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Tuesday
Nov172015

Previewing Chicago Book Expo 2015


by Andrew DeCanniere

This coming Saturday, November 21st, will mark the fifth Chicago Book Expo, which will take place from 11 AM until 5 PM at Columbia College Chicago (1104 S. Wabash Ave. in Chicago). The Expo first got its start in 2011, as a way to highlight Chicago’s publishers and authors, and attracts a wide array of area publishers, writers and literary organizations — totaling more than 100 exhibitors in all. “This is a literary event that’s centered around Chicago publishing and [the city’s] literary community. It’s a way to celebrate the literary world that exists in Chicago,” said John Wilson of the Chicago Book Expo.

In addition to the one-hundred plus exhibitors on the Expo floor, the Book Expo will also host 19 different programs, with topics ranging from food to poetry to music to fiction and mysteries and much more. “It’s an event at which I think every reader in Chicago could find something that interests them,” said Wilson. “It’s a great way to find out not only about [various] publishers, but also a lot of literary organizations that people may not have heard about. We’ll be having a panel by Literature for All of Us. We’ll have tables from lots of literary groups, and Open Books will be doing a book drive and selling used books. There are going to be a lot of different aspects of the literary scene brought together in one place on one day.”

Among the highlights of the event are Richard Nickel: Dangerous Years, with Richard Cahan, which will take place in Film Row Auditorium, and focuses on architectural preservationist Richard Nickel who died while trying to preserve one of the city’s most significant pieces of architecture. Another program of note is Chicago Authored with Nike Whitcomb, executive director of the American Writers Museum (which is slated to open in 2017) and John Russick of the Chicago History Museum and curator of the museum’s ongoing Chicago Authored exhibit. “Both of them [Whitcomb and Russick] will be talking about the process of curating a museum for writers. I think that there’s a lot of excitement over the Chicago History Museum’s exhibit, because it is the first crowdsourced exhibit that they’ve done. A lot of people are very interested in that. So, if you’re interested in Chicago in writing, that’s the place to be — and this will be one of Nike’s first appearances publicly talking about the American Writers Museum, since they announced that they found a space on Michigan Avenue. I think that should be of interest to people,” said the Chicago Book Expo’s Lynn Haller.

Chicago Book Expo 2014 (Photo: Rebecca Ciprus)

“I think one of the things worth highlighting is that…there are certainly a lot of things going on in Chicago.” said Haller “Not just with publishers, obviously, but the literary organizations that will be there as well. 826 Chicago will be there along with Literature for All of Us and Open Books. It’s kind of a good chance to find out about volunteering and getting involved and being a good literary citizen, which is something that people talk about these days. This is a chance to find out more about that — and also we’ll have some of the great organizations — groups like the Chicago Writers Association, Editorial Freelancers Association, et cetera. There will be several groups for writers, too, for different types of networking. So, it’s a good chance to talk to those representatives and find out more about what they have to offer. You can really connect with people and have conversations about what they’re doing.”

“Another thing about this kind of an event,” says Haller, “is that this is a good holiday shopping opportunity. Another question I have heard somebody ask is this question of ‘Well, what is this and why should I buy books there?’ And it’s like ‘Well, if you buy books directly from the publisher, they make more money. The margins are so thin in publishing and [in doing so] you’re supporting small press work and supporting a small business that’s local. Again, that’s why we always say ‘Buy local. Read local.’ If you buy directly from those people, you’re supporting their continued efforts. If you go to an event like this and put the money directly in the hands of the publisher, their margins are not quite so thin. That’s something to think about. Additionally, authors like Richard Cahan will be there in person, and he’s done these great books on Vivian Maier as well, and he’ll be available to sign them. Doug Sohn and Ina Pinkney will also be there, signing copies of their books. So, it’s this great way to be a part of the literary culture, be a good literary citizen and put money directly in the hands of people.”

It’s also worth noting that there will be a number of pre-Expo events around town as well. Among these is author Renee Rosen who will be at After-Words Bookstore (23 E. Illinois St. in Chicago) with former Chicago Tribune editor Marion Purcelli on November 18th at 6:00 PM. “The book takes place in the 1950s in the newsroom of the Trib. Marion Purcelli, who she will be talking with afterwards, was an editor at the Trib at the time. She started as a copygirl and worked her way up from there. She has a lot of interesting stories to tell about Chicago’s journalistic history, and about working as a woman in the newsroom at the time. I think that will be a really great event,” said Haller.

Additionally, there will be a number of writing workshops that will be available, free of charge, at the Expo, presented by a number of different organizations including Chicago Publishers Resource Center’s From Chicago with Love Writing Workshop, Chicago Zine Fest’s Zine Making Workshop, along with The Tool Box: The Tool Kit for New Poets.

For more information about the Chicago Book Expo, including complete listings of exhibitors, speakers and Pre-Expo events, as well as an Expo schedule, please log onto the Chicago Book Expo website at www.chicagobookexpo.org. You can also find the Chicago Book Expo on Twitter @ChicagoBookExpo and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chicagobookexpo.

This article originally appeared in Chicago Splash Magazine.

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