Guts & Glory: An Intro to Live Lit
by Julia Fine

Sam and Keith

PHOTO COURTESY OF SAMANTHA IRBY AND KEITH ECKER

On Wednesday night, between raucous mid-June thunderstorms, I ventured to Schuba’s Tavern for Guts & Glory, my first Live Lit experience. Now, I know that I am way late to the club—Guts & Glory’s Facebook page has over 800 followers, and when I spoke with co-founder Keith Ecker, he marveled at how quickly this Chicago community has grown. Two years ago, Guts & Glory was just a gleam in Ecker and co-founder Samantha Irby’s eyes—now, the June Edition is filling the upstairs room at Schuba’s (a room I’d like to dub the SXSW Roundup Room, given the impressive collection of said posters on its walls), and they’ll be celebrating a two-year anniversary in September. Continue reading

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A Good Book with a Bad Cover
by Sophie L. Nagelberg

Green Nails

A review of Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss by Elaine Soloway, due to be published on September 16, 2014

This may sound harsh, upfront, but bear with me because it gets better. I’ll go ahead and say this: based on the cover design or title of this book alone, I never would have picked up a copy of Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion (She Writes Press). The pink font, the green smudge of nail polish, and the title in itself — it all feels trite, like something you might pick up in the airport gift shop and toss after the returning flight. I might expect some gossip-ridden drama based loosely on the life of an interchangeable author. We’ve all seen memoirs like this, right? Maybe it’s even thrown into that genre called chic-lit, which is a whole other topic I ought not to get started on. Ugh. Continue reading

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Fuck Yeah: Ray’s Tap is Back.
by Alba Machado

Oh PicklesDid you know that a number of Chicago’s foremost live lit performers are either current or former members of The No Cussing Club? That’s right. This Saturday, for one night only, playwright Chris Bower reunites this unlikely group of malediction-conflicted writers for an installment of the popular Ray’s Tap Reading Series: Ian Belknap, Daniel Shapiro, Carly Oishi, Dave Snyder, Stephanie Douglass, Mark Chrisler, Tim Racine, Alicia Swiz, Ben Harpe, Matt Test, John Cahill, and Randall Colburn. These members of the “most cyber-bullied anti-profanity club in history” will each offer a literary response to the NCC’s manifesto, as well as its alternative-to-swearing handbook, Oh Pickles, shedding some light on what it’s like to “remain PG in an X-Rated universe.” Music by Tijuana Hercules will also be featured. Author and seasoned potty mouth Mason Johnson (Sad Robot Stories) highly recommends the series, saying, “Ray’s is, without a doubt, my favorite reading series in Chicago. Now that Encyclopedia Show has ended at least! It happens rarely, it happens late, and it goes for a long time, but it’s all worth it (especially because of the “happens rarely” part). For those involved, this isn’t another reading series they have to read another goddamn piece for, this is extra special, and you can tell by the quality of the readers’ pieces. It’s fucked up and it’s amazing and everyone should go.” Bowers seems confident that this event will be as successful as the club meeting his reading series hosted four years ago for The Grand Lodge of the Steam Donkey Operators.

UPCOMING EVENT: RAY’S TAP READING SERIES | PROP THTR | 3502 N ELSTON AVE | $15 OR PAY WHAT YOU CAN | SATURDAY, JUNE 21, 2014 AT 10:30 PM | Website


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The Way of the Overlord: 6 Steps to Hosting Live Lit the Write Club Way
by Alba Machado

Write Club

PHOTO BY EVAN HANOVER, April 15, 2014

Taking over the Hideout for the last show of the season, in an installment entitled “Violence, As It Turns Out, IS the Answer,” Write Club continues to set a high bar for all reading series in Chicago. Here’s how we can learn from its example. Continue reading

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One Thread: Writing like Watchdogs
by Jess Millman

WatchdogBodies boiled out of the Tribune tent on a Sunday summer evening. You could’ve counted sundresses and Velcro visors stippled through the siege of jean capris, which made the suit jackets behind the table look more uncomfortable than your typical Casual Friday. There was a brief mic failure and the journalists onstage laughed it off. Worth the stickiness, the technological blips, and the intermittent elbow tag with a jittery camera guy was an hour at the Chicago Tribune’s Watchdog Panel, where writers broke off the newspaper eggshells to lay open some of their latest stories.

Bit of a topical stretch, you suspect, for a literary magazine? You might think so – and in most circumstances, that gut feeling might’ve shot me in the foot – but the Sunday pack jostling beneath that tarp would find the Printers Row discussion differed from a mundane Meet-the-Writers brunch. It differed in a vital, author-minded way. To this panel, random trivia, “how did you ever read all that research?” and “what’s your favorite book?” were less important nuggets than questions like these: how do you go about composing your truth? what are your goals as a writer? how do you find a story to tell? Continue reading

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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

An Anthology of [Northside] Poetry
by Daniel Camponovo

BOOK COVER - City of Big ShouldersAbout two months ago my older brother was agonizing over whether to pursue his PhD and spend the next six years of his life in Chicago or New York City. It was, in many ways, a manifestation of the battle Chicago has been fighting for nearly 200 years as the second city, although strictly speaking Los Angeles (where my brother currently beds down) bumped Chicago down to the three-hole somewhere in the ‘80s. My brother’s a poet, and I couldn’t help but think of his decision as a validation of the New York poetry establishment over the ebb-and-flow of Chicago’s lit scene. As an adopted Chicagoan, it hurt, in a you-owe-me-a-beer-when-I’m-staying-on-your-couch-in-Brooklyn kind of way.

As a means of apology, or explanation, or whatever-it-was, he mailed me a copy of City Of The Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry, edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave, and I smirked a little, knowing we share the pet peeve of the oft-misquoted line. Go ahead and reread Sandburg’s classic right now, I’ll wait: “broad shoulders” is nowhere in the text. It’s like when everyone misremembers “Luke, I am your father” or “Play it again, Sam.” From a pure judging-a-book-by-its-cover standpoint, which as a writer I do quite often, the title won a quick point from the get-go. It was, sadly, one of the few points the book would win.

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Performing Stories, Rather Than Just Reading Them
by Alba Machado

Page and StageA lot of people who know how to write a good story don’t know how to tell a good story. If you are Toni Morrison or José Saramago, then sure, there’s a good chance your audience will hang on your every word no matter how lifeless your delivery may be, its adoration assured by your tremendous body of Nobel prize-winning work. But if you are a relatively unknown writer taking to the stage in search of a wider readership, your words alone will not be enough. Minds will wander. Smiles will be empty. Applause will be merely polite. After all, when you are reading to an audience that is physically present, you are reading with your entire body—your posture, movement, gesture, facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, inflection—and if you are just standing there and dictating lines from a page, then on some level you are conveying boredom and lack of conviction. You are saying, “I don’t care about this. Maybe you shouldn’t care, either.”

This Sunday, June 8th, at the 30th annual Printers Row Lit Fest, you can walk from one tent where an author is reading to another tent where an author is performing and you can easily gauge each audience’s level of engagement. There’s no contest. At the former, there is silence and stillness, maybe an occasional nod. At the latter, there is gasping and laughter, cheering and chills. And at the RedEye tent, you can start to discover why. That’s where The Encyclopedia Show’s Robbie Telfer, Story Club’s Dana Norris, and Guts & Glory’s Keith Ecker are talking to RedEye, Metromix, and WGN Radio’s Amy Guth in a panel discussion entitled “Page Meets Stage: How to Use Performance to Enhance Your Writing Career.”

“People who are at live lit are not there to see a specific writer,” says Telfer. “They’re not Joyce Carol Oates-ing it.”

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