By 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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
By Naomi Huffman
“Poetry is an important thing,” says local slam poet, story-teller and writer J.W. Basilo. “People are often not aware that poetry—and performance poetry specifically—is an absolutely viable and entertaining art form.” Basilo is the artistic director for Chicago Slam Works’ 2012 season, which kicks off on April 3rd with its show, “Two Sides.” Basilo has represented Chicago at four National Poetry Slam Championships and was a finalist in both the 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam and the 2009 National Underground Poetry Individual Championship. He has also published his own chapbook and released four full-length spoken word albums.
Basilo has worked with Chicago Slam Works, which has held three National Poetry Slam Championships and celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary last year, since its inception. And according to Basilo, this is a season like none before it. “What we’re doing with this season specifically is combining performance poetry with other art forms, whether that be dance or story-telling or drama. We’re working poetry in as a way to show people poetry is an absolutely engaging thing to see. This is really heightening the game.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Naomi Huffman
Anyone who attended the Beautiful, Words event at Beauty Bar on March 2nd during the AWP Conference could attest to the crowd’s rowdiness. To be fair, by that time, much of the audience had enjoyed their fair share of booze-laden late-night readings and had listened in on hours of panel discussions with authors, editors, publishers and other industry experts. Perhaps attendees were too hung over or tired to care. Even from where I stood at the front of the crowd, just fifteen feet from the readers, it was difficult to hear.
Maybe it was the sparkling introduction given before he read, maybe it was that he just looked worth listening to, in his jacket and black fedora, or maybe it was that before he read, he called to the people at the back of the room: “Jesus, would you just shut up?” but when Jonathan Evison took his place behind the microphone, most everyone stopped talking.
Evison is currently touring to promote the January paperback release of “West of Here,” his widely celebrated novel that entwines the past and present of a fictional town called Port Bonita, located on the coast of Washington. Evison is the executive editor at “The Nervous Breakdown“ and blogs at “Three Guys, One Book.” I had the chance to share a conversation via email with Evison about ”West of Here” and the challenges of structuring a story of such a large scope. Read the rest of this entry »
By Francesca Thompson
Wednesday, February 29
Writers in general tend to be solitary beings, which is why a gathering of almost ten thousand writers at this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference in Chicago is slightly (okay, very) overwhelming for me.
Ten-thousand is a lot of any kind of people, but ten-thousand writers feels manic. There’s something electric about the way people are gathered alone or in small groups on the stairs, constantly scribbling in little black notebooks or bright yellow legal pads. There are also a lot of good-looking and well-dressed people around, which invigorates and intimidates me at the same time. There are so many similarly wired brains squashed together in a relatively small space.
This is my first time at AWP. When I first looked at the schedule I thought I must be reading it wrong just because of the sheer number of panels and events. There are up to ten panels scheduled during each of the six one-hour fifteen-minute blocks in the day. And in each block of time there are at least three or four panels I’m interested in going to. Making decisions proves difficult. Read the rest of this entry »
By Micah McCrary
John D’Agata is the author of “About a Mountain” and “Halls of Fame,” and editor of “The Next American Essay” and “The Lost Origins of the Essay.” He teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where he lives.
We spoke with D’Agata about his forthcoming collaborative work with fact-checker Jim Fingal, “The Lifespan of a Fact,” which chronicles the reproduction of an essay written by D’Agata alongside his and Fingal’s expansive correspondence.
To start off, I’d like to ask how you must’ve felt being approached by Jim Fingal, who at the time was The Believer’s resident intern and fact-checker. As an essayist, rather than a journalist, what’s it like to corroborate facts? Read the rest of this entry »
By Brian Hieggelke
If we’re living in the most creative and fertile period in the history of comics, Daniel Clowes and Seth are two of a handful of cartoonists largely responsible for it. Clowes, born and raised in Chicago before relocating to California, is best known for his long-running “Eightball” comic, which spawned several graphic novels (and a couple movies), including “Ghost World” and “Ice Haven,” as well as last-year’s “Wilson.” The Canadian Seth came to fame with his long-running comic “Palookaville,” as well as the recent graphic novels “George Sprott” and “Wimbledon Green.”
This month, publisher Drawn and Quarterly is releasing Clowes’ “The Death-Ray” and Seth’s “The G.N.B. Double C: The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists” and, in the tradition of the old superhero team-ups, is sending them on tour together, with a stop this week at Oak Park’s Unity Temple. In that spirit, we conducted a three-way interview in advance of their visit. Read the rest of this entry »
Writing about 9/11 once felt so much stranger. The image of the Twin Towers falling is so indelibly marked in the American consciousness that initially it may have seemed commenting on it was excessive or incompatible. Yet, with the passing of ten years, an image once unilaterally perceived in the West—“we are all Americans now,” as the French newspaper Le Monde famously printed—has become burdened with the history that sprouted from it.
Given the event’s transforming meaning, Granta’s “Ten Years Later” essentially skirts the issue of what exactly occurred ten years ago. While the New Yorker chose the bizarrely nostalgic route of scrapping together what amounts to an e-book time capsule of its coverage immediately following the attacks, per their M.O. Granta has chosen a considerably riskier approach. Out of its sixteen essays, only one addresses September 11 directly. The rest cover, according to the blurb, the “complexity and sorrow of life since 11 September 2001.” Read the rest of this entry »