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Story Week celebrates Chicago authors, indie publishers

Check out these locally-authored gems in honor of Columbia College’s Story Week Festival of Writers.

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Megan Stielstra is the Literary Director of Chicago's 2nd Story storytelling series and recently co-edited their first print anthology, 'Briefly Knocked Unconscious By a Low-Flying Duck: Stories From 2nd Story.' She has told stories for the Goodman, Steppenwolf, the Paper Machete and Chicago Public Radio. (StoryWeek)

March has been a spectacular month for aspiring writers and writing programs. In Boston, the AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair featured over 500 readings, lectures and panel discussions to celebrate independent publishing and advance the careers of writers across the country.

And in Chicago, the Columbia College Fiction Writing Department rolled out its 17th Annual Story Week Festival of Writers, free and open to the public March 17-22.

This year’s theme is Vision and Voice, and upcoming events include a Dramatic Revisioning: Conversation with Playwrights at Film Row Cinema on Wednesday, Literary Rock & Roll: Girl Trouble at the Metro on Thursday and WBEZ’s own Rick Kogan hosting Chicago Classics (a night of local literary folks reading from their favorite Chicago authors) at the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday.

Story Week is a wonderful introduction to the Chicago publishing community, but the book-nerd excitement doesn’t have to end there. Our city is brimming with literary talent, and attending a reading/storytelling series like 2nd Story, Tuesday Funk, Write Club, Two Cookie Minimum or RUI: Reading Under the Influence is a great way to meet new people and glean inspiration for your own yet-to-be-published work.

Unsure of how to begin turning your long-labored memoir, science fiction novel or collection of short stories into the next literary masterpiece? Chicago Literati is a helpful hub for news on local publishing companies (Curbside Splendor, Featherproof Books, Cat and Rat Publishing, Chicago Review Press, etc.) and the organizations that promote them.

At RUI: Reading Under the Influence, a monthly reading series established in 2005 and held in various bars throughout Chicago, local writers take a shot before reading a piece on the night's chosen theme. (The Chicago Reader/Kristie Kahns)


Supporters of the Chicago publishing community include nonprofits (Chicago Writer’s Association, Chicago Women in Publishing, Young Chicago Authors), writer meetups (Sunday Salon, Publishing Cocktails), independent bookstores (City Lit Books, Powell’s Books, Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago Comics, Book Cellar, Quimby’s Bookstore, Third Coast Comics, Uncharted Books, Book Stall), literary news outlets (Gapers Block Book Club, ChicagoReader, NewCity Lit) and writing centers like StoryStudio Chicago.

In honor of our hard-working local writers (many of them my friends) who consistently amaze, inspire and fight for their stories to be heard, I present some of my favorite published works from Chicago authors past and present:

Everyone Remain Calm by Megan Stielstra

The Criminalist by Eugene Izzi

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Building Stories by Chris Ware

We All Fall Down by Michael Harvey

Office Girl by Joe Meno

I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

Who are your favorite Chicago writers and publishers? Leave a comment below, send a shout-out via Twitter @leahkpickett or join the conversation on Facebook.

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