Category Archives: Writing Process

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

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Lykanthea’s Migration: Music Inspired by Literature
by Sophie L. Nagelberg

Several summers ago, my band, Videotape, was about to play a set at Panda vs. Panda—a warehouse-turned-underground-venue inhabited by members of a shoegaze group called Panda Riot—when Lakshmi Ramgopal introduced herself to me as a member of Love & Radiation, a dark-dance-pop duo. Since then, our collective musical ventures have led us to play together and attend plenty of shows across various Chicago venues. We’ve also become friends.

In the mean time, Lakshmi wrote and recorded a solo album under the moniker Lykanthea. The five-track EP dubbed Migration (July 2014) is full of ambient, droning tones and dissonant chanting. The music is haunting and the lyrics provide an entire narrative based upon texts she came across in researching her dissertation. The more I listened, the more story I discovered. Recently, Lakshmi and I sat down to discuss her album as a literary work. Continue reading

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Down-and-Dirty Writing Process: Jen Bosworth

Jen Bosworth


If you spend any time exploring Chicago’s live lit scene, you’re bound to run into Jen Bosworth. A graduate of The Theatre School of Depaul University with a number of stage and screen credits, including The Steppenwolf’s adaptation of The House on Mango Street, Bosworth has—for a decade—been combining her love of writing, her theater background, and her personal experiences to tell hilarious and heartbreaking stories in reading series throughout the city, including her own, the sorely missed Stories at the Store. She’s also a damn nice lady. That’s what her website says——and we know it’s true, because her solo show, Why Not Me…Love, Cancer and Jack White opens this weekend—it runs from July 18 to August 17 at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park—and yet here she is, in the midst of opening week preparations, sharing the intimate details of her writing process with us at Literary Chicago, in the first installment of our ongoing feature: the Down-and-Dirty Writing Process. Let’s do it.
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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



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



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