Chicago Book Expo, the annual pop-up bookstore and literary extravaganza designed to connect Chicago-area publishers, authors, readers, and writers, is coming up in just two short weeks. This year’s Expo will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 21, at Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago.
First held in 2011, Chicago Book Expo originated as a project of the now-disbanded Chicago Writers House. Forty publishers participated that year, and a wide array of workshops and other events accompanied the Expo. In 2013, the Expo was condensed into one day, and the event that year featured more than 90 vendors and 24 programs. In 2014, the Expo moved from St. Augustine College in Uptown to Columbia College Chicago, where it will be held again this year.
The Expo has proven a popular event with readers, writers, authors, and publishers who, as the Chicago Tribune wrote last year, fuse “new bonds within Chicago literary culture old and new” during the day-long event, and which, as New City has said, offers “something for every literary taste.”
As they gear up for this year’s Expo, Chicago Book Review asked a few questions of our pals at Chicago Book Expo to provide readers with a preview of the event.
Q: This is the fourth annual Chicago Book Expo. How have things changed since the first expo?
A: The Chicago Book Expo has grown in size and scope—this year we’ll have over 100 exhibitors and 19 different programs at the event. At the same time, we’ve condensed the Expo portion into one day (down from two at the first Expo, at our vendors’ request) and moved from Uptown to Columbia College.
Q: Who should attend the Expo, and what will they get out of it?
A: Anyone who likes reading, writing, or Chicago should find something of interest at our event. You would expect a literary event like ours to have poetry events, such as the RHINO 40th anniversary celebration, and readings with great local poets like Parneshia Jones and Angela Jackson. But we’ll also have what will surely be a great conversation between Doug Sohn and Ina Pinkney (both of whom recently closed their popular restaurants) on what they call Post Traumatic Restaurant Disorder.
Q: How is Chicago Book Expo different from other literary events in the city?
A: Chicago Book Expo is the biggest literary event that focuses solely on Chicago authors and presses.
Q: What’s new this year? What are some of the highlights of this year’s Expo?
A: We have more collaborations with other organizations in Chicago, with programs from the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, who will be doing a program with Chicago writers reading Hall of Fame inductees, as well as Chicago Zine Fest and CHI PRC, who will be doing workshops. And we’re grateful to have the Poetry Foundation involved this year, both as a sponsor and represented on one of our panels—Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine, will be speaking with Ian Morris and Joanne Diaz on their book The Little Magazine in Contemporary America.
We’ll have Pixiehammer Press (Ian Belknap and Lindsay Muscato) writing commissioned love and hate letters, just in time for the holidays (take that as you will).
On the Expo floor, Meekling Press is bringing its Literature Robot—I’m really looking forward to seeing that in action.
Q: Why is it important to have a book expo here for local authors and publishers?
A: While so many of us work virtually these days, there’s really no substitute for meeting other people in your profession in person, talking face to face, and seeing what they’re doing. And from these conversations, connections are made and collaborations may form. It’s also great for writers and presses to get a chance to connect directly with their audience. If they’re looking to volunteer, writers can find out about some of the great literacy nonprofits we have in Chicago, such as Open Books, 826CHI, and Literature for All of Us; they can also find out about writers’ organizations like Chicago Writers Association and the Society of Midland Authors.
Q: What new publishing/writing/reading/literary things have been happening in the Chicago area that you and the Expo hope to highlight this year?
A: We’re excited to have John Russick of the Chicago History Museum discussing its first crowd-sourced exhibition, Chicago Authored. And, Nike Whitcomb, executive director of the American Writers Museum, will be talking about AWM, which just found a space on Michigan Avenue and plans to open next year—there’s a lot of excitement about that. And we’re really happy to have Open Books at the Expo this year—they’re coming from their new site in the West Loop, which is also the location of the Literacenter, which started in the last year.
Chicago Book Expo runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 21 at Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago. For information, visit http://chicagobookexpo.org/ In addition are a few pre-Expo events:
Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir
Nov. 14, 1–3 p.m.
Chicago Publishers Resource Center
858 N Ashland
Author Renee Rosen and Former Tribune Editor Marion Purcelli
Nov. 18, 6–7:30 p.m.
23 E. Illinois
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography reading
Nov. 19, 6–8:00 p.m.
City Lit Books
2523 N. Kedzie