Calling All Reading Locovores

CBR_Logo2This coming Sunday is shaping up to be an exciting day for readers, writers, and literary types of every ilk across city and suburbs, thanks to the efforts of the organizers and everyone else behind Chicago Book Expo 2013.

Scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 24, at St. Augustine College, 1345 W. Argyle, Chicago, the free event boasts myriad book-related events sure to whet the literary appetites of just about everyone. Attendees will find more than ninety exhibitors (including Chicago Book Review!), forty speakers, and two dozen sessions at which they can learn from, chat with, and discover authors, publishers, and various literary and publishing organizations. Highlights include Uptown-area author Aleksandar Hemon, Bookslut founder and editor-in-chief Jenna Crispin, and Chicago Writers Association president Randy Richardson.

Chicago Book Expo 2013 Logo“This is broader than most other events that exist—which all do a great job for what they’re doing,” says co-organizer Lynn Haller, a freelance editor and writer. “It brings everybody together.”

And by “everybody,” Haller really means just that. More than a conference for writers or a workshop for editors or a bookfair for readers, Chicago Book Expo is a pop-up bookstore and literary fair focused on highlighting Chicago’s publishers, large and small. Exhibitors include Agate Publishing, Allium Press, Curbside Splendor, Fifth Star Press, Northwestern University Press, and University of Chicago Press. Scheduled authors include Dennis Byrne, Mary Driver-Thiel, Dmitry Samarov, and Mark Zubro. Representatives from various associations also will be on hand, including Chicago Women in Publishing, Chicago Writers Association, Independent Writers of Chicago, Midwest Publishing Association, and Society of Midland Authors.

“This is the ultimate event for the book locovore,” Haller says.

First held in 2011, Chicago Book Expo that year was attended by 1,200 people—a lot of book locovores. Originally launched as a project of Chicago Writers House, the event was founded by John Rich. That year, forty publishers participated, and NewCity named it the “best new literary event” in Chicago. Chicago Writers House is no longer officially associated with the event, which Haller and co-organizer John K. Wilson, a political writer, have been planning for months.

“We’re sort of in the belly of the beast right now in terms of getting this finished,” Haller says as the event date approaches ever faster. “I think it’s really exciting. It’s just really exciting to see how it’s taken off and to see how excited people are about it.”

There’s certainly plenty to be excited about. The 2013 Chicago Book Expo boasts a number of new features, including six tracks of programs; bilingual programming; related nonfiction programming focused on Chicago history, politics, and culture; publishing and writing programs; and an expanded venue to highlight the area’s self-published authors. In addition, the Expo provides readers, writers, and publishers alike an opportunity to chat with one another and to discover some of the great books coming out of Chicago.

“There’s a void in the whole Chicago publishing scene for an event like this,” Haller says. “There really isn’t this kind of opportunity for small presses to exhibit. This fills that void.”

Book Expo 2013 poster (small version)Not only will Chicago Book Expo help fill a void, it also serves as a way for readers, writers, and publishing types to see what all is going on in a city rife with disparate literary events—so many literary events, in fact, that it can be a challenge to keep track of them all.

“One of the things that’s really interesting,” Haller says, “is that we realized as we started organizing this that there is so much going on [in Chicago] that it’s really hard to know about all of it. This is an endeavor to make all of these people aware of each other.”

Fostering relationships between writers and editors and between readers and authors is one of the key goals of Chicago Book Expo—that and providing a venue for readers to buy books from local authors right at the start of the holiday shopping season. And maybe meet and chat with some local authors. And attend a few sessions. And learn about local publishing. And hobnob with literary types at the event’s after-party at Fat Cat, 4840 N. Broadway.

“No matter what happens,” Haller muses, “we’re going to bring together a lot of interesting people.”

—Kelli Christiansen

Learn more about Chicago Book Expo.

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