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Events Fri Mar 16 2012

Story Week Festival of Writers "Surviving" Another Year

Chicago's literary scene has been on a nonstop bender these last few weeks. But it will be wrapping up shortly with the 16th annual celebration of the Story Week Festival of Writers. Made possible by the efforts of the Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing Department, the week long event is packed with readings, panels and discussions from March 18 through March 23. All events are free and open to the public with a schedule available on their official website.

StoryWeek.jpgThe festival began as an experiment by Fiction Department Chair Randy Albers. This year's theme, "Surviving the American Dream," will be represented through panels and sessions that aim to provoke discussions focused on the future of creative work. Due to Columbia's efforts to re-prioritize, the future of the festival ironically aligns with this theme.

Two publishing panels will grapple with the state of publishing, and how its future may be shaped by current creative and economic factors. "Text/Image: A Conversation on Seeing Narrative," to be held on March 22, will feature panelistHeidi W. Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (recently selected as a city-wide read in Portland). Durrow loves the interaction with attendees at festivals like Story Week.

"I've written a story that has excited readers to share their stories," Durrow says. "That was really evident last week when I visited Portland. I am still buzzing from the wonderful and moving stories that people shared with me during my time there." She brings authority to this panel as an author, as well as from her work as co-founder and co-producer of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival.

The schedule showcases diverse programming with a range of events covering Latino literature, female voices in contemporary literature, conversations on play writing, and the 45-year anniversary of the Fiction Department's Story Workshop teaching method.

"There is always a little magic in the air when you get so many artists together," says Durrow. "There's always the possibility that something a presenter says or does will spark an inner revolution in someone -- inspire a new storyteller."

Story Week, which welcomes thousands of visitors to its events, comes at a crucial time for the Fiction Department. In late February, it was announced that Albers' contract as fiction writing chair was not being renewed. The following weeks saw overwhelming support for Albers from those associated with the Fiction Department, and ultimately, he was asked to remain as chair.

The festival's future may see itself on a parallel road. Like Albers, Story Week already has a great deal of support. Festival co-sponsor Joe Shanahan, who owns Metro/Smart Bar and is scheduled to host to this year's Literary Rock and Roll event on March 22, spoke to this ardent support.

"It is a tradition that has passed all expectations of any literary event," Shanahan says. "This event brings together the literary and music community in a very special way, and we hope to continue this relationship for many years to come."

For those new to Story Week, with the air of uncertainty surrounding the festival's future, there has never been a more urgent time to attend. Albers has been busy with Columbia in flux, but his enthusiasm hasn't wavered.

"We're gonna fight like hell to keep it going," Albers says.

 
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