Story Stew Served Hot in the Chicago Cold
by Corey Klinzing

Gumbo Gater 2This past week was so cold and inhospitable that the Gumbo Fiction Salon felt the need to knock down their already low cover by half, hoping to get people to brave the weather and come out to the cozy Galway Arms for their usual once-monthly reading. They needn’t have bothered—the crowd may have been small, but they were dedicated and welcoming, and as warm and enthusiastic a crowd as I have ever seen in an open mic. Watching them react was almost as entertaining as listening to the readers.

As a veteran of coffee-shop open-mics, where half the patrons are simply trying to get through their own work, and ignoring the writer on stage, the Salon was almost refreshing. Here there was nothing but interest, and even before the readings the regulars were more than willing to strike up a conversation and welcome you into their set. I’d made sure to wear a Doctor Who shirt to grease the wheels, since I’m not an effortless extrovert, and I was almost immediately drawn into conversation. Between the generous air of the Salon’s usual crowd and the comfortable atmosphere of the Galway Arms’ second floor, all warm colors and wood panels, I hardly felt my awkward self at all.

The bent of the Gumbo Fiction Salon, which calls itself a “Chicago’s Multi-Genre Story Stew” is crooked decidedly towards the fantastic genres (fantasy, science fiction, horror); Isaac Asimov was a guest of honor on the book table towards the back, and most of the readers listed that way. But the Salon doesn’t limit itself merely to what we call genre fiction. The featured reader, or readers I should say, were Polarity Ensemble Theater actors Rian Jairell, Allison McCorkle, and Margo Chervony, and Richard Engling, preforming from Engling’s novel, Visions of Anna, which deals with the death of a loved one and the presumed hereafter. From those who braved the ten-minute slots of the open mic, I heard bits of novels and grand adventures in foreign climes, and short stories: a young boy witnessed his brother’s sacrifice for their village, a bartender sent his patrons out to kill complete strangers made to look like their ex-lovers, a vegetable expedition was lost to the briny deep. Anything and everything was represented in some fashion or another, even in the writers themselves: experienced short story writers, playwrights, and novelists shared the stage with those still learning the craft.

One thing that the Salon founder and host, Tina Jens, made a point of doing was getting each reader’s autograph after they finished their turn at the mic. It’s a vote of confidence, as if she knows they’ll all go on to do great things and wants to get in there early. And from what I heard that night, I’m sure quite a few of them will.

I definitely recommend the Salon for new and upcoming writers, from those who want a little publicity for their latest published piece, to those who just need a few friendly ears for what they’re working on now. The regulars of this Galway Arms staple will be more than happy to provide. Just remember to bring a little cash if you want to get past the first floor.

The Gumbo Fiction Salon is held at Galway Arms, 2442 N Clark St, on the third Wednesday of each month, starting at 7 pm, and will feature Rhysling winner and author of The Breaker Queen, C.S.E. Cooney on  March 11, and the authors of Exigencies: A Neo-Noir Anthology from Dark House Press on April 15. The cover is $4 per person, $2 for students of every stripe.

EVENT: GUMBO FICTION SALON | GALWAY ARMS | 2442 N CLARK ST | THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2015

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Staff Q&A: Online Writing Tools

Online Writing Tools

What is your favorite online writing tool, app, or website?

Sophie L. Nagelberg. Advice to Writers is Jon Winokur’s collected “writerly wisdom of the ages.” It has a little bit of everything—author quotes, interviews, resources, articles and essays. I visit the site or twitter feed for brief bouts of inspiration, then stay for the excellent content.

Danette Chavez. I’m fairly new to the freelance game and have found The Write Life very helpful for both business and craft advice. It’s free to use, and there’s a whole community at your fingertips.

Jess Millman. I’ve used Noisli pretty frequently this winter. It’s not exclusively for writers, but has been a perfect match for my binge novel-rewriting sessions. Noisli is a free web-based atmospheric tool, and its presets conveniently list the intended uses: “random, relaxation, productivity.” Essentially, you’re provided with a simplistic, easy-to-use digital soundboard, and given free reign to mix-and-match ambient noises to create your best possible audio backdrop. My favorite settings: fire and rustling leaves. The rumbling train click-clacks are nicely immersive, too, for those of you who celebrate the romance of the wandering writer. And when the real Chicago snow kicks in, the windchill is -40, and you don’t want to put three pairs of pants on to walk three blocks, Noisli’s “coffee shop” track is here for you.

Julia Fine. I can’t say enough about Scrivener. I am in the middle of a fairly lengthy project, and the software has been well worth its $45 in keeping me organized. There are numerous elements (like keyword tracking and metadata) that I haven’t yet explored, but the cork board feature is great for playing with structure and the binder and icon features help me keep track of my to-do list and jump quickly from one part of my project to the next. A huge relief after wrestling with 100+ page Word Docs.

Alba Machado. As part of my New Year’s resolution, I lined the favorites bar of my browser with writing sites—no time wasters. I also found FocusWriter. It’s a word processing application that takes up very little memory, costs only as much as you’re willing and able to “tip,” and has become a total addiction for me. Here’s why: it’s immersive and distraction-free, taking up the full screen but, at the same time, giving you only a small window in which to write; it allows you to set daily goals according to time, word count, or page count, and it tracks your progress over time; and, best of all, it has a feature that, when enabled, makes your keyboard sound like an old school typewriter with those oh-so-satisfying clicking, clacking, and swooshing sounds. I customized mine so that it looks like I’m flying over clouds as I click-clack-swoosh my way to my writing goal everyday.

Daniel Camponovo. The only online writing tool I need is RainyMood.com. Seriously, though, I’ve gotten a lot of utility out of Duotrope‘s massive catalog of journals and literary magazines. At $5/month (or $50/year), it’s a bit too rich for my blood, but if you have a piece that you know is finished and that you truly believe in, it’s helpful to pop on for 30 days and see what up-and-coming journals are out there. Their catalog is well-organized and easily filtered by genre, length, subject, acceptance ratio, minimum payment—just about any criteria you can think of. With magazine payouts shrinking every day, Duotrope may never pay for itself, but if you want to put in the time to research and make your own offline journal spreadsheet, it’s a great one-month rental.

Kori Klinzing. I really like BehindtheName.com for character naming. They even have a randomizer. But I always use Rainymood, and Duotrope when I’m ready to publish.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Scott Turow Champions the Rights of Authors in the Digital Age
by Alba Machado

Turow

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FLORIDA CENTER FOR THE LITERARY ARTS

What merits a rally? What calls for bullhorns and protest signs instead of just an angry letter to the editor? In this world of government sanctioned torture and fatal racial profiling, it’s sometimes hard to tell. Yesterday evening, for example, when Scott Turow spoke to a polite audience of writers at the Harold Washington Library on the “Rights of Authors in the Digital Age,” I wanted us outside, in the cold, warmed by the heat of our shared outrage. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a pithy, musical chant for Turow’s overall exhortation, that “the doctrine of fair use needs to be reexamined with an eye towards the digital world,” but I believe it’s worth chanting about. After all, what’s at stake is the future of reading and writing, or, as Turow puts it, “the transmission of culture.”

“Authors’ income streams are being rapidly depleted by the digital revolution,” says Turow. Basically, it’s getting harder and harder for writers to make a living—when maybe it should be getting easier. E-books are significantly cheaper to produce and distribute, and yet big book publishing companies are sharing less of the profits with their authors, not more, even as they have been drastically cutting back on the editing and marketing support they provide. Turow cites Harper Collins as an example, saying that it bragged to its stockholders about cutting author profits nearly in half with digital technology. A quick Google search turns up the exact numbers in an Amazing Stories article: after costs, authors get 42.5% of the profit from print books and only 25% from e-books.

And speaking of Google, it, too, poses a threat to the livelihood of writers, as do all search engines—by supporting pirate sites funded by advertisers, mostly pornographers. Do a search for “free Scott Turow book” and Google will lead you right to the pirates. Turow likens it to going up to some guy on a street corner to find out where you can score heroin nearby. Eventually, this guy, if he keeps directing customers to drug dealers, and he gets caught, he’ll get into some big legal trouble. But thanks to the “safe harbor” provision in digital copyright laws, search engines need not fear any such repercussions. Even worse, Google itself scanned and digitized 20 million books in 2004—and seven million of them are still in copyright. Sure, it only provides 250-word snippets of the copyrighted material, but that’s allowing it to make money that it does not share with either authors or publishers. Also, it’s taking it upon itself to put these works at risk. “If someone can hack the department of defense library, how hard is it to hack into these seven million books and release them into the world, eliminating that income stream for writers?”

Not surprisingly, Amazon is also high up on Turow’s list of culprits. By selling e-books at a loss and enlisting Wall Street patronage, it has been using the principles of the creative destruction school of capitalism to effectively, as Turow puts it, “club competitors into extinction”—including brick-and-mortar bookstores, which were “already limping.” At this point, Amazon sells 67% of all e-books and 64% of all print books sold online. It owns Audible.com, the world’s largest producer of downloadable audiobooks; AbeBooks, the largest online marketplace for used, rare, and out-of-print books; and BookSurge and CreateSpace, two of the largest print-on-demand companies. And it’s continuing to grow. “Just imagine if we had just one movie studio or one television network,” says Turow. “I freely admit that I’m a Prime member. But I don’t buy books from Amazon. They have competitors for underpants, but not books.”

This lecture, it wasn’t the collection of cautionary tales I imagined it would be—a list of common pitfalls to watch out for in publishing. We’re not talking about a few shady characters taking advantages of loopholes in the system; we’re talking about the whole system being abhorrently corrupt, rigged to sweeten the already-too-syrupy pots of corporations while starving writers. That warrants a rally, doesn’t it? Or, at the very least, a call to become more informed about intellectual property laws and to add our voices to the strength-in-numbers of the Authors Guild, the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts, and free expression. And if, like me, you’re up for chanting, how about: Corporations must be taught! Fair use here cannot be bought!

EVENT: SCOTT TUROW LECTURE ON “THE RIGHTS OF AUTHORS IN THE DIGITAL AGE” | TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2015 AT 6PM | HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY | AN EVENT OF THE SOCIETY OF MIDLAND AUTHORS

Tagged , , , , ,

Chicago Live Lit Makes Books

Hotshot in the audienceIt’s a scene we all know. Some young hopeful needs a major pep talk backstage, because tonight, there’s a hotshot in the audience, someone who could catapult you to stardom overnight. Usually, the young hopeful is a wannabe movie star or rock star and the hotshot is a famous critic or music producer. But live lit has made it possible for us to imagine a future in which writers are discovered by publishers not just in slush piles, but also in bars, cafes, libraries, bookstores, and even concert venues. Whether or not this is even more improbable than the rock star fantasy, public storytelling is a great way to develop your writing chops—and it can sometimes lead to publication. Just take a look at these local kids who made good. Here are five books that grew out of live lit in Chicago.


BARE-KNUCKLED LIT: THE BEST OF WRITE CLUB | Edited by Lindsay Muscato and Ian Belknap | December 16, 2014

Bare-Knuckled LitI’m a religious fanaticism survivor. The church I grew up in, it was of the “God-hates-fags” variety and I’m a better, happier person for having escaped it. But there are things I missed: the ritual, ceremony, fellowship, and passionate language that can sometimes lead to a sense of spiritual transcendence. More than a decade later, I still felt the loss—until Write Club. For me, this live lit series is like church, only without the bigotry and intolerance. And Bare-Knuckled Lit, well, maybe I won’t go so far as to say it’s the Bible, but it’s a damn good book.

In it, founder, host, and “overlord” Ian Belknap lays out Write Club’s genesis story, rules, and mission in the introduction, training the unversed: each installment has three bouts of two opposing writers on two opposing topics. But, unlike most real ministers, Belknap quickly steps aside to share the pulpit with some of the best “combatants” who have graced the Write Club stages of Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco, each presenting a short, lucid, and compelling persuasive essay. Leaving out the photographs, sidebars, and pull quotes one might expect from a book about such a raucous, popular show, Bare-Knuckled Lit makes it clear that, in the end, like church, Write Club is about beliefs—only, the ones we figure out for ourselves.

— Reviewed by Alba Machado


UGLY GIRLS: A NOVEL | Written by Lindsay Hunter | November 4, 2014

Ugly GirlsPerry and Baby Girl are fake-ass thugs. They blast tough music; they joyride through their double-wide, poverty-saddled rural town in a stolen red Mazda; they are teenage girls who aim to raise hell.

Let me put it out there: as one of the nerdy, stay-in-at-night good girls these two despise, I was ready to hop in the backseat and blaze off after Lindsay Hunter’s partners-in-crime. But Ugly Girls is not a glorification of the wildchild days. This debut novel from one of the founding hosts of the now-defunct Quickies reading series struck me, beyond all else, as a study in claustrophobia, where every environment has its own chokehold—from prison walkways to truck stop donut stands to quarry drops—and each character rides out flight-or-fight instincts, looking, not always hopefully, for a way to get free.

The prose combines gristly fragments and vicious dialogue; Hunter writes with a clammy realism and tough, punchy swagger I ate up in two sittings. She doesn’t deny it; the ugly girls are headed for disaster. But knowing that made the final lap of their race no less of a heartbreak—a violent, upsettingly abrupt ending that left me feeling, like Baby Girl, perturbed, itchy, and disgruntled. And maybe like I ought to try sneaking out my bedroom window some night.

— Reviewed by Jess Millman


ONCE I WAS COOL: PERSONAL ESSAYS | Written by Megan Stielstra | May 20, 2014

Once I Was Cool with BordersThere’s a certain intimacy inherent in this collection of personal essays. Honed, perhaps, from Megan’s time on the stage, where she stands, or sits, as comfortable as silk. But also in the way in which she opens the compendium of her life to show strangers: “This is who I am, and this is how I got here.”

For period of time—I don’t know how long it took to read Once I was Cool, I read slow, reread multiple essays, did everything in my power to prolong the experience of this book—I had this partner in crime. I was the passenger in the journey of her life. The Robin to her Batman, except with pants. The short-round to her Indiana Jones, except slightly taller, by like an inch—seriously I am so short. Megan made me feel like an important fixture in her life. This almost seems absurd to type, but the blend of her voice on the page with the structure of each essay made me feel as if we had always been friends.

After the last page had been read and the book was shut I found myself a little heartbroken.

— Reviewed (again) by Scott Eagan
(for his full review, see “The Power of Story“)


MEATY: ESSAYS | Written by Samantha Irby | Released October 1, 2013

MeatyI’m always a little confused whenever I read that Samantha Irby, Bitches Gotta Eat blogger and live lit performer, has only a cult following. That’s because I feel like everyone I know is a fan of Sam’s. But maybe I’m just lucky in my friends.

Irby wrote Meaty, a hilarious and poignant collection of essays in 2013 that is still cracking me up this year. I was turned onto her blog by fellow LC staffer, Alba Machado, a few years ago, and that was it for me—every week I hit up BGE for Irby’s multi-hued (and often ALL CAPS) posts covering everything from “manecdotes” to reading lists (she’s as much a hermit as a charmer).

She worked with Curbside Splendor on the raucous and bittersweet array of personal tales, including “My Mother, My Daughter,” the devastating story of caring for her mother from a young age. Meaty’s the culmination of years of shocking and awing on her blog and taking her incisive storytelling on the road: Irby has slayed at Write Club, and founded her very own live lit show, Guts & Glory, with Keith Ecker. It’s also raised the bar on personal narratives.

— Reviewed by Danette Chavez


BRIEFLY KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS BY A LOW-FLYING DUCK: STORIES FROM 2ND STORY | Edited by Andrew Reilly and Megan Stielstra | Released November 12, 2012

Briefly KnockedIf I had to pick a Chicago reading series for my first-ever live lit experience (and I sort of do), it would be 2nd Story. Hands down. No other series better prepares its writer-performers for a show. Committed to the mission of “building community” and using stories to “connect people to one another,” members of its large staff work for up to four months with each storyteller, editing content, directing delivery, and coordinating sound and music. And the care and attention each story is given is as apparent in this collection as it is at their shows and in their podcasts. This is personal narrative at its best.

Although I might be somewhat biased here, since scanning the table of contents gives me a this-is-your-life-in-Columbia-College’s-creative-writing-program-so-THANK-YOUR-LUCKY-STARS feeling (thank you, STARS), this line-up would impress the hell out of anyone who follows the Chicago literary scene: Once I Was Cool’s Megan Stielstra, The Bradbury Chronicles’ Sam Weller, Bedrock Faith’s Eric Charles May, The Temple of Air’s Patricia Ann McNair, and a number of others who have made names for themselves as inspiring teachers and powerful live lit performers. But even if these names mean nothing to you, these stories, they’re ours, they’re the stories of what it means to be human. Inside each of them, you’ll see, there’s a story of your own waiting to be discovered. That’s why they call it 2nd Story.

— Reviewed by Alba Machado

RELATED VIDEO

Ugly Girls Author Lindsay Hunter Reads at the Hideout,” Chicago Magazine 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Staff Q&A: Our Most Anticipated Books of 2015

2015 PICKS

What book are you most looking forward to in 2015?

Danette Chavez. Aleksandar Hemon’s The Making of Zombie Wars (May 12, 2015). I was lucky enough to attend his talk at the Humanities Fest, and he read an excerpt from his next novel, which he promised is a “roller-coaster ride of sex and violence.” The protagonist, Josh Levin, is an ESL teacher and flailing screenwriter so the action is interspersed with script ideas, each worse than the last. Josh gets more than he bargained for when he tries to inject some of that melodrama into his real life.

Sophie L. Nagelberg. Visitants by Dave Eggers from McSweeney’s (March 10, 2015). I surprised myself by choosing a travel writing book, but then again, it is Dave Eggers and this non-fiction collection chronicles his experiences with people and places across the globe from Saudi Arabia to China to Thailand, Sudan, and Croatia, to name a few.

Todd Summar. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (February 3, 2015). Link is one of my favorite fabulist writers. Her stories are at once funny, quirky, sad, creepy, and surprising. She has developed a cult following by creating worlds and styles all her own within the confines of the short story medium. Though I’d love to one day read an entire novel from her, it’s been far too long since her last story collection. The exaggerated conceits at the surface of her work – hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids—are grounded with her unique take on human frailty.

Julia Fine. Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (March 3, 2015)—the first novel in a decade from a master of the craft, set in mythical, post-Arthurian England. I’m also eagerly awaiting A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (May 5, 2015), a follow-up to last year’s Life After Life, which I loved and highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t yet discovered it!

Brian Zimmerman. The Strange Case of Rachel K by Rachel Kushner (February 10, 2012). I loved The Flamethrowers and I’m eager to see how Kushner’s fiction operates in shorter forms. Also, because this is a collection of stories that predates her first novel, I think it will be interesting to track the trajectory of her prose and storytelling capabilities.

Daniel Camponovo. The First Bad Man by Miranda July (January 13, 2015). Though I’m usually wary of artists crossing mediums, July is one of my favorite filmmakers, and her previous collection of stories No One Belongs Here More Than You was a fantastic distillation of her aesthetic. The main criticism I’ve heard regarding her story collection (that the stories are too narratively similar, with little tonal variation in voice) is, in a weird way, one of its strengths—July has as singular and distinctive an artistic voice I’ve heard in years, and I can’t wait to see how it flexes and develops over the course of a full novel.

Jess Millman. Would it be gauche of me to second Todd’s praise of Kelly Link? Her prose is snappy and transformative, her settings are lush, and all that’s combined with the high talent of not taking the literary genre’s crustiness so damn seriously 100% percent of the time. I’m also all for Roxane Gay’s Untamed State (which goes international early this year). Her short stories aren’t just accessible to a wide variety of readers, but they’re as real as it gets—delicate, sometimes spindly prose partnered with genuinely harrowing scenes. I am awfully grateful to an author who can disorient me in such a way. That, and Bad Feminist should’ve been added to every required reading for American college freshmen, yesterday. OK, one more: Jon Ronson’s newest release, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (March 31, 2015). I wasn’t altogether fond of the sensational Psychopath Test, but I am quite fond of Ronson’s narrative voice, which teases readers, in the way of the good old mystery yarns, to beat the writer to his own conclusions.

Alba Machado. I want all of your picks on my shelves, particular Hemon and Link. For mine, though, I’m gonna have to go with Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet (November 3, 2014—new enough, right?). She’s new to me, but she’s been around long enough to have published thirteen books—and to be a finalist for the Pulitzer—and, you guys, there’s big-time humor, social commentary, wacky magic, and stylistically adventurous prose. All my favorite things. Mermaids in Paradise is about a couple from a romanticized Middle America (“modern day pioneers” who are “somewhat mythic” and “love cruises”) who are forced to spend their honeymoon in the Caribbean helping an ex-Navy SEAL and a hipster save a mermaid and her coral reef from being turned into a freak show at a theme park. Did I mention the Pulitzer thing? Nothing more exciting to me than a serious—and funny—writer dealing in things like mermaids, taking the absurd and turning it into something real and meaningful—without losing the humor. Karen Russell is quoted on the book cover as saying, “I laughed so hard all over town,” and I’m really looking forward to doing the same.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tis the Season for Literary Events

Holiday Mic

Make storytelling one of your holiday traditions. It’s easy in Chicago. This week, there’s a different literary event happening every night of the week.


Monday, December 15, 2014


ESSAY FIESTA
“An Essay Festivus For the Rest of Us,” featuring performances by Moth Grandslam champion Lily Be, Curbside Splendor managing editor Naomi Huffman, comedian Dave Stinton, This Old Neighborhood author Bill Hillmann, and writer Mike Manship. Hosted by Willy Nast and Karen Shimmen, Essay Fiesta is humor and heart—first person, nonfiction essays that benefit 826CHI by bringing together a cross section of Chicago’s art and writing communities. Bonus: it takes place in a cool independent bookstore that serves booze. Book Cellar | 4736 N Lincoln Ave | 7pm | FREE | All ages | Website


Tuesday, December 16, 2014


WRITE CLUB
Chapter 65: “War on Xmas/Book Release-travaganza!” Celebrating the publication of Bare-Knuckled Lit: The Best of Write Club, the holiday installment promises to be extra exciting. Its line-up consists of the following “combatants”: David Isaacson (GIVE) vs. Susan Karp (RECEIVE), Dave Stinton (NAUGHTY) vs. Emily Rose (NICE), Samantha Irby (SANTA) vs. Ian Belknap (JESUS). Hosted by “overlord” Belknap, Write Club is “literature as bloodsport”—three bouts of two writers each, who get seven minutes apiece to defend one of two diametrically opposing ideas. At the end of each show, there are three victors, three charities benefited, and three “Loving Cups of Deathless Fucking Glory” awarded. The Hideout | 1354 W Wabansia Ave | 7pm | $20 in advance | 21+ | Website

STORY CLUB
“Stories About Things that May or May Not Happen in the Future.” Hosted by Dana Norris, Story Club is a nonfiction storytelling show that aims to “mix the spontaneity of an open mic with the experience of live theater.” In addition to open mic performers, this installment’s featured performers are comedian Kirsten Clifford and writers Maura Clement and Bill Drew. Co-Prosperity Sphere | 3219-21 S Morgan St | 7:30pm | $10 suggested donation | All ages | Website


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


CURBSIDE SPLENDOR
The inaugural “Curbside Yuletide Book Thing” features an all-star line-up of storytellers, including Gina Frangello, Rebecca Makkai, Kathleen Rooney, Halle Butler, Susan Hope Lanier, Ryan Kenealy, Dmitry Samarov, Ben Tanzer, James Tadd Adcox, Jac Jemc and Jessie Ann Foley. It’s also got a “holly jolly raffle” for fun surprises and a City Lit book table for seasonal shopping. Beauty Bar Chicago | 1444 W Chicago Ave | 7pm | FREE | 21+ | Website

A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO THE HOLIDAYS
Pivot Arts continues its Pop Up! Performance Series with its first-ever Holiday Show. Featuring holiday stories by Jeremy Owens and Alan Neff from Story Sessions, as well as Ike Holter, Sharon Lanza, Mia McCullough, Tanya Palmer, and Julie Ganey—and music by River Rising. Uncommon Ground | 1401 W Devon Ave | 8pm | $10 | 21+ | Website


Thursday, December 18, 2014


POETRY OFF THE SHELF: WRITE CLUB EDITION
Because once during a busy holiday week is just not enough. Because they’re hyping their newly released book, Bare-Knuckled Lit: The Best of Write Club. Because they are tireless. And still they manage to pull together a killer line-up: Whit Nelson (PAGE) vs. Jessica Anne (STAGE), Robbie Telfer (READ) vs. JW Basilo (WRITE), and Patrick Carberry (PROSE) vs. Barrie Cole (POETRY). Again, hosted by “overlord” Belknap, Write Club is “literature as bloodsport”—three bouts of two writers each, who get seven minutes apiece to defend one of two diametrically opposing ideas. This time, though, the bloodsport is free of charge. Poetry Foundation | 61 W Superior St | 7pm | FREE | All Ages | Website

GROWN FOLKS STORIES
“More formal than an open mic and less orchestrated than a performance.” Hosted by Cara Brigandi, this series is natural storytelling—no readings, no poetry, no judging, no theme. All guests are welcomed to share a story, each getting no more than five minutes on the mic. The Silver Room | 1442 N Milwaukee Ave | 8pm | FREE | 21+ | Website


Friday, December 19, 2014 AND Saturday, December 20, 2014


2ND STORY
“Home for the Holidays with Lakeview Orchestra.” With rotating hosts, 2nd Story is personal storytelling that is both carefully crafted and fresh and surprising. Rehearsed with directors and set to music, its performer’s piece is the “first story,” and it’s meant to inspire another from each of its listeners—the “2nd Story”—told to friends during breaks, over food and drinks. For the second year, 2nd Story and Lakeview Orchestra will team up to present a symphonic story sampler, featuring stories by Jessica Young, Julie Ganey and Vince Pagan. Rocks Lakeview | 3463 N Broadway St | 7pm | $20 at the door, $15 in advance, and free for students while inventory lasts | 21+ | Website


Sunday, December 21, 2014


THE MARROW
Curbside Splendor Publishing continues “cutting to the bone” with its nonfiction reading series. Hosted by Naomi Huffman and Leah Pickett, this installment features storytelling by Curbside events and programming manager Catherine Eves, writer Susan Hope Lanier, comedian Tyler Snodgrass, and culture writer and Literary Chicago social media coordinator Danette Chavez. The Punch House | 1227 W 18th St | 7:30pm | FREE | 21+ | Website

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Potential of Parody: An Interview with Todd Summar
by Alba Machado

Paint By NumbersIf you look up the word “parody” in the dictionary, you’ll find it means imitating a piece of literature to poke fun at it—à la Fifty Shades of Chicken and Bored of the Rings. At Columbia College Chicago, though, it often means drawing ideas and inspiration from an existing story to create an original one, and it’s something that writers have been doing for centuries. Gustave Flaubert took Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote and came up with Madame Bovary; James Joyce took Homer’s Odyssey and came up with Ulysses; and in the 1950s, Carlos Fuentes took John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer and came up with Where the Air is Clear.

As part of his coursework, Columbia College graduate student, Goreyesque editor-in-chief, and Literary Chicago contributing writer Todd Summar wrote just such a parody last spring, taking Herman Mellville’s classic, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” and creating “Tony’s Hat Lies Disused and Vulnerable,” an original short story that was recently published in PANK Magazine—a magazine that, according to The Review Review, reaches approximately 100,000 readers in well over 100 countries around the world, and accepts only 1% of its total submissions. Clearly, then, parodying can yield effective results. It needn’t be mocking, nor an homage, either. And, as Todd explains, it shouldn’t be a fill-in-the-blanks, paint-by-numbers endeavor. Continue reading

Tagged , ,

There Are No Saviors Up In Here
by Danette Chavez

BOOK COVER - Up In HereWhen I started Mark Dostert’s Up in Here: Jailing Kids on Chicago’s Other Side, I confessed my skepticism of the book’s subject matter to my editor. I’m generally leery of these ersatz ethnographies, wherein the difficulties that a people or culture encounter are glimpsed through the prism of (usually white) privilege. The less offensive iterations are of the “white savior” variety (see Kathryn Stockett’s The Help), but then there are the outright racist publications such as the 1959 Golden Book Encyclopedia, which intended to teach (again, white) children about “the Negro” in what was, at the time, presumed to be a post-racial America.

Moving forward with my reading, and my bias, I initially placed Dostert’s memoir in the former category after reading his introduction. While an undergrad at the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, he volunteers as a Bible study instructor at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, which is the nation’s largest such facility. It was best known as the “Audy Home,” referring to the Arthur J. Audy Home of the early 20th century, which itself was once the largest juvenile jail in the country. After completing a graduate degree in his home state of Texas, Dostert returns to Audy Home as a “Children’s Attendant” in an attempt to minister to the incarcerated (mostly African-American) children and teens. Continue reading

Tagged ,