Category Archives: Writing Life

Not All Who Wander are Lost: Finding an Honest Guide in Ben Tanzer’s “Lost in Space”
by Jeff Toth

Lost in Space

“So you also look for signs to provide you some kind of roadmap for where things might possibly be going, because even a sign that is hard to read or navigate is better than none.” — Ben Tanzer, from the essay “The Boy with the Curious Hair”

Full disclosure: despite what may seem like a daunting title, Ben Tanzer’s Lost in Space: A Father’s Journey There and Back Again is neither hard to read nor difficult to navigate. It is, instead, an incredibly honest take on the joys and fears every parent experiences, sometimes long before their children are even a part of the picture. With a blend of humor, inventive structuring, and sometimes sobering truth, Tanzer explores the wide array of influences and instances that continue to shape his journey as a father and as a man. As signs go, Lost in Space is everything a person in need of a guide through the uncertainty of adulthood, manhood, parenthood, personhood, could hope for. At least that was the experience of this reader. I’ll explain.

I first encountered the author and his latest collection of essays in Seattle of all places. We set out separately from our respective homes in Chicago in late February to attend the annual conference for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)—Mr. Tanzer, no doubt, kissing his wife and two sons goodbye before setting out to share his work with the literary masses, while I was taking the last trip I would ever take on my own before becoming a father myself. Then again, it wasn’t so much a “trip” for me as it was an exploratory mission. Continue reading

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The Write Spot: Star Lounge Coffee Bar
by Danette Chavez

Star LoungeI’m not the most disciplined writer: my attention is easily diverted, and I give myself a lot of time to “decompress” from my day job. So I’m often in search of a place to get work done without feeling tied to another desk. Oh, and to  enjoy several cups of delicious (read: strong) coffee. Star Lounge Coffee Bar (2521 W Chicago Ave) fits the bill, with lots of space, a friendly staff (with excellent taste in music), and said delicious coffee. I’m somewhat hesitant to add to their kudos, because I’d rather not fight any more folks for a spot at a table. But since this is one of my favorite spots to work away from home–and work–I’ll give you the rundown. Continue reading

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The Write Spot: Dollop Lakeview
by Julia Fine

Dollop

PHOTO COURTESY OF DOLLOP COFFEE & TEA COMPANY

As one who is at least 100x more productive outside of my “home office” than in it, I am excited to introduce a new regular feature here at Literary Chicago, The Write Spot: Rating Our Local Haunts.

We are kicking off at Dollop, whose Lakeview location at the corner of Belmont & Clark is one of my go-to spots. When I scout out a good place to make camp for the afternoon or morning, there are several elements I’m looking for, and Dollop has all of these in spades. Local artwork, good coffee, relaxing but not overly generic coffee shop music, and some big tables to spread myself out. Here’s how this location rates on our official LC scale:

Beverages: Metropolis coffee, a variety of Rishi teas, and some delicious indulgences like the Honey Cinnamon Latte make Dollop a great place to get caffeinated. They also offer free water in mason jars — a huge bonus in these hot summer months.

Food: No hot food, but a large assortment of pastries and bagels from the likes of Southport Grocery and Fritz Pastry. If you are willing to skip the egg sandwich (a struggle sometimes, I know), Dollop is a great breakfast/general snack-time spot. I’ve also seen folks bring takeout from places down the street, though I’m not sure how the management stands on this.

Atmosphere: Just lovely. A large, open space with shared tables that are long enough to feel like private desks. More than enough outlets, a reclaimed warehouse feel, and lots of natural light from the front windows. Dollop is also home to lots of laptop workers: some leave after an hour, others put in another few. In all of my visits, I’ve never felt pressure to leave or been unable to find myself a spot. I’m also a fan of the bathroom, always clean and plastered with fliers for local events.

Location: IDEAL! Just a block from the Belmont Red line (and, it so happens, my current apartment), and surrounded by restaurants, Divvy Bikes, and even several gyms for when you need a non-caffeinated energy boost.

Price Range: Inexpensive.

Word Count: Ahh, the chimera of all writerly endeavors. I’ve actually been able to get a lot of material written here, despite the comings and goings of area coffee drinkers during peak hours. Just pop in some headphones or be inspired by the barista’s eclectic musical choices and the range of Dollop customers, and channel the low-key vibe. At my best, I’d say I’ve made it 900 words in two hours — which for me is quite the feat.

Overall, I’d recommend Dollop to anyone who needs to get some serious writing done. Let me know when you’ll be stopping by, and we’ll make it a date!

Do you have a favorite writing spot that you think we should review? Let us know in the comments — we are always on the lookout for new and exciting places to be productive.

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Running and Writing: Thoughts on Solitary Practice
by Sophie L. Nagelberg

PHOTO BY CATHY NAGELBERG

PHOTO BY CATHY NAGELBERG

My father has always had a running group. When I was a kid, I asked one day if I could go with them. “I don’t think you can keep up,” my dad smiled, amused by my premature ambitions. So, I went outside and ran laps around the house, eager to prove my determination. I would keep up.

My dad took me running—the mile-long loop around Franklin Creek, but I didn’t have to keep up. He ran at my pace, critiquing my posture and my breathing along the way. Relax your arms. In through the nose. Many times, he ran with his group, then came back for me to finish that last mile. And over the years, we added on more miles. We ran a half-marathon together my junior year of high school, at my pace, clocking in just under two hours, even though he was running full marathons in just over three hours.

My dad, now 61, still has a running group, a different group, now a triathlon group. This August, he’s competing in an Ironman. That’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run. On average, these races take about twelve hours to complete. There’s a certain level of commitment, not only physical and mental, but in one’s overall lifestyle, that is hard to grasp.

And while triathlons and marathons aren’t necessarily team sports, they are not something athletes do in isolation. They don’t train for these kinds of races alone. Serious athletes understand the value in practicing together and in groups. They make marathon-running into a team sport. And then there’s the whole community aspect of it all.  It sounds kind of like writing, doesn’t it? Continue reading

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