Artists in Conversation:

Gint Aras

Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Book

Sometime after finishing my MFA, I came to realize that any published book opens a can of worms for its author. Once the final proof has been completed and the book released into the world, the author goes from having absolute control over his characters’ blood to virtually no control over anything. Readers have conversations in his absence. When an author is being interviewed, the interviewer’s interests naturally drive the discussion.

Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearless Symmetry: Combining Creative Disciplines

Audrey Niffenegger is a visual artist who helped establish the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College. She's also a writer and the author of the internationally acclaimed novels The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) and Her Fearful Symmetry (2009). I sat down with Audrey to ask her about working across disciplines, book arts, and the experience of attending art colonies and writers' retreats.

Jason Pettus, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

How to Start a Cultural Institution for Under $500

Before I started the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, I worked as a self-publishing artist—first, as a photographer back at the University of Missouri, then as a writer of novels, travelogues, and
performance poetry in Chicago. I attended high school during the peak of the early-'80s punk years, so for decades now, I've been a strong adherent of the "do it yourself" (or DIY) ethos.

Thea Liberty Nichols, The Robert A. Roth Study Center

A One-of-a-Kind Resource

Intuit’s Robert A. Roth Study Center was established in 1995 on the occasion of the organization’s fifth anniversary. It was named in honor of Bob Roth, who published the Chicago Reader from 1971–1994, and who served as Intuit’s Board President for those first five years, from 1990–1995. Roth made the acquaintance of Princeton-trained art historian Dr. John MacGregor when he was in Chicago over the summers researching artist Henry Darger.

Knee-Jerk Magazine

Launching Our Monthly Literary Magazine


Knee-Jerk is an online literary magazine created by three local writers: Casey Bye, Jon Fullmer, and Steve Tartaglione. The monthly magazine features stories, interviews, excerpts, and reviews of things (e.g., "Review of The Power Team", "Review of My Mother's Abs," and "Review of My Pregnancy at Seven Months"). In describing the Knee-Jerk vibe, the three founders suggest "a dinner table filled with friends and family.

S. Brandi Barnes - OBAC-Writers Workshop

The Torch Is Lit: The Organization of Black American Culture, Past and Present

The Organization of Black American Culture, founded in 1967, was born out of the Committee for the Arts. Both were products of the Black Arts Movement.The idealists who founded OBAC had a vision to establish an umbrella organization for African-American arts and artists, and to establish a black aesthetic.

Liz Mason, Quimby's Bookstore

Tips on Self-Publishing and Selling on Consignment

Working at Quimby's—a bookstore that specializes in independently
published and small press books, comics, and zines—I meet lots of
zinesters, writers, publishers, poets, and comics artists.

Megan Stielstra and Amanda Delheimer, 2nd Story

Origins of a Storytelling Series

Sit down with friends, open a bottle of wine, and inevitably, the stories start, right? Hilarious or tragic, they’re always intimate. This was the impetus for 2nd Story, Chicago’s personal narrative storytelling series that exists to bring people together through story.

Sheryl Johnston, Literary Publicist and Event Producer

The Business of Publicity: Tips on How to Get the Word Out

Literary agent and event promotor Sheryl Johnston has been able to draw on a very wide array of writing modes and experiences, learning from all angles of the profession - from publicist to editorialist to agent . Here she shares some gems of wisdom for writers, and the keys to successful book promotion.

How to Approach an Agent as an Emerging Author

So you’ve written the book and experienced the surge of joy and relief that only a completed draft can elicit. Now what? Most aspiring authors make it to typing the words “THE END” and mistakenly think the journey of becoming a published author is almost over.

Jason Behrends

Mentorship, Collaboration, and Time Management: How to Get Stuff Done

Balance is something I struggle with—not necessarily the act of balancing, but the concept: to load up all aspects of your life, arms outstretched and still, and then just hold it there.

Creating a Shared Writing Space

Founding The Writers WorkSpace

In October 2005, The New York Times ran an article on a writing space in NYC called Paragraph. That same afternoon, my friend Pat Cronin and I were meeting in my dining room—a room that also served as living room, play room, office, and art studio.

Clemolyn (Pennie) Brinson

Listening to My Muse: Notes from a Conscious Writing Journey

My muse visits me a lot—so much that I’ve personified her and written several poems about her. I’ve learned that she is boss. When inspiration hits, I grab the nearest piece of paper and start writing before the train of thought or mood is lost. Waiting longer than a minute can result in the initial impact or feeling fading away as quickly as it came. Once that happens it’s gone forever.   

Simon A. Smith

If You're Obsessed with Writing, Write: Simon A. Smith Interviews Himself

For this unconventional Artist Story, writer Simon A. Smith sat down with writer Simon A. Smith to discuss teaching, the Chicago literary scene, and the pros and cons of a writing career. With or without glasses, he raises some interesting points. —CAR Literary Researchers

Simon With Glasses (SWG): You’re from a very small town in Pennsylvania. What was it like moving to Chicago at the age of 19 without knowing a single soul in the city?

Maggie Kast

Writing and Dancing: Finding Community in Solitary Pursuits


When I was in my 50s, my body showed signs of wear and tear, and my lifetime career in modern dance began to limp. At the time, I was making site-specific work for dance concerts in churches, using both professional and community dancers.

Donald G. Evans, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame

Building Our Bookshelf

A bookshelf, for those of us who care deeply about literature, is a
sacred place. These are not only books we have read or will read, but a
reflection on who we are, what we like, a statement about our core
values and aesthetics. Libraries do a fine job covering the
spectrum—from diet books to operating system manuals to Bridges of Madison County—but
for our personal collections we constantly add and subtract to make
sure the titles are worthy of the precious space we have to devote to
their display.

Kathleen Rooney and Abigail Beckel, Rose Metal Press

A Home for Hybrid Genres

Rose Metal is a fusible alloy with a low melting point consisting of 50% bismuth, 25–28% lead, and 22–25% tin. Also known as “Rose’s metal” and “Rose’s alloy,” Rose Metal is typically used as a solder.

Our Rose Metal Press is an independent, not-for-profit publisher of work in hybrid genres

Jill Pollack, StoryStudio

StoryStudio: A Space for Writers

I covet the artist’s studio: all the colorful paints and glues and fabric and canvas and brushes, all the early drafts tacked to the wall. The energy in an artist’s studio floats from surface to surface, landing in the imagination to be reborn as the artist shapes it into a picture. Writers are artists, too.

Time and Space: My Residency at Ragdale

Gretchen Kalwinski

You know that project you’ve been working on for years, but can’t seem to finish? Well, there’s an answer to your problem, and it’s called an artist residency: a place where artists and writers go to shut out the rest of the world and zone in completely on their creative projects.

Tim Magner, Green Sugar Press

Growing Green Minds: Defining Our Mission

I was good at being a kid, mostly because my parents and grandparents were good at being parents and grandparents. Mom and Dad rarely allowed us to watch TV, but they gave my brothers and me the freedom to wander the neighborhood unchaperoned.

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