21 Blue Balliet
New York native Blue Balliet is the author of six young adult books, most notably, a series of three books—the best-selling “Chasing Vermeer” (2003), which won an Edgar Award, “The Wright 3” (2006) and “The Calder Game” (2008). The series stars a group of sleuthing sixth graders, who attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School, (where Balilet used to teach) and solve mysteries in the Hyde Park neighborhood. In “The Wright 3,” the characters try to piece together a mystery involving Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. Balliet’s other books include “The Danger Box” (2010), and two collections of Nantucket ghost lore. Balliet is currently touring the country, speaking and reading at elementary schools.
22 Jonathan Eig
Though Jonathan Eig is best known for his biographies of American legends, which include “Luckiest Man: the Life and Death of Lou Gehrig” (2005), “Opening Day: the Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season” (2007) and “Get Capone” (2010), his new entrepreneurial enterprise is getting a fair bit of attention lately; Eig is the founder and editor-in-chief of ChicagoSideSports.com, dedicated to delivering high-quality sports journalism. He has toured the country as a lecturer on various topics, and has also taught at Columbia College and Northwestern University. And just to mix things up, he’s currently at work on a book about the inventors of the birth-control pill, forthcoming from W. W. Norton in 2014.
23 Julia Keller
Hailing from Huntington, West Virginia, Julia Keller is a longtime cultural critic at the Chicago Tribune, a position that was created explicitly for her. In 2005, she won the Pulitzer Prize for a feature she wrote on the aftermath of a 2004 tornado that ravaged Utica, Illinois. Keller published “Mr. Gatling’s Terrible Marvel” (2008), a nonfiction book about the Gatling gun’s influence on weaponry and warfare. Her young adult novel, “Back Home,” was released in 2009. Keller’s next novel, “A Killing in the Hills,” is a mystery that takes place in rural West Virginia, and will be released by Macmillian this August. This weekend’s Printers Row Lit Fest is something of a Chicago swan song for Keller, who has announced she’s leaving town to return to academia in Ohio this fall, where she’ll concentrate on writing novels.
24 Kevin Coval
Coval rose to local fame as the impresario behind the teen poetry slam program, Louder Than A Bomb, but earned national recognition last year when Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel released a documentary about the program under the same name, to critical acclaim and a featured slot on the OWN network. Kevin has published three books: “Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica,” “Everyday People” and, most recently, “L-Vis Lives.” He’s a frequent contributor to WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, teaches at the School of the Art Institute and at local high schools, and is a four-time HBO Def Poet. Right now, Coval is editing his forthcoming book of poetry, “Shtick,” due out in April 2013, collaborating with Young Chicago Authors on several long-term projects, and touring with the solo play, “L-Vis Lives!” (based on his book), which he premiered recently at Victory Gardens.
25 Michael Harvey
Michael Harvey is the executive producer of the hit television series “Cold Case Files” whose work as a journalist and investigative producer has earned multiple Emmy Awards. He is also the author of six books, which include “The Chicago Way” (2007), “The Fifth Floor” (2008), “The Third Rail” (2010), and most recently, “We All Fall Down.” Harvey also owns The Hidden Shamrock, which regularly hosts literary events and readings.
26 Sam Weller
If making it in publishing is all about who you know, Sam Weller is set for life. If it isn’t, he’s still good. Best known for his work as Ray Bradbury’s official biographer, the Columbia College professor has partnered with colleague Mort Castle to assemble a supergroup of literary all-stars to pay tribute to his mentor with “Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury.” Among the high caliber pistols of fiction in the anthology are a number of Chicago hotshots—including Jay Bonansinga, Audrey Niffenegger, John McNally, Julia Keller and Joe Meno—putting the city’s literary talent on center stage in Harper Collins’ big launch at the 100,000+ attended San Diego Comic Con. If that doesn’t keep him busy, he’s also overseeing and participating in the second year of the Summer Novelist’s Club, a now-annual challenge to finish a book by writing 500 words a day throughout the season. On the firing range of modern publishing, Weller has the velocity of a runaway rocket.
27 Charles Blackstone
Charles Blackstone brought sexy back to Chicago last year, at least for the lit scene. As the managing editor of Bookslut, Blackstone brought the web publication back to its base in Chicago, overseeing operations Stateside while editor-in-chief Jessa Crispin is in Berlin. Blackstone co-edited the anthology “The Art of Friction” (2008), wrote the Chicago-based novel “The Week You Weren’t Here” (2005) and is finishing up another novel. He and his wife, master sommelier and host of WTTW’s “Check, Please!” Alpana Singh are planning on resurrecting the booze-and-book-infused Bookslut reading series when she opens a new restaurant, The Boarding House, in River North this summer.
28 Blair Kamin
Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune for the past two decades, is as much an icon of the city as the buildings he critiques. Kamin’s eye for good design has both inspired city dwellers to care a bit more about their surroundings and pushed developers to keep Chicago architecture worth looking at. But Kamin is going to be taking off for a year; he’s headed to Harvard University to study as the 2013 Arts and Culture Nieman Fellow for Journalism. The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic has published two collections of columns, “Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago” (2001) and “Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age” (2010). Until he departs, Kamin continues to write columns and keep a blog, “Cityscapes.”
29 Alex Shakar
Brooklyn native Alex Shakar’s first novel “The Savage Girl” (2001) was named a New York Times Notable Book, and earned him comparisons to the likes of Don DeLillo, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Ten years later, he released his second novel “Luminarium,” about two brothers employed by a software company in the business of creating virtual utopian worlds on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. The novel instantly snagged its fair share of awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. It was also named a notable book for 2011 by the Washington Post, New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist. Shakar teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois.
30 Gillian Flynn
Missouri native Gillian Flynn was a film and television critic at Entertainment Weekly for ten years, and is the author of three novels. Her 2006 debut, “Sharp Objects,” was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Her second book, “Dark Places,” was released in 2009, and was named a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, and a Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction book. Film rights have been sold for each. Flynn’s third novel, “Gone Girl,” is out this month.