Literary Rock & Roll: American Dreamers with Heidi W. Durrow, John Sayles, Patricia Ann McNair, musical guest Canasta

March 22, 2012

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The work of John Sayles has been integral to the development of independent film in the United States. Beginning with his first feature, Return of the Secaucus 7, his movies have helped define the “other” that exists beyond Hollywood. Despite an unwillingness to tailor his subject matter and style to the dictates of the mainstream, he has managed to direct sixteen feature films, including his most recent movie, Honeydripper (2007), which starred Danny Glover. His seventeenth feature, Amigo, was filmed in the Philippines in early 2010. Sayles began his career as a storyteller as a writer of fiction, authoring the novels Pride of the Bimbos (1975), Union Dues (1978, nominated for National Book Award and National Critics' Circle Award), and Los Gusanos (1990), and short story collections The Anarchists' Convention (1979) and Dillinger in Hollywood (2004). His novel A Moment In The Sun, set during the same period as Amigo, in the Philippines, Cuba, and the U.S., will be released in 2011 by Dave Egger's publishing house, McSweeney's. Sayles was recently honored with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Writer's Guild of America.

Heidi W. Durrow is the New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, which received writer Barbara Kingsolver's 2008 Bellwether Prize for Literature of Social Change, and was hailed as one of the Best Novels of 2010 by the Washington Post, a Top 10 Book of 2010 by the Oregonian, a Top 10 Buzz Book of 2010 by the Boston Herald, and named a Top 10 Debut of 2010 by Booklist. Ebony magazine recently named Durrow as one of its Power 100 Leaders of 2010, and she was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Debut. She is the cohost of the award-winning weekly podcast Mixed Chicks Chat and the cofounder and coproducer of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, an annual free public event that celebrates stories of the mixed-race experience. She is an occasional essay contributor to National Public Radio, and her writing has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, the Literary Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Callaloo, Poem/Memoir/Story, the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Essence, and Newsday.

Patricia Ann McNair's fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, Other Voices, F, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Air Canada's en Route magazine, and others. She is also published in The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction, edited by Dinty Moore, and is a regular contributor to Elks Magazine. Her honors include a number of Illinois Arts Council Awards and Pushcart Prize nominations in fiction and creative nonfiction, Columbia College Chicago's Excellence in Teaching Award, and a nomination for the Carnegie Foundation's U.S. Professor of the Year Award. She has served as Writer in Residence at Interlochen Arts Academy and visiting lecturer at Bath Spa University in Bath, UK. McNair is a professor in the graduate and undergraduate programs of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Her story collection, The Temple of Air, was recently published by Elephant Rock Books.

Four years passed since the release of We Were Set Up, the record that cemented Canasta's place as a staple—perhaps even the unspoken centerpiece—of Chicago's orchestral pop scene this millennium. But according to the Chicago Reader, the wait was worth it: "...this local sextet's second full-length, The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, is so perfect—every note falling into place with deeply satisfying craftsmanship—that you'll swear you've heard it before. But you haven't..." Making use of a collaborative songwriting process that relies on all six musicians, Canasta has always augmented the standard rock set-up with an piano, keyboard, violin, and trombone. But despite an ever-changing roster that has included nineteen members (!), founders Matt Priest and Elizabeth Lindau continue to keep the lyrics thoughtful, the orchestrations meticulous, the melodies unforgettable, and the sound uniquely "Chicagoan." The past twelve months have been the band's busiest yet, including a sold-out, headlining show at Chicago's Old Town School, a win in The Deli's "Best of Chicago Fans' Poll," a recording session for Dayotrotter, ambitious music videos for the singles "Mexico City,” “Magazine (Songwriter on a Train)” and “Becoming You,” and their first-ever tour abroad… to the hinterlands of Mongolia!

This event contains explicit language and adult themes.

Story Week Festival of Writers features some of the best, most diverse voices at work today in fiction, film, theater, art, music, and publishing. Other events from this festival recorded by Chicago Amplified—listed in the order they were presented—are as follows:

2nd Story
Reading/Grad Open Mic Featuring Megan Stielstra
Bonnie Jo Campbell and Don DeGrazia
Bonnie Jo Campbell and Donna Seaman
Portraits of an American Dream: The Female in Contemporary Fiction
Full Time Fiction Writing Faculty Reading featuring Betty Shiflett
Beyond the Dream: What It Takes to Get Published
From Page to Stage: Scenes From Student Playwrights
Conversation with Playwright Young Jean Lee
Surviving the American Dream
Reading, Conversation, and Book Signing with John Sayles
Literary Rock & Roll: American Dreamers with Heidi W. Durrow, John Sayles, Patricia Ann McNair, musical guest Canasta
Chicago Classics

Recorded Thursday, March 22, 2012 at Metro.