You may say that I am coming off a big bookfair high, and maybe I am. But this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the Chicago literary community. I am grateful to be part of a creative community where so many people are devoted to writing and working at making books. To be around literary thinkers is a heady experience—there’s a great vibe. And what is even better is that these people are nice and fun and supportive of each other.
Since October I’ve been part of three bookfairs: In Print Author Book Fair in Rockford, the November 2 Indie Author Book Fair in Lake Forest, and yesterday’s Chicago Book Expo, so I’ve had a literary-filled autumn, learning about many great new homegrown books.
Yesterday at St. Augustine College, which is the site of the old Essanay Studios, was the Chicago Book Expo and it was a huge success; big attendance at a accommodating venue with a superb slate of readings. Thanks to Emily Victorson, Vendor Relations Committee, John K. Wilson, Co-organizer, and Lynn Haller, Co-organizer.
My tablemate yesterday was E. C. Diskin, whose legal thriller The Green Line is getting industry attention. As I spoke with E. C. (whose first name is Elizabeth) I had the sense that I was sitting with an author who will be an Amazon success story. Out since May of this year, The Green Line has garnered a lot of favorable reviews and reached a lot or readers. Keep your eye on The Green Line and watch a hometown book become a big success (better yet, buy it). When The Green Line is the hit I predict it will be, it may be referred to as an overnight sensation, but Elizabeth, who is also a lawyer, has been working on the novel for eight years; she belongs to a small critique group where she honed the manuscript into the sharp thriller it is today. She lives in Oak Park.
I also got to meet Dmitry Samarov, an artist from Beverly whose work I first became aware of when it was featured in The Labletter. I later connected with him on Twitter and learned he has a book out through The University of Chicago Press. Titled Hack; it is his collection of stories and drawings from a Chicago cab driver. His next book, Where to? A Hack Memoir is coming out in 2014 from Curbside Splendor, will also feature his visual art and writing.
There was a young woman I recognized from previous literary events and we re-introduced ourselves. She’s Libby Walkup, a recent grad of the MFA program at the Art Institute. She gave me a copy of Collected 2013 (Integumentary) which is the anthology of the MFA in Writing program (she edited it), and I also got two issues of Ginger Piglet, the literary magazine she edits. The next edition will be a Chicago one.
My pal from AWP bookfair Susan Yount had the latest issue of Arsenic Lobster, a journal she lovingly edits; I say “lovingly” because the journal keeps getting more beautiful. Susan started Misty Publications, which has come out with two books so far (Steve Davenport’s Overpass and Humbug by Brenda Mann Hamack); forthcoming is Some Kind of Shelter by Sara Tracey. Susan shared a table with Kathleen Rooney representing Rose Metal Press. (BTW, Kathleen’s book O Democracy is just out.)
At the end of our aisle were Susan Brauer whose true-account book Just Keep Dancing is about violence against women and GinaMarie Lobianco who is a writer, novelist, and poet who produces her own books.
Speaking of poetry, I finished the day with a reading to celebrate the publication of Journal of Modern Poetry (JOMP16), edited and published by C. J. Laity, and got to hear poetry by Marcia Pradzinski (“Slipping Back”), Cordell M. Miles Jr. (“Ride”), Wilda W. Morris (“Workshop Words”) Jennifer Dotson (“Branded”), and many others.
On the other side of the table from me were Shari Brady and Mary Driver-Thiel. Shari has a YA novel (Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye) about one family’s struggle to cope after losing a family member to addiction. Mary’s book The World Undone is a finalist for book of year award from the Chicago Writers Association. Mary was the driving force behind the Indie Book Fair in Lake Forest’s Re/Invent Gallery in November (thanks again, Mary).I got to meet more authors whose self-published books cover various topics, including Navajo code talkers (The Rope Catcher by Larry Stillman), a cozy mystery in the cozy north shore town of Banner Bluff (The Lake by Deborah Rine), a tech thriller (Source*Forged Armor By Paul J. Bartusiak) and a captivating alphabet picture book (Animal Store Alphabet Book by Susan Bearman.
Earlier in the fall I attended In Print Book Fair in Rockford. There I got kibitz with publisher Dave Gecic of Puddin’head Press and poet Christine Swanberg who read from her book of poems, The Alleluia Tree.
I’m grateful to live in a place with a literary culture—I like the buzz. And I appreciate how inclusive it is here in Chicago. Victor David Giron and Jacob Knabb and all the Curbside Splendor folk always make you feel part of the activities. Jason Pettus, from Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP), wears his passion for literature on his sleeve so it’s impossible not to root for his publishing endeavors. It’s always great to check in with local author Ben Tanzer and usually he has several irons in the literary fires yet seems a little astonished by his readership and ever grateful. Randy Richardson and all the Chicago Writers Association people are fun to share exhibit space with. Thanks to all in literary Chicago. I’ll be reading you.