For an avid consumer of all things literary, Chicago is a relative paradise. Small presses produce top quality work by local authors, there are readings and lectures every night, the CPL has an ample calendar of worthy events, and there are book sales, fairs, and stores so popular and personable they develop following. The city's literary community is accessible and inviting for its consumers and fans. But being on the creative side isn't necessarily as open, and writing, drawing, and self publishing in this city can even be a little isolating.
In 2013 John Wawrzaszek (a GB Book Club contributor) started a nonprofit aimed at fostering a common space for writers, artists, designers and self publishers. Modeled after Portland's Independent Publishing Resource Center, the Chicago Publishers Resource Center is a not-for-profit headquartered in Wicker Park. They provide a free space for workshops, community meetings, art exhibits, readings, and classes.
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat; people are also getting into fist fights on Black Friday (or better yet, protesting corporate greed) or feigning illness to avoid their "loved" ones. Let's face it, the holiday season doesn't elicit the same kind of merriment in people across the board. So because your heart might not grow three sizes this time of year (at least, it really shouldn't), Story Club is hosting a grumpus gathering worthy of the Krampus.
This Thursday, join host Dana Norris at Holiday Club for stories of holidays gone wrong. The evening's featured performers are Jen Bosworth, James Gordon aka G.P.A, and Jared Crum. As usual, there will be three open mic spots (eight minutes a piece or 1300 words) for a brave few, so happy holidays.
Doors and open mic sign-up will open at 7:30pm, and there's a $10 suggested donation.
The Hungry Brain is closing. To those who take liquid lunches, dinner or drinks on Belmont in Roscoe Village, this will mean one thing. For those in the live lit community, it will mean another.
The Hungry Brain is an iconic bar on Belmont and Oakley that has housed the monthly reading series Two Cookie Minimum since 2011, as well as a vintage Arkanoid game in the back (for as long as anyone's been playing Arkanoid).
To mark this occasion, Two Cookie's host Johnny Misfit brought in some of the city's best live lit hosts and curators to read. Misfit, known with more glossal strain as John Wawrzazsek, roasted each reader with endearing delicacy.
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.
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.
Summer is coming (probably), and with it a barrage of occasions for which you are undoubtedly unprepared: Mother's Day (May 11), Father's Day (June 15), and of course, wedding season. Pretty soon, you'll shopping for roses, or a tie--or, even worse for your wallet, browsing registries. And you'll probably want to pick up whatever Hallmark's "Thoughtful Sentiment Generator" has printed and stocked shelves with this month. Or, you could request a Pixiehammer Press original letter for Mom, Dad, bride, and/or groom.
An offshoot of Write Club, Pixiehammer Press (previously featured in our Gift Guide) is Ian Belknap and Lindsay Muscato. Because, per their Etsy shop, "Not everyone's good with words. Not everyone has a typewriter," Belknap and Muscato will draft missives to help you express your gratitude, repressed-and-released anger, or congratulations. These custom letters, created on vintage typewriters, are just $9.75 each, and include a "brief, personal interview" via phone or Skype, during which you can describe your relationship with the letter's recipient, be it precious or contentious (Pixiehammer won't judge you).
So, if you'd like your Mother's Day message rightly Cyrano'd, you must place your order by 5pm on Wednesday, May 7 to ensure delivery by Saturday, May 10. Pixiehammer will also be at Here's the Story's anniversary show on Sunday, May 4. Be sure to check out their Etsy shop for updates on Father's Day and wedding season-related deadlines.
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.
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.
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.
I recently posted an article about the Chicago Library Foundation’s Junior Board—a group of 50 or so young professionals dedicated to bringing patrons between the ages of 22 and 40 back to the library. As I wrote the article, I began to wonder: the library seems so obviously advantageous and economical; why is it going under-used?
While the Junior Board, on the one hand, is motivated by the desire to create lasting relationships with potential donors, the representatives with whom I spoke are passionate in their belief that library patronage benefits both parties. Young adults, they argue, are “missing out on the many resources the library has to offer.” The library is I) an information hub, II) a haven of study, and III) an immense resource for both books and technology.
To resolve the lack of young adult patronage, one must ask: What competition does the library face in each of these categories, and what is it going to take to reintroduce it into young adult culture?
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.
"We've got a great tradition of storytelling rooted [in Chicago], thanks to the likes of Studs and Ira and Royko and many others. But one thing that I know is on a lot of people's minds right now is where do we go from here? Now that we have created this "community" of storytelling, what do we do with it? And what do we do with the form so that it doesn't stagnate?"
So writes Guts & Glory co-host and Essay Fiesta co-founder founder Keith Ecker on his personal blog. For a look into current and future Chicago projects that are challenging, expanding, or redefining the future of live lit in our city, read on.
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.
3rd Language is a relatively young, Chicago-based collective of queer artists and writers, and both skill sets are amply reflected in its quarterly zine series. Each issue gathers essays, poetry, comics, photography, and more into a themed publication marked by increasingly lovely graphic design--the third issue is now available online and in print, and it shows an evolution far beyond the classic cut-and-paste aesthetic.
The theme this time around is Queer Lineage and Archive, which contributors interpret in a wide variety of ways. There are Veronica Stein's ridiculously appealing photographic tableaux of "brown, queer, female" bodies in settings that look like they might be the stage for some kind of avant-garde children's theater. Mexico City artist Clara Atri's photos of women mostly hidden by the edges of the frame aim to document the fragmenting of identity that comes with being a lesbian in the kind of close-knit, traditional community where she lives. The breadth covered is remarkable: a charming comic from Clare Austen-Smith that uses five significant objects to tell her own coming-out story sits right alongside Adam Liam Rose's documentation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance. You can read Queer Lineage and Archivefor free online, but to get the full visual effect you might want to track down a physical copy.
Yuck it up all you want... Chicago is responsible for lots of etymological inventions, and it doesn't take an egghead to appreciate them. Chicago Magazine recently published a list of the top 40 words created in Chicago, listed in approximate order of importance and "overall Chicagoness." Most words have been traced back to their first appearance in print, and interestingly enough, three of the words on the list owe their existence to the venerable Saul Bellow.
Last October, a one-legged parakeet named Nubs and 368 other birds were rescued from the clutches of a notorious bird hoarder in Aurora, Illinois, and nursed back to health by a team of diligent volunteers. In a true rags-to-riches story, Nubs himself immediately skyrocketed to Facebook and local FOX affiliate fame by becoming the star of a children's book called Nubs: A Little Bird with a Big Story and the focal point of a non-profit, also called NUBS (No Unwanted BirdS). The organization and the book, both created by rescuer Kristen Ludwig, aim to educate others about, presumably, proper bird ownership.
The book costs $12.95 plus shipping, and purchasing details can be found on the Nubs Facebook page. Proceeds from the sales of the Nubs book will go to the NUBS organization and to the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City, Indiana, which generously adopted all of the rescued birds... except for lucky Nubs, who is now a certified therapy animal and is currently living the good life in a private home with his main squeeze, Freckles.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Anobium, an alternative Chicago-based press, is seeking writers to participate in two upcoming projects that explore the potential of creative collaboration. The first of these projects, based in Chicago though open to writers worldwide, is Middle Ground. The collaborative project is dedicated to the exploration of space, our experience of environments both virtual and actual, and the way in which such spaces inform the written word.
Anobium Editor Benjamin van Loon describes the process in his own words: “So you have a location: Middle Inlet, Wisconsin. Writer 1 will write up to 500 words about Middle Inlet, and then he/she will move onto a different ‘location,’ where 500-some words have already been written by a different writer. At the same time, a different writer will be visiting Middle Inlet, Wisconsin, adding up to 500 more words to Writer 1’s original text. Make sense? So for Middle Ground, we have a target of 15 participants, which means 15 locations. It would be impossible for all writers to visit all places, so each writer will be visiting five places, such that at the end of the project, each text written about each place will be around 2,500 words, compiled by five people. It’s like we’re all taking turns.
“The best analogy I have is this. Let’s say we’re on a tour bus. We stop at a roadside bathroom somewhere, and each of us has a big, fat permanent marker. Bathroom User 1 uses the stall, and in his/her boredom, writes ‘SLAYER RULES’ on the bathroom wall. Bathroom User 2 uses the stall next, and in his/her boredom, adds ‘THE UNDERWORLD’ to BU1’s graffiti. Bathroom User 3 uses the stall next, and he/she is kind of a prude, so he/she strikes through ‘S̶L̶A̶Y̶E̶R̶ ̶R̶U̶L̶E̶S̶ ̶T̶H̶E̶ ̶U̶N̶D̶E̶R̶W̶O̶R̶L̶D̶’ and writes ‘Stop drawing on bathroom walls.’ And so on and so forth.”
The second project, which will be based in New York, is Rescriptions II. A reincarnation of a previous project, Rescriptions is dedicated to the revival of lost stories through the injection of fresh perspectives. The process is simple: each writer brings to the group an old, tired story; one that doesn’t seem to be working. That story is handed to a second writer, whose task is to enhance and embellish the story’s strengths. After Writer 2 has tweaked the piece, it is passed along to Writer 3, Writer 4, Writer 5 and so on. By project’s end, the once-washed-up story is alive with the varied styles of a multi-minded author.
I had the opportunity to ask Mr. van Loon a few questions about both projects, and gain insight on the value of collaboration, the importance of place, and why you should get involved.
Chicago author Rebecca Makkai is the latest guest on All Write Already!, a locally-produced podcast that promises to be literary "without being all huffy about it."
Makkai is among the ranks of Chicago writers making waves beyond the local scene. Her 2011 debut, The Borrower, tells the story of a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading who take to the road. The book won all kinds of recognition, including a Booklist Top Ten Debut. All Write Already! hosts Karen Shimmin and Willy Nast interview Makkai about selling short stories, stealing from Nabokov, and what reading to nine-year-old boys taught her about writing.
Listen in and you may get a chance to share prospective title ideas for Makkai's as-yet-untitled second novel, due out in summer 2014 from Viking/Penguin. New episodes of All Write Already! are published on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month.
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.
We're sure all of you Book-Club-heads are aware that April is National Poetry Month. And while April may seem light years away while in the thick of February, that's exactly why it's necessary to get psyched for spring--and a free issue of Poetry magazine.
In honor of that poetic month, The Poetry Foundation is releasing free copies of the April 2013 issue of Poetry magazine to individuals, book clubs, and reading groups that request them by March 24. April's is also the first issue to be available in digital format. And to make sure you don't cheat and start celebrating early, the issues will ship in late March to ensure receipt during National Poetry Month.
The April 2013 issue of Poetry includes new poems by Adam Kirsch, Jane Hirshfield, Eavan Boland, Michael Robbins, Randall Mann, Dean Young, Lucie Brock-Broido, and J.T. Barbarese; prose by Christina Pugh; first appearances by Anna Maria Hong, Gwyneth Lewis, Mary Moore Easter, and Jamaal May; and the continuation of the feature "A Few More Don'ts," (commemorating Ezra Pound's famous "A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste") featuring Marjorie Perloff, William Logan, and Sina Queyras.
Fred Sasaki never thought he'd do an art project with his father, a California-born Japanese-American who spent a portion of his childhood in a World War II relocation camp. But when offering his son advice on being a writer, the elder Fred suggested pamphlets.
"I had no idea what he was talking about," said Sasaki. "Later I learned he was referring to the classic eight-pager, also known as the Tijuana bible -- these were handmade zines before they were called zines."
Especially popular during the Great Depression, Tijuana bibles were cheaply made underground comic books portraying bawdy sexual encounters between newspaper comic strip characters like Popeye and Blondie. But Sasaki Sr. wasn't suggesting his son pander pornographic cartoons -- his idea was to create manuals offering advice on topics like "how to wake up in the morning," and "how to bathe." Sasaki, who is associate editor of Poetry magazine, fell in love with the concept.
Remember back in 2009, when President Obama urged Americans to help in our nation's recovery by serving in their communities? Well, it's not too late (and really never will be). In our literary city, there are tons of ways to spread the love of reading and writing as a volunteer. Following is a round-up of a few non-profits eager to match bookish volunteers with participating youth and adults.
At 826CHI, the Chicago branch of Dave Egger's popular writing and tutoring center, you can support 8-16 year olds with creative and expository writing skills. Programs include in-school and after-school programming, field trips and creative workshops--or you can peddle wares in the Boring Store (which is not an undercover secret agent supply store).
The Neighborhood Writing Alliance gathers adults from low-income neighborhoods to write about their lives, the results of which are collected in the Journal of Ordinary Thought, and performed at various events and readings. You can serve as a workshop leader, develop artistic partnerships, proofread and more.
As a volunteer with Open Books, you can be a "Big Buddy" and spend 30 minutes a week reading with your "Little Buddy." Or, you can help teens write memoirs, assist with field trips at their literary center, or mentor virtually. Plus, they have an enormous bookstore, with all proceeds going to support the mission.
The Books section at npr.org is compiling a list of the best young adult novels. They aim to make a top 100 list and have narrowed it down to 235. "In winnowing the roster to a manageable size for voting, we considered both a book's popularity...and the question of how well it fits the YA category. The judges looked at qualities such as a book's themes, the age of its main characters, its reading level. But in the end, the most important test was often whether a given book is one that teens themselves have claimed - whether they do, in fact, voluntarily read it." Vote for your favorite or nominate a neglected candidate here (hmm, I don't see Bridge To Terabithia or A Wrinkle In Time...).
TED Books, the publishing arm of TED (Technology, Entertainement and Design) conferences launches a new iOS app to sell its eBooks today. Designed by Atavist, the app will allow authors to add audio and video to their books. Read more here.
At the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2 for those in the know, the special guests were abundant. Among them were various writers and artists from Marvel comics there to talk about "Avengers vs. X-Men," a new event in the Marvel Universe.
"If not now, when?" said editor Axel Alonso, referring to both the current story lines in Marvel comics and the upcoming Avengers movie, which comes out May 4 of this year.
The story, which does not follow the plot of the movie, features veteran comic book writers such as Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction, and artists such as John Romita, Jr. and Oliver Coipel.
"The premise is obviously a bunch of guys in spandex punching each other in the face," said writer Jason Aaron. "But we wanted a story to run through that."
Marvel panelists also discussed an initiative called Marvel Re-Evolution, which involves bringing comics to the digital format using tablets and augmented-reality apps to enhance the experience.
"We're using the tablet as a canvas," said Alonso, adding that they didn't want to just re-publish print content on a tablet as-is.
Marvel aired a full-length, never-before-seen episode of the animated series "Ultimate Spiderman" featuring Wolverine as part of their series of panels.
What's the value in a book tour? I have no idea. I've never gone on tour, nor have I written a book for that matter, but I do love to go to readings. That much I know. The Hairpin, one of my favoriate blogs, published a rather large article asking 9 writers, publicists, and event organizers the same question.
According to my experience as a listener at such events, author readings succeed insofar as they almost always motivate me to buy the book if I have some cash in my pocket. And if I don't, I borrow some from my boyfriend and repay him by asking him to help me put up shelves because my books no longer fit in my bookcases.
100 years ago, Harriet Munroe founded Poetry in Chicago (above: first issue of Poetry, October 1912, courtesy of Poetry magazine). Since then, the magazine has come out with an issue every month, publishing some of the greats (E.E. Cummings, Frank O'Hara, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop...just to name a few) as well as fresh, new voices. Check out what Poetry has been up to all these years, look through the archives, and plan your year around the many Poetry centennial events!
The Chicago literary series This Much is True and Story Lab Chicago bring a unique lineup of performers to their monthly events. The creative forces behind these series are presenting writing classes that aim to develop storytellers. Their initiative Storytelling For Everyone: A Four Session Course in Personal Narrative will be a set of four 3-hour sessions that cover the process of developing a story to readying it for live performance. Sessions are structured with a workshop component where writers will receive feedback on their work.
The class instructor is Scott Whitehair, producer of This Much Is True and creator/host of Story Lab Chicago. Each class size will be capped at 6 giving those enrolled more one-on-one time with fellow classmates and the instructor.
This program will be held in the Cornelia Arts Building (1800 W Cornelia) on Saturdays from January 28 through February 18 from 10am to 1pm.
Did you know January is National Hobby Month? To honor the occasion, Quimby's is hosting its first 24-Hour Zine Challenge. Starting at 7pm on Saturday, January 14, and running until 7pm Sunday, January 15, Quimby's will have a sleepover at the shop. But instead of playing Light-as-a-Feather, Stiff-as-a-Board, participants will create their own zine with provided supplies. Space is limited, so RSVP before January 11, and come with "sleeping gear, ideas, stamina." Click here for more information on how to reserve your spot!
Graze is a literary magazine about food. Not reviews, recipes, or table settings, but stories and discussions surrounding the people who make it, the people who eat it (i.e. everyone), and what role it plays in our lives. Their next event will be in late January at the Hideout -- stay tuned for details.
The River North restaurant BRUNCH is paying homage to poetry by holding a delicious contest: submit an original poem based on one of BRUNCH's menu items for a chance to win a free entrée. Send entries to General Manager, Ryan Riek, at 644 N. Orleans, Chicago, IL 60654. You have until December 31, 2011. If you're part of the top ten, you'll get a gift certificate for a free entree, and your poem will be displayed at the restaurant. Your poem may even be used in BRUNCH's marketing and promotions.
Questions? Please call Katharine Nichols at 773/969.5200.
But if you have some time between now and April 29, 2012, stop by the Chicago Cultural Center to check out their latest exhibit, Write Now: Artists and Letterforms, where mostly Chicago-based artists put works together using letters and text in many different mediums, including sculpture, textiles, and video. The Fluxus/Visual Poetry Project is also exhibited in a section, featuring work by the International Fluxus and Mail Art communities who submitted their pieces via mail. Admission is free; get more info and take a look at times here.
"O, Dose Market,
a curated selection of food & design for self & home.
Do not forget,
as you stroll the booths, to commission an artisanal poem!"
Dave Landsberger, Eric Plattner, and Kathleen Rooney are once again taking part in Poems While You Wait. They will be composing poems on demand via vintage typewriter at Dose Market (River East Art Center, 435 East Illinois St), on Sunday, November 6, from 10am-4pm. For $5 (or whatever you have in your pocket--lint not accepted) you can command them to write on any topic you'd like. Proceeds will go to independent publisher Rose Metal Press.
This October 31 isn't just Halloween, it's also the deadline for submissions to Ink Well Magazine and Ledge Poetry and Fiction's Poetry Chapbook competition. For Ink Well's fifth volume, they're giving you an "Obsession/Compulsion" theme, and they're accepting pretty much any medium you can think of. For Ledge Poetry and Fiction's contest, sacrifice $18 for the reading fee--because the winner will receive, not only 25 copies of his/her chapbook, but $1000! Click here for more info on Ink Well submissions and here for Ledge Poetry's contest guidelines.
Last week, the Science and Industry Museum opened their temporary exhibit, There's Fun to Be Done! Dr. Seuss & the Art of Invention. See Theodor Seuss Geisel's early works and study the commonalities in all of his artwork. You can also participate in hands-on activities that celebrate Dr. Seuss's innovative thinking. Fun for adults and kids alike, the exhibit runs until January 8 on the Main Level (Temporary Exhibit East) of the museum. Tickets are $12-20 and have specific entry times. Click here for more information and to buy tickets online.
California-based artist Richard Sheppard visited Chicago recently and posted several sketches and watercolors on his blog, The Artist on the Road. while in town, he happened to spot a listing for Roger Ebert signing his new book, Life Itself, and sketched the above illustration while waiting in line. From flickr:
While glancing at a Chicago newspaper's calendar of events, I noticed that in just two days Roger Ebert would be signing his new book Life Itself at a local Barnes and Noble. We planned to arrive early that evening, expecting a crowd. I didn't know whether Roger would allow pictures or drawings of him, so while waiting, I began sketching two comfy chairs, one of which was to be occupied by Roger. Before he and his wife Chaz arrived, promptly on time, I'd also had time to add the backdrop to my drawing. We all quickly felt a distinct part of the experience, as Roger walked straight up the queue of his fans, stopping to shake each one's hand. He also took a moment to look directly at each person's eyes, as if to etch their face into his memory, or perhaps simply to acknowledge everyone individually. It was a touching experience. Someone in the crowd asked if photographs of Roger were allowed, and Chaz, who was also there to help, replied in the affirmative. After he signed my book, I stood back a bit and sketched Roger as he continued to sign books. What an amazing person he is.
Quimby's, Chicago's source for quirky, edgy, and independently published books, comics, and zines, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a limited edition of 500 five-color silkscreen prints of renowned Chicago artist Chris Ware's blueprint for its storefront sign.
The store's founder, Steven Svymbersky, had been publishing zines for six years when he opened the first Quimby's in Wicker Park in 1991. "I really want to carry every cool - bizarre - strange - dope - queer - surreal - weird publication ever written and published and in time Quimby's will. Because I know you're out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist," Svymbersky says on Quimby's website. Quimby's is now owned by Eric Kirsammer, who is also proprietor of its sister store, Lakeview landmark Chicago Comics.
Quimby's offers Chicago artists and writers a place to hawk their wares with a non-curated assortment of independently published books and zines sold on consignment. The store also curates an extensive collection of non-consignment publications. According to their website, "We tend to order stuff that deals with topics that in some way relate to outer limits, carnies, freaks, conspiracy theory, lowbrow art, miscreants, mayhem, that kind of stuff." And we love them for it.
The Bird Machine screenprint shop in Skokie, Illinois produced the 20th anniversary print, which measures 19" across and 13" high, and features hand-ripped edges. The prints run $50 apiece, and a limited number of signed prints are available for $100.
Over the years, the Alternative Press (Ken and Ann Mikolowski) made and sent out to their followers "poetry postcards," written by such poetry notables as Anne Waldman, Robert Creely, and Ted Berrigan. These postcards will be exhibited as The Alternative Press Multiple Originals Project at the Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior) from September 21 to November 4. And to celebrate, the Foundation will host an opening reception on September 22 at 6pm, where poets Bill Berkson, Andrei Codrescu, and Emily Warn talk with Ken Mikolowski about The Alternative Press's unique project. For more information on The Alternative Press Multiple Originals Project, the poets who participated, and examples of poetry postcards, check out this article by Emily Warn.
Poets&Writers asked publishers, editors, authors, etc. all over the United States to give them a literary tour of their city. Chicago's guide is none other than cofounder of Featherproof Books, Zach Dodson. Take a look at where he tells you to go, and what he tells you to see!
Interested in getting a little preview of Every Thing on It, the new, posthumously published Shel Silverstein book? The editors at the New York Times use the upcoming publication as jumping off point to introdcue the theme of their Back to School feature on children's books and offer a look at several of the book's new (to us) poems.
Gothic Blue Books -- popular in the 18th and 19th centuries -- are shortened versions of Gothic novels, always set in a monastery or convent or castle. And Chicago small press Burial Day Books is bringing it back -- with their own twist. For Burial Day Books' version of the Gothic Blue Book, they're requesting submissions of short stories (poems will also be considered) that follow the original Gothic Blue Book guideline or the New Burial Day Gothic Blue Book guideline. Click here for the guideline definitions and official rules and tips. Submission deadline is September 13. The publication date (online and in traditional journal format)? You guessed it: October 31.
Everyone has a story to tell, and if you come to Here's the Story, you can listen to some and even tell one of your own. Taking place every second Wednesday of the month at 7:30pm, at Stage 773 (1225 W Belmont), Here's the Story features five invited readers and holds a "story slam" for anyone who signs up. If you're selected as a "slammer," you get the floor at your designated time, share your story, and then keep your fingers crossed that the audience likes it--because they assign points to their favorites. The slammer with the most points gets to be one of the next month's featured readers. What makes Here's the Story different from tons of other readings, slams, and open mics around the city? It's also a potluck! Bring a dish to pass, fill your plate, and settle in for some serious storytelling. Get more info, see how to submit to be a featured reader, and check out past events here. Next show is September 14!
Welcome a couple of Chicago's new literary endeavors...
1) Anobium: As described by Editor-in-Chief Benjamin van Loon, "Anobium is an answer to Reality. It's an experiment." Check out Chicago Publishes interview with van Loon here and then take a look at Anobium for yourself.
2) Grow Books: Started by Alyson Beaton, Grow Books features eco-friendly books for kids. Learn a little about Grow Books from Beaton here and then see what the publisher has to offer!
Kind of. Theater troupe Collaboraction will be dressed up as passed-on Chicago authors tonight at the 2011 Printers' Ball. They'll give ball-goers a little advice, a few words of wisdom, and the chance to win a Kindle. Seek a dead author out for an entry slip, write a literary quote on the slip, bring the slip to the Chicago Publishes table on the 8th floor, and cross your fingers! At the end of the night, perhaps you'll go home happy with a new Kindle.
Do you have a major soft spot for Sal Paradise's journey to the Chicago YMCA in Jack Kerouac's On the Road? According to this tongue-in-cheek list from The Hairpin, which catalogs other novels that could indicate selfishness and/or immaturity, you may be the type of dude who ends up in a situation where "suddenly you're in a TSA holding cell, all because he thought his stash would be lonely without him."
The Poetry Foundation started their Poetry app with the iPhone. Well, Android and iPad users rejoice: the Poetry app is available for you too! Now you'll get to enjoy audio poems in the virtual poetry library, poem source information, and poets' bios, plus much more. Download the Android app here and the iPad app here.
"O Wicker Park Fest/ What souvenir should I take home?/ A hangover? A corduroy hipster vest?/ Or an original poem?"
At this Saturday's Wicker Park Fest, two of the Poetry Brothel poets, Dave Landsberger and Kathleen Rooney, will provide poetry on demand from 2pm-9pm at the Chamber of Commerce Booth. Tell them your topic of choice, and they will type out a fresh, related poem on their vintage typewriter. Donations of $5 are suggested, though pay-what-you-can is also accepted. All proceeds will benefit the after-school program 826CHI (The Boring Store) and Rose Metal Press. Read on below for sample poems from Landsberger and Rooney.
WICKER PARK by Dave Landsberger
Men cheat at chess and chug Big Gulps
as children run shirtless to stranger's puppies.
Fat guys on fat softball teams watch skinny dudes
tai-chi into Derrick Rose--the shoes are insults,
the sockless are gods here. O, to be barefoot,
eating a sandwich, under a tree, hopefully no one's Labrador
will release their morning upon me. And look, the sun,
it bombasts above the fountain as if to draw a straight line:
a pyramid, an ancient geyser of goats, gargoyles, a pizza from above .
Even hipsters cannot reappropriate such wonder.
Nor the drunken centrifuge of the Blue Line,
the sad-looking babes in leggings, the elderly who sit and watch,
holding hands. The only force that can steal it away is the winter,
and even then, the poinsettias win. Their roots, barefoot.
SIX-WAY INTERSECTION: A CINQUAIN by Kathleen Rooney
The street, a girl
Just threw her cellphone at
A bus. Man--where can we get a
Support your local neighborhood non-for-profit quarterly literary journal. How? Check out the Logan Square Literary Review Issue VII: Summer 2011, out now. They publish fiction, poetry, essays, well almost anything. Find out more at their site, visit shops in Logan Square like Bucket O' Blood Books and Records, GMART Comics, and saki -- or look for them at The Logan Square Farmers Market.
On July 1, the Newberry Library kicks off its compact shelving project, making better use of space with these shelf upgrades. Most heavily used collections will not be affected by the project, but for specifics on what it means for different sections, go here.
One series closes, another moves: The Paper Machete, the weekly live magazine featuring performances by authors, musicians, comedians, and more, will now be hosted at Horseshoe (4115 N. Lincoln Ave.), a bar not far from its previous location, Ricochet's Tavern (4644 N. Lincoln Ave.).
The Logan Square Literary Review, based in the Logan Square neighborhood, wants your voice to be heard! The journal joined the neighborhood's art community in 2009 in order to foster creativity and is now on its eighth issue. If you want your work considered for publication in the Summer 2011 issue, check out the journal's website for submission guidelines, the kind of pieces the journal is looking for, and other submission-related information. Deadline is July 26 (you don't have to be a resident of Logan Square -- submission is open to the general public)!
The Chicago Poetry Brothel, which consists of poetry whores, burlesque dancers, and musicians, is featured in an Associated Press video essay. Susan Yount, brothel madam and Columbia College MFA student, and Kathleen Rooney, poet/writer and Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at DePaul, are interviewed. Check out the video on Yahoo! news.
CBSChicago.com has its picks for must-have beach reads. And guess who's top on the list? Chicago's Wendy McClure with her latest, The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. Pick up a copy and get ready to hit the shore!
Poetry magazine! Up for a National Magazine Award for "General Excellence, Print," Poetry beat out the likes of Lapham's Quarterly, The Paris Review, The Sun, and Virginia Quarterly Review for the coveted Ellie. This is the magazine's second award from the American Society of Magazine Editors', as the Poetry magazine podcast won an award in the Digital Media, "Podcasting" category. Congrats!
I know, I know, it's not even spring weather yet, much less beach weather. But give yourself something to look forward to in addition to warmer temps... Chicago author Jen Lancaster's (Bitter is the New Black, My Fair Lazy) latest, If You Were Here, came out on Tuesday. See her read at the Barnes and Noble on Webster (1441 W. Webster Ave.) at 6pm this Saturday, May 7, and then add the new novel to your summer reading list!
Color Chicago proud: Adam Levin is one of the finalists in the Indie Booksellers Choice Awards, for his debut novel, The Instructions. Booksellers are voting now, and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on May 23. Check out the other finalists here.
Or in other words, the bookworm. And the inspiration for Chicago's latest lit journal: Anobium. Started by Chicago editors Benjamin van Loon and Mary J. Levine, the journal embraces the "strange, surreal and exceptional." Check out Literary Chicago's interview with van Loon. And make sure to mark on your calendar that Anobium's first issue arrives in July!
Remember when we talked about Poetry Cram 11? Well, the poets/poems have been selected for the 11th volume. See the list here. And don't forget, you can get your free copy of the journal on Saturday, April 30, from 10am to 4pm at Harold Washington Library.
In her blog entry "Five Things I Learned from the University of Chicago," alumna Amy Estersohn describes (among other things) how the Hyde Park institution made her literate:
"I learned how to read. Yes, I know, you learned how to read from your parents/your favorite television shows/because all the cool kids were doing it. But there's a difference between reading and reading- the italicized kind of reading includes reading for argument and for comparison. It's also about learning to read sympathetically instead of dismissively -- as it's easier to dismiss a theorist wholesale (i.e. Freud) than to explain why a theory may have merit. After graduating from UChicago, I've found that I have a much more voracious pleasure reading appetite, from science and math to philosophy and history, and UChicago empowered me to explore further on my own."
The Poetry Foundation's Poetry Everywhere is starting its fourth season with Garrison Keillor. With Keillor as the narrator, this edition of Poetry Everywhere will offer short films with various poetic voices (including the likes of Galway Kinnell, Kwame Dawes, and Rita Dove) on public television as well as the web.
Switchback Books, Chicago's nonprofit feminist press, is looking for a new Gatewood Prize winner. The Gatewood Prize is Switchback's annual first or second full-length poetry collection competition, and this year's judge is Harryette Mullen. If you're interested in submitting -- and you're a woman (and Switchback's definition of "woman" is varied) -- check out the official rules here. Entry deadline is June 1, 2011.
In just a few short days, it will be the beginning of National Poetry Month. Celebrate it right by submitting your poems to Poetry Cram 11 -- they're still accepting submissions! Check out the important guidelines, as well as more information on Poetry Cram, here. Deadline to submit is April 11. Issues of Poetry Cram 11 will be given away for free on April 30, 7-9pm, at the National Poetry Month Cram at Café Ballou (939 N. Western Ave). Cram poets will read, and there will be an open mic -- so those of you who may not get your work accepted, you still have a chance to share it.
I remember Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants being one of the very few Book Club selections that nearly everyone at our discussion meeting loved fiercely, myself included. It was the simple story of an ordinary man tumbling through life who, through chance, becomes party to amazing experiences. The overwhelming success of the book meant that it was only a matter of time before it became a movie and that's precisely what's happened. You can view the trailer below. (I have no qualms about Reese Witherspoon or Christoph Waltz in these roles, but Robert Pattinson as Jacob Jankowski? No...just no...)
In Baconfest Chicago's Poetry Contest! Baconfest Chicago takes place in April this year, with lots of exhibiting restaurants and bacon-related products (Bakon Vodka anyone?) and events, including a poetry contest. It's been narrowed down to six finalists. Check out the poems and then vote for your favorite here! (Polls close this Friday at 1pm.)
Open Books is holding their first ever classics competition. Yes, that means classic books are competing against each other to win the title of Open Books Classic. There are two divisions - the "Classic" division which includes your Tolstoy, your Orwell, your Salinger, etc.; and the "Modern Classic" division, which includes your Eugenides, your Franzen, your Gaiman, etc. Cast your votes here and stop by the Open Books store at 213 W. Institute Pl. to see the bracket standings in the window or check them on Twitter or Facebook. My money's on The Corrections and Pride and Prejudice - who's your favorite to win?
The far western 'burb has a book club that's been meeting continuously for over 100 years! Founded in 1910, the Zetema book club even made it through both world wars. They contributed to World War I by making bandages, and on Dec. 9, 1941, they were reviewing Berlin Diary by William Shirer when then-President Roosevelt declared war on Japan. Check out the full Tribune article for more facts about this long-lasting club.
It sure does: the Pritzker Military Library. And it's moved into a fancy new space on Michigan Ave. The library is filled with books, films, and gallery exhibits dedicated to soldiers throughout American history. And admission is free!
Black Ocean -- the independent publishing/production company based in Boston, NYC, and right here in Chicago -- is giving away free books! Their very own Zachary Schombrug had his second book, Scary, No Scary, nominated in Best Book of Poetry in the 2010 Oregon Book Awards. Apparently, The Huffington Postlikes it too. So to celebrate, Black Ocean is giving you a free book when you order Schombrug's book in its limited hardback edition. Get 'em while they're...free.
The Chicago Publishes blog voices some contensions with Chicago's placement as the 28th most literate city in the nation (previously reported here). The big question, they argue, is what the word "literate" means. It turns out the study does not take into account the number of local publishers, the activity of local literary organizations, or readership of local blogs or other alternative media, among other literary endeavors, all of which Chicago has in spades. So take our #28 ranking with a grain of salt, keeping in mind that the study's look at literary activity is far from comprehensive.
Doesn't sound all that appealing, does it? What if we told you they're children's tales, and they're creepy? In the 1880s, German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann went to buy his son a book and was sorely disappointed in the selection. So he wrote his own -- Struwwelpeter -- which became very popular. Full of stories about what happens to bad little girls and boys, Struwwelpeter has been translated into many languages and adapted for stage and screen. And now, Chicago printmaker Sanya Glisic has given the book some new illustrations. Having a love for innocence, or the loss of it, Glisic worked on the illustrations when she was a Spudnik Press artist-in-residence in 2010. The result: a handmade version of Hoffmann's book released in a limited print run at Chicago's Spudnik Press. And Glisic herself will present her new version this Thursday at Quimby's, 7pm.
Local artist Sarah Best works with photography, embroidery, and illustration, often for shows or a class. After a friend gifted her with the book 642 Things to Draw, a series of drawing prompts, she began to exercise her illustrative talents in new, fun, and less formal ways. The "cabin" prompt turned into her cat dressed as David Thoreau in front of his woodland, while "fangs" spawned an elderly shark's bedside table.
Best documents these drawings on her blog -- check it out, and be inspired by visions of rolling pins, robots, pickles and more.
Black Ocean is happy to oblige... Providing you get a tattoo (a permanent tattoo, people -- none of those temporary henna things) inspired by one of their books. Send in a picture of you getting your Black Ocean title tattoo, and you, too, will get a lifetime subscription to every book they publish.
Small Beer Press, who put out Chicago native Jennifer Stevenson's Trash Sex Magic (described as ""to Chicago what The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is to Pittsburgh and A Winter's Tale is to New York -- a winning, touching, open-eyed love letter "), is offering free downloadable books by acclaimed dark fantasy author Kelly Link, myths of mothers-exploring Maureen F. McHugh, and more.
Celebrate Printworks Gallery's 30th anniversary throughout January and a little of February (ends February 12) with 68 artists' vision of the book jacket, that outer covering that presents the contents to the world. 311 W Superior St, Tuesdays-Saturdays (11am-5pm).
In order to celebrate National Poetry Month (which happens in April), The Poetry Foundation is giving away a limited number of copies of their April 2011 issue of Poetry magazine. If your book club or reading group wants to get their hands on this issue for free, all you have to do is send an online request (only one mailing address per reading group and limit 10, please!). All Poetry asks of YOU is that you provide a short account of your group's experience. Request by February 20, and your issues will ship in late March.
If you guessed "written a cookbook," you'd be wrong. Her cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart, celebrates the intimacy of sharing food with friends and family. Angelou says, "You need the best ingredients when you're going to cook. The writer has to take some nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, et cetera, and boil them up in such a way that you can throw them against the wall and they'll bounce."
C. Max Magee, co-editor of the upcoming The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, reflects in essay form about baseball, Steve Albini, and the changing nature of the park at Leavitt and Argyle.
No, it's not for sale. But as of 5:30pm, you have just over six hours left to buy a one-year family membership to the Ernest Hemingway Museum in Oak Park, courtesy of Groupon, for $30. Check out the writer's birth home and learn about the first 20 years of his life -- I've never been to the museum, but it's possible there will be some photos of the A Farewell to Arms scribe as a toddler dressed in drag.
Are you sick of hearing about the death of print as we know it, or some permutation of that phrase? Have you ever made a mini comic or zine? If you answered yes to the latter, Quimby's has a challenge for you...if you said yes to the former, you still might be interested in seeing how this goes down.
Sometime in 2011, Quimby's wants you to cuddle up to the Xerox and turn out one more self-published work, be it a comic, mini-comic, zine, or some hybrid of all three. Join the Facebook group for more information and updates, and start prepping to ride that printed train into the new year.
Located in the heart of Pilsen at 1443 W. 18th St, Libreria Giron carries many of the same titles as other bookstores, but their selections are in Spanish. Here, owner Juan Giron explains how this unites the surrounding community.
Missed Corrections critiques posts on Craigslist's Missed Connections, editing them for grammar, spelling, and clarity. The mind behind it seems to be based out of Philadelphia, but there are definitely a fewhere that could use their "pretentious academic" touch.
For the past three years, I've signed up for November's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel, starting from scratch, in 30 days. And every year I don't write more than 500 words. But I'm still on the e-mail list, receiving the weekly "pep talks" from WriMos and non-WriMo writers. Here is today's from Dave Eggers, making me feel paradoxically a) like procrastinating is OK, and b) guilty about procrastinating:
Is procrastination a problem for you? Really? You think you have a problem?
Here's procrastination: The organizers of NaNoWriMo asked me three months ago to write this pep talk, and I'm only writing it now, after blowing three deadlines, after avoiding ten reminders. I was asked to write a pep talk for NaNoWriMo, and I'm actually writing it after the month started. So whatever procrastination problems you have, I probably have you beat. I'm the worst, and I'm getting worse every day.
It's a very strange thing, because we all think writing should be fun. That is, when I was temping through most of my twenties, wondering what it would be like to write for a living, hoping for such a life, I thought it might be pretty sweet. I thought if I ever got to write for a living, I would feel pretty lucky, and that I would be so appreciative that I would bound out of bed every day and, like a goddamned adult, I would write as much as I could every day, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time. Again, like an adult.
Instead, I need, on average, 8 hours sitting on my writing couch to get one hour of work done. It's a pathetic ratio. I stall, avoid, put off and generally act like someone's making me do some terrible job I never wanted to do. I blow pretty much every deadline I'm given.
Just like I blew the one for NaNoWriMo.
But then, when things are late, and I'm feeling like an idiot, and I feel like I'm letting down someone (like the people at NaNoWriMo, and you), I finally dig in and get started. And then I write, and I write in a fury, and I even, sometimes, enjoy writing.
And that's why I love NaNoWriMo. It gets you started. It gives you the impetus to finally start, and/or finally finish. Knowing there are thousands of others out there trying to do the same, who are using this ridiculous deadline as cattle-prod and shame deterrent, means goddamnit, you better do it now because you know how to write, and you have fingers, and you have this one life, and during this one life, you should put your words down, and make your voice heard, and then let others hear your voice. And the only way any of that's going to happen is if you actually do it. People can't read the thoughts in your head. They can only read the thoughts you put down, carefully and with great love, on the page. So you have to do it, goddamnit. You have to do it, and you can step back and be happy. You can step back and relax. You can step back and feel something like pride.
Then of course you'll have to revise it ten or twenty times, but let's not talk about that yet.
To celebrate T-shirt company Threadless's 10th anniversary this year, the "most innovative small company in America" published a birthday book featuring designs from its history. The 224-page book, which can be ordered in paperback or (coming soon) as a coffee-table book, also includes profiles of fans and artists, such as graphic designer John Maeda.
Threadless co-founder Jake Nickell took some time to answer a few questions about Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community and the story he wants to tell about his company:
The Chicago Manual of Style -- the I-swear-to-use-the-serial-comma-so-help-me-University-of-Chicago-Press bible for editors and writers and "everyone who works with words" -- doesn't just appear on shelves and on the internet in its pure form. It is actually written by real-live human beings, who gather in meeting rooms and debate whether blog names should be italicized or in quotes. (If I sound glib, I don't mean to -- I am honestly in awe of these editors.) Carol Fisher Saller, the "Subversive Copy Editor" and an editor of the CMOS, now in its 16th edition, has posted a list of "outtakes" from those debates, which the editor and grammar nerd in me finds wonderful. Below are my favorites:
"I agree with everyone else that it looks sufficiently ugly as is."
"I'm going to take some notes, as if we were saying important things."
"Please stop using spreadsheet as a verb. Are you gonna spreadsheet that?"
"I'm sorry, there are errors in the error messages."
"If you want to try talking the designer into using Times New Roman, be my guest, buddy."
"When you really think about it, what is an en dash good for?"
"That phrase is inherently nonprecise."
"You mean to tell me you looked at the spacing around all the apostrophes?"
Looking for something not just new to you, but new in general? Entertainment Weeklycompiled a list of their New Classics: the 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008, which includes local or once-local authors Chris Ware, Dave Eggers, and Sandra Cisneros.
Head down to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute to find out! Their latest exhibit, "Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond," has four systems of writing on display -- from Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Mesoamerica. And these four systems may have evolved into the writing systems we know today. Some of the displayed items include early cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, Egyptian tags and labels from the first kings' tombs, Chinese writing on "oracle bones," and Mayan hieroglyphs. While you're there, you can also check out the newest theories on the origins of the alphabet. The exhibit runs until March 6, 2011.
Just like cupcakes and bacon, zombies are trendy (and, also like cupcakes and bacon, some might argue that it's not just a trend). But cult favorites like Dawn of the Dead, World War Z, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies all feature the brain-eaters as the antagonists. Scott Kenemore, zombie enthusiast, takes a different route with his books, which look to zombie behavior for ways to better our lives.
His recent manual, The Art of Zombie Warfare: How to Kick Ass Like the Walking Dead, for example, offers advice like, "If you want to fight like a zombie, you need to begin by thinking of ways to withstand massive amounts of damage." And "A zombie army is always moving." My personal favorite -- and one I'm going to heed tonight, probably: "Fight like you're already dead."
Check out The Newberry Library's seminars in Literature and Theater. They'll be covering a range of topics, from Shakespeare to Dickinson and Paradise Lost to Time Regained. More interested in writing rather than reading? No problem. The Newberry also offers writing workshops. Look at all of the fall 2010 seminars here, and then mosey on over here to register!
StoryCorps, that wonderful, large-scale oral-history project that records Americans sharing their life stories, has animated a video of oral historian Studs Terkel -- one of StoryCorps's inspirations -- speaking about the human voice in 2005.
Today, I got my copy of Adam Levin's highly anticipated debut novel, The Instructions, published by McSweeney's -- all 1,030 pages of it (that includes the coda). I was pretty excited, so, of course, I immediately documented its arrival.
As soon as I opened the box, I saw I got the one with the blue cover. From the top, the book's size is deceiving.
But, wait, what's that? The spine is thicker than my bicep.
The font is size 12, not size 14 or 16 or 18 -- so it is legitimately a long-ass book.
Just for fun, here's one more look at the book from the side.
The behemoth comes out October 22. Levin reads from his book October 21 at Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave.), 7pm, and at Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St.) October 27, 7-9pm.
If asked to name as many Polish novelists as I can think of, I might only be able to come up with one. But the University of Illinois at Chicago can help save me from my ignorance: they've hired world-renowned scholar of Polish literature and culture Michal Pawel Markowski as the inaugural Stefan and Lucy Hejna family chair in Polish language and literature.
Tonight at UIC, join Markowski as he answers the question "What is Polish Literature?" Room 302 in Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted St., 5pm-7pm.
The words all originated in our fair city, according to Chicago magazine. We would have no way to describe Jim Abbott without Chicago author Finley Peter Dunne. What would we call those tall, sky-sweeping buildings if it weren't for an 1888 article in the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper? And apparently, "tho" did not originate from lazy teenagers who wanted to type txt msgs faster: the Chicago Tribune spelled "though" that way between 1934 and 1975.
How's this for a dream date: "Country noir" superstar Neko Case will pick you up in "Angie Dickinson," her 1967 Mercury Cougar, and sing you songs about the moon as you dodge the authorities and plan your new life. OK, well, part of that dream can come true if you've the coin: she's auctioning off that very car, pictured on her 2009 album Middle Cyclone, in the Mercury Cougar-Rama Muscle Car 'Splosion to benefit Dave Eggers' 826 National. A nonprofit with branches in nine cities (including Chicago), 826 National is dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, with expository and creative writing. Each chapter offers after-school tutoring, field trips, workshops, and in-school programs - all free of charge - for children, classes, and schools with particular interests or particular needs. "Reading saved my life," Case said. "As a kid, books sparked my imagination and gave me a place to look forward to outside of my bad situation and poverty. They prop open the doorway to ANY path. You become fascinated by the world of learning and suddenly, there is nothing you can't do. I am so proud to be a part of this event, and I hope to do 826 proud with this auction."
Sam Weller authored the critically acclaimed Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. Missed his talk, or just share his love? The Columbia College professor details his passion on his website, a repository of photos, interviews, and literary context.
Authors rarely talk about the strange headspace they inhabit between the time a book's been fully edited and the day it is published. Rosencrans Baldwin set out to change all that, keeping a diary for five months before the August 12 release of his debut novel, You Lost Me There.
The anxiety is palpable. Maybe he should cut down on the Diet Coke.
I receive dozens of press releases a day at my job, so I got a laugh out of this mock release from author and senior editor of Booklist OnlineKeir Graff, to promote his fourth novel, The Price of Liberty. Highlights:
Misspellings and grammatical errors throughout are should contributing to this effect.
As is customary, key information has been set in boldface.
"For my fourth novel, I wanted to try something different," Graff quotes himself as saying.
The Price of Liberty's launch party will be Thursday, September 9, 5:30-7:30pm. After Words Books, 23 E. Illinois St., 312-464-1110.
Learn how with DePaul's latest continuing education course: Certificate in Publishing. Get the scoop on everything from the new phenomenon of the small press in the American lit scene, to the financial and technical considerations of the small publisher. The added bonus? Throughout the course, you'll receive instruction from the publishers of featherproof Books! Get more info and check out how to get registered here.
"Spoke-thin rungs poked in the side plotted a dizzying ascent, and the thought of climbing that far skyward made my knees weak."
"The expressway ramps soar above, residents hunker underneath, and in the soot and debris, St. Jude was wrapped in a blue cloak both brilliant and stern, with the words 'Pray for Us' painted on a golden background."
The Silver-Colored Yesterday, a blog written by Joseph Drogos, is one of the online features for Make, a Chicago-based literary magazine. A "commentary on the real and imagined social, cultural, and literary heritage of Make's hometown," TSCY tells Chicago's story through beautiful, haunting imagery and explores hidden facets about the city that only a true Chicagoan would even know to look for: neglected spaces between warehouses and factories, the final days of baseball at Comiskey, the essence of Bridgeport .
Of course, this blog is only a small part of Make's nine-issue history -- the magazine, started in 2005, delivers short stories, essays, poetry, reviews, and interviews, as well as art and photography, in a biannual package, with themes like "Truthiness" and "Property Lines."
Tomorrow, after the sixth annual Printers' Ball (of which Gapers Block is a proud sponsor), Make is throwing itself a party: the Printers' Ball After-Party and Make Five-Year Anniversary Fiesta. Musical comedy game show Shame That Tune and bands like Magical Beautiful and Coupleskate make an appearance, but what really makes it a party are the candy, $5 shots of Templeton Rye, and (hell yes) piñatas.
Friday, July 30, 9pm, Reggie's Music Joint, 2105 S. State St., 21+
When it's Chicago's newest online poetry journal. Publishing poetry, book and performance reviews, as well as interviews and art, MUZZLE just published its first issue and is looking for submissions for its second issue, scheduled for release in October.
Summer's almost here. That means "Turkey In the Straw" jangling out of ice cream trucks and free books in the park, if you're lucky enough to spot the Book Bike. Since 2008, Gabriel Levinson has been riding from his custom-built Haley tricycle into public parks across Chicago every weekend, weather permitting, distributing hundreds of pounds of books donated by publishers to anyone interested. He explains, "the mission is to build and cherish a private library regardless of class or economic state, which is why the Book Bike is only at public parks. It's a place where every single person, whether you have a roof over your head or don't, has the right and privilege to be." This year he's focusing on distributing only zines and books by independent publishers. The one man organization is asking for your help: if Levinson can raise $1,000 for Book Bike by June 1st, he will give away a signed book from his personal collection (How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers). All donations eligible for the drawing, regardless of amount.
Golf lessons with Tiger Woods would likely cost thousands -- or $13.59 -- but Debby Herbenick, Time Out Chicago sex columnist, gives away Tiger's lessons on getting hot 'n' heavy for free. Author of the 2009 book Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction (Rodale Books), Herbenick draws advice from "celebrity sexperts" in a four-part CheekyChicago series (Tiger is the first).
Need immediate unpublished children's stories appealing to ages 2-6, preferably with a princess, pirate, fairy or rabbit theme. Will pay generous royalties. Must have own illustrations. Call immediately 312.XXX.XXXX
Comics have found a home in Chicago. The Second City has an abundant amount of artists, working hard to get their material seen. These experts will present their ideas, opinions and techniques at the first-ever Comic Symposium of Chicago, hosted by The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). For two days, panels of comic creators will discuss Chicago's influence on this art form.
Starting Thursday, March 11 and continuing until Friday, March 12, the symposium will feature four panel discussions with numerous artists answering questions from attendees. The panelists will investigate not only the trials of self-publication, film and education, but also the difficulties of maintaining independent comic shops around the city. The event will bring all fans of the comic world together to listen to local comic makers discuss their passion, their art.
The event is free and open to the public. It will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. this Thursday and Friday at the SAIC Ballroom: 112 S. Michigan Ave.