Co-founder, Rose Metal Press
Seven years ago, Kathleen Rooney co-founded Rose Metal Press, which publishes genre-hybrid works of micro-fiction, prose poetry, and novels in verse. Rooney is also a founding member of the poetry-on-demand group Poems While You Wait, and edits nonfiction for MAKE. A professor of writing and publishing at DePaul University, Rooney’s recent work has appeared in the New York Times, The Believer and Allure. Rooney is the author of several books of poetry, including 2012’s “Robinson Alone,” which was awarded the Eric Hoffer Book Award in Poetry. She’s looking forward to 2014, when her forthcoming novel, “O, Democracy!” will be released with Fifth Star Press.
Youth Services Assistant, Poetry Foundation
Mairead Case is everywhere. She’s the Youth Services Assistant at the Poetry Foundation, a coordinator for the Printers’ Ball, former volunteer director at Louder Than a Bomb, an editor for The Chicagoan, Semiotext(e), Nightboat, Yeti, and featherproof, among others. Her byline has appeared in The Chicago Reader, Bookslut, Bust, Pitchfork.com, Lumpen, Village Voice Media and The New York Ghost. She’s a current MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute, and is at work on a novel. As a Lit 50 confidante says, “this city’s lit scene moves on Mairead Case’s blood and sweat.”
Barry A. Benson
Executive Director, 826CHI
Barry Benson’s passion for literacy is endless. His resume reads like a list of nonprofits—Literacy Chicago, ProLiteracy and, now, 826CHI, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and expanding students’ writing skills. With Benson as executive director, the nonprofit—co-founded as a national organization by writer Dave Eggers—now has a network of more than 1,400 volunteers including professional writers, artists and teachers reaching out to 4,000 students annually. This past year, Benson launched a series of grant-writing workshops for adults and next year hopes to follow this series with a yearlong development apprenticeship program that will ready participants for possible career opportunities. Also in the works are collaborations with universities to expose students to the publishing process and, even more so, expose their work to the literary world.
Host and Overlord, The Write Club
Ian Belknap is the founder of the competitive live literary show Write Club, which now has chapters in Atlanta, Athens, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto, and curator of the shows “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Ian’s Dog & Pony Show.” Belknap’s live memoir show “Wide Open Beaver Shot of My Heart: A Comedy with a Body Count” was performed at both the Rhino Theatre Fest and at The Neo-Futurists. Belknap is looking forward to the debut of his full-length solo show, “Bring Me the Head of James Franco, That I May Prepare a Savory Goulash in the Narrow and Misshapen Pot of His Skull,” at The Den in October, acting as the first-ever curator of Live Lit on the Lake this summer and the release of Write Club’s first anthology in 2014.
Managing Director, Story Week; Curator, Sappho’s Salon and Editor, Windy City Queer
Being an artist/activist requires a multitude of skills and abilities just to keep from sinking, let alone to effect change in a fierce and shifting global landscape. It’s somewhat amazing then that writer/editor Kathie Bergquist has managed to not only stay afloat, but ascend. From curating the monthly Sappho’s Salon events every month at Women and Children First, to editing the diverse and transgressive anthology Windy City Queer, Bergquist is one of the foremost movers and shakers in Chicago’s LGBTQ lit scene. Taking her well-honed expertise and experience as both a writer and editor, she launched Ms. Fit, an online feminist women’s health magazine which recognizes “that being strong and healthy is an act of political defiance against those who would like to see us weak.” Rising further still in the scope of her influence, in 2013 Bergquist was appointed managing director of the long-running Story Week Festival of Writers, one of the city’s biggest literary events.
President, Albert Whitman & Company
Located in Park Ridge, Albert Whitman & Company has been publishing children’s books since 1919, and we have them to thank for the Boxcar Children Series (and for making them available as e-books). President John Quattrocchi has led the company into explorations of digital publishing, while still continuing to publish forty original titles a year.
Co-Publisher and Creative Director, Featherproof Books
Zach Dodson’s presence in the literary world continues to grow, as he expands beyond his focus on design into both writing and editing. He co-organized the returning Book Fort initiative at the Pitchfork Music Festival, co-curated a show of narrative art at the Hyde Park Art Center called “Epic Something” and edited the Reader’s Fiction Issue. He started teaching book design at Columbia College and three of his designs were featured in “Fully Booked,” a volume on book design from the respected German art-book publisher Gestalten, and he secured a New York agent to represent his next novel. Meanwhile, Featherproof “keeps on keeping on,” he says. “Our authors keep getting picked up by big presses. Lindsay Hunter’s major-label debut arrives in June, and Amelia Gray was nominated for the Pen/Faulkner.” And he’s especially excited about the recent team-up with Drag City to publish an anthology of the obscure literary magazine The Minus Times.
Editor and publisher, Expressions From Englewood
The story line coming from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, if you read the newspapers, is simple: crime, blight, murder, poverty, hopelessness. Corey Hall is out to prove that the story line is far too simple. His Expressions From Englewood, which just published its sixth edition, is a literary journal featuring personal essays, poetry, fiction and “papers of research” (“That sounds so much better than saying research papers,” he says, “as these are investigative papers with flavor and life!”) written by people who live, work and/or go to school in the community. Hall, who studied under Cyrus Colter at Columbia College before earning his MA from UIC and MFA from Chicago State, where he studied under Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Haki Madhubuti and Sterling Plumpp, now teaches English at Kennedy-King College in, yes, Englewood.
Executive Director, Read/Write Library
Originally named the Chicago Underground Library, Read/Write Library seeks to archive Chicago-specific independent and small press publishing projects. The organization regularly hosts Self Preservation workshops, which teach methods of making and preserving media, and are open to the public. Director Nell Taylor is excited that Read/Write Library will be bringing back its Pop Up Book Fair and biking around town on its BiblioTreka, as well as launching a membership program this summer.
Founder, Chicago Writers Conference
Mare Swallow’s Chicago Writers Conference, which will be held September 27-29 this fall, is designed to bring writers, publishers and agents together to create an opportunity for networking unlike any other event in the city, and to eradicate the idea that writers must live on either coast to achieve publishing success. The CWC offers panels on writing and publishing for writers of all levels and discussions with local authors. Swallow is also an executive skills trainer, speaker and consultant.