoint with her descriptions. I can vividly see the city of Neom as I'm reading the novel. Every part of the world that Born has created is beautifully colored in and etched out to the enth degree. Even the drugs are described in detail to the extent that you can almost see the characters getting high. She writes:
"Missy and Kota knick each other's legs with a straight razor, and then twist the cap off the bottle that looks like nail polish. Each girl brushes some mustard-colored liquid onto the cuts on their legs. They clean off the blade and hand it to Cory, and already they are blinking slowly, holding hands."
While the details are plentiful, the dialogue is lacking. The characters never develop their own voices, making it difficult to tell who is speaking. The dialogue has a teenage-like quality to it. I can't count how many times the word "like" is used, and the dialogue overall doesn't have much depth to it. While the dialogue may have been an active choice by Born, it takes away from the characters and is distracting from the story.
There are a lot of different themes in this novel, almost too many. Memory, codependence, drug addiction, and immortality get lost within each other. The chapters are short and as soon as new or important information is mentioned that would propel the story and characters forward, it abruptly ends. This occurs up until the very end making it hard for the story to move forward, and even harder to grasp onto what the characters are saying. I find myself wondering why certain pieces of information are offered at alll; some details of Alison's past are mentioned and never revisited. Some of this happens while the character is getting high and is chalked up to a drug-related memory problem. But, because the characters are constantly forgetting everything, it is hard to latch onto anything, making the storyline motionless.
Overall, this novel is very creative and the details make it come to life. But, there are some nagging issues with the dialogue and storyline that obscure themes and miss out on opportunity to expand on them. Pick up this science fiction novel for a short read at The University of Chicago Press.
This Sunday, January 13, Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., is hosting an open house. Learn about their classes, meet instructors, take a backstage tour, check out panel discussions with resident playwrights. There will even be baked goods and raffle prizes. Event is free and runs from noon to 5pm.
Throw up the horns for the night's readers and anthology contributors Ben Tanzer, Sam Weller, Matt Rowan, Megan Stielstra and Kyle Beachy. You won't get anything special for showing up in your sleeveless denim jacket and vintage Def Leopard tour t-shirt -- well except for a bunch of high fives and double takes -- but why not dress to impress nonetheless. Copies of the anthology will be available for purchase.
This Saturday, January 12, author Michelle Sussman presents "Tricks to Marketing Through Amazon" at the Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave. Sussman is a former freelance journalist who has sold 50,000 ebooks in less than two years of self publishing (under pen names Megg Jensen and Isobel Lucas). Event is free and runs from 10am to noon; RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your seat.
So the above average temperatures this week have you pining for some planting? If so, get psyched with Amanda Thomsen this Thursday, January 10 at the Barnes & Noble DePaul Center, located at 1 E. Jackson Blvd., at 6pm. The gardening blogger will promote her bookKiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You.
Thomsen will discuss how to make home landscaping easy and sign copies of her book, which includes playful illustrations and a quiz to help you discover your inner gardener. What better way to forget that it's still only January?
Tuesday, January 8, offers a packed night of literary events. Check out the list below to see what tickles your literary fancy:
Acclaimed author George Saunders, known for his short story collections In Persuasion Nation and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, will be celebrating the release of his newest collection Tenth of December at Lincoln Hall, located 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., at 7pm. Saunders will read from the collection followed by a conversation with Chicago author Adam Levin (The Instructions). Admission is free with the purchase of the book or $5.
The new storytelling series The Seven Deadly Sins will kick off at Cafe Mustache, located at 2313 N. Milwaukee Ave., at 8pm. The series assigns readers one of the seven deadly sins as a topic to read on. The first show will include Ian Belknap on Lust, Wyatt Sparks on Gluttony, Dan Shapiro on Wrath, The Puterbaugh Sisters on Pride, James Tadd Adcox on Greed, Caitlin Bergh on Envy, and Danny Black on Sloth. That's all of them!
The self-publisher-friendly reading series Two Cookie Minimum returns with its first show of the year at Hungry Brain, located at 2319 W. Belmont Ave., at 9pm. Readers include Grant Reynolds, Thomas Simmons, Collin Brennan, Daniel Copulsky, Cyn Vargas, and Kevin Michael Gunderson. As always, there will be free cookies on hand.
Literary magazines Two With Water, and Graze magazine, will be hosting A Thousand Words, an exhibition of visual art from Chicago independent literary magazines, publishers, and newspapers at New Wave Coffee, 2557 N. Milwaukee Ave., from January 2 through February 8.
Both publications blend text and visuals in every issue. Graze is a Logan Square based literary magazine that focuses on what ends up on the dinner table and those who prepare it. Two With Water combines art and literature aiming to capture the voices of our contemporary landscape.
"We realized that all these pages of original artwork that we feature were the silent giants in both our magazines," says Cyndi Fecher, co-founder of Graze.
All original artwork will be exhibited alongside its published version, allowing the viewer to
sense the cohesion between text and image.
"We wanted to host an event that would spotlight the visual creativity within our publications that is sometimes seen as the 'accompaniment' to the literary content," says co-founder of Two With Water Amy Ganser. "The real brilliance of the art might get lost in translation with cropping or editing for use in print."
This collaboration makes sense for organizers conceptually, and provides a welcome opportunity to highlight other publications. You can celebrate with organizers at the opening reception Saturday, January 5, from 6-9pm. Participating publications will be available for purchase throughout the evening.
"I'd love it if this event were the first step in developing a stronger network of cottage publishers," says Brian Solem, co-founder of Graze.
The exhibit embodies the sense of community fostered among literary publications much like the recent Pop-up Book Fair in December.
"I personally see the Chicago literary community as thriving and hungry, although not absolutely unified," says Bobby Evers, an editor from Two With Water. "You will see different groups, like ours, and Graze, as well as Featherproof or Curbside Splendor, etc., trying to gather and collaborate and unite to include as many legs of the literary community as they can."
The work of Two With Water continues this year with a reading series and new literary journal. Graze will release its third issue in April and sponsor events throughout the winter months, such as a chocolate cook-off in February.
Story Club is set to begin the new year with a packed schedule of readings including its first of 2013 this Thursday, January 3 at Holiday Club, located at 4000 N. Sheridan Rd.
Being the first reading of the year, the theme for the night is "First." Featured performers include writer Jill Summers, essayist Kieth Ecker, and Chad the Bird. There is also an open mic with the sign-up beginning at 7:30pm. The show goes off at 7:45pm with a $5 cover.
If you can't make it this week, Story Club will be part of the Fillet of Solo Festival at Lifeline Theatre, located at 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Shows are scheduled for Jan. 5, 12, and 19. All shows are $10 and start at 7pm.
If you like comic books, Star Wars, and midnight toasts, then look no further than Nerd Year's Eve for your 2013 celebration. Scheduled for December 31 at Challenger's Comics and Conversations, located at 1845 N. Western Ave., this Star Wars themed party is aptly titled A Nerd Year's Hope. Beginning at 9pm, come for drinks, plenty of pizza, Star Wars Jeopardy, and a champaign toast when the Death Star ball drops. Redeye contributor and top geek Elliot Serrano and local singer Jess Godwin who will perform the traditional favorite Auld Lang Syne will play host. Tickets are limited so don't be left in hyperspace.
Reading series 2nd Story is back for its fifth annual New Year's Eve celebration on Monday, Dec. 31 in the bar at Caffe Baci, 225 W. Wacker. Ring in the new year with four stories by guests Eric Hazen, Earliana McLaurin, Julia Borcherts, and Darwyn Jones.
For those new to 2nd Story, this winter series organizers published an anthology, entitled Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck, of work by past series contributors, including some of those performing on NYE.
The stories begin at 9:30pm, followed by live music and a DJ after midnight. Tickets are limited and go fast so get them while you can.
Curbside Splendor Publishing is releasing the new anthology The Way We Sleep on Friday, Dec. 28 with a Pajama Party at Late Bar, located at 3534 W. Belmont Ave. The anthology collects short stories, interviews, and comics all dealing in one way or another with the theme of how we sleep. There's a wide range of talent, including authors Billy Lombardo, J. Adam Oaks, and Roxanne Gay, as well as comedians Maria Bamford and David Wain. Contributing comic artists, Jeffrey Brown and Ron Barrett, add visual interest.
For this pajama jam, you are invited to wear your jammies, PJs, nighties, or long johns to compete for best dressed. Whether or not you walk away a winner you'll enoy live DJs and door prizes. The biggest kick in your onesie's back door is that the $10 cover includes a copy of the anthology. The sleep over begins at 10pm and doesn't stop until 4am.
As the title says, you don't need to be a writer to attend the workshop; it's geared toward any "creative type" with an independent income. Presented by accountant David Turrentine, EA, the workshop will give advice on tracking income and expenses to save money on taxes.
Register here for the workshop on January 21st from 7-9:30 pm at Brasserie 54, located at 5420 N. Clark St. The fee is $40-- small potatoes considering how much you just might save in write-offs!
WRITE CLUB, Inc. will host the "1st Ever War on Xmas Benefit Show," on Friday, Dec. 28, at 6:30pm at the Hideout, located at 354 W. Wabansia Ave. Hosted by founder Ian Belknap, a line up of readers will read seven minutes on opposing ideas. Naturally, this edition is Christmas themed, with prompts such as Naughty vs. Nice, Santa vs. Jesus, and Giving vs. Receiving. The lineup includes Jen Ellison, Lisa Buscani, Robbie Q. Telfer, Megan Stielstra, and Mike O'Connell. The audience votes to choose a winner of WRITE CLUB glory.
This Saturday at 7pm, the Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) welcomes Lincoln Schatz, presenting The Network, a collection of portraits of today's influential figures from the world of entrepreneurs, industrialists, scientists, politicians and more. David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire, says "Lincoln Schatz is the most important and daring portraitist of the twenty-first century. He brings a singular vision as well as technological wizardry to rendering the most influential people of our time. The Network is his most ambitious project yet: As a portrait of not merely a group of individuals but also a portrait of power, The Network is entirely new and destined to define our moment in time for ages."
Join international showgirl Michelle L'Amour and the girls Friday, December 14 for the next installment of Naked Girls Reading, this time from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Naked Girls will read from other holiday selections as well, and the website promises spiked hot chocolate and nudity to "warm your chestnuts."
The monthly reading series hosts shows in ten other cities, including Los Angeles, New York and New Orleans, but Chicago is the flagship with readings held at Everleigh Social Club at 939 W. Randolph St. in the West Loop.
Tickets are $20, or two for $35. The reading begins at 7pm and required reservations can be made here. You can also ring in the New Year at Everleigh Social Club with a countdown by Naked Girls Reading. Reservations here.
Join the Columbia College reading series Silver Tongue, tonight, Wednesday December 12, for Bloggers Blogging About Blogging. Head to Columbia College's Conaway center, located at 1104 S. Wabash Ave., to catch Chicago blogging superstars Claire Zulkey, Dmitry Samarov (Hack), and Ben Tanzer (This Blog Will Change Your Life). Each will conduct a short reading followed by a moderated panel hosted by blogger and Columbia Fiction Writing studentWyl Villacres.
There will be door prizes and food--you know, all the things growing bloggers need. Stop by at 7pm for the fun. It is free and open to the public.
The Gumbo Fiction Salon is determined to get one last reading in before the year's end on Wednesday, December 12, at Galway Arms, located at 2442 N. Clark St. Featured readers include Eric Cherry, co-editor of Book of Dead Things, and Columbia College Fiction student Laura Uhl.
Host Tina Jens will kick things off at 7pm, and following featured readers she'll open the stage for an open mic. Interested parties should bring in about ten minutes worth of original work and rock the stage. Admission is $4 and check at the door for student rates.
This Sunday is the Chicago Writers House Book Fair at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave. Brought to you by the Chicago Writers House Project, Curbside Splendor and The Chicagoan, the event features over 20 different local independent publishers. Come have a drink and get some holiday shopping done. Live performances throughout the day TBA. Event runs from 2 to 7pm; $5 cover or free with RSVP.
Why should New York get all the single-girl-in-the-big-city stories? Ask Katie Leimkuehler, Jennifer Yih, Kate Clinesmith and MG Wilson, and they'll tell you Chicago holds its own as a setting for urban dating adventures. The local writers have sought to capture the essence of Windy City romance in the new four-part novel series Shy Town Girls.
"The series evolved from the idea that every girl has these moments...anything from wine nights with friends, to laughing over the ridiculous pick-up lines guys throw our way," said Leimkuehler. "How many times have I heard a girl in the bathroom at the bar having the same conversation with her friends that I just had with mine? My co-authors and I wanted to capture the real essence of what it's like to be young, single, and dating in the city in the digital age."
And with a thriving fashion, food and nightlife scene, Chicago's Gold Coast provided the perfect backdrop for the trials and tribulations of fictional characters Bobbie, Ivy, Meryl, and Ella, four working friends (along with their sage landlady, Barbara) who share more than just a brownstone apartment.
Leimkuehler, founder of the website Conquer the Edge, says she's always wanted to write a novel series, and when the opportunity to collaborate with Wilson, Yih and Clinesmith arose, she embraced it. Though they developed the overarching storyline and an outline for each book together, each author adopted a character and book.
"[Collaboration] has made the process of writing, editing and marketing much easier because we act as a team," said Leimkuehler. "And working with my co-authors often feels more like hanging out with my friends than work--you can't beat that."
The authors funded the books through PubSlush, and the first is now available on Amazon. Enjoy cocktails, hors d'oevres, a raffle, and giveaways among funky fashions at the December 8 book launch party at Akira, 645 W. Diversey Pkwy. at Clark St. from 7-9pm. The event is free. RSVP here.
If you've yet to chart Uncharted Books, Logan Square newest and only used book store, this Friday, December 7 at 7pm is the perfect time to visit as novelist Sarah Terez Rosenblum hosts a reading of local authors exploring the theme of obsession.
Rosenblum will read from Herself When She's Missing (recently reviewed by Curve magazine), a novel Rosenblum describes as "post-modern in form (lists, 3x5 cards, even the occasional screenplay), but classical in theme: a tale of a girl desperate for something like, but not quite love."
Reading Under the Influence has been known to drink a little too much and get involved with various characters. Their latest exploit is local Curbside Splendor Publishing. Being adults about things, the two pair up to celebrate Curbside's newest release, the anthology The Way We Sleep, Wednesday December 5 at Sheffield's 3258 N. Sheffield Avenue.
RUI lives up to their name, offering shots to readers before they perform. This month's readers include contributors from the anthology Megan Stielstra, Jeff Oaks, and RUI host Rob Duffer. Each will read twice, once an original story, the other a piece of previously published work relating to the the month's theme 'in bed'.
But the readers aren't the only ones able to get their drink on. Featured readers host a round of trivia after their readings offering the audience a chance to win free drinks (and books too). Even if you don't win, the bar offers specials on domestics.
The reading begins at 7. There is a $3 cover. Grab a copy of the anthology and some drinks (designated driver not included).
Madame Tracey Devlyn and Madame Adrienne Giordano aren't characters from that Jane Austen novel you always meant to read; they're the hosts of Lady Jane's Salon, a bi-monthly romance fiction reading series that celebrates one of the publishing industry's most popular genres.
Inspired by Lady Jane's Salon New York, Devlyn and Giordano--both of whom are romance novelists--combined their energies to develop a local version of the Salon, which features a gamut of romance writers, from newbie to well-established.
While listening to tales of love and lust you can enjoy a hot chocolate, "choctail", or a dessert likely to involve the word "sinful" from the Le Chocolat du Bouchard menu (the reading is on the second floor of the chocolaterie); but feel no guilt--the suggested $5 donation goes to Celebrate Differences, a non-profit supporting individuals with disabilities. Or you may pay your admission with one gently-used romance novel.
Reading series Two Cookie Minimum closes out 2012 on Tuesday, December 4 at the Hungry Brain, located at 2319 W. Belmont Ave., with a great variety on the line up.
Readers includes Neil Brideau, a comic artist and organizer of CAKE; Lisa Mrock; Piper Pennigan; Jason Fisk, author of Hank and Jules; Elizabeth Tieri, editor-in-chief of Back to Print Publishing; and the former editor of Gaper's Block Book Club, Rosamund Lannin.
The event is hosted by Johnny Misfit (me). Keeping with their moniker, there will be festive holiday cookies (maybe not exactly like the ones in the flyer, illustrated by Jaclyn Miller). Be sure to show up by the 9pm start to grab some treats.
This Friday at 7pm is the Third Annual Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington St. This year's inductees include Jane Addams, Sherwood Anderson, James T. Farrell, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes and Carolyn Rodgers. This year's event is free and open to the public (though ticket reservations recommended).
Tomorrow night is the debut of I Sh!t You Not! at Township, 2200 N. California Ave. Hosted by Chicago comedy scenesters Monte LaMonte and Michael Sanchez, ISYN! is an evening of grody gross-out stories "not for the faint of fart." Featured readers are Hannah Green, Joe McAdam, Valentine Soposky, CJ Toledano, Stephanie Douglass, Jesse Baltes, Donna Simon, and Xavier Retana. Audience members can also participate for a chance to win prizes. $5 cover, reading startst at 8pm.
Renowned Irish author James Joyce's short story, (40 pages hardly constitutes short) The Dead, is currently being performed through December 9 at the Court Theater, located at 5535 S. Ellis Ave. This translation from page to stage comes to life through Irish folk songs and dance. Could this be a new holiday classic? Find out before the production ends.
This Saturday is the book release party for The Hipsters at Club Foot, 1824 W. Augusta Blvd. The author, former Chicagoan Tim McAtee, based the book on his experiences arriving in New York after the dot com boom and his behind the scenes experiences at an MTV reality show. The Hipsters was brought to the world via hipster/Generation Y midwifery (i.e., it's a Kickstarter success story) and McAtee tells the Chicago Reader he'll buy a PBR for anyone buying a copy of the book. Reading starts at 8pm.
When writer/performer Christopher Piatt first conceived of the "live magazine" phenomenon known as The Paper Machete, he envisioned it hosted at the Green Mill, where the nightly jazz, the twinkling green lights, and the ghosts of gangsters past linger in every smoky corner. And beginning Saturday, December 1--after three rigorous years hosting and producing The Paper Machete at various Lincoln Square bars--Piatt's vision is realized as he takes his weekly "salon in a saloon" to the Green Mill with headliner Katie Rich of the Second City mainstage.
"I'm beside myself," said Piatt. "But I have a lot of work ahead of me."
Not that he doesn't already have a lot of work behind him. Piatt's been hosting and producing The Paper Machete, an aptly-described "part spoken-word show, part vaudeville revue" for nearly three years. It's a project he dove into full throttle after leaving his post at TimeOut Chicago, where he worked as a theatre critic and editor for five years. Upon leaving TimeOut, Piatt felt destined to put on a show of his own, but he found himself irrevocably "hard-wired" to the pace of a weekly magazine.
This Saturday, Quimby's presents All The Writers I Know, a queer reading co-produced by Mar Curran and Patrick Gill. The theme for the night is "Things Already Said" and features H. Melt, Ali Scott and Jayson Brooks (three other performers TBA). Quimby's, 1854 W. North Ave., Saturday, November 17 at 7pm.
This Saturday is Bookamania at the Harold Washington Library. The annual children's literature festival that kicks off the holiday season will feature characters including Olivia the pig and the Very Hungry Caterpillar, authors and illustrators including Tad Hills and live storytelling. Local institution The Puppet Bike will be stationed at the State Street entrance. Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State Street, Saturday, November 17, 11am-3pm.
The organizers of the Chicago Zine Fest, which celebrates independent publishers and small presses, are holding an open meeting this weekend on Saturday, November 17. They welcome community feedback and comments in the planning of the festival, which will return for its fourth year on March 8 and 9, 2013. You can also stop by to find out general information about the zine fest and how to get involved.
The free workshop will be presented as a Third Coast Listening Room, which is a lot like going to see a series of short indie films, only it's audio; or, as Third Coast puts it, "like a book club for radio." After the audio clips the NWA will provide creative writing prompts as participants explore the theme "body wisdom."
The workshop runs from 6-8pm. Though the event is free, seats are limited and reservations are required. RSVP to Rachel Hudak of NWA at (773) 684-2742 or email@example.com.
The Logan Center for the Arts is located at 915 E. 60th St.
When you read a story, you want to know the author has some authority over the subject matter. If it's set in Chicago, you better believe the author has to know the town, because any Chicagoan can detect an impostor.
Chicago author Scott Jacobs doesn't have to worry about that in his new book Never Leave Your Block: Adventures in Urban Living, released by Dead Tree Press earlier this fall. His resume marks him as a true Chicagoan; he is known for his Chicago centric work as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, the filmmaker behind Royko at the Goat, which centers around a conversation with journalist Mike Royko at the Billy Boat Tavern--how Chicago is that?--and as editor of online magazine The Week Behind.
Never Leave Your Block is set in Bucktown, and includes 33 stories that explore the gentrification of the neighborhood and surrounding area. The stories are supplemented by Jacobs' experiences of being a neighborhood resident.
Confirming that he truly cannot leave the block, Jacob will read on Thursday, November 15, just around the corner from Bucktown in Wicker Park at the loveable independent bookstore Quimby's, located at 1854 W. North Ave. at 7pm.
This year marks the Studs Terkel centennial, and as part of a series of celebratory events, historical re-enactors from Pocket Guide to Hell are performing an episode of Terkel's TV Show, Studs' Place.
This particular episode will take place in 2012, although actors will evoke characters of Terkel's era with situations that are period appropriate to the original series. The show is set to take place at the Hideout, located at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., this Sunday, November 11, with WEBZ's Alison Cuddy and Bill Savage hanging out as special guests.
Studs' Place, which aired in the 50s, is one of the first TV shows produced in Chicago, and was improvised based on a single sheet of plot. Typical of Pocket Guide to Hell's dedication to historical accuracy, you'll be able to catch the show live on screen for the authentic experience in the back room, while the stage performance goes on in front.
This Saturday is the release party for Blab World #2 at the Save More Lounge. A wild and woolly comics anthology, Blab World is "like The New Yorker for mutants" according to the the Los Angeles Reader. Though the issues of their current incarnation can be counted on one hand, the Blab World has been orbiting ours on and off since 1986, published as BLAB! magazine by Kitchen Sink Press from 1988 to 1995 and Fantagraphics from 1997 to 2007. Edited by award-winning local art director and graphic designer Monte Beauchamp, Blab's past and present contributors include Chris Ware, Tony Fitzpatrick, and Shag. Pick up a copy, mingle with contributors and sway to the sounds of Crazee Heart. Save More Lounge, 4060 N. Lincoln Ave., Saturday, November 10 at 8pm.
With the election behind us and the beginning of a new presidential term just ahead, now's a great time to get a little more educated about foreign policy. And lucky for you, there's a chance to do just that on Tuesday, November 13 as the Society of Midland Authors welcomes independent foreign policy scholar Gregory Harms to Cliff Dwellers Club for a free reading.
A Joliet resident and author of three books about U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East, Harms will read from his latest book, It's Not About Religion, published by Viggo Mortenson's (yes, that Viggo Mortenson's) Perceval Press. In little more than 100 pages, the book seeks to answer how much religion plays a role in the media's portrayal of the Middle East.
Harms will speak at 7pm, but a social hour with complimentary snacks and a cash bar begins at 6pm, and reservations are not required. Admission is free but donations are welcome.
The Cliff Dwellers Club is located at 200 S. Michigan Ave., 22nd floor.
The long-running live literary event, The Encyclopedia Show is back this Thursday, November 8, with a theme followers have been clamoring for: Cults. The show has an out-of-this-world line up including illustrator Berto Saldana, poet Fatimah Ashgar, musician Roy Ivy, sketch comedian Tim Baltz, Oakland, California poet Jamie DeWolf, performer in BoyGirlBoyGirl Rachel Claff, and Kansas City poet Robert Brown.
Leading the masses to drink the kool-aid and take the spaceship with them are hosts Robbie Q. Telfer and Shannay Jean Maney.
Wear your black Nikes and join them at the Vittum Theater 1012 N. Noble St., at 7:30pm. Tickets are $9, $6 for students.
The novel explores what happens to the Middlestein family after matriarch Edie is abandoned by her husband because she's become overweight and completely obsessed with food. Attenberg, who's written explicitly about her own "history of being fat," has covered topics like sex, technology and graphic novels for magazines like Salon and The Awl, and is a former zinester with three novels under her belt: The Melting Season, The Kept Man and Instant Love.
Tomorrow Wednesday November 7, Reading Under the Influence partners with reading series 2nd Story for a mix of performances, readings, and trivia. Promoting the release of 2nd Story's new print anthology Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck readers will include anthology contributors Julie Ganey and Matt Miller. Rounding out the lineup will be Adam McOmber, author of The White Forest, along with Chris Terry.
This "The Hunt" themed edition of RUI showcases readings of original work, plus previously published work based on the night's theme, followed by trivia. Each reader takes a shot before reading to make things a bit more interesting.
Drop into Sheffield's 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.
at 7pm, $3.
This month the reading seriesTwo Cookie Minimum, lands on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6. In the spirit, it is offering something different from its usual reading and cookies schtick.
The night will begin with featured readers Stuart Ross, Patrick Andrews, and Hillary Stone. Simultaneously, there will be a live writing exercise with readers Mason Johnson (co-host of Karaoke Idol) and Matt Rowen (editor of Untoward magazine). Both will be writing on the spot according to an audience-supplied theme. After a brief intermission these two will share the results with the audience, which will vote for the better piece. The winner will receive a prize of immense proportions.
Cast your vote for Two Cookie Minimum, hosted by Johnny Misfit at the Hungry Brain
2319 West Belmont Ave., 9pm.
Tomorrow night is Found magazine's 10th anniversary show at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Founded by brothers Davy and Peter Rothbart, they have much to celebrate, including Davy's fourth book My Heart is an Idiot. Dave Eggers says, "Davy Rothbart has the humor and purity of heart you want and need in an observer of contemporary American life. Without guile and with a belief in small towns, underdogs, love at first sight, the pull of the road, and the soulfulness of strangers, Rothbart is a kind of new-styled Bill Moyers -- genuine, wide-eyed, and hopeful." Jim Carroll (yes, that one, obviously referring to an earlier work) says, "Davy's my kind of storyteller -- honest, hilarious, deeply feeling, and slightly cracked. This is the fresh voice we've been looking for."
They're also celebrating Peter's new album, You Are What You Dream, and the new issue of Found magazine, the voyeuristic celebration of found notes and photos. "I've been publishing people's most private thoughts in Found magazine for the last 10 years," Davy told the New York Times, "so I feel like it's only fair to put myself on the line." Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Friday, Nov. 2 at 8pm. $10.
Longtime reading series 2nd Story will be seeing some of their great live performances end up in their first print anthology, Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck. The book presents 23 selected essays culled from ten years of archived performances. To celebrate, they are hosting a book release this Friday, November 2, featuring performances from the anthology. Storytellers will include Eric May, Deb Lewis and Molly Each with music by Seeking Wonderland.
Get your book at the event as many of the authors found in the anthology will be on hand to sign copies. The event is at Underground Wonder Bar, 710 N. Clark St., at 7pm.
Author Kat Meads will read from her recently-released historical novel For You, Madam Lenin, this Thursday, November 1st at 7:30pm at Women & Children First Bookstore. The novel presents the Russian Revolution through the eyes of Nadezhda Krupskaya, the Jewish Bolshevik revolutionary and politician who married Vladimir Lenin. In the novel, Krupskaya's sharp mother is wholly unimpressed by her communist revolutionary son-in-law.
If you can't make the Thursday reading, Meads will also present at the UIC Friday Reading Series at Powell's Bookstore on Friday, November 2nd at 6pm.
Women & Children First is at 5233 N. Clark St., and Powell's is at 1218 S. Halsted St.
Tomorrow join The Chicago Way reading series for the release of local author Jamie Freveletti'sDead Asleep. Freveletti, trial attorney by day and author of thriller novels by night, will read from and sign her new book, and will be interviewed onstage by The Chicago Tribune's social media manager, Amy Guth. The Chicago Way loves to open the floor to the audience to ask questions of their guests, so stick around for an opportunity to do so.
Stop by the Hidden Shamrock, 2723 N. Halsted St., at 6pm to celebrate this event.
Two Cookie Minimum, the zinester-friendly reading series, is set to hold a special Dead Zine themed holiday edition on Monday, Oct. 29. The night welcomes zinesters to resurrect their oldest or out of print issues. Readers and dead zines include Lynne Monsoon (Shit I didn't Tell You), Aaron Cynic (Diatribe), and Mairead Case (Fabulous Color, and Ben Spies/No More Coffee).
Touring self-publishers and members of Pittsburgh's Cyberpunk Apocalypse, an anti-MFA independent writing project Nate McDonough and Daniel McCloskey will close out the night with readings from Don't Come Back and A Film About Billy respectively.
Two Cookie Minimum is hosted by Johnny Misfit at Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., at 9pm. Donations accepted for touring readers. As usual, there will be cookies, this time celebrating Halloween.
This Saturday, Janet Groth reads from The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorker at Women and Children First. Kirkus Reviews calls it "a nostalgic, wistful look at life inside one of America's most storied magazines, and the personal and professional limbo of the woman who answered the phone...This bookish girl from flyover country who became a Mad Men-era hottie, and who found she had to leave this cozy nest in order to save herself, is very much an interesting character in her own right. For readers who can't get enough New Yorker lore, an amiable view from the inside." Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Saturday, October 27 at 6pm.
Earlier this year we reported that the 2nd annual Chicago Book Expo was scheduled for December 2. The Chicago Writer's House who organizes the event announced that the expo will be postponed, but not canceled. To generate more community involvement in organizing the event, they have scheduled an open meeting the week of November 12. If you are an interested party then this might be right for you.
In the interim, the Chicago Writers House will team up with publishers Curbside Splendor and The Chicagoan to host a mini version of the expo Sunday, December 9, at The Empty Bottle 1035 N. Western Ave. It will include twenty local presses with work for sale. This event comes at a great time to get some holiday shopping done.
Write Club is back with its 29th chapter. If you are new to this reading series, it's helpful to know the ground rules before you show up; rule number one is that contestants face off writing on two opposing themes; rule number two says the competition goes down in three seven-minute bouts; and rule number three about Write Club is that audience votes on the winner. All proceeds go to charities of winner's choosing, but they keep the names of those charities to themselves to keep voting impartial. Makes sense.
Making the bouts extra fun, all readers are actual couples! Contestants and themes include: Bob Stockfish/Together vs. Diana Slickman/Apart. Emmy Bean/Finance vs. Ira Murfin/Romance. And Ryan Walters/Rent vs. Dina Walters/Own.
In keeping with the couples theme, this edition brings on its first ever guest host, Bob "The Underlord" Stockfish, joining resident ringleader Ian Belknap.
The words start flying Tuesday, October 23 beginning at 7pm, at the Hideout located at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. $10 at the door; 21+.
This Saturday is the 8th annual Drinking and Writing Festival (this year's theme: The Beats), hosted by Neo-FuturistsSteve Mosqueda and Sean Benjamin, hosts of the Drinking and Writing Brewery Radio Show (Sundays at 6pm on WLUW). This year's festival features performers from 16th Street Theater presenting pieces written by Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima, Gary Snyder, John Chellon Holmes, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Bill Savage from Northwestern University will talk about The Beat Generation. There will also be writing awards for participants and a special beer created for the event called Naked Lunch (a collaboration made by local breweries Haymarket, Goose Island, Revolution, Half Acre, Rockbottom, Dry Hop and more). Haymarket Pub and Brewery, 737 W. Randolph St., Saturday, October 20, noon to 6pm. Tickets are $30 and include admission to all events and an opportunity to sample all the beers.
Tomorrow night, Richard Courage reads from The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932-1950 at 57th Street Books. The International Review of African American Art says "Finally setting the record straight, the book brings to the forefront the cultural awakening of black consciousness exploding in the Midwest during the first half of the 20th-century. [Co-author Robert] Bone and Courage masterfully blend the history of Chicago's South Side as the incubator of cultural expression and the black aesthetic in page-turning prose. The Muse in Bronzeville is a much-needed contribution." 57th Street Books, 5757 S. University Ave., Friday, October 19 at 6pm.
Curious George may have his own movie and TV series these days, but we know he's still the same old inquisitive primate from such mid-century classics as Curious George Rides a Bike and Curious George Flies a Kite.
In honor of the binocular-wielding monkey, and in celebration of reading and readers of all ages, Open Books is hosting Curious George Day this Saturday, October 20, from 10am-1pm.
The free event includes coloring, face painting, storytelling , a cake, and discounted children's books from Open Books' book store. Special guests Wishcraft Workshop (10 am), Emerald City Theatre (11 am) and Marsha's Music (12 pm) will host craft, drama, music and movement activities. And, especially since it's so close to Halloween, costumes are definitely encouraged.
According to Open Books' Marketing Manager Erica Hawkinson, Curious George is the perfect centerpiece for an event meant to nurture a love of reading shared between children and parents.
"Both parents and kids can identify with a character who has such a strong history with books," Hawkinson said. "Plus, he has a big following and appeals to girls and boys."
Hawkinson pointed out that parents can also find more literacy-oriented resources at the event, including tips about how to raise kids who love to read, and how to choose good books for kids and infants.
"Open Books wants to be that no-fail resource for parents," Hawkinson said.
Open Books is located at 213 W. Institute Pl. For more information visit open-books.org.
The monthly get-together that is Karaoke Idol is back Thursday, October 18 with more off key singing to encourage and organizations to benefit. The event helps raise funds for Chicago not-for-profits and culturally minded organizations whose representatives battle on the mic for proceeds collected at the door. Last month's winner Girls Rock! Chicago is back to defend its reigning title against Chicago Zine Fest, One Tail at a Time, Young Chicago Authors, Reversible Eye and Graze.
Judges include social media manager at the Chicago Tribune Amy Guth, Another Chicago Magazine editor Jacob Knabb and ex-P Fanatics series host Mason Johnson. The audience acts as the fourth judge, weighing in by cheering for their favorite performer.
Sunday marks the beginning of this season's Chicago Humanities Festival programming with Northwestern Day to be held on the university's Evanston campus. We've already alerted you to the fact that hot deals are to be had courtesy of the Fest, but there's also quite a rich selection of literary programming to choose from beyond the neatly packaged Short List:
Charles C. Mann, of The Atlantic, Science, and Wired, will discuss his books 1491, which delivers a look at the pre-Columbian Americas, and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, in a lecture titled, 1492: Before and After. Mann will examine the societal and ecological effects of that seminal year, a fitting introduction considering this season's theme is America.
Writer on shows Alias, Lost, and Fringe , Jeff Pinker, will speak to the rise of multinarrative storytelling in his lecture Transforming American TV: Alias and the Serial Drama, sponsored by Northwestern's MFA program in Writing for Screen and Stage. Not quite literary, sure, but the discussion will explore the way writing has shifted America's expectations for the undeniably iconic small screen.
For those interested in the playwright's process, a discussion with writer Matthew Lopez about his show The Whipping Man , to debut in 2013, is not to be missed. The play deals with conflicts unique to Jewish slave owners in 19th-century America, and the infrequently examined mix of cultural and social clashes that come out of this dichotomy.
The Daily Show's "resident expert" John Hodgeman will discuss the final installment of his trilogy, aptly titled, Complete World Knowledge trilogy, That is All. The essential text includes directions for making wine while on the toilet, as well as a day-by-day account of life in America in 2012 under Commander and Chief Morgan Freeman.
Tickets are still available to these programs for as little as $5, and are free to teachers and students. Visit the Chicago Humanities Festival ticket page for more details.
As you may already know, the selection for the Chicago Public Library's One Book, One Chicago program this fall centers on Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. The novel tells the story of a young foster girl who steals and reads books aloud to her neighbors during bomb raids in World War II Germany. With its serious subject matter the book asks many questions of its readers, including: How do we respond to war time injustice?
The Chicago Public Library presents two free events relating to the book, both taking place in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.:
On Tuesday, October 16 at 6pm, WBEZ's Worldview host Jerome McDonnell will talk with humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina, who will speak from personal experience on some of the themes explored in The Book Thief. The film Hotel Rwanda, nominated for three Academy Awards in 2004, documents Rusebagina's struggle to shelter Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
On Monday, October 22 at 6pm, The Book Thief author Markus Zusak will join Chicago Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice for a conversation about the book and his reaction to its success.
The Chicago Public Library Foundation is hosting its annual Carl Sandburg Literary Awards dinner this Wednesday, October 17. Chosen for their significant contributions to the written word and international stature, this year's co-winners are Don DeLillo (Underworld, his new short story collection The Angel Esmeralda, among others) and Walter Isaacson (best known for his recent Steve Jobs biography). Also being honored is Nami Mun (Miles from Nowhere), winner of the 21st Century Award, which honors an emerging local literary talent. In addition, over 70 prominent local authors will be in attendance, dining alongside guests, including Scott Turow, Sarah Paretsky, Irvine Welsh and Check Please! host Alpana Singh. Prior 21st Century Award winners are also always welcomed back as guests. CBS Chicago anchorman Bill Kurtis is the master of ceremonies and NPR's Scott Simon will moderate an after-dinner discussion with DeLillo and Isaacson.
Navigating the sea of Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) programming is no mean feat. It's a testament to the organization's appeal that the selection is as enormous and diverse as it is, but it can be an afternoon's work to plan your personal Fest schedule. With that in mind, CHF created the Short List; this selection of five includes programs from across disciplines and is geared toward getting young professionals to gather in one spot over cocktails and culture. Like so much of CHF, most of the speakers on the list are prolific writers in their respective fields.
Also on the lineup, University of Chicago alum and FiveThirtyEight columnist on baseball and political stats, Nate Silver, will speak to his new book The Signal and the Noise. Silver discusses the problems built into the nature of predication through anecdotes with statistical analysis interspersed.
The sooner you sign up and get your ticket to all five programs (for a reasonable 25 bucks), the more likely you are to get a ticket to the sold-out program with Alinea chef Grant Achatz and the MCA's Madeleine Grynsztejn.
The package includes a cocktail reception with Hornswaggler Arts on November 2. There are only 50 of these special tickets, so don't delay!
This Thursday, the Book Cellar welcomes D. T. Max, reading from Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, a biography of the late David Foster Wallace. Arguably the most influential writer of his generation (who else could get away with a 10 page, footnote-heavy, anti-lobster consuming write-up on a lobster festival for Gourmet magazine?), Wallace's 2008 suicide at the age of 46 devastated his fans. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times says Every Love Story "powerfully [provides] an emotionally detailed portrait of the artist as a young man." Mark O'Connell of Slate.com says "I'm having trouble remembering when I was last so consumed by any piece of writing, fiction or non... For anyone who felt a profound emotional connection to Wallace and his work, there's a strenuously cathartic dimension to this: the experience of knowing him more fully, and of thereby feeling more completely the force and finality of his absence." The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave., Thursday, October 11 at 7pm.
The Chicago Public Library welcomes esteemed writer Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) this Wednesday, October 10. Lehane will discuss his newest novel Live by Night with a book signing to follow. The reading is open to the public, but seating is limited and wil likely go quick. Catch Lehane at 6pm in the Harold Washington Library Center's Winter Garden located at 400 S. State St.
Celebrate Poetry magazine's 100th birthday with Poetry on Stage: Harriet Monroe & the Modernists. The humble beginnings of a local legend will be fleshed out by local actors reading from a script prepared by Second City Theater co-founder Bernard Sahlins. It all started with written correspondence between Poetry magazine founder Harriet Monroe and then-unknown writers Ezra Pound, Edna St. Vincent Millay, T.S. Eliot, Carl Sandburg, and countless others. The evening promises "romance, rivalries, supersized egos, financial difficulties, and sublime kindness, along with some of the greatest hits from the magazine's pages." Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior Street; Sunday, October 7 at 3pm (this performance is sold out; a limited number of standby tickets may be available) and Monday, October 8 at 7pm.
All throughout the week, City Lit Theater will be performing their annual Books on the Chopping Block performance series featuring 60 minute dramatic readings from the previous year's most banned or challenged books (including The Hunger Games trilogy). All performances are free and held at various Chicago Public Library branches (plus one stop in Evanston). Click here for a list of the reading selections and the times and locations of performance.
Also, tonight and Friday, Browne Parker Literary Press will host readings of banned books, including Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Browne Parker Literary Press, 316 W. 103rd St., Monday, October 1 and Friday, October 5; times not listed, click here or call (312) 388-1650 for more information.
Poetry turned 100 this year, so of course the Poetry Foundation is at the center of celebratory efforts. Poetry Magazine editors, Christian Wiman and Don Share, have assembled an anthology, The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of Poetry Magazine, to showcase all the best of the past century. In an effort to create a new kind of collection, they waded through the archives looking for the most powerful and dynamic voices that "echo across a century of poetry."
A celebration in honor of both the wonderful medium of POETRY and of the anthology will feature special guests, including anthology contributor and Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich and Museum of Contemporary Art curator Naomi Beckwith. Thursday, October 4 from 7-10pm at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St. RSVP at (312) 787-7070 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The People of Color Zine Project presents the month long Race Riot! Tour, which stops in Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 30. The project aims to showcase zines by people of color, making materials easy to find, distribute and share. This inaugural tour will include discussions and multimedia presentations for audiences all over the country.
The POC Zine project was founded in 2010 by Daniela Capistrano, a producer at Current TV, whose work will be featured on tour. The lineup also includes zinester Osa Atoe, associate professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Mimi Thi Nguyen, musician Anna Vo, punk rock based Cuban-American illustrator and writerCristy C. Road and content coordinator at Maximum Rock and Roll magazine, Mariam Bastani. The night will be rounded out with music by Breathing Light and Dj Masisi.
The tour hits town at 7pm at Multikulti, 1000 N. Milwaukee Ave. The event is all ages, donations welcome.
Legs McNeil, self proclaimed creator of the term "punk" to describe the genre of music, will be appearing at Late Bar in Avondale on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to read from his oral history of Punk, Please Kill Me (1997). He'll also read a surprise portion of his new book, the details of which -- allusive even on the Internet -- he'll be unveiling at the event.
McNeil, co-founder of Punk Magazine and the former editor of Spin, is coming through town in a largely unpublicized (apparently he doesn't have a publicist) tour of his new book.
Chicago isn't often discussed as being a punk epicenter; the more obvious locales like London and New York City get most of the credit. But as the 2008 documentary You Weren't There: A History of Chicago Punk, 1977-1984 would have us believe, our city's ties to the genre are noteworthy.
Zine reading series Copy Code returns Monday, October 1, with the theme Firsts. Zinesters Chris Terry (Gullible zine), Heather from Stranger Danger Zine Distro (Dig Deep zine), Lynne Monsoon (Butch Nor Femme zine), and Nichole Baiel (Pieces zine) will read about their first publications, first time attending a zine fest, or the first time they sold a zine.
The event is curated and hosted by the writer of Your Secretary zine, Jami Sailor. Audience participation is encouraged, so bring your questions and share your own firsts. Show up to Copy Code at Uncharted Books, 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave., at 7pm.
This Thursday, Open Books celebrates J. K. Rowling's new for-adults book The Casual Vacancy with a Harry Potter costume contest (grand prize is two tickets to Potted Potter), live music by Tonks and the Aurors, readings by Rachel Bertsche, Michael Beckett and Sheila Johnson, a visit by the Samich Box and 20% discounts on used books and pre-orders of The Casual Vacancy. Open Books, 213 W. Institute Place, Thursday, September 27 at 8pm.
This Thursday is the latest installement of Light of the Male, Dark of the Female: Women Writing About Horrible Things at Uncharted Books. Host Meghan Lamb welcomes readers Halle Butler, Heather Cox, Samantha Irby, Robyn Pennachia, and Heather Marie Vernon. Drinks provided. Uncharted Books, 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave., Thursday, September 27 at 7pm.
Chicago is a city of creatives and literary types; I think that's pretty clear. And one of the things that makes its arts community particularly remarkable is its relative inclusivity compared with other big cities in the country. But it's also a massively segregated city that doesn't often make the voices of the poor readily available to the rest of the population.
The Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) runs writing workshops for low income adults to help combat the problem, and publishes The Journal of Ordinary Thought, which compiles lots of the writing they see. Lest you doubt that writing is getting out there for the public, they've distributed more than 163,000 copies of 83 issues so far.
Monday night, September 17, at the Park West, 10 storytellers competed for a chance to be named the GrandSLAM Champion of storytelling by the Moth. The Moth is a New York based non-profit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling. The Moth currently has 10 cities participating in Story Slams across the country and expanded to Chicago three years ago to host two different monthly Story Slams at Haymarket and Martyrs' each month.
The GrandSLAM gathers the winners of each of those monthly competitions to compete to become the ultimate Champion. The 10 participants were challenged to tell a story themed around "Fall From Grace" in five minutes or less, with no paper or reading, just the teller and a microphone. Some of the stories the audience heard were from a former monk who quit the monastery, a young religious girl who lost her devout mother and rediscovered herself, a young husband whose wife came out to him as bisexual, and an atheist opening up the secular world to his Mormon girlfriend. Brian Babylon, a radio host at Vocalo, served as host of the event.
There were three teams of judges to rank between 1 and 10 comprised of at least two to four people who have been to a slam before, or have participated as a storyteller. This year, Dana Norris, host of Story Club Chicago was one of the people selected to serve on a judging team.
"The stories were heartfelt and often dealt with the most difficult moments in the tellers' lives," Norris said. "The audience was eager for the stories and I based my judging as much on the audience reaction as my personal opinion. Judging was difficult, especially when we had to knock off points for going over time. The experience overall was great and I learned a lot effective storytelling by being on the judging panel."
Alvin Lau was named the Grand Champion. As Grand Champion, he will be invited to attend the Moth Ball, a ball hosted for the champions across the country in New York.
Out of all the storytelling events throughout the city, The Moth tends to be geared to popular audiences, marketed similarly as a comedy show. Tickets for the event were sold out at $26 a pop and the venue was standing room only. While the stories were heartfelt and personal, and tellers possessed talent, they seemed over-rehearsed and lacked the genuine aspects of the art of storytelling that smaller scale events tend to showcase. The venue and content were shiny and at times overdone. The event ran 3 hours for only 50 minutes of actual stories. The GrandSLAM seemed concentrated on the theatrical, comedic aspects of the evening, and items like VIP seating and fancy cocktails, rather than the stories themselves.
The Moth is a huge non-profit entity compared to the local, grassroots shows and artists who produce and create locally. The Moth may have a broader audience, but if you're looking for a genuine storytelling experience, I would recommend attending one the many events located all over the city in different neighborhood venues throughout the month. Overall, I enjoyed the evening and the stories.
Chicago press Curbside Splendor is releasing a new book, May We Shed These Human Bodies, by Washington, DC based author Amber Sparks. Although she is an East Coaster, the release is taking place here in Curbside's home town on Saturday, Sept. 22 with way too many great writers showing up in support.
Readers joining Sparks will include Chris Bower, Franki Elliot (Piano Rats) , Lindsay Hunter (Daddy's), James Tadd Adcox, Jac Jemc (My Only Wife), Tim Jones-Yelvington, Ben Tanzer (Lucky Man), Heather Marie Vernon and Daniella Olszewska.
Copies will be available at the event before the book's official October release. And if you buy a book the day of for $10, you get a complimentary shot of Maker's Mark.
The release happens at Cole's Bar in Logan Square, located at 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave., at 7pm.
DePaul University's English Department is sponsoring a Visiting Writer's Series this fall. The first installment, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20, will focus on area writers and is aptly titled "Local Authors: Chicago's Own." There will be readings by Nami Mun, Aaron Baker and Eugene Cross. The event will be in DePaul's Richardson Library, located at 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., Room 115, at 6pm. It is free and open to the public.
This Saturday the Book Cellar presents Carmen Bugan reading from her memoir Burying The Typewriter. The book centers around her childhood in Romania and her relationship to her dissident father imprisoned under the Ceauşescu regime. The winner of the Bakeless Prize, judge Lynn Freed says "Bugan delivers neither a memoir of blame nor a hagiography. What she has drawn, within the story of her own childhood, is a complex portrait of an exasperating father, a man who happens to be a hero in the eyes of Amnesty International and the Western world, a hero in the service of a just cause. ...while he may be the driving force behind her story...it is her world that is revealed here, a world she was forced to leave behind and that she looks back on now with sorrow, pride, longing and rage." The book's title is derived from her father's need to hide his political pamphleteering, which often included literally burying and re-burying his typewriter. The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., Saturday, September 15 at 7pm.
This Friday the Poetry Foundation hosts poet Joanne Kyger. A central influence on the Beats and New York School and language poets, she has authored 20 books of poetry and prose (you can read a smattering of her poetry here and here). Kyger is the recipient of the 2008 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award for Poetry and occasionally teaches at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute. The Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St., Friday, September 14 at 6:30pm.
The Bad Grammar Theater reading series is fusing Chicago's visual art and literary scene on the second Friday of every month. Hosted by author Brendan Dentzer, the series is part of the Chicago Arts District 2nd Friday in Pilsen, which features gallery openings and artists' studio events around 18th and Halsted streets.
"I first found out about second Fridays when I came by to check out a show at Rooms Gallery, and was immediately impressed by the whole scene," says Dentzer. "I've been running the event for a little over a year now and enjoying it enormously. I thought 2nd Friday would be a good venue for a new series."
Readings begin at 6pm this Friday, Sept. 14, and occur every half hour. Be part of the night and stop by 1743 S. Halsted St. to check out this unique lit series.
The Corpse Performance Space, the physical realm of Green Lantern Press, is set to host a celebration of the 100th birthday of composer John Cage on Saturday, September 8. Attendees will have the rare opportunity to "listen to the sounds and be people, centered within ourselves where we actually are," as Cage himself once described it.
The collaboration between the late artist and the contemporary Corpse Space has come together fittingly to showcase some of the experimental stuff of Chicago's artistic community. Entertainment will range from a remote performance art piece "Imaginary Thoughts of a Dedicatory Nature: A Mycological Consideration from the Woods to Chicago" by creators, Elizabeth Metzger Sampson and Eric VanDemark, followed by I Ching readings by oral historian, writer, and frequent customer of the U.S. Postal Service, Meghan McGrath.
"Our invitation says, 'we will listen to sounds and be people,'"McGrath said. "This stuff (Cage's work) is really all about being a human--particularly about being a creative human. It's relevant because artists and creators in any medium can benefit from being surprised. We're probably too structured for this to be a legitimate 'happening,' but it should be a really fun and playful event."
The rest of the performers, Ira S. Murfin, Emmy Bean, Devin King, Jessica Speer, and Peter Speer, who will be reading work, or lecturing on John Cage, boast multimedia expertise, enjoying theatrical, literary, and sometimes musical lives, too. As with any successful birthday celebration Cupcakes and other appropriate treats will be available for the taking.
Check out the show on Saturday, September 8 from 3-5pm at the Corpse Performance Space at 1511 N. Milwaukee Ave. on the second floor.
(Photo Credit to Datakid Musicman via Creative Commons.)
This Wednesday September 5, celebrate school being back in session atReading Under the Influence. This month's theme is one that most teachers would scoff at, Truant. See how guests interpret this theme with published readings and trivia. Then settle in for some of their own work. Readers include Newcity fiction editor Naomi Huffman, Danny Laloggia, co-host of the Chicago Way reading series Mary Beth Hoerner, Jill Winski, and JD Adamski.
RUI is at Sheffield's 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.beginning at 7p, $3.
A new female centric reading series Dark of the Male, Light of the Female: Women Writing About Horrible Things hits the lit scene with its first event this Thursday August 30.
The first installment has some impressive names on the bill includingJac Jemc (My Own Wife), Hillary Stone, Amanda Marbais, and Cassandra Troyan. Drop into Logan Square's Uncharted Books 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave. at 7pm. The series will continue on the last Thursday of each month.
Monte LaMonte and Jill Howe are both avid storytellers who you can catch at most of Chicago's storytelling events sharing stories or taking photos. Through their love for stories and photography, LaMonte and Howe became fast friends and found a connection for storytelling in unexpected locations.
Howe and LaMonte are kicking off a new type of storytelling event, just in time for fall, titled Kindling Tales, debuting Wednesday, August 29 at 7:30pm. You'll find the group in Evanston, outside 2603 Sheridan Rd. encircling a bonfire.
Most literary readings and storytelling events take place in bars but this, Howe explained, is about a new and creative space:
I had a birthday party at my apartment earlier this year, and asked my friends to bring stories instead of gifts. It was such a special night, and those stories are gifts I will never forget. That evening got me thinking about how environment and occasion can really enhance stories, but it wasn't until I heard Monte's idea for a campfire setting that the idea of producing it came up. We began with a simple shared passion for bringing people together in a great outdoor space. There's something you get in nature that you can't find anyplace else.
The space, Howe explained, is a throwback to the roots of campfire and primitive storytelling. She envisions the event more as "sharing" rather than a "show". And of course, the opportunity to roast some marshmallows by the fire adds to any experience.
The storytelling lineup includes veterans looking for a new venue, as well as new storytellers who will get the opportunity to share their tales campfire style.
Lily Be is looking forward to the evening. "My story is not for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs," said Be, who will close out the night.
Come check out Kindling Tales, eat some s'mores, and enjoy some outdoor stories, Wednesday at 7:30pm at 2603 Sheridan Rd. in Evanston by the fire pit.
Next Friday, Sept. 7, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame celebrates the induction of Native Son author Richard Wright. On hand will be musical performances by Artemas and Louis Wright (the author's cousins), readings by Melvin Smith, playwright and actress Nambi E. Kelley, Paul Durica, sculptor Margot McMahon (creator of the award sculptures), Zarinah Ali from Realize Theatre Group and University of Chicago scholar Kenneth Warren. Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., Friday, September 7. Doors open at 5:30pm, performances begin at 7pm. $40 includes appetizers and performances; donations to the event are tax deductible. Click here for tickets.
This Thursday Chicago literary publication Criminal Class Press (CCP) is holding a fundraiser aptly titled, "Punks Promoting Literature." Not bad, considering the press is known for publishing punks and is run by one--the Editor-in-chief Kevin Whiteley. Money raised at the event will support the California-based Yardtime Literacy Project, run by writers/brothers Keith and Kent Zimmerman. Its initial success came from providing writing programs for inmates in San Quinton Prison's H-Unit. Now, Yardtime is looking to expand to juvenile detention centers, which is where the fundraiser comes in. The Zimmermans worked with CCP this past year as guest editors to the Prison issue (featuring work by inmates from their prison writing programs). "What the Zimmermans are doing enables their students to have a creative outlet," said CCP's Junior Public Relations representative Alex Kretchmar. "Their goal is that Chicago and other major cities will realize that there is hope for the forgotten and unfortunate," said Kretchmar.
CCP is looking to release a new edition of its review before year's end. In the meantime, the press is working on building its web presence. "Our revamped website is dedicated to journalism of the CCP kind," says Kretchmar. Where its print product incudes mostly literary stories and poems, the website will expand to include gritty journalism, entertainment reviews and guest columnists.
The event will mix music and readings for what the press is billing as the "the Rock 'n' Roll-infused Event of the summer." Readers include author Dmitry Samarov (Hack), with Luke "Diseased" Crumley and Kathryn Morrill, both reading from works published in the Criminal Class Review. Listen to music from Rufis Roberts & The Smoking Rabbits, The Island of Misfit Toys, and The Hamburglars.
Stop by Beauty Bar at 1444 W. Chicago Ave. at 7pm on August 30, $5.
This weekend is the third annual Evanston Writer's Workshop Conference. Billed as the Midwest's only multi-genre writer's conference, it features workshops on topics such a memoir writing, publishing tips, writing a synopsis and finding the time to write. Featured speakers cover a range of genres including nonfiction, romance, thriller, science fiction/fantasy, horror and graphic novels. Orrington Hilton, 1710 Orrington Ave., Evanston, August 24-26. Click here for registration information and pricing.
The new bi-monthly event, Karaoke Idol, part game show part charity work, is back this Thursday August 23. Each event benefits a different local not-for-profit. This month's candidates include; Dill Pickle Co-op, Homeroom Switchback Books, Girls Rock! Chicago, and Chicago Writers House. Much like that show on Fox where people sing and get judged (not sure the name of that series), each organization will have a designated member sing and battle to determine who will win the whole ball of wax.
The night begins with an hour of open Karaoke for all, so come sign up early. Then on to the battle to select which organization the night will benefit. The audience gets to vote, so they need you there to do your best Paula or Simon impressions (those are the hosts to that show I couldn't remember).
Mark your calendars! The date of the second annual Chicago Book Expo has been scheduled for December 2. The event is still going to be held in the Uptown neighborhood, however, it's moving to a new location inside the Aragon Ballroom.
The Expo brings together many of the city's presses, non profits, and literary organizations for a weekend of sales and programming. The specifics and schedule have yet to be announced. Check out event sponsor Chicago Writers House's website for more info.
The Chicago Humanities Festival has officially announced its programming for fall. CHF will usher in election season with its theme, America, kicking off on Oct. 14.
From a literary perspective, the CHF will look at notions of the Great American Novel as it defines the way Americans see themselves, and the way the rest of the world regards us. CHF explicitly states that it "had no intention -- none! -- to contribute to the shrillness that passes for present-day political discourse. What was needed, in fact, was a counterweight."
What's going on with the literary scene this month? Last week, the beloved reading series P. Fanatics had its final show, and this weekend, punk rock reading series Neutron Bomb is following suit. Maybe it's the weather, or the shifting of seasons. "We're stopping because, at the last event, Benny said he didn't want to do it anymore, and Mike from Cal's told me that the bar is closing at the end of the summer," said "C.T." Chris Terry* one of the show's hosts. "Since the average punk band only lasts a couple years, it seemed about right."
The series got its start when three friends, all grad students in Columbia's Fiction Writing department, Chris Terry, Benny Kumming and Maggie Ritchie, decided they wanted to put together a reading series unlike any other series around town. I had a class that fall semester with Benny and remember him asking me if I knew of a place that would be good for punk bands and readers to get together. There weren't that many places in Chicago I knew that would accommodate that request. When they gave me a flyer, with the Misfits Crimson Ghost on it, I knew they were onto something. And Cal's was the best place for their series, set up for having bands, yet intimate enough for the audience to interact with readers.
This Thursday, Martha Rosenberg reads from Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health at the Evanston Public Library. David Healy, author of Pharmageddon and Let them Eat Prozac, calls it "the perfect treatment for the epidemic of common sense deficiency sweeping America today. Reading this will cause your eyes to pop with amazement and jaw to drop with astonishment and might also save your sanity and your life." Rosenberg is a freelance writer and editorial cartoonist, and is a frequent contributor to numerous publications including the Chicago Tribune and a regular health columnist at several websites including the Huffington Post. Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston, Thursday, August 16 at 7pm.
Calling all Zinesters, Self Publishers and fans of Indie lit, Wednesday marks the inaugural
Copy Code series at Uncharted Books. Copy Code aims to deliver an all-zine centric event each month ranging from readings, panels, and workshops.
The first event will kick off with readings by zinesters: Marisa Over (debuting "Warning Signs"), Jim Joyce (Let It Sink), Jonas (Cheer the Eff Up), Georgi Johnston (Cursive is Cryptic, Cave Girl) and Quinn St Quinn.
For almost two years now Mason Johnson and his cohost/sidekick Dan Shapiro have been the driving force behind monthly reading seriesP. Fanatics. From their humble beginnings at Moe's Tavern (being heckled by regulars, none too happy with this interruption to their drinking) P. Fanatics has kept up its irreverent blend of talent with a variety show, readings, stand up, a live house band, and off-the-wall banter between the hosts. But now, this Sunday to be exact, they are calling it quits.
"A year ago we had no one to disappoint by quitting. Now that there's an audience, there's people to disappoint," Johnson said. "We had nobody to disappoint last year. Zero fans. It was just me and Dan Shapiro trading turns being in front of the mic/in the audience. I'd tell slow, somber stories for maybe 30 or 40 minutes at a time as Dan sat in front of me, making varied voices to represent a group of people. He'd grunt like a construction worker, than let out an exasperated gasp like a Southern belle. Then Dan would get up in front of the mic and I'd pretend to be the audience. He'd give a simple joke, something with a one-two setup. Something dirty."
Johnson's stage persona is at work in his answer, known to offer half truths embellished cleverly for laughs. That's what the series was really about; the two could make the audience enjoy the show without realizing how much work went into putting it together each month.
To be expected, Johnson and Shapiro can't completely break from doing P Fanatics. Both will be moving onto somewhat similar projects. They're hardworking showmen who haven't yet lost the itch. "Dan's going to try hosting an open mic at Cole's every month," says Johnson. "It'll be meant for writing, poetry, whatever you can think of. It'll ideally be funny, weird and awkward. It won't be P. Fanatics though."
Johnson will focus on writing, stepping off the stage for a while. His short fiction recently appeared in Pangur Ban Party . "I'm going to write more sad and funny stories (they can be both) that are meant to be read on the page/screen, instead of being performed."
Sunday brings P. Fanatics to a close. The lineup is packed with literary elite: Chris Bower Jill Summers,Chris Terry, Shanny Jean Maney,Patrick Somerville, and Lindsay Hunter. House band Hawaiian Death Folk Presents and a reading by Dan Shapiro will open the show. Get there at 7:30 sharp (for the last time ever) at Cole's Bar, 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave.
So you may have missed C2E2 this spring, but don't fret. Blow the dust off your Thor helmet, lace up those thigh-high boots, freshen up that face paint and get out to the Wizard World Comic Con this weekend, Friday Aug. 10 through Sunday Aug/ 12 (with limited pre-gaming today). Dork out when you see special guest Star Trek Captains (the ones that count for real) Patrick Steward and William Shatner, legendary Marvel comics creator Stan "the man" Lee, or local WWE star CM Punk.
Being Book Club, we want to turn your focus to panels led by author Larry Tye in a discussion about his new book, SUPERMAN: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero (held on Friday). Or check out the Legacy of Ray Bradbury on Thursday, a panel led by horror writer Mort Castle (Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury), Joe Meno (Hairstyles of The Damned), and Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife).
And when all else fails, you can bump into Bruce Campbell or Scott Bakula, you make the call. Then take Monday off to decompress.
This Saturday, Eliza Frye reads from Regalia, featuring the Eisner-nominated short story "The Lady's Murder," at Quimby's. Frye is in town for the Wizard World comic convention (find her at Artists Alley 3418). Quimby's, 1854 W. North Ave., Saturday, Aug. 11 at 7pm.
Women & Children First bookstore is having a poetry reading Friday, Aug. 10 featuring Daniela Olszewska, Stephanie Anderson and Melissa Severin. Daniela Olszewska, a Chicago resident has written books, chapbooks, and poetry, and is the Associate Poetry Editor for H_NGM_N and, Another Chicago Magazine. Stephanie Anderson's poetry has appeared in several chapbooks and she is the poetry editor for the Chicago Review. Melissa Severin has a chapbook available at Dancing Girl Press, and like Daniela and Stephanie she also resides in Chicago.
The Encyclopedia Show hosts its annual Anthology show Wednesday, Aug. 8. The organizers, Robbie Q. Telfer and Shanny Jean Maney, curated this Best Of show, carefully selecting from the show's past lineups. Talent includes Lynda Barry, an interview with Joaquin Vieira, LeKeja Dawson, David Kodeski and musician Naomi Ashley, Peter Cook (ASL performance poet), Jamila Woods, Chris Bower, Dan Shapiro and Janna Sobel.
The extravaganza begins at 7:30pm at 1012 N. Noble St. in the Vittum Theater. Tickets are $9, or $6 for students.
The Chicago Way deviates from its regularly scheduled reading night, moving to Tuesday August 7 for a special occasion. The series celebrates the release of crime author Sean Chercover's novel, The Trinity Game. If that's not enough, he will be joined by local crime novelist Markus Sakey.
The night will consist of a short reading by Chercover followed by Chicago Way's trademark audience interactive discussion with both writers. Get a book signed, participate in trivia (and win prizes) and chat with two great crime authors. It all goes down at Hidden Shamrock 2723 N. Halsted St. at 7pm.
StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit that gives average citizens a chance to share their anything-but-average stories. It is broadcast nationally on NPR's Morning Edtion and the StoryCorps "Listen Pages." Interviews are recorded, archived and aired for all to share and this month they're coming to Chicago to showcase the diversity and history of our communities and the people who call them home.
One-on-one interviews allow people to ask silly, interesting, challenging questions of an important person in their lives, and then sit back and enjoy the process of learning from the answers. Now's your chance to be a part of the storytelling. RSVP and attend one of the recording sessions when they drop anchor in town from August 15-September 16 with two locations.
Participation is free but RSVP and a credit card for holding the reservation are required. Register online or by calling 1-800-850-4406.
Two Cookie Minimum will celebrate its second anniversary Tuesday, Aug. 7. Naturally, cookies will be involved. Zinesters Ben Spies, author of No More Coffee zine. L.B. creator of Truckface zine, and Natalie Edwards will provide your reading entertainment. A shadow puppet show by sisters Jill Summers and Susie Kirkwood will kick off the night.
Hosted by Johnny Misfit at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., starting at 9pm. Party hats are optional. (Flyer by Peter Dicamillo.)
Essay Fiesta, a monthly live lit readings series, is gearing up for its third anniversary in November. In the meantime, organizers Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon are taking a break from reading submissions. But there's still opportunity to bare your entire embarrassing self to audiences before the Thanksgiving season rolles around.
Interested parties are invited to submit entires to be read at a mini fiesta to take place at the Chicago Writers Conference on September 15. Ecker and Lyons are curating this event just like they do their monthly readings with a preference for funny and often painfully revealing work.
This Thursday, Rose Laws (along with her co-author, Dianna Harris) reads from Gold Coast Madam: The Secret Life of Rose Laws at Uncharted Books in Logan Square. Laws, now a 77-year-old retiree residing in Florida, began "arranging dates" for men and women in 1960s Chicago to help support her family. She moved on to working a "four hour rate" motel and ultimately downtown, where she had a 5,000 person client list including politicians, judges, athletes and movie stars. Gold Coast Madam is set to be released by Lake Claremont Press this November. With chapter titles like "1985 Chicago Bears Superbowl," "Pretty Woman Stories" and "Grinding Through the Day," it sounds like a juicy read. SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) Chicago will also be making an appearance. Uncharted Books, 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave. Thursday, August 2 at 7pm.
Also known for her musical talents, Sabrina Chap with guests Kate Bornstein & Stephanie Howell will be presenting her anthology of essays, artwork, and stories in Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction. The subject matter of the anthology deals with violence against women. The various contributors to this anthology some of who include Margaret Cho, Patricia Smith, and Nan Goldin, show how they delt with the violence inflicted upon them by using art as a means to cope instead of self-destruction.
See Sabrina Chap present her latest creation on Thursday, Aug. 2 at 7:30pm at Women & Children First bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St.
The monthly reading series Reading Under the Influence is back and Camp themed on Wednesday, August 1. Talent in this month's line up will have you reminiscing about s'mores and ghost stories (the kinds that gave you nightmares). Featured readers include Geoff Hyatt, author of At the World's End, host of the Tamale Hut reading series, Jenny Seay, blogger and regular on the lit performance scene Samantha Irby, and Patrick Wensink who wrote Broken Piano for President. Wensink is being sued by Jack Daniels over the likeness of a logo used on his book cover, so someone, please, make sure to buy him a shot.
RUI's home is the back room of Sheffield's 3258 N. Sheffield Ave. beginning at 7pm, $3 cover.
The biggest used book sale of the year, the 28th Annual Newberry Book Fair, is this week, July 26-29. Browse over 120,000 books most of which are priced at $2 or less. The book fair is held at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton Thursday and Friday from noon to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Don't forget to bring a reusable bag to haul away all your purchases!
The brains of the operation, Lyra Hill, began the reading to help an out-of-town comic artist looking for a show. What came to follow was an experience. "From the beginning, I have maintained that there is no standard way to read a comic, and I invite the performers to interpret their work in the strangest ways possible," says Hill. "I want people to surprise me, and I want to understand good comics from the artists' perspectives." The show has kept the energy going now through its first year.
Here in the Second City, there is a flourishing storytelling community formed of writers, comedians, actors, and just people with a personal tale to tell. The New York Times covered this new art form recently, and just like New York (but better), Chicago's storytelling scene is booming with shows and readings most every night of the week throughout the city.
Shannon Cason is a veterans of this small scene, both as a storyteller and show producer. A Detroit native, father to two daughters, writer, stand-up comic, and past Chicago Moth GrandSLAM Champion, Cason is a well established voice. I first met Cason at the Windy City Story Slam Semi-Finals back in April at the Chicago Urban Arts Society. The ease and confidence with which he told his stories is magnetic. When I sat down with Cason, we talked about storytelling as bravery. Many storytellers get the best response when they tell personal, heart-wrenching, or embarrassing stories--the stuff that makes a listener simultaneously cringe and relate--and for the most part, these tales are shared with complete strangers. "Sometimes the best stories are the ones you don't want to share," Cason said. "A lot of people can relate to the stories because you had the bravery to be vulnerable."
Cason credits Chicago's story scene to the city's "low tolerance for B.S." and the desire for something real to hold on to. The support of the Chicago storytelling community, he said, and the lack of competition compared to that felt among his comedian cohorts, doesn't hurt either. "Storytellers are just people sharing experiences." He would like to see a diversified audience and performers, as the shows getting attention are almost exclusively on the Northside.
Cason got his start in storytelling when he attended Story Club, a long standing live literature show at Uncommon Ground produced by Dana Norris. He was hooked. He, along with fellow storytelling veteran, Scott Whitehair, founded and co-produce the show Do Not Submit. DNS is a storytelling open mic, but unlike many, it is an opportunity for storytellers to experiment with a piece or a rough draft and engage a small audience. It's also an opportunity for first-time storytellers who may not be ready for a massive audience, to get up and test the waters. Cason and Whitehair connected one night in a bar and just like that Do Not Submit was born. Both have a lot of stand-up comedy experience throughout Chicago and lamented the abundance of amateur open mic nights for comedy, while storytelling open mics were only for readers and writers who had fully fleshed out pieces for performance.
Do Not Submit is hosted upstairs at Trace at 3714 N. Clark St. in Wrigleyville at 8:00pm, with sign up at 7:30pm. The next shows are set for Monday, July 23 and Monday, August 20. Check out where you can find Cason's upcoming events here.
The Printers' Ball is back this Friday to celebrate the printed word. For those who are new to the ball, it's a ragin' party with music, readings, and tons of free publications (boxes upon boxes of materials are handed out for free). What makes this year a bit outlandish, as if that's never been said of this event in the past, is the Time Warp theme. Those event organizers -- Fred Sasaki (Poetry Foundation), Jill Summers (Columbia College), Nell Taylor (Read/Write Library), Mairead Case (lit-magnet about town), Sarah Dodson (MAKE literary publications), Susie Kirkwood (creator of the graphics campaign), and April Sheridan (Center for Book and Paper Arts) -- have warped this year's theme to the far reaches of the imagination. The event is further sponsored by Columbia College's Silver Tongue reading series (who will have a new zine out for the event) and Poetry Foundation (which will have issues of Poetry Magazine available).
(Time Warp graphic by Susie Kirkwood)
How does this full house of Chicago literati accomplish such a feat? "Some of it comes to us by thunderbolt," says Sasaki. The intense planning for the event takes months of meetings, emails, call outs to the literary community, and waves of enthusiasm. The theme is a mixture of sci-fi, fantasy and the '80s. "We realized that the best way to look at the past is to look into the future," says Sasaki. This makes sense when looking at the event's list of programming.
Ray Bradbury's personal autobiographer, Sam Weller, will appear at the Wrigley Building on Thursday, July 19 at 4pm to present his new short story anthology assembled to pay tribute to Bradbury's legacy. Nice to know, especially in the wake of a literary giant's death, that the notables remaining are still cranking out new material for us to enjoy. Shadow Show, under a joint imprint, Gauntlet Press and Borderlands Press, wrangles together short stories by 26 authors including Margaret Atwood, who will be in attendance via Skype. She'll read an excerpt from her story included in the collection and also virtually sign copies via some new fangled Fanado technology. Sounds interesting!
The event is part of a salon series by Energy BBDO, a local ad agency, that focuses on iconic Chicagoans in the creative industries.
The event is free and open to the public. Check out the show at 401 N. Michigan Ave. at 4pm on Thursday July 19.
LSLR will be holding future summer readings August 14 and September 11. All readings are at the Comfort Station 2759 N. Milwaukee Ave. right near the square and the Logan Square blue line stop. Admission is free and back issues, including current issue 10 released spring 2012, will be available for purchase.
Nelson Algren's Chicago: City on the Make, tells 120 years of Chicago's history from the perpectives of those seldom given license to tell their stories. Ex-cons, hoboes, and blue collar workers dominate the 1951 text to show what the world looked like for most people. Local historical reenactment group, Pocket Guide to Hell, promises to deliver a Chicago past in a three part program that takes its name, Like A Secondhand Sea, from Algren's project. The afternoon will show how human interaction has reshaped the Chicago River and Lake Michigan over time. Find the group assembled at the park across from the River East Arts Center (435 E. Illinois St.) from 12-2pm.
The day begins in 1673 with explorers Marquette and Joliet as they trace the original coastline of Lake Michigan in voyageur canoes (on wheels). Next, experience Streeterville in its former glory as the "District of Lake Michigan," founded by Captain George Wellington Streeter in 1886. Read more about the Captain's attempt to claim the "District of Lake Michigan," where his sailboat was marooned, as a new territory of the United States in this New York Times article published in 1915. He even went to Washington D.C. seeking admission to Congress as the new land's first delegate. According to Pocket Guide founder, Paul Durica, Streeter stories are often shrouded in some bit of legend, but the article's claims are echoed by other sources.The third and final part of the day will transport you to the 1892 dedication of the reversal of the Chicago River.
The event is completely free, save for some crafts, including tintype photographs by Chris Olsen and paper silhouettes by Nina Nightingale, which can be purchased with "Streeterville Dollars" (get yours on site). There will be lots of opportunity for audience participation, too.
Uncharted Books opened in Logan Square at the beginning of the year, and has been nestling itself into the literary life of the neighborhood since then. There are plans in the works though, spearheaded by resident event planner, Robin Hustle, that may help to further engrain the shop into the scene.
As prose editor of The Land Line, and a writer in her own right, Hustle is a fine candidate to take on the event revamp. The store is collecting input from survey responses to formulate plans for ongoing events as well as special occasion affairs. Aside from events planned by the shop, the staff invites any event planner looking for space to use the shop for free. Hustle says they're prepared to do a reasonable amount of promotion for those events, too.
Email Hustle at email@example.com to plan your next event.
Tuesday, July 10 brings to us another rendition of This Much is True, a monthly story-telling series at Hopleaf in Andersonville (5148 N. Clark St.). The show commences at 7:30pm sharp and is free to the public. Arrive early to secure a seat and a craft beer of some sort. This one is always a fantastic bet, and they will reach capacity quickly. Doors open at 6:45pm.
This month's performers include Alison Cudy from WBEZ, Mare Swallow, founder of Chicago Writers' Conference, Mike Speller, and Eric Warner.
No matter how much a kid likes school, you'd be hard pressed to find one who isn't looking forward to summer with serious intensity. Once it arrives though, it can be a struggle for both kids and parents to make sure hours are filled with sitting-in-front-of-the-TV alternatives.
StoryStudio is holding a week-long creative writing intensive for kids in grades 6 through 1o beginning July 30, at its North Shore location. The camp will offer ample time for writing and workshopping, plus electives that rival that of some college curricula. Electives to choose from include a graphic novel class, memoir and personal essay writing workshops, poetry performance, and short story writing.
As is the case with adult classes at StoryStudio, these will be administered by working writers with plenty of wisdom to bestow upon students, young and old alike. Instructors include Cecilia Pinto who was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for poetry and won the Esquire short fiction contest; a Staff Writer for Sports Blog Nation, Fraser Coffeen; and teacher and playwright Gillian Hemme who taught a class reading, drama, and Speaking for Justice.
Lyra Hill of Brain Frame will perform her horror comic Go Down via live projection at the Burlington Bar in a mixed media show on Thursday, July 12. Videos of her performances--mixed media events in themselves as she brings reading material alive on screen--from CAKE and at Brain Frame are available online, but videos certainly don't stand in for the real thing. There's eerie music the accompany the creepy, sexy show and Hill's narration, too.
Reading Under the Influence will going on this Wednesday July 11, making up for the regularly scheduled session it missed due to the raucous celebration of last week's national holiday. This month's theme will be Prodigal Son, and rightly so as RUI co-founder Joe Tower returns from L.A. as a featured reader. Joining him will be Michael Czyzniejewski (Chicago Stories), Lauryn Allison Lewis (Solo Down), Chris DeGuire (Columbia College Fiction Writing professor) and Patrick Andrew (Grad student at Columbia College). Each will read twice, mixing it up between a piece of their own writing and a selection from a published work relating to the night's theme.
The show starts at 7pm In the back room of Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave. Admission is $3.
The 8th annual Printers' Ball takes place Friday, July 20, and invites guests to come in costume and enjoy the evening's TIME WARP! themed events. Entertainment will include an Ayn Rand game show, airbrush artist Andrew Hannigan, and Numero Group DJs Rob Sevier and Dustin Drase.
The Poetry Foundation, in partnership with hundreds of literary arts organizations, presents the Printers' Ball every year on Columbia College's south loop campus. It is free and open to the public but you can preregister and get a free poster!! The theme comes just in time for Poetry's centennial, and encourages guests to come in costumes that conjure a particular time period, be it past, present, or future.
There will be letterpress, bookbinding and papermaking demos, quizzes, readings, music and various special exhibits. Be one of the first through the doors and experience a commencement by 80's icon Max Headroom and, if you're one of the first 100, a free Silver Tongue tote bag that you can take to be airbrushed later in the evening.
The event is in the Ludington Building at 1104 S. Wabash Ave. from 6pm-11pm.
The Seminary Co-Operative Bookstore will feature Jac Jemc and Patrick Somerville in the next edition of its reading series, Doppelgangers. The series, set in Hyde Park, focuses on two books that have a similar theme. This Tuesday the theme, horrifying disappearances, is shared by Jac Jemc's My Only Wife and Patrick Somerville's This Bright River.
Show up this Tuesday, July 10@7pm at Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap, 1172 E. 55th St., Chicago. And remember, if you buy a book, they'll buy you a beer!
Pocket Guide to Hell is putting on a site specific spectacular in just a couple of weeks that will fuse reenactments of Marquette & Joliet's Expedition, Captain Streeter's District of Lake Michigan, and the Dedication of the Reversal of the Chicago River. Yes, this will all occur in one day. This local group does not mess around. Check out this preview of the event and expect more details soon...
The Beach Poets, a tradition since it was started in 1990 by Cathleen Schandelmeier, brings poets together on the beach every Sunday in July. This Sunday will feature the editor of SEEDS Literary Journal, Lakeesha Harris and writer Janean Watkins.
Soak up some rays and verses on Sunday, July 8 from noon to 2pm at Loyola Beach at Greenleaf Avenue & the lake. The Beach Poets tent will be south of the Heartland's Stand in the Sand and north of the restrooms.
Tomorrow night, The Hideout presents The Lowbrow Reader Variety hour, a book release party. The Lowbrow Reader is a yearly comedy journal featuring long articles and funny illustrations, now collected in book form in The Lowbrow Reader Reader (Drag City Books) and featuring the work of Lee Hazlewood, Patton Oswalt and Jonathan Richman, among others. The evening features musicians Ezra Furman, Daniel Knox and comedian Charlie Bury. The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Thursday, July 5 at 9pm, $10.
Featured readers include: Greg Baldino, T.W. Townsend, and Nikki Dolson. With music by Kat Kidwell. Plus the magazine's editrices Liz Baulder and Laura Rynberg will read pieces from previous issues. Hosted by Johnny Misfit.
Stop by on July 3 at the Hungry Brain located at 2319 W. Belmont Ave. at 9pm. You have the next day off work, so come on out for a great night of local literary fare, and as the reading series name suggests, there will be cookies.
With such titles as "Scarface," "Some Like it Hot," Wuthering Heights," and "A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago," on his resume Ben Hecht is one big name. And he, like many other similarly prestigious men and women of the pen, spent much of his early career writing right here in Chicago. Ben Hecht's House Party, set to take place next week, on June 27 at 7pm, in the writer's former Hyde Park home at 5210 S. Kenwood Ave., is no doubt one of the more unique events you'll have an opportunity to attend in the foreseeable future. And perhaps the last opportunity of its kind as the house is about to return to private residence status.
We hope to see all of you at the release party for Patrick Somerville's new book, This Bright River, on Tuesday, June 26, at 7pm at the Book Cellar Bookstore. The book has been lauded by critics already, including Kirkus, and Oprah herself...okay, maybe not Oprah per se, but O Magazine had some lovely things to say about the book. And really, the book is a lovely, touching, and addictive collection of life's riddles -- the kinds many of us humans have percolating on some mental back burner everyday, making life at once heart wrenching and significantly more interesting.
For a bit more about the book, and for a sense of Somerville's voice, read this interview conducted with the author by Gina Frangello for The Rumpus.
Neutron Bomb features a reading series under a punk rock backdrop, as writers read punk themed writing while a band plays in the background. This show will feature writers Alice Bag, L.B., Natalie Edwards, and Cyn Vargas, with music by the Calendar Boys.
Rock it out this Saturday, June 23 at 7pm at Cal's, 400 S. Wells St. This show is 21+ and free admission.
Just in time for Pride weekened, St. Sukie de la Croix reads from Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall at Women and Children First this Friday. Kathie Bergquist, editor of Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, calls it "a groundbreaking book. Chicago Whispers connects LGBT life in Chicago to national historical events and firmly places the city in the social/historical spectrum of gay life in America before Stonewall." Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Friday, June 22 at 7:30pm.
Cool off with some spine-tingling horror this Thursday at the Gumbo Fiction Salon. Featured readers are Martin Mundt and Lawrence Santoro. Mundt is the author of Reanimated Americans and The Crawling Abattoir. Santoro has received multiple Bram Stoker award nominations and has a new short story collection out called Drink For The Thirst To Come. Galway Arms Irish Pub, 2442 N. Clark, Thursday, June 21. Doors open at 7pm and readings begin at 7:30pm. Discounted parking is available at the Children's Memorial Hospital, 2515 N. Clark St. Bring your parking stub to the bar, get a matching stub, feed both to the machine as you exit the lot to claim the discount.
The Open Books Store is quite the unique establishment, funding youth literacy programs through the sales of donated books. This weekend the store is ushering in droves of bargain hunting book buyers with the entire store's inventory on sale for half price. From 10am until 7pm on June 23 and 24, most books can be yours for just a couple of bucks.
Visit The Open Books Store, located at 213 W. Institute Pl.
This Thursday, June 21, join hometown girl Lauryn Allison Lewis as she celebrates the release of her first book, Solo/Down. The book a "apocalyptic hyper-modern fairytale" is being published by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. Following with the rest of the CCLaP Hypermodern editions, the book will be hand made with a hardback cover. Signed copies will be available. Stop by Cole's Bar, 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave., at 7pm for a reading and drinks.
Registration is now open for the Chicago Writers Conference, to be held Sept. 14-16 at the Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave. A limited number of tickets are available at the early bird rate of $175; once those are gone, the price is $200 for three days of workshops, talks and panels on the topic of writing -- as well as special editions of two reading series, Tuesday Funk and Essay Fiesta.
The Chicago Writers Conference's aim is to help aspiring writers learn how to sell and promote their work. The keynote speaker at the conference will be Alexander Hemon, author and MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient. More than a dozen other speakers include authors, publishers, agents and literary event producers. (Disclosure: I'm speaking at the conference, as is Gapers Block contributor Cinnamon Cooper.)
This weekend I periled the outrageously hot weather to walk the booths at the Chicago Tribune's annual Printers Row Lit Fest. The city's most recognizable literary celebration brought together all walks of the lit community including publishers, authors, and organizations. I walked off the Red Line, snagged a free sample of hummus, and was on my way to peruse what the fest had to offer. Right off the Harrison entrance, I heard a reading already in progress at the Mystery Writers of America tent. I made my way through the crowd, stopping at the Small Press Tent where local presses such as MAKE Magazine and Grow Books Press.
Alyson Beaton, the creative force behind Grow Books, had Grow's line of activity books for children on display, including a street graffiti art book and mini house kits. I walked around the tent, finally purchasing that issue of the Chicagoan (the new endeavor by JC Gabel of Stop Smiling) I'd been meaning to snag, before heading toward Grace Place to hear author Richard Russo and his daughter Kate Russo, discuss their collaborative work, Interventions.
Book Club is thrilled to present the release of Patrick Somerville's new book, This Bright River, at the Book Cellar Bookstore, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., at 7pm on June 26. The celebration will include a reading plus a moderated question and answer period with the author.
This Bright River takes place in Wisconsin, Somerville's home state, where his characters' lives intersect and become intertwined. In both The Cradle and The Universe, lives are woven together by the subtleties of insecurities in common as well as through running themes. Those connections are at once impressive from a technical point of view and believable as true to life despite slight stretches from realism.
Keep your eye out for opportunities to get your own copy of the book before the release!
So another Printers Row Lit Fest has come and gone. Needing to watch my pocketbook, I kept browsing to a minimum. I saw the Poetry Foundation tent, the McSweeney's tent, a fellow singing French tunes, a puppet show and things that didn't seem to have much to do with books (Stanley Steemer? An ABBA musical?). It was a sweltering weekend; I split a cookie with a friend and it was so melty the chocolate got everywhere and I felt like Frankenstein caught while attacking a sheep. Luckily the panels I penciled in to attend were indoors and air conditioned.
The first was the "Changes in Reading and Writing" panel presented by WBEZ in the Fountain Room at the University of Chicago.
The Chicago Literary Alliance in partnership with Chicago Publishes of the Department of Cultural Affairs is inviting all of you bookish Chicagoans to air your thoughts and concerns at a meeting on Wednesday, June 13 at Powell's Bookstore. From 6-7:30pm the future of publishing and literary programming in Chicago--quite the crucial question if you ask us at Book Club--will be on the table for discussion. The gathering is set to take place at the UIC neighborhood shop located at 1218 S. Halsted St. RSVP for the event at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Book Cellar's affinity for bringing great things together under the same roof to build a unique experience out of them extends beyond things (books, wine) to people (writers, readers). On Local Author Night, Chicago-based writers come to share their work and add to the mix of enjoyment. This month's guests include AGS Johnson, author of The Sausage Maker's Daugher. Wednesday, June 20 at 7pm at the Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Free; books for sale.
Tomorrow night Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo (Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs) presents Interventions, a collaboration with his artist daughter Kate Russo. Interventions is a set of four novellas in one volume, tales of obsession and intervention, each accompanied by an original painting by the younger Russo. Published not by Random House (his usual publisher) but by Down East Books, a small Maine publisher, the elder Russo tells USA Today it's "an experiment in local publishing." A celebration of the tactile experience of reading, no e-book will be released. Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Friday, June 8 at 7pm.
Poet and NAACP Image award winner Reginald Dwayne Betts will be reading from his memoir A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, as well as his book of poetry Shahid Reads His Own Palm. The Poetry Foundation will also be conducting a Q&A session with Betts and will be giving free copies of their June issue of Poetry magazine.
See Reginald Dwayne Betts on Friday, June 8 @ 6pm at Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St. This event is free.
I am Logan Square is debuting a new exhibit this Friday, June 8, with literary roots. The show, Inspired by the Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, features the work of seven artists taking inspiration from the creatures depicted and described in the 1957 publication. The book is a compilation of 120 "strange creatures conceived down through history by the human imagination." The work, meant to be consumed piece meal rather than in one sitting, is ripe for the visual reinterpretation taken on by this group of local crafts people.
For those new to RUI, the format is split with an intermission. Each reader performs twice, first sharing their work then reading published work followed by trivia (a crowd favorite). Oh, and readers take shots before they read (hence the name). Nothing like this series exists in Chicago so check it out.
RUI is always in the back room of Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., 7pm, $3.
What's a better partner to cookies than cake? Two Cookie Minimum reading series will hold a fund raiser on Tuesday, June 5, for the first ever Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, dedicated to independent comic artists and publications. The reading features a cast of visual artists including; Corinne Mucha, Sara Drake, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Leslie Perrine and Marian Runk with host, Johnny Misfit.
Expect cookies, as per usual (and hopefully cake). The reading is on the first Tuesday of each month at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., 9pm. All donations accepted will go to support CAKE.
In a the spirit of giving, a fundraiser will be held this Thursday, May 31, for John Fullmer, an editor of Knee Jerk magazine and employee at the Book Cellar, and his expecting wife. The couple lost everything in a recent house fire, and their friends are coming together to show support and offer a great line up of entertainment.
There will be a reading featuring the talents of Lindsay Hunter, Jonathon Messinger, Amy Sumpter, Chris Terry, Adam Levin, Keith Ecker, and Robbie Q. Telfer. The event will be at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., at 7pm. Show support and hear from some of Chicago's best in the literary scene.
This Thursday, Evanston resident John Huston will show a multimedia presentation from his book (cowritten with Tyler Fish) Forward: The First American Unsupported Expedition to the North Pole. The book tells the story of Huston and Fish's 2009 travels to the North Pole without resupply. Will Steger, author and National Geographic Explorer of the Century, says "Forward is the fascinating inside story of a knock-down, drag-out expedition to the top of the world, a journey that separates the dreamers from the doers. This is a real story of real adventure!" Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston, Thursday May 31 at 7pm.
Read/Write Library Chicago will host a conversation about independent art spaces, this Wednesday May 29, welcoming artists Rebecca Conroy and Tessa Zettel. Both artists, hailing from Sydney, Australia's Bill+George art space, are on a US tour conducting research on DIY art culture. They will share their findings, supplemented by a presentation of their own works at the library. The discussion aims to rally local artists and creatives to share personal stories, and will feature local speakers from Read/Write as well as a presentation from the Peanut Gallery, a neighboring art space.
Join the conversation at 8pm at The Read/Write Library, located at 914 N. California Ave.
Get ready for music and bawdy storytelling this Friday as the Hideout presents Story Night Chapter Two: Sex Legends of Rock. Starring British punk legend turned ChicagoanJon Langford and Martin Billheimer, they'll be joined by James Elkington & Sally Timms, Brian Keigher and "bizarre visitations from the crew of the SS Panto." The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Friday, May 25 at 6pm, $10. Order tickets here.
This Thursday, May 24, local journalist and author John Conroy will be a featured guest on the Chicago Tribune's weekly radio show Chicago Live! . Conroy is known for his articles on the CPD torture scandal (which are housed in the Chicago Reader archives). Musical guest Kelly Hogan will be joining him on the broadcast along with a comedy performance from Second City.
Be part of the live audience recording, 7pm at UP Comedy Club at Piper's Alley, 230 W. North Ave. Chicago Live! airs on WGN Radio Saturday nights at 11pm.
The Printers Row Lit Fest is upon us, scheduled to take place on June 9 and 10. There's a plethora of programming open for the RSVPing now, right now. It's actually kind of dizzying.
As always there will be hundreds of tents, occupied by publishers, big and small alike, plus literary organizations. Buy books, hear wisdom, enjoy being outside. My eyes started to hurt before I reached the end of the list, but here are some programming highlights, in my humble opinion:
The posters make their debut at a reception Friday night, May 18, from 6pm to 10pm at The Coop coworking space, 230 W. Superior St., 2nd floor. Refreshments will be served, and sets of the posters will be available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting Open Books.
Writer Molly Backes will be celebrating the release of her young adult novel The Princesses of Iowa this Friday, May 18, at 7pm at StoryStudio's Chicago location. In addition to her work as a writer and as a teacher at the North side school, Backes works as its assistant director. The event billed as both celebration and networking opportunity, is open to the public and free of charge.
Backes is gearing up for the approaching chaos of her book tour, but managed to set aside time for us to discuss the task of writing a young adult novel. She spoke to the particular challenge of depicting the in between place that we all occupy at one time or another in which we figure out that adults aren't always right and begin to discover who we want to become.
"It's about my protagonist going from being a young woman shaped by society's idea of perfection and, by the end, she's leaning to listen to her own voice," Backes said. "That's the crux of the teenage experience."
Unlike some writers whose work is reformulated and marketed towards a young adult audience, Backes, a former middle school teacher, set out to appeal to the junior high crowd. While teaching 7th and 8th grade English in rural New Mexico, Backes became uniquely attuned to the complicated dynamics that define teenage life.
"I wanted to write something challenging, literary, and realistic," Backes said. "As a teacher I saw all these girls who woke up at 5am to curl their hair to look perfect. I got really interested in the idea of how we forget that there's something under the surface. No one is perceiving anyone else correctly; that's how high school feels."
When the story begins we find Paige, presumably living a life that's as close to perfection as one in his or her formative years could possibly imagine. A "could have been so much worse" car accident following a night of partying ends all of this, however, and leaves her shunned from the social scene she'd been so successful at navigating. Left without options, Paige locates comfort and a newfound interest in figuring herself out apart from the social hierarchy in her creative writing class.
"As I was trying to publish it everyone was saying, 'why do I care about a spoiled princess?'" Backes said. "But that's the point. It's interesting that people can't get passed their prejudices. So much of how we behave towards people is based on who we think they are, and when they don't live up, we're uncomfortable with that to varying degrees."
The book, published by Candlewick Press, is set in Iowa, the site of Backes's student teaching career, as well as her college state. She wrote it while isolated in New Mexico, still adjusting to the move.
"I felt homesick," Backes said. "I grew up in the Midwest and part of me always wants to write about the place I love. Having gone to college in Iowa, it's where I feel like I really came of age and figured out who I was. In retrospect, it's very appropriate that I wrote a coming of age story set there."
StoryStudio is located at 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., #222.
This month's edition of the Gumbo Fiction Salon, which books a lineup of readers in any fiction genre and concludes with an open mic, is set to take place Thursday, May 17. Designed as a fundraiser for the John Schultz and Betty Shiflett Story Workshop Scholarship fund at Columbia College, all readers are Columbia College Fiction Writing faculty, alums, or students including Jeff Jacobson, Patricia Rosemoor, Geoff Hyatt, Jenine Arteaga, Ellis Wylie, John Dowds, and Michelle Cachey. There will be an auction featuring books by some of the night's readers, as well as gift certificates to local restaurants and more.
There is a $4 cover, $2 for students, with two-for-one admission this month. The event is upstairs at the Galway Arms Irish Pub, 2442 N. Clark St., beginning at 7pm.
Young Chicago Authors has also teamed up with WBEZ for a series of discussions exploring the Chicago aesthetic and how teachers can integrate YCA teaching methods of hip-hop poetic/prose workshops in their classrooms. There will be a series of three talks. The first is this Wednesday, May 16 at the WBEZ West Side Community Bureau, 2531 W. Division St. at 6pm. Free, but reservations are recommended (click here to reserve). The other two talks will be held on May 23 at the WBEZ South Side Bureau and May 30 at the WBEZ North Side Bureau.
This Thursday, Young Chicago Authors presents the Yolanda Showcase. A fan art show of sorts, the show features original work inspired by the character Yolanda from the gospel musical Crowns. Yolanda is a young woman from Englewood who is sent to live with (and learn from) her Grandmother in South Carolina after her brother is shot down on the street. The poets have created a series of pieces that explore Yolanda's story through their own eyes. Performers include finalists from the Louder Than A Bomb competition. The free showcase will take place at Young Chicago Authors, 1180 N. Milwaukee Ave., May 17 from 6-8pm. Check out the Facebook page for more information.
Studs Terkel — author, historian, radio host and listener extraordinaire — may be gone, but his legacy of the importance of listening and the power of the human voice has inspired one heck of a party.
On Wednesday, May 16, the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St.) will host a birthday party to celebrate him, "one of the most prolific writers and cultural critics in the history of Chicago letters."
"It is rare that a person is widely seen as the greatest raconteur in a big city and as its best listener," said Roediger, a professor at the University of Illinois. "Studs was remarkably both and his legacy leaves us pondering how the two are connected."
Inspired by his "spirit of aurality, storytelling, and memory," Heather Radke of the Hull House has established a "Studs Memory Hotline" of sorts, to continue the tradition of oral histories by creating a repository of how Studs has inspired others.
"I thought that both the medium and the content of recorded stories would be a nice tribute to Studs," Radke said. "He was a huge proponent of the power of the human voice. As a radio producer myself, I know how transporting it can be to hear someone telling their story rather than just reading it. With the help of some of my brilliant co-workers at the Hull-House Museum, I decided that it was also important to be able to participate in the project even if you have no particular affiliation or knowledge of Studs, which is why there are two questions: What does Studs mean to you? and When has listening closely changed the way you thought about the world?"
Some of these Studs-related stories, all of which will be archived by the Newberry, are available for your perusal online, and anyone can participate by calling 559-546-1661.
"For me," continued Radke, "Studs is the rare historical figure that is celebrated for his ability to midwife the voices of others, and whose work is as much about listening as it is about talking. I'm glad that others are excited about his legacy of dedication to the People's History, and I am excited to hear all of the jokes, anecdotes, memories, and thoughts on the phone line and at the event."
Bucky Halker and Jon Langford will provide music, and a special 'zine pairing anecdotes from Garry Wills, Sydney Lewis, and others with illustrations from Chicago artists will be distributed.
"Studs was a living link to the Chicago/America I never knew," said Langford. "His comments on WBEZ after 9/11 impressed me greatly, elevating him to level of all seeing oracle. Thanks to miracle of recorded sound people can go on listening to the man forever."
Wednesday, May 16
Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St.)
5:30pm reception; 6pm program
This program is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.
This weekend Quimby's, the legendary North Side comic/books/zine shop, will be opening a pop up shop in Bridgeport. They'll be one of many pop ups participating in Version Fest 12, a month-long event billed as "what happens when you invite cultural workers, community developers, urban entrepreneurs, artists, designers, foodies, public space hackers, urban planners, cultural geographers, and dreamers to swarm a neighborhood and transform it for one month." Quimby's Bridgeport can be found at 755 W. 32nd St., May 11 and 12 from 11am-6pm.
This Thursday, Bucket o' Blood Books and Records welcomes Isaac Adamson. He'll be reading from his latest thriller, Complication. A tale of serial killers, thieves, family secrets and Eastern European intrigue, Publisher's Weekly says "Adamson's atmospheric and satisfyingly twisted tale...could easily have collapsed under the weight of its own complexity, but [he] pulls it off with style and a whopper of a twist." (Fun fact: Adamson's first novel, Tokyo Suckerpunch, is being made into a film starring Tobey Maguire). Bucket o' Blood Books and Records, 2307 N. Milwaukee Ave., Thursday, May 10 at 7pm.
Although theater is not necessarily of the literary persuasion, I think the Chicago Humanities Festival's presentation of The Postman, as part of the spring theater festival Sights & Sounds, is well worth noting here. Unlike most plays--and books for that matter--this one, for young children ages for four and up, has zero dialogue. The hour-long show comes across more like a child's imagining of a picture book than a play.
A production by the Velo Theatre Company, founded in 1981 in Angers, France by Charlot Lemoine and Tania Castaing, this like all of the company's work prominently features a bicycle. In fact, the bike in question is actually the backbone of the set, which develops in a sort of diorama fashion, taking shape and unfolding from within the postman's boxes as they're opened. Velo was built on the notion that an actor's connection to physical objects on stage can be as much a form of expression as words. This particular show surely does the mission service.
The scenes themselves are tiny, built with the keen eyesight of a young person in mind, and easily come to life at the hands of the Postman turned puppeteer, played by Charlot Lemoine who has been performing the show around the world for the past 30 years. Lemoine's excitement is simultaneously palpable and muted to allow for focus on the intricate scenery and palm sized action.
There are only two more showings of this particular production left to run. If you are lucky enough to catch one, expect, mermaids, dragons, a surprisingly effective rendering of the ocean, and a sweeping mountaintop. The show features moments of slight tension, namely when the lights go off save for a dragon's illuminated eyeballs, as well as a fairy tale quality, especially during an underwater scene.
I never once felt remotely bored during the show despite my separation from its target demographic. One of only two or three adults without a kid on her lap, I felt myself transported back to the first floor steps of my childhood home where I often looked through books with my mother, making up the story based on the illustrations.
Visit the Chicago Humanities Festival website for a complete listing of the springtime lineup and to purchase tickets.
On Wednesday, May 9, local author Jac Jemc will read from her first novel My Only Wife. The book was released in early April on Dzanc books. Join her to hear from what writer Blake Butler (Scorch Atlas) calls, "a novel concerned with timeless dedication, love, and respect." Stick around after the reading to snag a copy (and get her to sign it). The reading is set for 7:30pm at Women & Children First, 5233 N Clark St.
Bang Bang Pie Shop is sort of the most exciting thing that's happened to me since moving to Logan Square. The shop started as a food truck, but co-partners Megan and David Miller and Michael Ciapciak parked for good, opening the storefront at 2051 N. California Ave. in early April. The baked goods were thrilling enough, but then I discovered the place has its own reading series, Bang Bang Fiction & Poetry, which focuses on local readers and invites the well established and the burgeoning alike.
On a daily basis Bang Bang serves up delicious coffee, blended specially for the shop by one of its owners, David Miller, biscuits that achieve moistness unlike any other I've ever eaten, and pie that brought my anti-chocolate boyfriend back for seconds, hunched over the tin in our dining room with the lights off.
I am not, however, here to talk about food, tempting as it might be. The reading series is carried over from Ipsento Café, which David Miller co-owned before moving on to pie. Organizer Ryan Lang worked at Ipsento with Miller when Bang Bang was just an idea.
"I've tried to raise the bar here because at Ipsento, I could only do so much with the space--we had the coffee grinders going, and though we were in a separate room you could still here them," Lang said.
This month's edition, scheduled for May 10, will feature readers A.D. Jameson, who is pursuing a doctorate in creative writing from UIC. Jameson is the author of two books, has taught classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lake Forest College and StoryStudio Chicago, among others and is the nonfiction and reviews editor of the online journal Requited. He also writes for HTMLGIANT.
Robin Hustle is prose editor of The Land Line, a literary endeavor she embarked on with close friend Edie Fake who has since split due to his packed schedule. The Land Line is still hard at work, though, producing a cross section of content that marries comics and long form essay in a way that's all its own. Hustle also maintains her own blog, which offers a mixed media of long form essay, artwork, and sometimes video.
"We're trying to break down the line between these different disciplines, especially in terms of bringing interesting nonlinear comics together with long form essays," Hustle said. "We're balancing out the seriousness of some of the writing with the weirdness of the comics."
As a very much inexperienced party when it comes to the world of Chicago's comics, Hustle was the perfect source for me as she's attune to the literary and the comic art community alike. With Free Comic Book Day around the bend on Saturday, I decided to ask what she could tell me about Chicago's comic landscape, particularly what women are doing in the scene, in time for the day of freebies.
"I do think that there's a pretty amazing queer feminist angle to the comics being made here that's not really present in a lot of places," Hustle said. "Edie and I were just talking about this the other night; we both love and support the making of queer comics, but a lot of the stuff isn't really pushing the aesthetic boundaries of what can happen within a comic."
Chicago, however, is home to a collection of innovators, many of whom are female, producing work that functions in a cross discipline format, like The Land Line. Chicago's lit performance scene is unmatched, even on a national level according to organizers, but there's a less widely known comic performance culture changing the way readers access the art form.
"Lyra Hill puts together a comic reading series called Brain Frame and it's totally one of the most exciting things going on in comics," Hustle said. "Sara Drake is another woman making really gorgeous, incredible comics. For the last Brain Frame she did a live overhead projection using transparency. It was unbelievably intricate. Every single little movement was perfectly timed."
Drake's work took her to Cambodia where she taught classes to some of the first Cambodian women to attend college alongside writer and fellow SAIC graduate Anne Elizabeth Moore. It's a bit of an aside, but it's an inspiring story that speaks to the wide reach Chicago comics have.
Brain Frame is giving comics an alternative ground to stand on in Chicago--a stage. And with the city's background in improvisational theater, perhaps this doesn't come as a surprise. Hustle also discussed comics as playing a major role in the visual art world.
"Ruby Thorkelson, who makes really incredible comics of her own, is also a curator at Woman Made Gallery, and last spring she put together a show there called Underground that was all women and queer artists," Hustle said. "It was an incredible blurring of the comics world and the fine arts world. The exhibit also had a reading library put together with the help of Spudnick Press, which is a woman run collective print studio."
The "Morbid Curiosity" exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center runs through July 8 and features 14,000 square feet of artwork exploring the universality of death in different cultures. Check it out tomorrow night to hear the history of Chicago's Bangs sisters, 19th Century seance hostesses extraordinaire. The evening will include a live seance and readings from the winners of the Chicago Publishes Morbid Curiosity Poetry Contest. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Thursday, May 3 at 7pm.
Holy Freebie Batman*, it's Free Comic Book Day! The world of comics' annual holiday is Saturday May 5. There are specific titles available for free, printed solely for the purposes of slinging free goods. "Who couldn't use a free comic book?" says W. Dal Bush co-owner of Challengers Comics + Conversation in Bucktown. The print medium is supported by independent stores like Challengers, striving to bring new and old fans something to enjoy.
There is a wide variety of free titles for any age this year, with content ranging from aliens, dinosaurs, and zombies to Sonic the Hedgehog, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars and even Peanuts.
"FCBD remains an event that is just awesome for families with small kids as well as long time fans, without being filled with speculators," Terry Grant, owner of Third Coast Comics in Edgewater says.
Large publishers like mainstays DC and Marvel use the event to show fans what's in store for their titles in the year to come. Introductions to new stories such as Marvel's Avengers, or DC's new 52 are showcased to excite readers to follow titles throughout the year.
"Each year we order more comics to give away, and each year we're left with fewer books by the end of the day," says Bush.
The allure of free comics is only part of what the day offers. Most stores hold events such as artist and writer signings, art demonstrations, and interactive events.
"Every year, we make sure that we have an artist from one of that year's free comics at Challengers, signing and sketching for fans," Bush says. His store will feature artists Chris Mitten and Mike Norton, and writer Tim Seeley.
There is a sense of community in Chicago's comic world, evident in the support avid readers give their favorite neighborhood shops. This is supplemented by the audience of casual fans, families and inquiring minds that show up for the day's offerings. An event like this, which attracts the attention of so many, promotes comic books, sure, but stores are winning too, solidifying a neighborhood presence and attracting new business.
"I think FCBD does a great job bringing new faces to shops and new readers to comics by virtue of the fact that I'm still having new people coming up to me from last year's FCBD and mentioning a book, artist, writer or publisher that I suggested for them," says Grant.
Free Comic Book Day runs during store hours, but some shops book later events, too.
Challengers' adjoining art space, the Rouges Gallery, will curate an art print exhibit with thirteen different local artists. Third Coast is having Comic Book Karaoke as its after event.
FCBD is a great way for families, children, comic book enthusiasts, and newcomers to check out their neighborhood comic store. Go the Free Comic Book Day website to find a location nearest you.
Challengers Comics + Conversation is located at 1845 N. Western Ave.
Find Third Coast comics at 6234 N. Broadway Ave.
*Yes there will be a free comic book this year based on Burt Ward, the actor who played Robin in the 1960's Batman TV show.
Wednesday, May 2 marks the seventh anniversary of the reading series Reading Under the Influence. The monthly series has a unique format, showcasing featured writers who read their work, plus published work, followed by trivia. Series co-founder Julia Borcherts reflects on RUI's place as one of Chicago's notable monthly literary events.
"Chicago's literary scene has just exploded over the last seven years -- in any given week, there's more than a dozen fantastic reading and storytelling events going on all over the city," Borcherts says. "It's a really collaborative rather than competitive community, and there's nothing like this scene anywhere else in the country. We're so proud to have played a part in changing people's perceptions of what a 'reading' could be -- making literature and stories come alive in a way that's approachable and just plain fun."
Over the years, the series has made certain to make room for work that runs the gamut of Chicago's literary scene from established writers to self publishers.
"We always wanted for RUI to feel like a place where everyone in the literary community would feel like they belong, whether they're established authors or talented emerging writers or book, journal or zine publishers or literary enthusiasts," Borcherts says. "We love it because we have such an interactive format that it's easy for people to make new friends and learn about other great opportunities around the city just by meeting the others who come to RUI."
To celebrate its anniversary, RUI will feature readings by co-founders Rob Duffer and
Julia Borcherts, longtime co-hosts Amy Guth and Jesse Jordan and RUI co-founder emeritus, Carly Huegelmann.
RUI is the first Wednesday of each month in the back room of Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave. The show starts at 7pm, and admission is $3.
This Friday, comic artist Alison Bechdel (Dykes To Watch Out For) presents her new graphic memoir Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. Jonathan Safran Foer calls it "a work of the most humane kind of genius, bravely going right to the heart of things: Why we are who we are. It's also incredibly funny. And visually stunning. And page-turningly addictive. And heartbreaking." Gloria Steinem says "many of us are living out the unlived lives of our mothers. Alison Bechdel has written a graphic novel about this; sort of like a comic book by Virginia Woolf. You won't believe it until you read it - and you must!" University of Chicago, Rosenwald Hall, 5801 S. Ellis St., Friday, April 27 at 5pm.
Revolving Door has been welcoming poets, writers and passersby to enjoy their ongoing readings, showcases, workshops and other events for the past year and half. Centered around a core mission statement, Revolving Door strives to build culturally-infused communities throughout the city by showcasing unique talent and building bridges between artists and those who seek inspiration from the written word.
The reading series takes place on the fourth Thursday of each month and features a dynamic array of local poets and writers. April's edition will feature CM Burroughs, who has been awarded fellowships and grants from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, among others, and has worked with Studio Museum of Harlem and the Warhol Museum to respond to art installations with her poetry. The reading will also feature Chicagoan Cristina Correa whose work has appeared in the likes of Ariel, Latina Voices, Say What Magazine, and Ghost Factory Magazine. Plus, she published a chap book this year. Stick around to enjoy music by FathomDJ, a monthly staple at Revolving Door.
You can swing by any fourth Thursday to enjoy a poem, or two, or recommend that your friend with the latent poetic streak take to the mic!! There's also a great opportunity to join a summer workshop to hone your skills of expression and expand your social and creative networks. In their own words, Revolving Door says they are "...enticed by each encounter." Bring your curious spirit and add to the intrigue at Ultra Lounge, 1270 N. Milwaukee Ave. on Thursday, April from 7:30-10pm.
This Saturday at Cole's is the release of Curbside Splendor's latest book, Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions by Michael Czyzniejewski. The book tells Chicago stories through the personae of its famous citizens. Author Alan Heathcock says "an absurdist Chi-town Spoon River Anthology on crack, Chicago Stories is an explosion of imagination, a relentless churn of intellect and wit. In true Chicago style, this book tells it straight to your face and pulls no punches." Actors will be reading in the voice of Gary Dotson, Ann Landers, Jane Addams, Hugh Hefner and Rod Blagojevich, among others. Cole's, 2338 N. Milwaukee, April 21at 7-10pm.
Whatever your passion, be it comics, collecting, music, movies or games, there's something here for everyone. Special guests include John Cusack, Sean Astin, Anne Rice and even Svengoolie (to add a bit of local flair). Each day has a variety of programming including guest panels, autograph sessions and a show floor packed with artists, shops and more.
Tickets are available online or at the door. The event is open to the public on Friday at 1pm and Saturday and Sunday at 10am. C2E2 is held in the North Building at McCormick Place, located at 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Translator and Harvard University Professor Anna Deeny will be reading from her translation of Raúl Zurita's book of poetry, Dreams for Kurosawa (Sueños Para Kurosawa). Anna Deeny previously translated Zurita's work Purgatory. She will be joined by Daniel Borzutzky who wrote The Book of Interfering Bodies.
Join Anna Deeny & Daniel Borzutzky as they read from Raúl Zurita's Dreams for Kurosawa at Read/Write Library, 914 N. California Ave, Saturday, Apr 14 @ 8pm.
The San Francisco based queer poetry and performance troupe Sister Spit will be shakin' things up in Chicago this Saturday. The troupe was founded in 1994 by author Michelle Tea and was such a rousing success that in 2003, Tea founded the SF-based literary nonprofit Radar Productions to help produce the show as well as other literary concerns. The featured reader of the night is novelist and Columbia College advisory board member Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina). Other performers include Ms. Tea herself, writer/musician/dancer Brontez Purnell of Gravy Train!!!, writer/performer Erin Markey, singer/comic book artist Cassie J. Sneider, and transgendered, nationally ranking slam poet Kit Yan. The show is part of the Chicago International Movie and Music Festival. The show is at the Wicker Park Art Center, 2215 W. North Ave., Saturday, April 14, at 8 pm, followed by an afterparty at Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago Ave., beginning at 10:30 pm. Admission to the performance is $12 and the afterparty offers a sliding-scale admission of $5-$10. Tickets can be purchased here.
This week brings two readings of the punk rock variety.
On Thursday, April 12, Columbia College Chicago's Silvertongue reading series presents Sam McPheeters, LA based writer and punk musician from such bands as Born Against and Men's Recovery Project. He'll be reading from his novel The Loom of Ruin; you can read the first three chapters on Vice. Student readers will open the show, which will conclude with an author Q&A. Catch the show at 2:30pm at 618 S. Michigan Ave. on the fourth floor.
Then 7pm on Saturday, April 14, stop on by the punk-themed reading series Neutron Bomb for a mix of storytelling and music. This month features Kim Morris, Rebecca Lyon, Jill Westerfelhaus and Wyatt Roediger-Robinette. The night will wrap up with a musical set from Little Dave Merriman (of the Arrivals). The series is at Cal's bar, 400 S. Wells St.
Yesterday's Mini Tools of Change affair at the Cultural Center was absolutely too informationally massive to give you a properly comprehensive account of the day. I will, however, attempt to provide the general gist of the all day whirlwind of publishing tech lectures, Powerpoints--one of which included a photo of a pizza with hotdog-filled crust--and eye opening dialogue.
O'Reilly Media's Tools of Change Conference, the non-mini one that is, takes place annually in New York, heading out on the road in miniature to bring the new fangled stuff of publishing to the discussion around the country. Yesterday's conference, put on in partnership with Chicago Publishes, hosted 250 publishing pros, writers, editors, newspaper folk, and more. Speakers included Chicago literary regulars like JC Gable behind The Chicagoan magazine, Doug Seibold of Agate Publishing, Dominique Raccah of Sourebooks, Nick Disabato of brand spanking new Distance, and Founder of the Read/Write Library Nell Taylor, among many others.
Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, spoke on the topic of his book, which served to infuse the day's many discussions with a particular urgency. The diet refers to weaning ourselves off of what Johnson suggests is our country's dependence on media outlets that present diluted coverage on the national level that operates on assumption and inference rather than the facts of actual events. Instead, he says, we should focus our attention at the local level and work to effect politics at home.
"We industrialize agriculture and they produce what we want the most and it makes us fat," Johnson said. "We've also industrialized media, and these companies have a responsibility to create cheap popular media. These are the people who tell us what we want to hear not what we need to hear. If you're working under these guidelines the only chance you have of getting paid is to sensationalize and write as quickly as you can."
Johnson provided national scope for the importance of the work attendees and many of the other speakers do on a regular basis--producing much of the written matter of our generation, providing the narratives that we live by. Other speakers offered insights based on their experiences in the field.
Dominique Raccah took a technical, though unimaginably engaging, angle in her lecture about better publishing tactics. She cited The Lean Startup by Eric Reis as providing some of her inspiration to treat every book like its own startup venture.
"We started by thinking how to develop reader centric models developed around key verticals, which means based on your readers needs," Raccah said.
On this note, Raccah discussed several methods through which Sourcebooks is improving, including getting to know the target community of readers and developing books they want, plus creating a better (i.e. less frustrating) experience for authors. More than one speaker focused on generating online based discussion between authors and readers by posting pieces of books online before they are published to get a sense of reader response before too much time and money is invested in a project.
Though this account of the day is arguably bare bones, I hope it serves to provide some sense of the wonderful work being done in Chicago to fine tune the craft of publishing.
"Chicago gets this second city syndrome tying to compare itself to New York and it's really moot," JC Gabel said. "We deserve substance and style and there's never been a more interesting time since I've been alive, and I grew up here, than now. How can we make this different?"
The Chicago Humanities Festival tends to attract the most passionate among us, those who cling to a chosen humanities field with vigor and the enthusiasm of a kid in front of an ice cream sundae. I am lucky that I'm not starved for the company of "book bums," the term Princeton Professor Anthony Grafton used to describe himself and the subjects of his studies at his lecture, "The Book: Past, Present, and Future." (You can listen to the full audio recording here.)
"As a book bum I often find myself wondering what my current students will look back to as they sit in our beautiful smooth libraries seamlessly downloading PDFs from websites all over the world," Grafton said. "Texts with no ink, with no smell, with no signs of use."
Grafton is a book historian, studying scholarly tendencies of generations of book bums before him, usually via the marginalia of 16th century texts. His knowledge is so exacting, so intimate, that he was even able to casually refer to one subject's bathroom habits. And in addition to delving deeply into the worlds of past readers, Grafton is busy considering what legacy the next generation--one that studies in digital libraries and seldom sets foot amongst the stacks--will leave for future scholars like himself who revel in the physicality of libraries.
"I came to know books not as texts, as we say in university, but as materials objects printed on creamy paper with type that left an actual impression, bound in solid leather or vellum and then marvelously scarred like human beings by all the bumps and rattlings inflicted by life," Grafton said. "The stigmata that meant they'd meant something to someone in the past, books that bore marginalia that wound up the sides of pages of renaissance books draped up like ivy, magnificent and old facades. Even the books that had been damaged by little animals, even they gave the sense of their rich materiality."
See, that's passion.
The Festival's springtime programming will conclude with a presentation by Etgar Keret and Nathan Englander on Thursday, April 26. On May 2, their annual international theater and performance festival Stages, Sights, and Sounds kicks off with family appropriate programming that will appeal to anyone with an interest in avant-garde and experimental performance. Looking forward some more, the Festival just announced its plans for fall program, which is America. Events and lectures will engage the topics surrounding America as a literary and cultural theme from local and global points of view. Full listing will be available in August.
Have you always wanted to join a book club but haven't been able to find one that seems like a good fit? Check out Open Books' Open Book Club, where you'll meet a dynamic group of Open Books staff and other members of Chicago's amazing literary community who come to share their love of reading, enjoy thoughtful conversation and bring a little freshness to the traditional book club model.
There is no monthly commitment; it's all about great books, lively discussion and meeting new people. The book club meets the second Tuesday of every month at 6pm at 213 W. Institute Pl. and is always free. Once you go, you know! The book for April 10 is Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman.
And while you're in the area you can check out the awesome Open Books bookstore for a copy of next month's read or that title you've had on your list but haven't gotten around to. All books are really affordable and all proceeds go to the year-round literacy programs that Open Books offers to Chicago elementary and high school students.
The Poetry Foundation presents Poesía en Abril: Miguel Barnet and Ana Rossetti as part of their Poetry off the Shelf series. Barnet, known for his novel Biography of a Runaway Slave, was born in Cuba and began publishing poetry in the 1960s. He is also known for his work as an ethnographer. Barnet will be joined by Ana Rossetti, a Spanish poet who began her career in the 1980s, and whose work is noted for containing an erotic flair.
Come hear Miguel Barnet and Ana Rossetti read at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St., Saturday, Apr 7 @ 7pm. There will be a bi-lingual reading of the poets' work. Tickets for advanced reservations are sold out, but stand by tickets will be available on a first come, first serve basis on the day of the event.