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 »

Publish or Perish? Literary Variety Show Spooks and Inspires

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shadowpuppet1Start your Halloween celebration off with The All Hallows’ Eve Eve Variety Show at the California Clipper­, an intimate bar with its own resident ghost. All proceeds from the show benefit one of Chicago’s newest literary institutions, the Chicago Publisher’s Resource Center (ChiPRC). ChiPRC founder John Wawrzaszek opened the center earlier this year as a way to support all things publishing-related.

Over email, John says that his goal for the center is “to cover all areas of publishing since that definition has been growing.” He went on to describe ChiPRC, located at 858 North Ashland, as “an accessible and affordable space that allows the community to complete publishing-based projects. It offers resources that are physical such as equipment needed to self-publish work or educational such as workshops that focus on craft and process.” Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: Guts & Glory Probes Vulnerable Work in a Never-Boring Way

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Guts&Glory(1)Nearly a year ago, writers Keith Ecker and Sam Irby created the literary series Guts & Glory to give authors an environment to try out their newer, riskier writing. “While the [live lit] community had really flourished, I noticed that there wasn’t a venue for artists to share their most vulnerable works. I personally had topics I wanted to explore in my writing that I knew would push the envelope of what would be considered acceptable at a lot of shows,” Ecker says.

If starting a live literary series is the thing to do these days,  what sets this one apart from the rest? First of all, the environment. The series takes place once a month in what Ecker calls the “barebones venue” in the back of Powell’s Bookstore. Christmas lights are hung along the exposed brick wall, creating a raw, intimate environment for the readers and its audience. “We aren’t about big production value. We’re about that connection between the artist and the audience in its purest form. And because of the incredibly supportive atmosphere that Sam and I have fostered, our artists feel comfortable being incredibly vulnerable and our audiences are eager to listen,” Ecker says. Read the rest of this entry »

The Need to Be Heard: 2nd Story Promotes Equality Through Expression

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By Kathleen Caplis OzziePride2012

He’d had a long ride home from Chicago, performer Ozzie Totten explained during 2nd Story’s sixth annual PRIDE event. His friend’s dad, Harvey, was traveling for business and offered him a ride home to Minnesota, and Totten, at the time a student at Loyola University, saw it as a free and easy way to travel back home for winter break. Totten had identified as gay since age fifteen, grew up in an accepting atmosphere, and always felt welcome in his home, his community, his church. But on that car ride home, it became apparent that not everyone felt comfortable enough to be openly gay in their community.

As Totten took his shift behind the wheel, Harvey began to talk of his past visits to Chicago—to see his boyfriend. Before this, Totten saw Harvey as a happily married man, but he realized he had been holding a secret, and now Totten had no choice but to keep the revelation from Harvey’s daughter, with whom he was close friends, for fear of splitting their family apart. It placed Totten in an uncomfortable situation. He understood Harvey’s apprehension; he’d heard stories of friends being kicked out of their homes after coming out. But Harvey chose not to come out to his family for several decades. Reflecting on that car ride home, Totten now understands Harvey’s need to tell someone, anyone—to have his story heard. Read the rest of this entry »

Event Preview: Applied Words: “Broken Windows”/Guild Literary Complex

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PaulD

Paul Durica

(This event  has been POSTPONED. Click here for rescheduling details.)

The Guild Literary Complex introduces its newest production, Applied Words, on Tuesday, July 9, with the first of three performances planned between now and October; this one, called “Broken Windows,” kicks off the “urban design”-themed reading series. The special event invites writers to muse on stories of specific Chicago social and communal sensibilities that have originated and evolved from their relationship with their surrounding material environment.

Designed to translate urban design into a defining language of our city, “Broken Windows” brings wordsmiths to a free public stage for audience members to consider, learn and digest the social history behind the mortar, metal, conflict and politics of where a community lives and works. According to Guild’s website, the “Broken Windows” engagement aims to narrate the human factor that’s at stake behind “community ailments such as trash, graffiti and loitering” through the literary arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Brooksday: Celebrating the Works of a Local Literary Heroine

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gwendolyn-brooks-1Gwendolyn Brooks, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, became a legend not only because of her writing, but also because of her selfless efforts to give back to the Chicago community, and now the community returns the favor. In honor of her writing as well as her continual encouragement to aspiring writers, the Guild Literary Complex, Third World Press and The American Writers’ Museum will be sponsoring Brooksday, a marathon reading of Brooks’ work on June 7, from 9am-7:30pm. A collection of about seventy readers, including community leaders, high-school students and well-known writers, will spend eleven hours reading her work at the Chicago Cultural Center. Read the rest of this entry »

She Does It Herself: University of Chicago Exhibit Focuses on Self-Published Women

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zinecompilationBy John Wawrzaszek

Chicago proclaims print is not dead. Annual events like the Chicago Zine Fest (March 8-9) and the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, or “CAKE,” (June 15-16) are evidence of the growing local support for Chicago’s self-publishing community. The latest to join the cause is the University of Chicago Library, as they present “My Life is an Open Book: DIY Autobiography,” an exhibition focusing on woman self-publishers from Chicago.

The university’s library has been actively collecting zines and self-published materials for their catalog. “We were very excited by their diversity and how alive they feel,” says Sarah Wenzel, bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas at the university. “We thought other people would like to see the artistry, writing and variety of the collection.” And that is exactly what you can expect from the exhibit. Local self-publishers and artists are featured on display, ranging from personal zines to mini-comics. Read the rest of this entry »

Write On: Chicago Welcomes its First Conference for Writers

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Mare Swallow

After writing a business book in 2010, local consultant and speaker Mare Swallow searched for a writing conference in Chicago to meet publishing professionals, and gain some advice on the business side of writing. But she discovered that, despite being an active literary city, Chicago offered no such conference.

“I looked and looked and looked, but there was nothing like that,” Swallow says. “So I created it.”

Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign (for which Chicago’s own OK Go gave the rights to use their music), the first annual Chicago Writers Conference (CWC) will be held September 14-16 at the Tribune Tower. While local festivals like Printers Row Lit Fest (a CWC partner) and Columbia College’s Story Week tend to focus on visiting authors and the writing process, the CWC seeks to fill a gap by shining the spotlight on networking, querying, publishing and promotion for writers of all genres. Read the rest of this entry »

Untimed: The Secret History of Sam Weller and Mort Castle’s “Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury”

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By Greg Baldino

On July 24, a party was held in the lobby of the Inland Steel Building to celebrate the launch of “Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury” on Chicago soil. The book, edited by Bradbury biographer Sam Weller and polymath Mort Castle, had officially debuted at the San Diego Comic Con with contributors Margaret Atwood and Joe Hill, but on that Tuesday the book’s Midwestern roots were trumpeted. On hand were the editors themselves, proud as parents, as well as a roster of Chicago and Midwest literary talent: Joe Meno, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, Jay Bonansinga and Bayo Ojikutu—all of whom had penned original stories for the volume.

Nursing one of several beers enjoyed that night (less for the alcoholic buzz than for something cold to wipe across my brow in the summer heat), I was surprised to see an artist friend in the audience. They’d walked in off the street, believing the party to be a reception for the collection of local club posters that decorated the space. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Eat C.A.K.E. Chicago Alternative Comics Expo puts the independents up front

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Laura Park

The shape of things to come in the burgeoning Chicago independent comics scene will come into focus when the first-ever Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, C.A.K.E., hits town this month. The organizing committee has planned a two-day festival to host discussions, foster community and, of course, showcase independent comics. Read the rest of this entry »