Chicago’s Literary Scene: 2nd to None

by Randy Richardson

You might have to look a bit harder than you would in NY or LA to find the pulse that is Chicago's literary scene. But it's there, and it's beating stronger than ever.

Sure, the Big Apple is home to the titans of the publishing industry, big and brusque, and mighty and dominating. Not to mention intimidating and imposing. Then there's the City of Angels which draws in the tanned, the plastic, the sleazy, and even the occasional well-meaning writer, all looking to cash in on that elusive Hollywood dream machine.

The Windy City's literary scene, in contrast, is a little more pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, blue collar and pasty-skinned, a reflection of the city itself. But it's a surprisingly vibrant one. You just have to know where to look.

While everything in NY or LA is big, small is thriving in Chicago. There's an abundancy of zines, journals and comics coming out of Chicago. Just check out Quimby's Book Store or Chicago Comics and see for yourself. Although we mourn the loss of the late, great Punk Planet, we still are home to established zines like Stop Smiling, lumpen, TenByTen and Fall of Autumn.

There's also an incredibly warm and welcoming literary community in Chicago that throws its arms around the little guys. Visit Twilight Tales or The Book Cellar or Women and Children First or The Chicago Underground Library or Unabridged Books.

Online, one of the hottest literary magazines, Bookslut, originates from the Windy City.

And a growing number of established and up-and-coming authors are calling Chicago and its environs home. Stuart Dybek. Audrey Niffenegger. Sara Paretsky. Raymond Benson. J.A. Konrath. Libby Fischer Hellman. Jay Bonasinga. Marcus Sakey. Barbara D'Amato. Scott Turow. Kevin Guilfoile. Elizabeth Berg. Adam Langer. Achy Obejas. Joe Meno. To name just a few.

One of the goals of the Chicago Writers Association and its new ezine, The Write City, is to put the spotlight on Chicago's surprisingly vibrant literary scene. We hope that through this website and publication that you'll come to discover what those of us here already know: When it comes to writing and community, Chicago is second to none.

Randy Richardson