Printer's Row, SCBWI, and New City Lit 50

 New City Lit 50, Eileen Favorite, SCBWI, Printer's Row Lit FestI kicked off Printer's Row with a stint in the Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators booth.   Although The Heroines was published as an adult title, I joined SCBWI in an effort to get my book into the hands of teens, as I'd often been told that the book has crossover appeal to the Young Adult market.  To that effect, I handed out free copies of the book to high school teachers, as well as the lesson plan, and I also sold copies to both adults and teens.  My daughter Lucille sat at the booth with me and also helped to offer the Abe Lincoln hat filled with chances for kids to win a free book.  Thanks, Lulu!  And thanks to Debbie Topolski for all her hard work on the booth.

Later, Martin and I attended a party at Brian and Jan Hieggelke's loft, celebrating the New City Lit 50. I've always thought it was crackling smart of New City to publish their list during Printer's Row when all eyes/minds are focused on books.  We enjoyed lambrusco, deep-dish pizza, and chatter/chortles/cheek kisses with people not seen for a few months (Alex Shakar, Gina Frangello).  Great to see fellow Graham School/U of C instructor Bayo Ojikutu (pictured) and to discuss schooling, Hyde Park housing, and a clandestine literary salon in Chicago (more on that maybe later). 

A couple more pix are at my Facebook page.

Fifth Wednesday Release Party at Open Books

Last Sunday, while the NATO summit had everybody afraid to travel downtown, I braved the brown line (OK, so it's the most docile elevated line, and I exited well north of the demonstrations) to attend the Spring Release party for Fifth Wednesday journal at Open Books.  I was psyched to finally meet the wonderful writer Christine Sneed, who read an excerpt of her story that appears in FW.  Also in attendance was colleague Achy Obejas, who read a great fiction/nonfiction piece that compared various sites in Havana to more well-known places in U.S. and European capitals.  She calls Che Guevara "you-know-who," which was a funny/lovely way to speak about the only Cuba-centric character known to Americans besides Castro.  Richard Jones read a lovely poem about talking to his children about failure.  They proceeded to guess how many times he'd failed--eleven?  17,000?  Lovely!  David Hernandez read, surprise!, his "Under the Bonzai Tree" poem, and also was accompanied by a guitarist and singer, who harmonized Spanish lyrics. 

Guild Literary Complex Event with Graphic Artists: Chris Ware, Nicole Hollander, Audrey Niffenegger, and C. Spike Trotman

My husband, Martin, and I had a wonderful time at this Guild Literary Complex event.  What struck me most was how humble Chris Ware is, self-deprecating, and yet his work is so gorgeous, detailed, and moving.  There was a bit of slamming going around regarding the treatment of comics at the School of the Art Institute, where I teach, and I wanted to interject that things had changed around there. Comics are actually being taught, yo!  But I do know that for a time they were treated like the ugly stepsister of the fine art world.  How passe is that thinking?  As someone who's engaged in teaching visual artists how to write, I was delighted with Audrey Niffenegger's succinct descriptions of what comics hand you as a writer:  "You know that one kind of bubble means the character's words, one kind of bubble means his/her thoughts, and the rest of the text is narrative."  Slam dunk!  It's enlightening to listen to someone who's written novels make those distinctions.  Then I asked her and Chris the thing I'm always asking my students:  "What does the image do that the text cannot? And vice versa?" Audrey said, "The text in comics does dialogue and sensory details (smells, tastes, etc.)"  I know she could have expounded on that, but time was ticking.  I will have to pick her brain again soon. 

A Brilliant "Moment of Being" in Louise Erdrich's story "Nero"--in this week's New Yorker

Joyce Carol Oates calls those moments when we become aware of ourselves within our own bodies or natures "moments of being."  Last night, this passage from Erdrich's  story, "Nero," in this week's New Yorker, made me drop the magazine and say, Aha!  She writes of a young girl, encountering a tough guard dog at her grandparents' slaughterhouse:

"Nero snapped down his food and stared at me.  His eyes were nobly set in his broad brow.  I stepped behind the screen door, but Nero held my gaze. 

As I looked into his eyes, which were the same brownish gold as mine, I had my first sensation of self-awareness.  I realized that my human body, my human life, was arbitrary.  I could have been a dog.  An exhilarating sadness gripped me, and then I felt for the first time intimations of sympathy for another form of creation, for Nero, who had to eat guts from an old pie tin."


Book Group Visit with Flight Attendants

I had a wonderful time with the women of the Chicklits Book Group last night.  I so enjoy getting out to talk about writing with people outside of the business (plus there was white bean soup, wine, and cupcakes!).  We talked about The Heroines, with an emphasis on the editing and publishing process.  Members were curious to know how much editorial feedback I had, and whether I had to take the advice of my editor, Nan Graham, or whether I could decide to reject her advice.  Both things happened during the eighteen-month process.  The feedback came not only from Nan, but also from my agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, of William Morris Endeavor. Sometimes I took their advice (mostly), sometimes I held my ground.  As a writer, you know when the advice is right on the mark and when it's pushing against the grain of what you're trying to accomplish.  Believe me, it wasn't easy to go up against these formidable women, but I did.  The one concession I had to make in the story was to cut some scenes from the Franny section, because Scribner attorneys were afraid of flak from my idol, the litigious, may-he-rest-in-peace, J.D. Salinger. 






Haiku Hootenanny for Theater Wit in Chicago

I was asked by Mercedes Rohlfs, Development and Communications Director, for Theater Wit, to write a haiku for their annual fundraiser.  My  task was to write a haiku about "an experience with the arts" that I either loved or hated.  The highlight of my arts experience recently was the Queen of Night's aria (sung by Audrey Luna)  in The Magic Flute by Mozart, presented by the Lyric Opera of Chicago last December.


You've probably heard this aria (and maybe don't realize it), but here's a sample (not sung by Ms. Luna).  The Queen is telling her daughter, Pasmina, to kill her own father, Sarastro. 

So, here's my haiku:

Queen of Night Aria

Pasmina, you must

     kill kill kill kill kill kill kill

Sarastro right now.







If you feel like having a good cry, read this essay by Aleksandar Hemon

 This New Yorker essay blew me away when I read it last summer.  It's every parents' nightmare, the loss of a child.  Hemon stands by his atheism, seeing no higher purpose to his daughter's suffering.  One can hardly argue with him. 


Judging begins for DePaul's Student Fiction Contest


Yesterday I received the entries for the fiction contest, sponsored by Threshold, DePaul's student-run literary magazine.  The magazine showcases creative writing, visual art, and audio works by DePaul undergraduates and graduates.  I'm looking forward to carefully reading the fiction submissions.  It's always an honor and a challenge to select one winner

I've always admired DePaul's M.A.  in Writing and Publishing program, which has a truly creative approach to professional writing.  Students take a traditional writing workshops (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screenwriting), but they also have the option to develop marketable skills in publishing, magazine writing, science writing, and other genres.  They also school students in how to market their work. 

In May (date to be determined), I'll be reading with the other judges, Kimberly Dixon (poetry), Victor Giron (nonfiction), and Jay Bonansinga (dramatic writing), as well as the student winners at DePaul's Art Museum

Inspiration in Springfield...


Literacy, Springfield, Eileen Favorite, shriners on tractorsI had a terrific three days at the Illinois Reading Council's Literacy Conference.  Two NIU professors met my expectations of learning about 21st-century literacy initiatives.  Their panel on Story Writing using technology is a perfect model for how to get students to learn to use technology, research properly on the web, make art, write stories using fact-based research.  All this figures beautifully with my desire to start an outreach program that would bring at-risk students into the School of the Art Institute to collaborate with undergraduates to make digital books.  That's the long-term dream.  Next stop!  Writing a grant to fund the research...


We also made a "spring break" vacation out of it, bringing the girls to New Salem, a historic village, to meet the current blacksmith.  When I was ten, the blacksmith gave me a metal knot that I treasured for years.  Martin especially dug the idea of learning folkloric arts.  Maybe when he retires...  We also loved the funky St. Pat's Parade, with shriners on tractors!

Heading to the Illinois Reading Council's Literacy Conference this week

Eileen Favorite, literacy, high school, The Heroines, lesson plansI'm looking forward to connecting with teachers to discuss using The Heroines in high school curricula.  I'll have books, curriculum guides/lesson plan, and a dramatis personae (list of heroines in the book) on hand for distribution.  Hoping to also make contacts regarding my future work to diminish illiteracy in urban settings.  Two children's books about this are in the works!