Tag Archives: literary events

Preview: 2016 Printers Row Lit Fest

CBR_Logo2It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s the hap–happiest weekend of all!
There will be book stalls aplenty,
And authors and readings,
And signings galore!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!*


This weekend is Printers Row Lit Fest, one of our favorite bookfairs and one of Chicago’s coolest events. Not that there isn’t enough going on in the city this weekend—it’s also the weekend for the Chicago Book & Paper Show, the Pilsen Food Truck Social, Chicago Blues Festival, Remix Chicago, Louis Vuitton America’s Cup, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

PRLF16Of course, being the bibliophiles that we are, Printers Row is where it’s at as far as we’re concerned. So, with that, we present today our annual preview of some of the cool goings-on at the festival, which is “the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 150,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.”

That sounds good to us!

Printers Row Lit Fest features hundreds of booksellers showcasing thousands of books, from used paperbacks to rare first editions to hot-off-the-press titles from local publishers such as Agate Publishing, Allium Press, and University of Chicago Press. Also present will be organizations such as Chicago Black Authors Network, Chicago Writers Association, and Society of Midland Authors.

It’s a great weekend to explore Chicago’s book scene and to discover new authors and new books. Scores of events featuring a number of authors will be taking place in a variety of locations. Here are some highlights:


How to Represent the Contemporary War Experience
10–10:45 a.m.
Hotel Blake, Burnham Room
Former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Kim Barker will be in conversation with former United States Marine Maximilian Uriarte and Colin McMahon, Associate Editor at the Chicago Tribune.

castillo black doveAna Castillo in Conversation with Dahleen Glanton
10–10:45 a.m.
Grace Place, 2nd Floor
Ana Castillo will discuss her memoir Black Dove with Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton.

Meet the Authors—Society of Midland Authors
10 a.m.–noon
Tent Space U
James Finn Garner (Honk, Honk, My Darling), Joseph Peterson (Twilight of the Idiots), and Timothy Chapman (Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold) will sign copies of their books.

Welcome to the Neighborhood
10:30–11:30 a.m.
South Loop Stage
Nestor Gomez, Ben Tanzer, Britt Julious, Clarence Browley, Zoe Zolbrod, Rachel Hyman, and Paul Dailing will “spin stories and tell tales about Chicago neighborhoods from Bronzeville and Humboldt Park to Austin and Uptown.”

Long Story Short
12:15–1 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Authors Bonnie Joe Campbell, Amina Gautier, and Christine Sneed in conversation.

Truth & Consequences
1:15–2 p.m.
Grace Place, 2nd Floor
Tracy Barone, Lauren Fox, Andy Mozina, and Frank Tempone in conversation.

Sense & Sensibility
1:45–2:30 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Burnham Room
Chris Abani, Daniel Raeburn, Paul Lisicky, and Donna Seaman in conversation about the challenges, provocations, and allure of memoir.

826chi826CHI Present: The Monster Gasped, OMG!
2–3 p.m.
South Loop Stage
A collection of zany, adventurous monster tales—penned by 4th and 5th graders from Brentano Math & Science Academy, read by students and emceed by Joe Meno.

Mystery Writers of America “Flash Fiction” Contest
3–4 p.m.
Center Stage
Sara Paretsky, Lori Rader-Day, and Heather Ash will award top prizes to the best story of 500 words or less based on a prompt given by Mystery Writers of America; writers will  perform their stories in front a supportive audience of fellow writers and mystery fans.

Sense of Place
3:30–4:15 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Shedd Room
Joe Meno, Abby Geni, Larry Watson, and Mark Guarino in conversation.

University of Chicago Writer’s Studio Showcase
4:30–6 p.m.
Center Stage
Hear the work of 2016 Writer’s Studio Student Prize winner Christopher Flynn and honorable mentions Gwenda Blair and Eirill Falck as well as Writer’s Studio instructors Eileen Favorite, Dina Elenbogen and Natalie Tilghman.


Near South Planning Board’s Young Authors Award Ceremony
10–11 a.m.
South Loop Stage
Special Award Ceremony presented by Near South Planning Board to CPS students who have been named winners of an area-wide “young authors” writing competition.

History Matters
10:30–11:15 a.m.
Hotel Blake, Burnham Room
Stephen Coss, Derek Beck, Patrick McGilligan, and Gary Johnson in conversation.

Writing Workshop: Putting History Into Mystery
10:30–11:30 a.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Local author Susanna Calkins leads a workshop on researching and writing historical fiction.

Chicago Poetry Out Loud Champions
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
South Loop Stage
The Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts partner with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation.

Pushing Boundaries
11:45 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Pamela Erens, Danielle Dutton, and Rebbecca Makkai in conversation.

Life Stories
12:15–1 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Shedd Room
Garrard Conley, Elisha Cooper, Zoe Zolbrod, and Tony Romano in conversation.

Excerpts from Rutherford’s Travels
1–1:45 p.m.
South Loop Stage
Charles Johnson and Tsehave Hebert in conversation about the spellbinding tale based on the beloved book Middle Passage, the play is told through Rutherford Calhoun’s 1830s log entries.

Young Adult Fiction
2-2:45 p.m.
South Loop Stage
Erica O’Rourke, Eileen Cook, E. Katherine Kottaras, Denise Grover Swank, and Nara Schoenberg in conversation about their YA titles.

Memoir: Struggle & Strength
3:30–4:15 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Joan Barnes, Michele Weldon, and Barbara Mahany in conversation.

This is but a mere sample of the many events going on in and around Dearborn and Polk. Many events during Printers Row Lit Fest are free; some require tickets. You can follow what’s happening on social media, at @PrintersRowFest and #PRLF16 on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.

This is a great weekend for books. We’ll see you out there …

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.
—Maurice Sendak

—Kelli Christiansen

*with apologies to songwriters Edward Pola and George Wyle


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Preview: Printers Row Lit Fest 2015

CBR_Logo2I don’t know how it got to be June, much less June 5—and this weekend is Printers Row already! It seems like I just got back from BEA in New York, which, in fact, I did. And then I put CBR’s Summer Preview together. And suddenly the weekend is upon us, and it’s Printers Row Eve, which I think should be a holiday.

The 31st Annual Printers Row Lit Fest will take place in the usual location: Dearborn between Congress and Polk, and along Polk between Clark and Plymouth. The weekend features more than 200 authors on various stages, including Ian Belknap, Susanna Calkins, Jac Jemc, Parneshia Jones, Rebecca Makkai, Lori Rader-Day, Joseph Schwieterman, Megan Stielstra … the list goes on and on and on. Some of the events are ticketed. You can find a list of author appearances here.

printers row lit festThe festival also features dozens of exhibitors, including local publishers like Agate Publishing, Allium Press, Fifth Star Press, Haymarket Books, Moody Publishers, Northwestern University Press, and Triumph Books. Also exhibiting are scores of local organizations, including Chicago Black Authors Network, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Writers Association, and Illinois Woman’s Press Association. You can find a list of exhibitors here.

More than 125,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which is the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest. Of course, it’s not really just one event—it’s dozens of them on several stages. And, of course, no one can be everywhere at once, so we thought we’d highlight some of the readings, panels, discussions, etc., that feature local authors and local publishers, which, as you know, is what we’re all about:

—First Fiction: Cyn Vargas, Alex Gordon, Karin Lin-Greenberg and Monica McFawn moderated by Frank Tempone
Saturday, 10–11 a.m. Jones College Prep/Classroom #5006. Tickets required.

—Writing Workshop: Prompt-A-Palooza with Jill Pollack, Director StoryStudio Chicago
Saturday, 10:30–11:30 a.m., Jones College Prep/Classroom #5038. Tickets required.

—Young Chicago Authors’ Check the Method poets and Wreckshop emcees team up for “Wreck the Method”
Saturday, 11–11:45 a.m., Center Stage

—Columbia College Chicago Department of Creative Writing Faculty Reading with David Lazar, Nami Mun and Jenny Boully
Saturday, 11–11:45 a.m., Arts & Poetry Stage

—Reading: 826CHI Presents: Around That Age, I Liked to Play with Fire
Saturday, 12:05–12:35 p.m., Arts & Poetry Stage

—Fiction: Midwest Culture Clash: Julie Iromuanya in conversation with Walton Muyumba
Saturday, 12:30–1:15 p.m., Jones College Prep/Classroom #5030. Tickets required.

—Chicagoland Poetry Out Loud Champions, hosted by Stephen Young
Saturday, 12:40–1:10 p.m., Arts & Poetry Stage

—Young Chicago Authors’ Chicago Beat Book Release and Podcast Showcase
Saturday, 1:15–1:45 p.m., Arts & Poetry Stage

—Chicago Originals: Tony Fitzpatrick and Bill Hillmann in conversation with Rick Kogan
Saturday, 3–3:45 p.m., Harold Washington Library Center. Tickets required.

—Chicago Living: Adam Mack, Joseph Schwieterman and Dean Jobb in conversation with Gary Johnson
Saturday, 3:15–4 p.m., Jones College Prep/Classroom #5010. Tickets required.

—Chicago Blues and Gospel: Robert Marovich and Wilbert Jones in conversation with Mark Guarino
Sunday, 11–11:45 a.m., Jones College Prep/Classroom #5034. Tickets required.

—Chicago Writer Challenge: Reema Amin, Danette Chavez and Rebecca Brink moderated by Mason Johnson
Sunday, 11–11:45 a.m., RedEye Stage

—Chicago Portraits: Mike Zajakowski and Chris Walker
Sunday, 1:30–2:15 p.m., Jones College Prep/Classroom #5034. Tickets required.

As if all the great things going on at Printers Row Lit Fest (#PRLF15 and @PrintersRowFest on Twitter) this weekend weren’t enough, Sunday, June 7, is also BrooksDay 2015, celebrating the anniversary of Gwendolyn Brooks’s birth. This year marks the third annual event, sponsored by Guild Literary Complex, along with Third World Press, Poetry Foundation, and the Logan Center for the Arts. The day will feature readings and performances by Kevin Coval, Richard Steele, Andrea Change, Young Chicago Authors, Aurora Performance Group, In the Spirit, Rebirth, etc.

This is a great weekend for books. We’ll see you out there …

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.
—Maurice Sendak

—Kelli Christiansen

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Voices That Need to Be Heard

CBR_Logo2“It’s getting down to crunch time.”

So says Jeff Pfaller, cofounder of Midwestern Gothic, a journal “dedicated to featuring work about or inspired by the Midwest, by writers who live or have lived here.” Pfaller is talking about the 2015 Voices of the Middle West literary festival, a one-day event cohosted by MG and University of Michigan’s Residential College.

Middle_West_Logo_hiresThis is the second year of the festival, which this year will be held March 21 in Ann Arbor. The festival originated in a brainstorming session with some of the journal’s interns. Pfaller and the MG staff instantly loved the idea. “It sounded phenomenal and right up our alley,” he says. “It just made a lot of sense as a natural extension of our mission.”

With its mission to generate conversation about Midwestern voices and shine a spotlight on the region, the lit fest has proved a terrific avenue to do just that. The festival will bring together authors and readers, writers and publishers, and students and faculty from the University of Michigan. Among the day’s events are various panels about publishing and writing, storytelling sessions, an open mic event, and a keynote address from award-winning author Stuart Dybek, a writer and poet whose latest works include Ecstatic Cahoots, Paper Lantern: Love Stories, and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Dybek, who is Writer in Residence at Northwestern University, will be joined during the day by a variety of literary folk, including Peter Ho Davies, Laura Kasischke, and Marcus Wicker.

Portrait Stuart Dybek

Author Stuart Dybek, 2015 Voices of the Middle West keynoter

In addition to featuring a number of Midwestern authors, Voices of the Middle West will highlight the work of a variety of local and regional publishers. Attendees can browse the pop-up bookfair, which will include exhibitors from such journals as BathHouse Journal, Fortnight, and Michigan Quarterly Review as well as publishers Curbside Splendor, Dzanc Books, and Switchgrass Books, among others.

Also featured during the festival will be 826Michigan, a nonprofit writing center with which MG partnered to publish Tell Me How It Was, an anthology of stories written by middle school students. It’s a project that is near and dear to MG’s heart, Pfaller says, not least of which because it provides a venue for young writers to be heard.

“Someone in middle school gets to say they’re a published author,” Pfaller notes. “These are thirteen-year-old kids. We got some stories about sports heroes and everyday things, and we also got students who were commenting on bigger events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. They were nuanced, funny, and heartbreaking stories. We were really happy with what came out of the project.”

The anthology will be launched during an afternoon session, and it is just one of the projects that will be highlighted during the day. In fact, Voices of the Middle West is designed to expose readers to the work that is coming out of the region, whether literary journal, indie press, micro press, or university press, whether print or digital. Pfaller and the MG crew believe that the time is right for just such exposure.

“There’s been a renaissance in Midwestern literature in the past several years,” Pfaller says. “Several presses and publications are focusing on it. More authors and writers are happy to identify that they’re from the Midwest.”

It’s a theme that seems to resonate with authors, writers, publishers, and readers alike. Last year’s festival attracted about a thousand attendees, and attendance is expected to double this year. That’s due not only to more publicity and some great word-of-mouth marketing but also to the fact that this year’s bookfair is double the size of last year’s and because the festival has attracted panelists from across the country.


Attendees browse and mingle at the pop-up bookfair

The event also attracts attendees from far and wide. Although most attendees are locals—fans of Ann Arbor’s thriving literary scene—Voices of the Middle West attracts folks from across Michigan, from Wisconsin, and from the Chicago area.

Voices of the Middle West is a “celebration of the Midwest voice,” and it seems to be tapping into an audience hungry for writing with local flavor that appeals to readers of all tastes. In bringing together a stellar collection of writers, poets, and publishers—and readers, of course—the festival is helping to build the literary community in the region. It’s one that Pfaller says is ready for some attention.

“It’s a thriving, vibrant community with so many presses in the area,” he says. “It’s a great community. The audience is already ripe for it. Hopefully this will show that the Midwest has a lot to offer.”

—Kelli Christiansen

Voices of the Middle West runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 21 at University of Michigan, East Quadrangle, 701 E. University Ave., Ann Arbor. For information, visit http://midwestgothic.com/voices/

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