Literary Chicago


Two Cookie Minimum (With No Maximum!)

June 14, 2011 By: Mason Johnson Category: Reading Series

Like Clark Kent, John Warzazek has an alter ego. Unlike Clark Kent, John doesn’t find his way into a phone booth to change costumes, or take his glasses on or off, or really do anything to disguise his true identity while acting as alter ego Johnny Misfit. He just kind of switches names at will, never bothering to protect his true identity from enemies that might hurt his family, which makes sense. I can’t see John having any enemies. He’s a nice guy, and what’s more, a decent host for the stomach-filling reading Two Cookie Minimum.

The first thing you should know about Two Cookie Minimum is that there are, in fact, cookies. Usually held in a bakery, they tend to be plentiful. June 7th’s reading took place at the Hungry Brain, a great bar for readings; the kind of place where people both listen attentively to stories, but also feel comfortable enough to playfully heckle anyone on stage, which is a nice combination. Plus, one of the bartenders, Dan, knows me by name now. A positive peak of alcoholism.

Mr. Misfit opened up the night by reading a piece he wrote that was both quick and clever. The story, about a man taking a good, ol’ fashioned poop, really showed how vulnerable we can be as human beings. (Not really, but it was funny.) This piece was a good start for the night, setting a tone of great stories from both zinesters and writers alike (as if a distinction needs to be made between the two). Georgi Johnston charmed the crowd next with her innocent act, claiming to have never done a reading before as she read a letter she “received” from a pen-pal who lives in a cave and is totally real. This was one of the high points of the night, watching as Georgi played with form and genuinely made everyone laugh. Another high point of the night was Chris Terry, who also made everyone laugh. Chris’ story, Hairzilla, took the audience on a trip through adolescence with a well written 2nd person narrator. The night continued to be a blast with Dave Snyder pondering about Jesus’ virgin birth as compared to a turkey, Behnam Riahi reading what one might describe as a shitty story (in a good, albeit disgusting, kinda way), Ben Spies not being afraid to end his story on a sad note, and Dave Roche entertaining us with his asides as much as he did with his piece (about Penguins!!!).

The part about Two Cookie that inspires me most, which John was nice enough to point out, is that it’s a combination of writers and zinesters. This wouldn’t seem significant, in that, well, a writer is a writer, except for the fact that all too often, especially in a city like Chicago, we tend to divide ourselves into as many groups as possible. Too many damn cliques. Which seems a bit off when you consider the fact that, despite the great amount of readings, writers are kind of a minority. While I like my friends, I get tired of going to readings and knowing the majority of everyone there. It’s nice to have events like Two Cookie Minimum where artists from circles I might not typically interact with show up. Makes me feel all good inside. Thanks, Johnny Misfit, for making me feel good inside.


Life After the Creative Writing Program

April 22, 2011 By: Alba Machado Category: Reading Series

Mason Johnson

So you’ve earned a degree in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Now what? If you’re Mason Johnson, you start your own monthly reading series which presents writing on a theme of your choice. You call this series Piss Fanatics in honor of an inside joke, and perhaps to signal your predilection for bawdy talk. You arrange for your series to take place in a tavern called Moe’s, a place that’s no stranger to off-color language, a place with a pool table and a foosball table, two widescreen TVs and, during your second event, a large brown rottweiler. This demonstrates your belief that writing should not be confined to academic settings, or to cafes, theaters, libraries and bookstores. You make the theme of your second reading “Hair,” which is only natural, since your own hair seems to have taken on a life of its own, much like David Axelrod’s mustache (as revealed by Dan Sinker in his legendary Rahm Emanual Twitter saga). Also: certain types of hair can make for an awful lot of bawdy talk. Finally, you gather together a group of talented Chicago writers: Mairead Case, founding editor of Proximity Magazine; Mary Hamilton, winner of Rose Metal Press’ 4th Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest; Matt Rowan, editor-in-chief of Untoward Magazine; Samantha Irby, author of the Bitches Gotta Eat blog; Ian Dick Jones, co-host of Columbia College’s SilverTongue reading series; Mark Schettler, co-editor of the School of the Art Institute’s In Preparation magazine; and Dan Shapiro, Columbia College student.

All graduates of creative writing programs should be as industrious as you, Mason Johnson. But they should not all have manga/anime hair.

Mairead Case

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P. Fanatics Presents: Hair Reading Recap