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
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There Is No Similar Place: Anne Elizabeth Moore and “New Girl Law”

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NGLsmcovBy Liz Baudler

Chicagoan Anne Elizabeth Moore has just released “New Girl Law,” a book about her experiences working with Cambodian college girls attempting to rewrite the Chbap Srey, the Cambodian female code of conduct. A teacher at SAIC and author of “Cambodian Grrrl,” Moore guided the project and followed its return to Cambodia, and recently discussed her work’s impact with me.

In “New Girl Law,” the process of the girls rewriting the Chbap Srey seemed quite organic. Did that surprise you?
It did. I think what’s sort of remarkable about that first batch of work that these young women did was that I was like, “You guys should know how to do this,” and because of who I was and how I was brought into the situation and the conditions under  which that project was established, they did it. From there, there’s a whole bunch of things that could happen. People can be like, “This is a really stupid process and it doesn’t work for me at all and I hate it and you’re an American and you don’t understand what we’re doing at all.” Or, a community, a group of people can be like, “Actually, that’s worked for us and we want to do this with it.” And that’s kind of what happened in “New Girl Law.” They came up with this project that we then implemented despite my potential inability to meet the demands that would come with that, but then they did lead this process of pretty amazing work, rethinking the gender policy on which their nation was founded. Like, who does that when you’re twenty? Read the rest of this entry »

Wonder Women: Unleashing the Power of The Adventure School for Ladies

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Photo: Faith Choi

Women are 5.3 times more likely to appear naked in a book than be paid to work on one, according to research by comics scholar and author Anne Elizabeth Moore.

Moore wants to improve the depiction of women in comics, and to create more opportunities for women in comics. For the two weeks leading up to the first Chicago Alternative Comics Convention (CAKE), she put on the second year of the Adventure School for Ladies comics intensive, a small collaborative program open to applicants of all genders that hosted eight individuals this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2012

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Finishing the Lit 50 is always such a bittersweet ending for me. What starts out as such a pleasure of discovery—Chicago’s literary world now has more than 200 published writers!—ends in the sorrow of having to leave so many worthy names off the list. We do our best to reflect the sum of our knowledge and reporting, to add in diversity of style, medium and genre, and to constantly introduce new players to the mix. But we know that, in the end, many choices might appear capricious, that for every worthy individual honored, two have been overlooked. A day later, after the lingering effects of sleep, sunlight and exercise deprivation and an overdose of junk food and energy drinks abates, I know we’ll return to where we started: overjoyed at the growing literary abundance of our city.

Careful readers will remember that we alternate lists each year, between the behind-the-scenes influencers and the on-the-page creators; this year belongs to the latter. Which is why you won’t see represented the two most talked-about new endeavors in literary Chicago: J.C. Gabel’s magnificent revival of The Chicagoan, and Elizabeth Taylor’s noble undertaking, Printers Row. We are confidently hopeful, or perhaps hopefully confident, that they’ll still be around to have their day a year from now. (Brian Hieggelke)

Lit 50 was written by Greg Baldino, Ella Christoph, Brian Hieggelke, Naomi Huffman and Micah McCrary. See previous years here.
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Word Play: Experiments in writing with the Red Rover Series

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It’s a typical experience to be walking down a Chicago sidewalk and be stopped by a volunteer activist who wants your help (in other words, credit card number) to save whales or trees or something else in danger. Imagine how surprised you might be to run into someone offering only letters, and for just two or three dollars each.

That’s exactly what writer Jennifer Hofer did in the first part of Red Rover Series’ Experiment 37: Public Words—Letters and Interviews.

At three o’clock on June 3, Hofer set up a folding table and two chairs on the corner of Damen and Milwaukee. On the table, she placed two things: her mother’s antique typewriter, and a cardboard sign listing her fares, in both English and Spanish: LETTER: $2, LOVE LETTER: $3. Her journal sat in her lap. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Zine Scene

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Zines, often relegated to a tiny shelf in most bookstores like a footnote or a last-second addendum, are taking center stage this weekend as four Chicagoans put on the first ever Chicago Zine Fest. “We went to the Milwaukee Zine Fest and were surprised by how many Chicago people went up for that,” says co-organizer Matt Czerwinski. “It planted the idea to have one in Chicago.” The fest will kick off this Friday with a reading at Quimby’s which features “King Cat” author John Porcellino along with Anne Elizabeth Moore, Jeffery Brown and five zinesters who were selected by random lottery. There will also be a zine-related art opening at Johalla Projects Friday night, which will conclude with a screening of the Gadabout Traveling Film Festival. Friday’s events, aside from entertaining, attempt to start a dialogue between zinesters and the public. “We tried to figure out a way to get people talking to each other and get zinesters meeting each other. That’s a drawback of zine fests that we saw,” says Czerwinksi. “A lot of times you don’t meet anyone, but that’s why these events exist.” More info can be found at chicagozinefest.org. (Peter Cavanaugh)

Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2008

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Chicago’s book world can be a quiet place. In part due to the solitary nature of the work, and in part due to the void of publishing parties that keep New York’s assorted gawkers journaling away, it’s easy to think nothing new is happening. Jeffrey Eugenides moves to town, Jeffrey Eugenides moves away, and no one seems to notice. Then, bam!, Aleksandar Hemon publishes “The Lazarus Project,” the comparisons to Nabokov resume and suddenly we’re the center of the universe again, if only for a moment.
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Seeing Red: Writer-activist Anne Elizabeth Moore charts an “Unmarketable” path

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By Tom Lynch

In 1999 Anne Elizabeth Moore decided to move to Seattle.

She was looking for a new city, a fresh start. She had just spent the summer in her truck driving across the States after a breakup here—some friends had already settled there, she remembered liking it. It wasn’t a difficult choice.

Three days later, the WTO protests commenced. The largest demonstration of its kind at the time, the number of protesters was estimated at 40,000. The “Battle of Seattle,” it was called.

Moore worked at a coffee shop, because it was a quick-fix job and, well, where the hell else are you going to work in Seattle. She found out later that the shop was corporately owned.  “I was working in a coffee shop and the WTO guys were always outside the window—they would come in and I would give them free coffee,” she remembers. “We weren’t damaged at all—the activists would come in, and I would be like, ‘Look, I get off at six. Just crash through the fucking window and steal all the shit.’”

She pauses. “And they totally didn’t.”
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