Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, May 18

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Book Club

Book Club Fri Nov 13 2015

You're Being Ridiculous Anniversary Show and Q&A

yourebeingridiculous.jpgThe live lit show You're Being Ridiculous will celebrate its fifth anniversary with three knockout shows on November 21, November 28, and December 5 at the Mayne Stage (1328 W. North Avenue). The shows will feature true stories performed by Megan Stielstra, Carly Oishi, Keith Ecker, and many others. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

We talked to founder and performer Jeremy Owens via email to find out more about the past, present, and future of the show.

Continue reading this entry »

Jami Nakamura Lin

Interview Fri Oct 16 2015

Q&A with Story Sessions' Jill Howe & Rachael Smith

story sessions hosts
Like the Poetry Slam of the '90s and early aughts, storytelling is having its live lit moment in the sun in recent years. Popularized by shows such as The Moth in New York City, contemporary storytelling is the reading or performance of personal narratives in front of a live audience.

Chicago has no shortage of regular storytelling events, but each year an audience gathers around a cozy firepit on the North Shore for Story Sessions' Annual Campfire. This year's show featured stories by Doug Reed, Diane Kastiel, Dan Sheehan, Kristin Clifford, (Gaper's Block own) Andrew Huff and Jennifer Peepas. This year's Campfire Stories took place on Saturday, Sept. 19. This year's theme "Creep," did not disappoint.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeanne Newman

Author Fri Sep 25 2015

Lifeline Theatre Hosts James Sie October 4

james sieAward-winning playwright and former Lifeline ensemble member James Sie returns to Lifeline Theatre (6912 N. Glenwood) on October 4 from 6:30 to 8pm to celebrate the release of his debut novel (with illustrator Sungyoon Choi),
Still Life Las Vegas: A Novel

Sie was a member of the Lifeline Theatre artistic ensemble from 1985 -1997, where he served as a playwright (Island of the Blue Dolphins - Non-Equity Jeff Award: New Adaptation, The Road to Graceland - After Dark Award: New Work, Dracula - Non-Equity Jeff nomination: New Adaptation, A Wrinkle in Time - Non-Equity Jeff nomination: New Adaptation), director and actor. In addition to writing, Sie is also a voiceover artist, known for Jackie Chan Adventures, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and Ice Age: The Meltdown.

The evening will include a wine and cheese reception, a concert reading selection from the novel featuring current Lifeline Theatre ensemble members, and a Q&A session moderated by Lifeline Artistic Director Dorothy Milne, followed by a book signing with Sie. Copies of Still Life Las Vegas will be available for sale in the Lifeline lobby. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please contact Lifeline at or call 773-761-4477 to reserve your seat.

Jeremy Owens

Readings Thu Sep 03 2015

Gloria Steinem in Conversation with Roxane Gay


Women & Children First bookstore will host an intimate conversation between feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Roxane Gay on October 29 at The People's Church in Uptown. This one night only event celebrates the release of Steinem's forthcoming memoir, My Life on the Road.

Gloria Steinem, best known for her outspoken advocacy on behalf of women, was a founding editor of, and political commentator for, New York Magazine, and founding editor of Ms. Magazine. She is the recipient of many accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Roxane Gay, critic, and commentator is the author of the 2014 bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist. She is a professor of English at Purdue University and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, The Butter, and many others.

My Life on the Road details Steinem's life of travel, activism and leadership and how those experiences helped her to inspire change and revolution. This event will be a rare and great opportunity to hear from two different generations of important feminist leaders

The conversation will be held at The People's Church (941 W. Lawrence). Doors open at 6:15pm and the program begins at 7pm with a book signing following from 8 to 10pm. One ticket is included with the pre-order purchase of Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road from Women & Children First. Tickets are also available in-store, or by calling 773.769.9299.

Jeremy Owens

Book Club Fri Aug 28 2015

Poetry Center of Chicago Revives Poets Look at Paintings

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While the world contemplates whether poetry is relevant or dead, the Poetry Center of Chicago revives an event to celebrate 40 years of history and connect the history of the organization to contemporary Chicago.

In 1974, the Poetry Center hosted its first live event, Poets Look at Paintings, in the Museum of Contemporary Art. Today, the revival of Poets Look at Paintings makes an effort to connect two seemingly disparate art forms and create something new and beautifully intricate.

To assemble a line-up for the event in November, the Poetry Center calls for poems that are "rooted in visual art in some way, whether that be in response to a piece, in narration, in action, in reflection, etc." These art-inspired poems are referred to as "ekphrastic poems," which according to The Poetry Foundation, seek to describe a scene or a work of art. One of the most famous examples of ekphrastic poetry is John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," but just as art continues to change and evolve, the Poetry Center's event and call for submissions challenges today's poets to match the evolution of art.

The deadline to join the event as a reader is September 21. You can submit in a .doc, .docx, or PDF attachment up to three poems rooted in visual art to with the subject line "Poets Look at Paintings." Title your attachment "LAST NAME_PLAP." You can find more information about submitting on the Poetry Center's website.

The Poets Look at Paintings event will take place on Nov. 18 from 6 to 7pm in the Garland Room at the Chicago Cultural Center. The event is free, so come support the Poetry Center of Chicago and the history of literary Chicago!

Brianna Kratz

Author Fri Feb 06 2015

Zine Fest Returns!

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.06.12 PM.pngZine Fest has announced today that they will be returning in 2015 with a few tweaks, more space, and many more artists and authors. This year's festival for self-publishers will take place on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9 in Plumbers Union Hall just off the Ashland/Lake Pink and Green Line stop. The hall, a new choice for the Fest, will be able to hold over 200 exhibitors, meaning this year's will be the biggest Zine Fest to date.

Years past the Fest has topped off its wealth of exhibitors with readings, panels and classes, and this year is no different. Though specifics are forthcoming, expect plenty of workshops on the DIY of self-publishing, and panels featuring the industry's greats.

Want to exhibit? Submissions for Zine Fest 2015 open on February 22 at noon sharp (central time). Either way, make your way to 1340 W Washington Blvd. on May 8 and 9 for the best self-publishing the scene has to offer!

Miden Wood

Events Mon Dec 08 2014

The Golden Age Of The (Front) Page

Print journalism has been hit pretty hard by the digital upstart that is online media, but the street boxes that can be found on just about any major Chicago street prove that we're holding on to the printed page. The newspaper has a storied history in the Second City, which is why the Chicago Public Library will host Mike Conklin for "Chicago's Golden Era of Print Journalism" on Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

Conklin was a writer and editor for the Chicago Tribune for over 12 years, has authored three books, and even spent some time as a Fox 32 News commentator and correspondent. He will chronicle the history of Chicago newspapers, from their mid-18th century beginnings to their 20th century zenith. He'll also talk about print journalism's major players, from publishers like Joseph Medill and Marshall Field III to such venerable contributors as Mike Royko and Gwendolyn Brooks.

The event is free and open to the public. The talk is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 pm. and will be held in the Video Theater in the Lower Level of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. For more information, please call 312-747-4300.

Danette Chavez

Events Wed Dec 03 2014

Classic Queer Lit Onscreen & Onstage: Daviel Shy Previews The Ladies Almanack

Equal parts faux-heroic narrative and lesbian gossip column, Djuna Barnes's 1928 novel Ladies Almanack is very strange, very funny, and -- to be fair -- a little hard to read. Whatever one was expecting, it is not that; it's a magpie's nest of archaic language, double entendres, and in-jokes centering on Barnes' social circle, which was dominated by outspoken lesbian salon doyenne Natalie Clifford Barney.

No straightforward film adaptation could do the book justice, so instead Chicago writer and filmmaker Daviel Shy has conceived "a kaleidoscopic tribute to women's writing ... focused on lives and voices of 1920's Paris, refracted by the words of French 1970s theorists, and disseminated through the bodies of international contemporary artists," as the film's website puts it. Ladies AlmanackThose bodies: a pantheon of literary luminaries and other artists, including poet/genius Eileen Myles as the narrator and photographer Deborah Bright as Radclyffe Hall -- convening a contemporary circle of remarkable women to tell the stories of their forebears.

The Ladies Almanack, the movie, is still a work in progress, but throughout the coming year, The Nightingale's Follow Focus program will present excerpts in four installments while giving viewers a peek behind the scenes. The first screening takes place this Sunday, Dec. 7 at 7pm, at 1084 N. Milwaukee Ave., and will include a presentation from Shy and dramatic readings from the novel. For the $15 ticket price, you'll even get a souvenir: part of a Ladies Almanack tarot deck designed by Jess LeMaster, also to be released gradually over the course of the series.

Production photo of Eileen Myles courtesy of The Ladies Almanack.

Daphne Sidor

Readings Wed Nov 19 2014

Give Thanks Through Stories

Just because it's a holiday week next week doesn't mean the live lit scene is taking a break.

On Monday, Nov. 24, 2nd Story heads to City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., for a Thanksgiving show. "A Land of Plenty: Stories of Scarcity & Abundance" will feature stories by Stephanie Chavara, Minita Gandhi and Lott Hill. Doors open at 6pm, and the show starts at 8. Tickets are $18, though some pay-what-you-can tickets will be available at the door.

On Black Wednesday, Nov. 26, two shows vie for your attention, and eithr should give you plenty to talk about over the dinner table Thursday.

Miss Spoken, the female-centered reading series, returns to Gallery Cabaret, 2020 N. Oakley Ave., at 7pm. The theme this month is "Body Hair," and the featured readers are Alyssa Sorresso, Lillia Rissman, Maya Marshall, Samantha Irby, Lisa White and Jessica DiMaio. Carly Oishi and Rosamund Lannin cohost. There's no cover, but it's 21 and over.

Meanwhile, You're Being Ridiculous, the sassy, funny and fun storytelling show created by Jeremy Owens, is back at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. in Andersonville. Hear stories on the theme "Confession" from Jim Bennett, Margaret Dunn, Dennis Frymire, Jonathan Mayo, Jeremy Owens, JH Palmer and Stephanie Sack. Stories start at 7:30pm, and tickets are $15 online or at the door. There is no better way to avoid your family.

Andrew Huff

Author Thu Oct 30 2014

Weekend of Woe/"Wow!" at the Chicago Humanities Festival

chf_journeys.jpgWashington University Professor William J. Maxwell dropped a few bombs last weekend at his Chicago Humanities Festival lecture, "FBI as Literary Critic." Abandoning his Powerpoint-style slideshow for a "fuck it...what do you wanna know?" approach, Maxwell's open-endedness miffed some festival subscribers but opened the floodgates for a more expansive dialogue. He began talking of J. Edgar Hoover's interest in authors of the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts movement.

The subject led to unexpected side streets of death threats and latent homosexuality. His opening anecdote involved a white FBI agent named William C. Sullivan, a professorial type and liberal arts graduate, who wrote a letter to Martin Luther King Jr. in an implied black voice. "Like all frauds," Sullivan wrote, "your end is approaching." Gasps rippled through the audience.

The letter ended, "there is but one way out for you, you better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation."

A man in a starched shirt raised his hand. "This sounds something like a death threat!" he exclaimed. Maxwell had assumed that this, and Hoover's 40-year homosexual marriage, were common knowledge.

Continue reading this entry »

Alex Thompson

Author Thu Oct 23 2014

Take A Journey With Eula Biss

The Chicago Humanities Festival begins celebrating its 25th anniversary on Saturday, October 25th. This year's theme, "Journeys," has been in the works for a while, so get ready to visit various nooks of the city for a few (dozen) of the 80 events, which will be concentrated at cultural institutions in the downtown area, but will also branch out to Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

We recommend starting with a jaunt to Evanston for a panel with renowned essayist, Eula Biss. Biss is the author of the award-winning Notes from No Man's Land, a collection of essays exploring race and racial identity that Biss compiled while traveling across the country. Her latest work, On Immunity: An Inoculation, spans less geography, but tackles no less controversy; prompted by the anxiety of new motherhood, Biss takes a harrowing look at the science and history of immunizations. The author will be joined by Katie Watson, a professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern.

The panel will run from 2:30pm-3:30pm on Saturday at the Owen L. Coon Forum inside of the Donald P. Jacobs Center at 2001 Sheridan Rd, Evanston. Tickets will be available at the door (cash only), and are $5 for students/teachers, $9 for CHF members, and $12 for the general public. For more information, call the box office at 312-494-9509.

Danette Chavez

News Tue Oct 21 2014

Clarence Page in Discussion @ The Union League Club

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 3.15.44 PM.pngThis Wednesday, Oct. 22, Printers Row presents a luncheon at The Union League Club (65 W. Jackson Blvd.) in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winner and nationally renowned columnist Clarence Page, wherein he will discuss his new anthology of work, Culture Worrier, Selected Columns 1984 - 2014, Reflections on Race, Politics and Social Change.

In the 30 years since his first column in The Chicago Tribune, Page has witnessed a multitude of American milestones; his commentary on which has rightfully earned Page a revered place in the journalistic community. The anthology traverses decades and topics alike, as his interests, though always built around a core of cultural analysis, are truly varied. (Perusing his latest posts on Page's Page you'll find articles regarding President Obama's second term, the food gentrification of collard greens, and the American response to the ebola virus, to name a few.)

Page will be joined in discussion by Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune. The event kicks off with a reception at 11:30am, with the discussion set to begin at noon. Admission is $35, and copies of Culture Worrier will be available for sale at the event.

Miden Wood

Events Wed Oct 15 2014

To-Do This Month: Chicago Humanities Festival 2014

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 2.37.12 PM.png
Who better to discuss journeys than Jamaica Kincaid, Cheryl Strayed, Marjane Satrapi or Philippe Petit? Than those makers who traversed oceans, countries, revolutions; who proved that the most harrowing journeys can occur within just two hundred feet of tightrope?

The much-anticipated Chicago Humanities Festival returns for its 25th year with an extraordinary line-up of events, all centered around the theme of "Journeys." The tremendous talent includes, in addition to the aforementioned, writers like Ben Marcus (Leaving the Sea, Flame Alphabet), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Eula Bliss (On Immunity), Gary Shteyngart (Little Failure), and Jesmyn Ward (The Men We Reaped) to name only a few. Sit in on conversations with these authors and more as they recount journeys actual and notional; from the adventures that inspired their books to the very personal journey of writing them.

In addition to relishing favorite authors, lit lovers can revel in A Moth StorySLAM or any of a number of lectures. Unearth the original iteration of Hamlet, investigate J. Edgar Hoover's fascination with the Harlem Renaissance, or analyze love in all its guilty pleasure modernity with "Modern Love" editor Daniel Jones.

The festival kicks off on Oct. 21 with a Benefit Gala featuring The New York Times Op-Ed Journalist, David Brooks. Then, on Oct. 25, CHF begins full swing, with such a wide array of event topics as to make traveling to one program after another a journey in and of itself. In short, if you were looking for something to do between Oct. 25 and Nov. 9, Chicago Humanities can ensure that you will never be bored [PDF].

Miden Wood

Readings Fri Aug 29 2014

Live Lit Lights Up Tuesday

tuesday funk 09/14We're going right back to work the day after Labor Day. On Tuesday, Sept. 2, two live literary events feature Gapers Block writers and editors, and they're both free.

At 7:30pm, the eclectic monthly reading series Tuesday Funk returns to the upstairs lounge at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St. This month's guests include Scott Smith, Ryan DiGiorgi, Holly McDowell -- as well as GB's music editor Anne Holub and contributor Jasmine Davila. GB's editor and publisher Andrew Huff (that is, me) and Eden Robins and co-host the festivities.

Doors open at 7pm (and no earlier -- really), and it's probably a good idea to get there early if you want to sit. The reading starts promptly at 7:30pm. There's no cover, but you must be 21 to attend. RSVP on Facebook.

At 9pm, Two Cookie Minimum is back at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., The theme this month is "Hidden Treasures" and the lineup includes writer Scott Miles, poet Anthony Madrid, comics artist Zelda Galeswsky, writer at Forgotten Chicago Dan "Pogo" Pogorzelski and Gapers Block Book Club editor Miden Wood. Book Club staffer John "Johnny Misfit" Wawrzaszek hosts and provides delicious cookies for the audience. It's also free, and also 21-and-over.

Andrew Huff

Bookmarks Fri Aug 29 2014


Tonight! Union Street Gallery brings you a plethora of poetry at open mic Union Street Beat, 6:30 pm.

Tonight! Contributors to semi-annual literary magazine After Hours celebrate its 29th edition with a reading at the Book Cellar, 7 pm.

Tonight! Women & Children First hosts D. Bryant Simmons as she discusses her new book, How to Knock a Bravebird from Her Perch, 7:30 pm.

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.

Miden Wood

Author Thu Aug 21 2014

What Feminism Is Doing Wrong

cover_bad_feminist.jpgGlancing 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.

Miden Wood

Events Mon Aug 11 2014

"Second to None" Broadcasts and Archives the Voice of Queer Chicago

second to none color cover.jpgThroughout 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."

Continue reading this entry »

Daphne Sidor

Author Wed Aug 06 2014

Some of the Most Punk Rock Shit I've Ever Seen In My Life

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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.

Continue reading this entry »

Alex Thompson

Bookmarks Fri Jul 25 2014


All Weekend! Check out the Newberry Library's 30th Annual Book Fair. All 120,000+ titles will be available for $2.00 or less, with a half-off day on Sunday.

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.

Sunday! Head to the Podlasie Club, 2918 N. Central Park, for therelease of Images of America Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village, 6 pm.

Miden Wood

Events Thu Jul 24 2014

August is Nigh; Time to Funk Up Your Tuesday

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"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!

Miden Wood

Events Thu Jul 24 2014

Near Ye, Near Ye! Your Weekend in Words

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Danette Chavez

Author Thu Jul 17 2014

Launch Party and Reading: Lori Rader-Day at the Book Cellar

RaderDay_Lori-s-300x300.jpgLocal 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!

Photo courtesy of the author's website.

Eden Robins

Events Wed Jul 09 2014

Show Your Indie Spirit on Chicago's First Independent Bookstore Day

Image courtesy of Chicago Independent Bookstore Day

Chicago works, Chicago writes, and Chicago reads, which is why we don't need any calls (or hashtags) to "Cut down the Amazon" and support our local bookstores, even if they do come from one of our favorite adopted sons. Nine local bookstores have banded together to bring you the first Chicago Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, July 12, so get ready for the best kind of treasure hunt.

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.

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Danette Chavez

Events Sun Jul 06 2014

"Lecture, Argue, Proclaim, and Complain" at Napkin Poetry

napkin poetryIt'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.

Continue reading this entry »

Daphne Sidor

Events Sun Jun 29 2014

Freedom of the Press: CHIPRC Celebrates a Year This Weekend

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.

tumblr_n639ctXvPm1raiyxjo1_1280.jpgAs 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.

Daphne Sidor

Events Sat Jun 28 2014

Two Cookie Minimum Is Now a Hungry Preschooler

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.

Daphne Sidor

Printers Ball Wed Jun 25 2014

Creatives Convene at Printers Ball this Saturday!


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!

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Miden Wood

Events Mon Jun 16 2014

Don't Miss Out on Miss Spoken

Art by Sean Dove, courtesy of Miss Spoken.

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.

Danette Chavez

Bookmarks Fri Jun 13 2014


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.

Miden Wood

Contest Thu Jun 12 2014

A High-Stakes, Historic Open Mic for Poets

043012-national-gwendolyn-brooks.pngTwo 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.

Daphne Sidor

Book Club Fri Jun 06 2014


All Weekend! Printers Row Lit Fest rings in its 30th year at the historic printers' hub on Dearborn with hundreds of booksellers, over 200 authors, and a wide array of readings and workshops. If you are interested in literature and you live in Chicago, Lit Fest is where you need to be. Check out the schedule here and start planning your weekend. The festival is free, though indoor talks and events require tickets or a Printers Row Lit Fest Pass, which comes with two complimentary tickets for up to five programs, plenty of commemorative swag, and a 1-year digital subscription to Printers Row Journal.

Saturday! Thea Goodman reads from her debut novel, The Sunshine When She's Gone at Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 1 pm.

Saturday! Maya Lang stops by City Lit Books to discuss her book, The Sixteenth of June-- a loose adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses-- with Borrowers author Rebecca Makkai, 5 pm.

Saturday! Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain can be found at Bucket o' Blood Books and Records, where they will be discussing their latest book, Dear Nobody, 7 pm.

Saturday! Live Lit show The Spotty Truth comes to the Den Theatre for a double feature of competitive storytelling and improv comedy, $7, 10:30 pm.

Sunday! Five stories, one opening sentence: "I haven't always been afraid of clowns." Serving the Sentence returns to Towbar for a night of potentially circus-themed Live Lit. Donations will be collected for DetermiNation Illinois, 7 pm.

Sunday! That's All She Wrote returns to the Savoy for a Live Lit show brimming with talent, 8 pm.

Miden Wood

Bookmarks Fri May 30 2014


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 101 goes 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.)

Miden Wood

Events Tue May 27 2014

Before Dessert: The Week Leading Up to CAKE


If you haven't yet befriended Charles Cake, you should. Not only is Charles a top-notch Facebook friend and all around stand up guy, but he also has the full scoop on his not-to-be-missed namesake, CAKE: the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo.

10373729_10203688071384407_7886899377359811501_n.jpgChicago 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.

10306721_876359759047975_7327892387866606507_n.jpgAfter 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.

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Miden Wood

Books Mon May 26 2014

What You Can Do for Printers Row Lit Fest

for-webbizbash3.jpgThis 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!

Miden Wood

Readings Thu May 15 2014

Four Far-Flung Corners of Chicago Fiction at The Book Cellar

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.)

9780544300460.jpgEric 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.

Daphne Sidor

Readings Tue May 06 2014

Megan Milks and Cris Mazza at Women & Children First

9780989473606.jpgWriters 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.

Daphne Sidor

Author Mon Apr 28 2014

Detroit Rock Comes to Chicago playing Songs Only You Know

Songs.jpgDetroit Rock tours the Chicago lit scene this Wednesday, April 30, when author Sean Madigan Hoen reads from his memoir, Songs Only You Know (Soho Press) at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie, at 6:30pm.

Hoen, who was raised in Dearborn, Michigan, now resides in Brooklyn, NY where he teaches creative writing. He is known for his work in the bands Thoughts of Ionesco, The Holy Fire and Leaving Rouge. In his memoir, Hoen talks about his experience in the Detroit punk scene, and how he hid this lifestyle from his family. His father was also leading a second life, one in which he was a crack addict. Hoen's memoir walks through the adventures of him as a teenager, juggling his obsession with music and his sordid family life.

Following the reading, stick around to chat with Hoen, or buy your own copy of the memoir, available for purchase at the event. The reading is free and open to the public.

John Wawrzaszek

Book Club Fri Apr 25 2014


All Weekend! C2E2, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, returns to bring you all things comics, comedy, and nerd.

Saturday! The Poetry Foundation hosts Children's Poetry Day, a full day of merriment including children's films, scavenger hunts, and other lyrical adventures! Free, 10 am.

Saturday! Powell's Bookstore hosts an artsy spin on those literary shapes we take for granted with The Adventures of Letterpress, an Expo of the work of local letterpress artists. 2 - 6 pm.

Saturday! Local publishing house Curbside Splendor celebrates its authors with readings and signings at City Lit Books. 5 pm.

Saturday! In its 32nd iteration, The Dollhouse Reading Series brings you readings from Nate Pritts, Jennifer H. Fortin, Adam Fell and Zach Savich, 7 pm.

Saturday! 826CHI presents Prom 9 From Outer Space. Buy your tickets to benefit the tutoring center and its efforts to make writing fun for kids all over Chicago! 8 pm.

Sunday! Make your way to the Harold Washington Library for Poetry Fest: a day jam-packed with readings, workshops, open mics and more! 10 am - 4:30 pm.

Miden Wood

Events Tue Apr 22 2014

To Our Fair Friend, Who Can Never Be Old

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.)

Danette Chavez

Bookmarks Fri Apr 18 2014


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.

Saturday! Unearth The Secret History of Chicago Zines with Steve Krakow, Jake Austen, and Chris Ware as they discuss the music industry's relationship with the local zine world. 7 pm at Powell's Books.

Saturday! Tamale Hut Café Reading Series returns with featured writer Aaron Longoria, 7 pm.

Sunday! Brain Frame and Chicago Alternative Comics Expo combine to create: CAKEFRAME (2)! Come out to bid on original artwork by Chicago's finest, see live music and drawing, and parteee, all to raise funds for CAKE 2014. 6 pm at the Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Miden Wood

Events Mon Apr 14 2014

Talented Women of Indie Presses Showcase this Thursday

Thursday April 17th, three established publishers get together to celebrate women authors at the Hopleaf Bar 5148 N. Clark, at 7pm. Local publisher Curbside Splendor Publishing, partners with New York publishers Black Balloon Publishing, and Open Letter Books to present Talented Women of Indie Presses. Each publisher is represented with authors on the bill.

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.

The local lady in the lineup is poet Daniela Olszewska, author of Citizen J (Artifice books, an imprint of Curbside Splendor). Book Club reviewed this collection, read our review.

Book will be on sale at the event courtesy of the bookstore Women and Children First. The event is free and open to the public.

John Wawrzaszek

Author Sun Apr 13 2014

Two Bulgarian Writers, in Translation and in Person

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.

18406293.jpgZaharieva'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.

Daphne Sidor

Events Sun Apr 06 2014

Sister Spit at 20: Still Touring, Still Fresh

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.

SISTERSPIT2014POSTER_fb_versionamillion.jpgThis year's tour lands at The University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 5801 S. Ellis, on Monday, April 14, at 7pm. Here's a quick look at the performers:

* 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

Admission is free.

Daphne Sidor

Bookmarks Fri Apr 04 2014


Tonight! The Interview Show comes to The Hideout for its April installment, and the lineup this month looks dee-lightful. 6:30 pm, $8 at the door.

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!

Miden Wood

Submissions Mon Mar 31 2014

Goreyesque Wants Your Edward Gorey-Inspired Writing and Artwork

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."

Goreyesque, the online literary journal that features contemporary work inspired by Gorey, celebrates this "homecoming" with a reading at LUMA on April 29, 2014 at 6pm. Created by Kenneth Gerleve, Todd Summar, and Sam Weller, in collaboration with editors Howard Simmons, Jess Millman, and Corey Klinzing, and co-sponsored by Columbia College Chicago's Department of Creative Writing and Loyola University Chicago, the journal seeks to highlight the author's "cross-disciplinary influence." With two issues under their belts, they are putting together an event that will feature local authors, and Goreyesque alums, Joe Meno and Adam McOmber.

You can help round out this roster by submitting your Gorey-inspired writing and artwork to 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.

Danette Chavez

Chicago Public Library Sat Mar 29 2014

Dayo Olopade Talks About How Africa Gets Stuff Done

tumblr_inline_n0ib7rqHpm1qdh5ld.jpgIn 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.

Daphne Sidor

Author Fri Mar 28 2014

A Bon Motley Crew Joins LA Author Amelia Gray at Cole's this Sunday

We may not be able to import West Coast temperatures, but we can certainly "borrow" some of their talent. LA writer Amelia Gray visits Cole's Bar, 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave., this Sunday and joins some great local authors for a night of readings. Gray is the author of the story collections AM/PM (featherproof) and The Museum of the Weird (FC2), which won the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. Her first novel, Threats (FSG Originals), was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner award.

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."

The event is free and starts at 6pm. 21+.

Danette Chavez

Book Club Sun Mar 23 2014

Two Cookie Minimum Celebrates Polish Writers

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.

Not a night to miss - no fooling.

Alex Thompson

Events Wed Mar 19 2014

Story Week: Midweek Update

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.

Story Week 2014 has already seen workshops and readings by Columbia College Chicago instructors Julia Borcherts and Patricia Ann McNair; conversations with authors Stuart Dybek and Roxane Gay, and publishing boot camps with Donna Seaman and Anitra Budd.

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.

Danette Chavez

Author Wed Mar 19 2014

The Open Door Series: March

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Alex Thompson

Author Tue Mar 18 2014

Story Week: Barry Gifford


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:

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Alex Thompson

Poetry Wed Mar 12 2014

The Open Door Presents Brett Foster & Srikanth Reddy

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 5.11.04 PM.pngThere'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.

Alex Thompson

Events Sun Mar 09 2014

AIDS Activist Sean Strub Stops Through Town with a New Memoir

cvr9781451661958_9781451661958_hr.jpgOne 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.

Daphne Sidor

Poetry Wed Mar 05 2014

James Franco, Behind the Celluloid Curtain

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.

franco_james_461x250.jpgIn 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.

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Alex Thompson / Comments (4)

Events Sat Feb 08 2014

Lynn Povich Talks Gender Bias in Journalism with The Good Girls Revolt

book_jacket-210.jpgLynn 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.

Daphne Sidor

Chicago Public Library Sun Jan 19 2014

Radiance of Tomorrow, Tuesday

ishmael_beah.jpgIshmael Beah's Radiance of Tomorrow is a return in a few different ways. It's the Sierra Leonean's second book; it revisits the war-torn homeland he first wrote about in memoir A Long Way Gone; and it tells the tale of Sierra Leoneans coming back to their country and trying to rebuild. This time around Beah's working with fictional characters rather than his own incomprehensibly brutal adolescence, and as the title suggests, there's more room for optimism. In interviews, he's suggested that former child soldiers like himself may gain less from forgetting and "rehabilitation" than from simply refocusing the survival skills they've had to learn.

In the intro to Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah mentions being inspired by his homeland's oral tradition--making the public reading a natural form for him. He'll talk about the book on Tuesday, January 21, at 6pm at the Harold Washington Library Center's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State. Audiences will get a glimpse not only into Sierra Leone's tragic history, but into the arresting beauty of its native narrative forms--for instance, Beah notes, "In Mende, you wouldn't say 'night came suddenly; you would say 'the sky rolled over and changed its sides.'" Admission is free, and Beah will stick around to sign books afterward.

Photo of the author by John Madere.

Daphne Sidor

Author Sun Jan 12 2014

Science Fiction, Serial Killers, and Flaubert: Two Days of Samuel Delany at U of C

1456552_10151788600847047_2052672162_n.jpgYou 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.

Photo courtesy of the author's Facebook page.

Daphne Sidor

Readings Mon Dec 16 2013

Two For Tuesday: Lit Readings to Warm Things Up

On Tuesday Dec. 17, two different readings will help warm you from the cold and decompress before things get busy this holiday season (if they aren't already)!

Poetry Foundation's new series The Open Door returns to the Poetry Center at 61 W. Superior St. at 7pm. The Open Door takes a new approach to live readings by highlighting the academic endeavors of current or recent teachers and students. The hour long reading features two Chicagoland college professors: Elise Paschen, author of Bestiary (Red Hen Press) and professor at the MFA writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Mark Turcotte, author of the poetry collection Exploding Chippewas and visiting assistant professor in English and creative writing at DePaul University. Each will welcome student readers they have selected: Britney Lipton, a south Florida native who received her MFA in writing from SAIC, and M. Quinn Stifler, who is pursuing degrees in creative writing and gender studies at DePaul University. The event is free and open to the public.

Story Club South Side presents their December reading with the theme "Cold" at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St. This event, hosted by Will Hindmarch, will include story magician Jen Peepas, producer of Story Sessions Jill Howe, and The Moth host Don Hall. There is an open mic if you want to shake off those cold feet (you know, because it's cold outside) and share your story. Open mic sign-up begins at 7:30, show at 8pm. There is a $5 suggested donation.

John Wawrzaszek

Readings Tue Dec 10 2013

Curbside Splendor's Essay Collective Reads This Friday

Curbside Splendor celebrates their catalog of non-fiction writers with The Essay Collective, a reading on Friday, Dec. 13 at 6:30pm at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie. The lineup features some great storytellers with an abundance of creative non-fiction to share.

Presenting are Samantha Irby, author of the essay collection Meaty and creator of the blog Bitches Gotta Eat; Ben Tanzer, the creative force behind This Blog Will Change Your Life and author of Lost in Space, a forthcoming essay collection about fathers and sons and their relationships; and Megan Stielstra, author of the forthcoming collection of personal essays, Once I Was Cool. Stielstra's essay "Channel B" is included in The Best American Essays 2013.

Books will be available for purchase. Continue the conversation with a post-reading gathering at the Owl, 2521 N. Milwaukee Ave.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Wed Dec 04 2013

Face the Seven-Headed Birkensnake 6 at Uncharted Books

1460007_10202787023500876_1058427813_n.jpg"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.

Photo by Megan Milks.

Daphne Sidor

Events Tue Dec 03 2013

Crime Writer Jeffrey Siger in Discussion @ National Hellenic Museum

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.jeffrey siger.jpg

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.

Photo of Jeffrey Siger courtesy of

Lara Levitan

Readings Mon Dec 02 2013

This Week Chicago Reading Series Host Their Final Events of 2013

As host of Two Cookie Minimum reading series, I wanted to acknowledge all the other great reading series by mentioning those that end their 2013 seasons this week.

First, this Tuesday, December 3, Two Cookie Minimum has its December Ender at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, at 9pm. The lineup includes Lee Gaines; Allison Fabes, editor of The Insomnia Propagandist zine; Shaun Rouser, author of short story collection Family Affair out on Red Bird Chapbooks; Mahjabeen Syed, fiction writing student at Columbia College; and Gapers Block Book Club's own editor, Lara Levitan. There will holiday cookies available, so get there before they're all gone.

tuesday funk william shunnAlso Tuesday, Tuesday Funk is back in the upstairs bar at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St. This month, the readers are G.P.A. (Greatest Poet Alive) Jocelyn Geboy, David Schneiderman, J. Michael Grey, and, in his final appearance as a Tuesday Funk co-host, William Shunn. Gapers Block editor and publisher Andrew Huff co-hosts, and next month Book Club contributor Eden Robins takes over co-hosting duties. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 7:30.

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John Wawrzaszek

Readings Mon Nov 25 2013

The Encyclopedia Show Prepares for the Flood

The variety reading series The Encyclopedia Show is back on Tuesday, November 26, 7:30pm at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The month's theme is "floods." Performers and their subjects are:

  • Cameron McGill: tragedy at Galvaston, TX
  • Kush Thompson: psychological flooding
  • Robi Mahan: the London Beer Flood of 1814
  • Kristiana Colón: sandbagging
  • Chris Bower: Utnapishtim
  • Rik Vasquez: the 1931 and 1887 China floods

This all ages show is $9, $6 for students. The series will be ending its monthly programming in May 2014, so get to a show before it's gone!

John Wawrzaszek

Readings Fri Nov 22 2013

Go Back for 2nds at a Literary Thanksgiving Feast

Long-running performance series 2nd Story presents a pre-Thanksgiving celebration, Feast: Stories of Together, next Tuesday November 26, 6pm at City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph.

This one-night-only performance will bring stories and music to celebrate the theme of togetherness. Three tremendous storytellers, Deb R Lewis, Andrew Reilly, and Jasmin Cardenas, will read alongside musical accompaniment by the Harold Washington Trio.

Tickets are $18 in advance.

The event will also be collecting food donations for Common Pantry. Help others build a bountiful feast this season and bring nonperishable items for a good cause.

John Wawrzaszek

Poetry Sat Nov 16 2013

See How Local Writing Programs Pay Off at a New Poetry Foundation Reading Series

To MFA or not to MFA? And if so, where? I'd wager that most creative writers of a certain age have at least idly batted around these questions, and a new reading series at the Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior) might help weigh in on the debate, in addition to giving regular poetry lovers something to do on a Tuesday. At each installment, The Open Door pairs faculty of two local writing programs with two of their recent or current students, giving audience members a chance to track threads of influence running from teacher to student and, if they happen to be in the market for a writing program themselves, feel out whether a school's teaching dynamic might be a good fit.

The writing programs at UIC and Northwestern University are first up on Tuesday, November 19, at 7pm--the former represented by Christina Pugh and recent PhD student Matthew Reed Corey, the latter by Rachel Jamison Webster and undergrad Peter Tolly, who's currently interested in medieval verse forms. Admission's free, and the series is set to run monthly if you miss this round.

Daphne Sidor

Readings Thu Nov 14 2013

Dr. Quentin Young Discusses Social Justice and a Single-Payer System at Powell's

QDY_Obama.jpgThat medicine is highly political stuff is no secret to anyone who happened to glance at a news source during the past autumn's government shutdown. But few people know it as viscerally as Dr. Quentin Young. Now 90 years old and still going strong as one of Chicago's foremost public health experts, Dr. Young's commitment to merging healthcare with social justice dates back to treating fellow workers during the Freedom Summer of 1964 and even, at one point, working as personal physician to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the last several decades, he's been most active as a tireless advocate for a single-payer national healthcare system. And, as it turns out, putting some of his vast life experience on paper: in September, he published Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause. On Saturday, November 16, at noon at Powell's Bookstore (1218 S. Halsted), Young will read from the book; one imagines he'll also be open to some spirited discussion of the current state of healthcare legislation.

Photo of Dr. Young and then-Senator Barack Obama courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Daphne Sidor

Author Tue Nov 12 2013

Author Jacob M. Appel in Town for a Workshop and Reading

BioofLuck_COVER_Final.jpgMove 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.)

If you can't make Sunday, catch Appel reading alongside Allison Lynn, author of The Exiles, at City Lit Books, 2523 North Kedzie Blvd., on Saturday, November 16 at 4pm.

Lara Levitan

Readings Mon Nov 11 2013

Go 'Solo' This Wednesday at Beauty Bar

The reading series Solo in the 2nd City returns this Wednesday November 13, 8pm at Beauty Bar, 1444 W Chicago Ave.

The series, like a literary meet up for singles, focuses on stories inspired by being single in Chicago. This month's performers include Amy Sumpter, Josh Johnson, Angela Vela, Sarahlynn Pablo, and Sorcha Sayers. The event is hosted by Book Club contributor Melinda McIntire and Carly Oishi.

Donations will benefit the Chicago Women's Health Center.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Thu Nov 07 2013

Allergy Season Hits Ray's Tap Reading Series

rays.jpgThe Ray's Tap Reading Series returns from the brink this Saturday, November 9 at the Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave., but now it has allergies.

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.

John Wawrzaszek

Readings Tue Nov 05 2013

Get a Fright Tonight at Tuesday Funk

Tuesday Funk November 2013

Tonight in the upstairs lounge at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St., Tuesday Funk returns for its latest round of eclectic live lit.

This month, the readers include past Book Club editor Rosamund Lannin, authors Paul McComas and Greg Starrett, medical writer and novelist Vojislav Pejović, GB contributor and That's All She Wrote cohost J.H. Palmer, and Guild Literary Complex Director John Rich.

Halloween is still in the air, and it shows itself in the Funk, too. McComas and Starrett will read a chapter from their book Fit for a Frankenstein in full costume, while Lannin will share a story of family and Halloweens past. William Shunn and Andrew Huff (uh, me) co-host -- and announce who will soon replace Shunn, who moved to New York this summer.

Doors open at 7pm, and the show starts promptly at 7:30pm. The show is free; Hopleaf is 21-and-over.

Andrew Huff

Events Fri Nov 01 2013

All American Horror Stories @ City Lit Books

All American Horror.jpg For those not ready to be done with Halloween, drop by City Lit Books , 2325 N. Kedzie, for readings from All-American Horror of the 21st Century on Tuesday November 5 at 6:30pm.

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?)

John Wawrzaszek

Events Wed Oct 30 2013

Friend. Follow. Text. Book Release this Weekend

cover-friend-follow-text_large.jpgWriting and social media intersect in the new book Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline. Celebrate the book launch this Saturday, November 2 at 5:30pm at City Lit Books, 2325 N. Kedzie.

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.

Books will be available at the reading.

John Wawrzaszek

Author Tue Oct 29 2013

Elizabeth Gilbert Speaks About The Signature of All Things at Printers Row

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.

Kathryn Pulkrabek

Events Mon Oct 28 2013

Trick or Treat at Laydeez Do Comics this Thursday

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.

Continue reading this entry »

John Wawrzaszek

Chicago Public Library Thu Oct 17 2013

When Was the Last Time You Went to the Library?

imagescpl.jpgWhen 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.”

Continue reading this entry »

Miden Wood

Readings Thu Oct 10 2013

Curbside Splendor Fall Showcase @ The Book Cellar

Is it just me, or is Curbside Splendor having a moment? The local independent publisher has been releasing book after book that embodies its vision of celebrating "the delicate point where gritty urban life and art intersect." On Saturday, October 12 at 7pm Curbside Splendor will highlight some of its most anticipated fall reads at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 North Lincoln Ave.

Daniela Olszweska, author of four poetry collections and Associate Poetry Editor of Another Chicago Magazine, will read from her newest book Citizen J. Young Adult author Chris L. Terry will present his debut novel, Zero Fade. Local Live Lit legend Samantha Irby, who has been profiled just about everywhere including Chicago Magazine, Chicago Reader, and Printers Row Journal, will feature the much buzzed-about, Meaty. Not sure if you'll like what they have to offer? Our very own John Wawrzaszek called Citizen J "skillfully surreal" and Zero Fade as "a perfect read for the back-to-school season." As for Irby's essays, not one, but TWO of our Book Club contributors sank their teeth into it.

The event is free and open to the public. Use the money you saved on ticket admissions to buy some books and a glass of wine from The Book Cellar's cafe.

Ines Bellina

Author Tue Oct 08 2013

Nick Offerman Woos Crowd with Song, Reading & the Occasional Plié

Paddle Your Own Canoe.jpgPromotional 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.

Continue reading this entry »

Ines Bellina

Readings Mon Oct 07 2013

Ellie June Navidson Brings Spider Teeth and Trans Performance Artist Pals to Quimby's

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.

Daphne Sidor

Author Sun Oct 06 2013

Barry Gifford Dishes on Working with David Lynch, Then Shares His Own Stories

Thumbnail image for RoyStories_TEMP_large.jpegIf 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.

Continue reading this entry »

Daphne Sidor

Readings Thu Oct 03 2013

Lindsay Hunter Reads @ Roosevelt University

This year, Chicago authors have been releasing books faster than you can count. One of the brightest and hardest working in the pack is Lindsay Hunter; she'll be reading on Monday October 7, 5pm at Roosevelt University's Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave.

Hunter's newest book Don't Kiss Me (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was released this summer; a recent tour's had her reading at The Pygmalion Literature Festival in Urbana, Illinois, and at the reading series Functionally Literate in her hometown of Orlando, Florida.

"We couldn't be more excited to be hosting Lindsay Hunter," says Christian TeBordo, Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Roosevelt. "She's one of the freshest, most honest voices in contemporary fiction, and she's also an incredible performer."

Read up on Hunter's creative process and other insights in interviews with Tin House and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Hard at work on a new novel as well as being a first time mother, it seems Hunter doesn't have time to juggle much else. Catch her now before she really doesn't.

Free and open to the public, the reading is presented by the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Roosevelt, the university's literary magazine, Oyez Review, and the Department of Literature and Languages at Roosevelt University.

John Wawrzaszek

Readings Thu Oct 03 2013

Self Publishers of Chicago has The Last Gasp This Weekend

Self-Publishers of Chicago hosts The Last Gasp reading on Sunday, October 6, 7pm at Uncharted Books in their new location at 2620 N. Milwaukee Ave. Affectionately known as SPOC, Self-Publishers of Chicago is an organization focused on building a community among independent writers and publishers. Aligning with the changing of the seasons, Last Gasp refers to one's legacy and the memories that will remain. For the reading SPOC poses the question: What if you only had one piece of work to sum up your life?

Invited readers will answer how they see fit, be it through poetry, creative non-fiction, visual art or performative reading. The lineup includes zinester Jonas Cannon, Anita Applebomb Mechler, writer Daniel Majid, comic artists and poet Grant Reynolds, music columnist for Maximum Rock and Roll Jes Skolnik, the head of Back to Print Publishing Elizabeth S. Tieri, and SPOC executive-in-chief Nicki Yowell.

Sweet and salty snacks from the Clancy's brand family will be served. The reading will be enlightening-- you might hear about the meaning of life, or at least have a salty snack attack.

John Wawrzaszek

Readings Mon Sep 30 2013

Seattle Punk Vet Danny Bland Brings In Case We Die to Quimby's Bookstore

incasewediecvr.pngEven if you did most of your growing up to the sounds of punk rock in the '80s or '90s, the name Danny Bland might not ring a bell. But how about The Dwarves? The Knitters? Currently based in Seattle, Bland once played in the former group and was road manager for the latter, among a wealth of other musical entanglements. Decades of hard, loud living have informed his debut novel, In Case We Die, which Bland reads from on Wednesday, October 2, at 7pm at Quimby's Bookstore.

In Case We Die makes its sensibility known early on with a detailed inventory of the porn emporium where protagonist Charlie works the night shift, and things only get seamier--and then darker--from there. Amidst the druggy Seattle gloom, it's gleefully profane and full of fast and funny character descriptions (one of Charlie's coworkers is "the perfect bulldog-human hybrid," for instance); I'm guessing that the reading will be the same way.

Daphne Sidor

Events Sun Sep 29 2013

Rookie Celebrates a Second Year @ Unity Temple

480111_292358647499577_100001763319735_707432_1416701025_n.jpeg"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.

Daphne Sidor

Poetry Sun Sep 29 2013

Playful Poetics at Glass Curtain Gallery

I didn't know anything about Bill Berkson, I don't think, before I came across notices for his reading with Jennifer Karmin this Tuesday, October 1, at 6pm at Glass Curtain Gallery (1104 S. Wabash). That was an oversight. When I began to investigate I thought, "hm, kind of a James Schuyler, Frank O'Hara feel"--good news if you like your poems to feel like conversations between wry, witty strangers, half-overheard. (Try Christmas Eve for that mode, although he has others.)

Turns out Berkson is no New York School imitator: he was there, having been mentored by Kenneth Koch and notably collaborated with O'Hara on Hymns of St. Bridget. On Tuesday, he'll be joined by local multidisciplinary poet Jennifer Karmin--you may know her as a founder of the experimentally minded Red Rover Reading Series. She often writes for multiple voices, which, in her readings, are rendered quite literally. At this event she'll bring up collaborators Stephanie Anderson, Bryan Mornar, Laura Goldstein, and Kenyatta Rogers to share the stage with her.

UPDATE Unfortunately, Bill Berkson has had to cancel due to health reasons. The organizers hope to reschedule the performance soon.

Daphne Sidor

Poetry Wed Sep 25 2013

Come Watch: Red Rover Series and 100 Thousand Poets for Change Explore Surveillance Culture

LS019486.jpgThis 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.

Daphne Sidor

Author Tue Sep 24 2013

Extraordinarily Ordinary: Author Alice McDermott @ Music Box Theatre

someone-photo.jpgIf 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.

Miden Wood

Author Mon Sep 16 2013

Radley Balko Talks Cops @ Roosevelt University

MeWebsite-200x300.jpgIt's not some post-apocalyptic sci-fi sequel. The setting of Huffington Post criminal-justice reporter Radley Balko's new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces is the streets of America's average, present-day cities, where he's noticed police being trained to use ever more-aggressive techniques. He's noticed it in the war on drugs, in which raids not infrequently turn fatal, and in responses to political protests, in which riot gear is de rigeur no matter how the crowd behaves. On Wednesday, September 18 at 6:15pm, Balko will discuss the book at Roosevelt University Library's Angel Reading Room (430 S. Michigan).

If you find yourself inspired to action by the book's arguments, you'll have a few guides on hand. The event will conclude with a panel of local activists from community organizations including the People's Law Office and Women's All Points Bulletin. Admission is free.

Photo courtesy of the author's website.

Daphne Sidor / Comments (1)

Author Thu Sep 12 2013

What Are Your Live Lit Pet Peeves?

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.

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Erika Price / Comments (7)

Book Club Mon Sep 09 2013

Peter Orner Discusses New Short Story Collection at Sulzer Library

Peter Orner.jpg The Book Cellar and Sulzer Regional Library co-host Chicago native Peter Orner for a discussion and book signing of his second collection of short stories, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge. The event takes place at Sulzer on Monday, September 9 at 6:30pm.

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.

Photo of Peter Orner courtesy of

Kathryn Pulkrabek

Events Sat Sep 07 2013

This Much Is True Storytelling Event

whitehair.jpgBilled 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.

Photo courtesy of the TMIT website

Eden Robins / Comments (2)

Author Sat Sep 07 2013

Romance Writers' Collaboration was Written in the Stars

Thumbnail image for WrittenInTheStars_HighRes.jpgAs 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.

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Lara Levitan / Comments (3)

Author Thu Sep 05 2013

Kevin Smokler Makes for a Case for the Classics @ The Book Cellar

smokler.jpgAfter 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.

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Lara Levitan

Book Club Tue Sep 03 2013

The Return of Write Club

Ian Belknap at the Mic (Cropped).jpgKnuckles 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.

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Alba Machado

Events Tue Sep 03 2013

Words and Music to Celebrate Fall Curbside Releases

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.

words and music 4.jpg

Readers and their associated books include Samantha Irby/Meaty, Joseph Bates/ Tomorrowland, Daniela Olszewska/Citizen J (on Curbside imprint Artifice Books), and Chris Terry/Zero Fade.

As for the music portion of the night, settle in for sets by Al Scorch, Tomorrow Kings and, DJ Nagasaki.

Words and Music is free with an RSVP. Books will be available for purchase.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Wed Aug 28 2013

We Need the (Tuesday) Funk, Gotta Have that (Tuesday) Funk

funk.jpgWith 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.

September's lineup includes Aleksandar Hemon, MacArthur Genius and acclaimed author of The Book of My Lives, as well as Virginia Konchan, Lania Knight, Norman Doucet and series co-host William Shunn.

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.

Image courtesy of the Tuesday Funk website

Eden Robins

Events Tue Aug 27 2013

Pre-PostHumanists Present: Paranoia @ Strawdog Theatre Company

601408_581637588514397_1226795242_n.jpgAfter 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????)

Photo courtesy of The Pre-PostHumanists Facebook Page.

Ines Bellina

Readings Tue Aug 27 2013

Sheila Scobba Banning Reading @ the Book Cellar

This Thursday, August 29 join author Sheila Scobba Banning for a reading from her new novel Terroir at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. at 7pm.

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.

John Wawrzaszek

Author Mon Aug 26 2013

Breaking into Live Lit: An Amateur's Guide

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.

larry kerns this much is true.jpg

Do you like to write personal creative essays? Story Club, Essay Fiesta, or This Much is True might be the place for you. Do you prefer to tell a story off the cuff, free of notes? Go for The Moth or Do Not Submit. Do you prefer nonfiction that covers current events or pop culture? The Paper Machete is your bag. Do you have a gritty, explicit tale to tell? Guts & Glory or The Sunday Night Sex Show are your spots. Choosing an appropriate setting for your work is absolutely essential.

Step #2: Become a Regular

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

jh palmer story club.jpg

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. do not submit.jpg

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.

Photo of Larry Kerns at This Much is True by Jill Howe is courtesy of the This Much is True website.
Photo of JH Palmer at a recent Story Club event by Jill Howe courtesy of Story Club's website.
Do Not Submit postcard image is courtesy of Do Not Submit's website.

Erika Price / Comments (3)

Events Mon Aug 26 2013

Uncalled-for Reading Series @ Uncharted Books

Thumbnail image for 1236595_10201971194585663_1711324500_n.jpg'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.

Daphne Sidor

Events Sat Aug 24 2013

Quickies Returns for a Minute

Hunter,Lindsay(c)ZachDodson_Tumblr.pngBy 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.

Photo of Lindsay Hunter © Zach Dodson.

Daphne Sidor / Comments (2)

Readings Thu Aug 22 2013

Story Sessions Gets Schooled

Schooled Poster.jpgNo 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.

Alba Machado

Author Wed Aug 21 2013

Mason Johnson Celebrates his Debut Sad Robot Stories, and You're Invited

In the lit scene, Mason Johnson's is one of those faces that seem to be everywhere. The next place you might run into him is at Cole's, 2338 N Milwaukee Ave., on Saturday, August 24 for the release of his new book, Sad Robot Stories. Read a review of the novel on Gapers Block by Book Club's own Alba Machado.

Sad Robot flyer.jpg

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.

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John Wawrzaszek

Author Mon Aug 19 2013

Solo in the 2nd City @ Beauty Bar

tumblr_mrbsytE6io1rn8lamo1_1280.jpgIt'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.

Picture courtesy of Solo in the 2nd City website

Ines Bellina

Author Mon Aug 19 2013

Two Authors Talking Wednesday at City Lit Books

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.


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John Wawrzaszek

Author Fri Aug 16 2013

James McBride Talks Jazz and History @ Tribune Tower

chi-aug-20-printers-row-james-mcbride-20130611.jpegJames 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.

Daphne Sidor

Events Fri Aug 09 2013

Stories from Around the Way @ Cole's Bar

Thumbnail image for ChiLit_Logo.JPGNever mind downtown. We all know that the heart and soul of Chicago lies within its neighborhoods.

In celebration of these enclaves to which we fiercely claim allegiance, 1,001 Chicago Afternoons and Anthology of Chicago (both fascinating 'hood-centric projects) present Chi Lit: Tales of the Neighborhoods on Tuesday, August 13 at Cole's Bar, 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave.

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.

Lara Levitan

Events Wed Aug 07 2013

Topside Press's Trans Storytellers @ Powell's Bookstore

imb_04.jpg"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).

Photo of Imogen Binnie © Julie Blair and Topside Press.

Daphne Sidor

Readings Tue Aug 06 2013

Art, Lit and Conversation Hook Up at Slippery Slope

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.

Daphne Sidor

Author Tue Jul 30 2013

Beautiful Fools Imagines Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald's Final Rendezvous

beautifulfools.jpgLast Wednesday night at Women & Children First, Chicago-area historical writer R. Clifton Spargo read from and discussed his latest novel Beautiful Fools, a fictional imagining of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's final vacation.

While the biography of the Fitzgeralds has been portrayed and probed by countless authors, Spago's book examines a lesser-visited moment in the couple's tumultuous, co-dependent history. Fools follows the couple on their final trip to Cuba, which occurred mere months before Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack. Since Zelda was institutionalized in the periods immediately proceeding and following the trip, the jaunt to Cuba also marks the last time the two saw one another.

While Zelda and Scott typically kept up a tireless and well-documented correspondence and happily courted the public eye, this trip to Cuba remains shrouded in ambiguity. As Spargo discussed at the reading, essentially no records of the couple's trip exists, and no letters between the two reference what occurred during their eight-day stay. This period, then, is ripe for creative exploration.

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Erika Price

Author Thu Jul 25 2013

Chicago's Best Literary Podcasts

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.

Erika Price / Comments (1)

Author Fri Jul 19 2013

Support Local Writer, Kevin Kane, & His Battle with Cancer

Kevin Kane is an MFA student at Columbia College Chicago, managing editor of The Handshake, a husband, a father, and a talented Chicago writer. Last October, Kevin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia while his wife, Kate, was pregnant with their first child. Kevin and Kate's savings -- savings meant for the birth of their daughter and Kate's maternity leave -- have been depleted due to costly medical expenses. Kevin has been unable to work, exhausted from the chemotherapy treatments, and Kate has only been able to work part time as she is busy caring for Kevin and their baby girl, Etta.

In Chicago, our writing community is strong and tight-knit. Please help Kevin and his family by attending a fundraising event at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport, July 23 at 7:30pm.

The following entertainment will be provided: readings by Joe Meno, Lindsay Hunter and Megan Stielstra; comedy performances by Liza Treyger, Kenny Witzgall and Maggie Ritchie; and music performed by Cloudbirds and DJ Doug Hall. There will also be a raffle with some major prizes. Cost of entry is $20 or $30 including a complimentary drink and raffle ticket. Buy tickets now.

Kevin is the kind of person who would attend a fellow writer's fundraiser. Please do the same for him. Let's get together for an artistic evening and help this amazing family with an unexpected financial burden. Read more about Kevin's journey and/or donate here.

Mikaela Jorgensen / Comments (2)

Author Thu Jul 18 2013

Kate Christensen Reads from Her Memoir, Blue Plate Special

On July 17th, author Kate Christensen read from her book Blue Plate Special at Women and Children First Bookstore. I'm going to be honest and say I've never read a food memoir. And again when I admit I've never read Kate Christensen's work, although she's published seven books now.

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?

Mikaela Jorgensen

Events Wed Jul 17 2013

Funny Ha-Ha is Back at the Hideout

The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., presents Funny Ha-Ha this Friday, July 17 at 6:30pm. This edition's theme is "Hot and Bothered."

Hosted by Claire Zulkey, featured readers include Erin Shea Smith, Homer Marrs, Kate James, Keith Ecker, Steve Delahoyde, and Carly Oishi. $5; proceeds benefit the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

Rebecca Hyland

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