Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Starting Tomorrow: Pilcrow Lit Fest in Chicago

If you're in Chicago the next few days and looking for a real literary feast, head over to Pilcrow Lit Fest. Yep, seems like once again Chicago is the place to be, less than a week since the Chicago Green Festival.

When? Thursday, May 22 to Sunday, May 25
Where? Several locations around the city. Check the calendar.

So what's a Pilcrow? Well, unless you are a real typographical hardcore fanatic, I think this wikipedia article does a good job explaining.
About the festival, I'll let Amy Guth, author of Three Fallen Women, and the festival's organizer take the stand:

Q: Can you explain what is the Pilcrow Lit Fest all about?

A: Pilcrow Lit Fest is a four-day literary festival with particular focus on small press and independent media, taking place in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25th. Throughout the festival, we have scheduled parties, networking events, panel discussions on a variety of topics, readings and performances. I've never heard of a lit festival having any sort of green focus, and that is a high-priority of mine, so I have made an effort to keep it as responsible as possible, even going so far as to include a local environmental activist in the planning phases to make sure I'd thought of every way possible to green the festival up.

Q: What's the story behind the creation of this festival?

A: When I was touring around the US and Canada to promote my first novel, Three Fallen Women, I had the opportunity to speak at the
Decatur Book Festival in Atlanta, the (Downtown) Omaha Lit Fest and the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and there was a certain something about the way the festivals were executed that I knew would translate well in Chicago. There is such a wonderful and large literary community in Chicago, yet few events to really bring all of us together, so I decided to create the festival and focus it primarily in the direction of small presses, independent media and DIY sort of efforts.

Q: What's the thing you like most about the festival?

A: I would have to say that the thing I like most about the festival is the community-building aspect of it all, as writing is a rather solitary profession, and because most communication is done over email, it's wonderful to meet people face to face, share ideas and discuss common issues, concerns and goals. I'm probably most pleased by the fact that as we've planned and arranged aspects and events of the festival, we've worked with an eye towards keeping the festival as eco-friendly as possible, and made a point to operate with repurposed items, borrowed items, and have used as few resources as possible in the festival's execution.

Q: Is it only for authors or also for aspiring authors who haven't published yet?

A: Pilcrow Lit Fest is for absolutely anyone. Our participating authors, writers and publishers are all in varying stages of their own careers, and all from very diverse backgrounds. I made a point to keep as may events free and low-cost as possible, so events wouldn't be cost-prohibitive to anyone. I also intentionally didn't have any "headliner" guests, so that every participant and attendee feels equally welcome at Pilcrow.

Q: Besides authors, is it also for your average Chicago book lover?

A: Absolutely. The panel discussion are, as I mentioned, free and open to the public. I tried to create a mix of panel topics that are useful not only to published authors and seasoned publishers but also to not-yet published authors, and enthusiastic readers.

Q: Can you name please some of the authors who will participate, or some of the main attractions?

A: I've put much focus on not having a headliner, so that no authors feel more or less valuable to the festival than another. All the participating authors, publishers and designers are listed on the Pilcrow Lit Fest website so everyone to read about, including available links to their websites or online projects.

During the course of the weekend, however, we have a lot of exciting events. Thursday night,
Jami Attenberg and Katie Schwartz read at the Fixx Readings Series, which I host each month. Friday night, right before our official opening night reception, we have a special edition of The Dollar Store Show--- a performance event where pre-selected authors are given an item purchased at a dollar store in advance and must write a comedic piece about the object and read it before the crowd. Saturday, after a day of panel discussions, we are hosting a benefit party to raise much-needed funds for New Orleans Public Library branches damaged and destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. For that event, I've asked authors to disassemble a copy of their own book then reassemble it into a piece of art for auction. I'm very excited for that event. I've rebuilt my own first novel, Three Fallen Women for the occasion, and the artwork being created is really sounding incredible. Other authors have donated other items for auction, too. Nick Hornby donated a handwritten list yanked from his notebook, that he wrote as he brainstormed songs to use for his book Songbook. I'm very excited about that. I'm also very excited to be linked up with Eco-Libris for the event. As I've been explaining the system to authors and publishers, they're all terribly excited to know more, so I'm really thrilled to be able to introduce them all to the work done by Eco-Libris. A note from Eco-Libris:

Amy indeed introducing Eco-Libris to all festival goers, and encouraging participating authors to balance out the paper in their books. In addition to that, Eco-Libris stickers will be available in the New Orleans Public Library fundraiser event during the festival, and we will donate an extra tree for every sticker auctioned.

Eylon @ Eco-Libris
Plant a Tree for Every Book you Read!