Tag Archives: publishing

Local Author Spotlight: Gint Aras Has Soul

CBR_Logo2Oak Parker Gint Aras has been spending much of the past few months out and about talking with readers, whether during Independent Bookstore Day at Volumes Bookcafe or at the live lit event “That’s All She Wrote” at Great Lakes Tattoo in West Town (or during an upcoming “Local Author Night” at The Book Cellar).

So goes the business end of the writer’s life, which Aras understands and accepts, even if he’d rather be writing than marketing. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he says. “But I’ve never had an experience where a publisher published my book and then relieved me of all marketing duties.”

the fugueThese days, Aras’s marketing duties revolve around his latest title, The Fugue, published in February by local house Tortoise Books.

Originally placed with Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, The Fugue found a home at Tortoise Books after Jerry Brennan scooped it up when the publication rights became available again. The long route to publication for The Fugue is something of a story in and of itself.

Aras finished a draft of the manuscript in 2006. He spent a year pitching the project, to no avail. A literary agent expressed some interest, having him rewrite and rejigger, but in the end wasn’t 100 percent behind the novel. So he stuck it in the proverbial drawer and moved on to other projects.

During the past decade, Aras has published several pieces of short prose as well as the book Finding the Moon in Sugar, building his platform and developing as a writer. But that’s not all.

“I kind of grew up writing this book,” Aras says of The Fugue.

After spending the better part of a decade under his bed, the manuscript proved something of a revelation. “The man who was forty-two years old and opened up the book for the first time in five years and read the words that he had written himself when he was twenty-six was quite surprised.”

Surprised at how much he had grown, and surprised at how much he knew then.

What he found was a manuscript with a mature voice despite its author’s relatively young age. He found a story full of drama, intrigue, pathos, and depth. Despite fears of ineptitude, despite self-denial and self-hatred, and despite dismissing his skills as a writer, “I opened up the book and thought, ‘Hey, this guy actually has something to say.’”

gint aras

Author Gint Aras

It was, Aras says, “a realization that I didn’t know myself very well.”

The opportunity to reinvestigate his old text showed Aras that his fears were unfounded. It showed that The Fugue had, in fact, been written by a very mature self.

They say that time and space can help writers. They say that setting aside a manuscript for a few days, a few weeks, a few months—or even a few years—can lend the kind of distance that allows a writer to see the manuscript anew, with fresh, ostensibly more objective eyes. This proved to be exactly the case for Aras.

Not that writing and rewriting and pitching and publishing came entirely easy. Some parts were difficult to write about; some came freely. There was some work involved in structuring it, formalizing it, and disciplining it. “The Fugue is a disciplined release of energy,” Aras says. “That was hard. That was really, really hard.”

The novel, which is set in Cicero and spans three generations and more than fifty years, is full of stories—stories he learned while sitting at family dinner tables, while fishing with his grandfather, while listening to people talk over cake and coffee after church. Stories that were full of nostalgia and romance. The Fugue also is full of the stories that were never told to him, stories where he had to fill in the blanks.

Much of these stories revolve around art and war, around alcoholism and abuse, powerful stories told to him by “old men in bars, when they were really drunk and when their defenses were down.”

“Those kind of stories were actually much more common than I realized,” Aras says.

It is these stories that fill the pages of The Fugue, a quintessentially Chicago tale where place and setting become the tie that binds, a character of its own. A character with its own smell and rhythm, its own sunset, its own gravel-ridden streets. Its own soul.

finding the moonSoul, as it happens, is important to Aras, as a reader and as a writer—especially at a time when, as he recently wrote in a blog post, we are constantly barraged with an “embarrassing maelstrom in our daily rhetoric.”

In times such as these, Aras says, “the most radical thing that a writer can be right now is sincere and fearless.”

Sincerity and fearlessness is what Aras strives for, and what he instructs his students to strive for as well. To be honest and raw is important—crucial even, especially when so much literature is full of contrivance.

“It’s time to be honest about ourselves and to be sincere about our honesty and to not fear the consequences,” Aras says. “If you have it in you to share some sparkle of beauty with others and you refuse to do it because you’re afraid of being criticized by the people who loathe you, they’ve won.”

At a time when “winning” seems utmost on people’s minds, it’s likely fair to say that Aras himself is winning the battle of writing with sincerity, no matter the consequences. Not that he has much to fear. The Fugue has been praised as nimble, spellbinding, alluring, and seamless, a “must read” that crosses generations and genres.

That’s some high praise for a novel that took a decade to see the light of day, written by someone who deeply questioned his abilities as an author—one who has something to say and isn’t afraid to say it.

—Kelli Christiansen

Learn more about Gint Aras and his work.



Filed under feature

CBR’s Top 10 Posts of 2015

CBR_Logo2Dozens of book reviews, a bunch of features, previews of local literary events … it’s been another year of all-books-all-the-time here at Chicago Book Review. Earlier this week, we posted CBR’s Best Books 0f 2015, a great complement to another fabulous list we posted this month: Chicago’s Favorite Books of 2015, a collection of a dozen beloved titles as rated by local literati. Both of these lists, and a few others, quickly proved to be among our readers’ favorite posts of the year.NYE books—photo by Patrick Ryan

With that, we’re looking at CBR’s Top Posts of 2015, a mix of book reviews and features highlighting the local lit scene—authors, publishers, and organizations doing what they do to support and promote Chicago’s literary community.

That community is a strong one, and we’re grateful to the many authors, publishers, readers, and other literary types who help keep us going. We’re especially grateful to the reviewers who keep CBR active, reviewing dozens of books every year. Chicago Book Review is a labor of love, and we couldn’t do it without our reviewers—or without all the books we receive from local publishers and authors. Together we’re able to bring to readers reviews of books they might not otherwise discover—because Chicago Book Review reviews Chicago’s books.

ankerwyckeDuring the year, we’ve again been lucky enough to review books from a variety of local and regional publishers, from indie houses and imprints like Ankerwycke, Chicago Review Press, and Dream of Things to large academic houses such as University of Chicago Press, University of Illinois Press, and University of Wisconsin Press. (You can learn more about local and regional houses by exploring the list over there on the left of your screen.) We’ve highlighted organizations such as Chicago Book Expo and Midwestern Gothic. And we’ve reviewed some great books by local authors such as Mary Kubica, Erik Fassnacht, and Robert M. Marovich.

Middle_West_Logo_hiresWe’re grateful to our fans and friends, too, readers from Chicago and the Midwest, as well as across the United States. We also count among our followers readers from around the world—the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, as well as Colombia, France, Germany, India, and Italy, the way to Croatia, Georgia, Micronesia, Réunion, and Tunisia.

2016 promises to be another year full of great books from local and regional authors and publishers, and we plan to review as many as we can for readers near and far. In the meantime, we close 2015 with a look at the most popular posts of the year, a collection of reviews and features that will give you some great ideas for how to spend those bookstore gift cards you received over the holidays.

CBR’s TOP 10 POSTS OF 2015pieces of my mother 9781492615385

  1. CBR’s Best Books of 2015
  2. Chicago Book Review’s Summer 2015 Preview
  3. Brutally Beautiful
  4. Chicago’s Favorite Books of 2015
  5. CBR’s Fall 2015 Preview
  6. You Shall Uphold Him
  7. Preview: Chicago Book Expo—
    ‘Something for Every Literary Taste’
    Remedies cover
  8. Much More Than Half
  9. War Must Ensue
  10. Doorways to the Domestic Scene


nyeHappy New Year!
—and Happy Reading!


Leave a comment

Filed under feature

Preview: Chicago Book Expo — ‘Something for Every Literary Taste’

CBR_Logo2Chicago 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.

cbe2015 logoQ: 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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
After-Words Bookstore
23 E. Illinois

Chicago Center for Literature and Photography reading
Nov. 19, 6–8:00 p.m.
City Lit Books
2523 N. Kedzie

—Kelli Christiansen


Filed under feature