You Can Smell Real A Mile Away: An Interview with the Men of The Moth

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Brian Babylon - The Moth

Brian Babylon

By Liz Baudler

The Moth GrandSLAM, held on a chilly December night at the Park West, had the feel of a party fueled not just by the energies of ten stellar storytellers competing for the ultimate glory of being the GrandSLAM winner, but by three particular men. Newcity chatted with Brian Babylon and Don Hall—Moth StorySLAM hosts at Martyrs’ and Haymarket Pub and Brewery, respectively—and producer Tyler Greene, about what they’ve seen over the years.

What do you guys think makes a good story?
Don: An ability to not paint yourself as the hero, and structure. If you ask a question in the beginning or you create some sort of “I want to know,” and then you reward the audience with the thing you want to know, then you have a good story. Making mistakes are the best fucking stories because mistakes are things that you learn from. The only thing you learn from success is how to keep doing things the same way. It’s flaying the flesh. And it’s not about therapy. It’s about saying, “this is where I was at, this is a thing I did, it was wrong and I’m stupid or whatever, but this is what I’ve learned and I’m better now.” Don’t tell the story while you’re still bleeding. Wait until it’s a scar. Read the rest of this entry »

The Right to Control Our Bodies: Jonathan Eig discusses “The Birth of The Pill”

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Jonathan Eig/Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Jonathan Eig/Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

By Toni Nealie

When you’ve had reliable contraception all your life, it’s easy to take it for granted. Now that politicians and religious groups are contesting women’s access to reproductive health care, “The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution” is timely. Jonathan Eig has written a compelling, frustrating and enraging account of activist Margaret Sanger, scientist Gregory Pincus, heiress Katharine McCormick, and Catholic gynecologist John Rock, and their race to discover a miracle pill. The group wanted to stop women dying from dangerous contraceptives, abortion, childbirth and exhaustion. They aimed to help couples plan their families and enjoy sex.

Eig, a former reporter and the best-selling author of “Luckiest Man,” “Opening Day” and “Get Capone,” was captivated by the individuals and the important story behind the pill. Crusader Margaret Sanger believed sex was good and that women should have more of it, but it needed to be separated from procreation. That’s where her lifelong quest began. Sanger and her supporters had to invent and test a workable hormone formula, raise money, build alliances and work their way around repressive laws banning information about birth control. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2014: Lit

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Top 5 Cafes in which to Draft Your First Novel
Currency Exchange Café, Hyde Park
Filter Café, Wicker Park
Gaslight Coffee Roasters, Logan Square
Kopi A Travelers Café, Andersonville
The Grind Café, Lincoln Square
—Amy Danzer

Top 5 Wintry Short Stories by Stuart Dybek to Enjoy with Hot Cocoa
“Chopin in Winter”
“Córdoba”
“Four Deuces”
“Ice”
“The Long Thoughts”
—Amy Danzer

Top 5 Russian Short Stories to Enjoy with a Shot of Vodka
“Master and Man,” Leo Tolstoy
“The Clown,” Maxim Gorky
“The Lady With A Dog,” Anton Chekhov
“The Overcoat,” Nikolai Gogol
“The Queen of Spades,” Alexander Pushkin
—Amy Danzer Read the rest of this entry »

News: Bibliophiles Unite at the Third Annual Chicago Book Expo

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Photo: Rebecca Ciprus

Photo: Rebecca Ciprus

Talents from the literary community were on display at the third annual Chicago Book Expo at Columbia College on Saturday, December 6 from 11am-5pm. Eighty-five booths blanketing two floors of the college’s campus at 1104 South Wabash housed authors selling their books, presses promoting works by their authors, and literary journals showcasing their work and providing information on their submission processes to visiting writers; other associations, groups, nonprofits and educational institutions were also on hand to promote their unique approaches to writing and publishing. There was something for every literary taste, from Rose Metal Press’ beautiful hybrid chapbooks to Appoet’s interactive mobile application that transforms two-dimensional stories into three-dimensional tales that interact with the time and space of the reader, to “After Hours,” a literary journal dedicated to the poetry and prose of Chicago authors. Mystery novels, parenting guides and history books also filled the booths of this animated event that drew in about a thousand visitors. Read the rest of this entry »

Shopping List: Good Things Come in Small-Press Packages

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KingMeMy mother used to say “good things come in small packages” when I was young. For a while I wore a pin that declared magnum in parvo, which translates as much in little or greatness in small things. That carries over into my love of small, independent publishers. Here’s a list of recent small press books by Midwest authors or publishers, to give or be given these holidays.

“On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss,  cultural analysis and personal history, from Graywolf Press, 216 pages, hardcover, $24.

“Once I was Cool” by Megan Stielstra, totally cool personal essays, from Curbside Splendor, 202 pages, $15.95.

“Swarm to Glory” by Garnett Kilberg Cohen, sly fiction about endings, from Wiseblood Books, 212 pages, $13.

“King Me” by Roger Reeves, poems about love and masculinity, poverty, class and race relations, from Copper Canyon Press, $15. Read the rest of this entry »

Lit 50 2014: Who Really Books in Chicago

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Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux

When we began work on the 2012 version of Lit 50, there were some 200 published writers on our long list. This year, there were 437. As always, trimming the list to a mere fifty writers required a certain kind of agony (and a few sleepless nights), but we’re proud of the list we gathered here, and we feel it celebrates the wealth of talent and diversity of Chicago’s literary community.

Close followers of Lit 50 will know this year’s list celebrates writers across all forms: novelists, essayists, poets, graphic novelists, playwrights. Our call to local literary folk yielded a wealth of celebratory news: overseas teaching offers, sealed book deals, hard-earned fellowships and awards. It also introduced dozens of writers that were not already known to us. We’re proud that this year’s Lit 50 includes seventeen writers who are making their first appearance on this list, including Chris Abani, the Nigerian-born writer who escaped a death row sentence in 1991 and now teaches graduate students at Northwestern University. We’re thrilled to add Lindsay Hunter, Cristina Henriquez, and Kate Harding, women whose voices we’ve long admired and whose forthcoming books we’re impatient to read. We’re also eager to welcome a handful of poets, including Roger Reeves, Parneshia Jones, and Roger Bonair-Agard.  It’s our crazy hope that in 2016, the “short” list will have doubled once more. But someone’s going to have to bring us some whiskey. (Naomi Huffman)

Lit 50 was written by Liz Baudler, Brendan Buck, Brian Hieggelke, Alex Houston, Naomi Huffman, Megan Kirby, Micah McCrary and John Wilmes

All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at Spertus Institute/Venue SIX10
Read the rest of this entry »

Translating Performance to Page: An Interview with Story Club Magazine’s Dana Norris

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By Naomi Huffman

photo: Evan Hanover

photo: Evan Hanover

When Dana Norris founded Story Club five years ago, it was an open mic reading and she was “just trying to figure out how to do this thing.” In the years since then, Story Club has launched monthly shows on Chicago’s South Side, and in Minneapolis and Boston. In February, she introduced Story Club Magazine, an online journal that publishes stories performed at reading series in cities across the country.

Just before Story Club Magazine’s second issue went live in early May, I had the pleasure of talking with Dana about Story Club’s success, the struggle of translating performance stories for print, and Chicago’s dynamic storytelling scene.

Tell me about Story Club Magazine.
I’ve been running Story Club for five years, where we’ve had all of these performers going up on stage and just killing it. But sometimes readers would just vanish as soon as the show was over, and I wouldn’t get a chance to tell them how good they were. So, I started doing an audience vote at the end of every show so I could publicly reward their boldness. Winning’s nice, but I also wanted to reward performers by publishing their stories on the Story Club website. We did that for a couple of years, and then started the Story Club South Side show, then Story Club Minneapolis, Story Club Boston. I wanted to publish great stories from those shows and from shows around the country. I wanted a central resource for live lit in print, video and audio so you don’t have to be in the room when a performance is happening to reap the benefits of the story. Read the rest of this entry »

Toasting the Man Chicago Almost Forgot, Nelson Algren

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NALGRENOn March 29, the Nelson Algren Committee will host the twenty-fifth annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party to honor the man who eternalized Chicago’s “drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums” with his books “The Man With the Golden Arm,” “Neon Wilderness,” and “Chicago: City on the Make.”

This year would mark Algren’s 106th birthday—which actually falls on March 28—but  the festivities planned are lively: theater mainstays Donna Blue Lachman and Bob Swann will be presenting Algren’s work with folksinger Mark Dvorak, filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, actor-director Nate Herman, activist Robert Lopez, and novelist Christopher Corbett. Poetry readings, excerpts from the in-progress documentary, “Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, The Road is All,” and a tribute to Algren’s lover Simone de Beauvoir. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2013: Lit

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Top 5 Books from Chicago Authors in 2013
“Little Known Facts” by Christine Sneed
“Don’t Kiss Me” by Lindsay Hunter
“Chicago By Day and Night” by Bill Savage and Paul Durica
“The Distancers” by Lee Sandlin
“Raven Girl” by Audrey Niffenegger
—Naomi Huffman

Top 5 Live Lit Series
WRITE CLUB
The Paper Machete
Guts and Glory
Tuesday Funk
Essay Fiesta
—Naomi Huffman Read the rest of this entry »

Diary Duel: Malcolm X Interests Sue on Publishing’s Eve

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Diary of Malcolm X coverBy Jeff Gilliland
Another wrinkle has emerged in the twisted tale of “The Diary of Malcolm X.” Shortly after our November 14 cover article—“Necessary Means: ‘The Diary of Malcolm X’ and the Fight for an American Legacy”—went to print, attorneys for some of Malcolm’s heirs brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against the book’s publisher, Third World Press. Filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, the complaint accuses Chicago-based Third World Press of entering into an unlawful agreement with the editors of the “Diary,” and repeatedly ignoring requests to cease from publishing the text. On November 8, presiding judge Laura Taylor Swain issued a temporary restraining order on the release of the “Diary,” which has been extended until preliminary arguments can be heard in January, 2014. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is X Legacy, LLC, a legal entity created by five of the six Shabazz sisters in 2011 “to protect, consolidate, and enhance the value of the assets and properties relating to the beneficiaries of…Malcolm X.” According to the text of the suit, the sisters formed the limited liability corporation to prevent any member of Malcolm’s family from unilaterally licensing or exploiting his assets without permission from the rest of the heirs. When third sister Ilyasah Al-Shabazz entered into a publishing contract with Third World Press, the suit alleges, she did so without X Legacy’s consent and without “any ownership rights or authority…to copy, publish, or disseminate the Diaries.” Read the rest of this entry »