Preview: Chicago Book Expo in Uptown

Cold temperatures flooding into Chicago within the past week have all but shattered any Chicagoan’s hopes of venturing outside to experience the city. However, the upcoming Chicago Book Expo scheduled to take place Nov. 24 of this month should be more than enough motivation for people to hop off the couch and head north to St. Augustine College.

The Chicago Book Expo is a nonprofit group of volunteers who have come together and centered around one main idea: to celebrate the vital yet underappreciated indie publishing scene that Chicago has to offer.

Stemming from a project by the Chicago Writers House, the expo was started in 2011, with the first event being accompanied by more than 40 different publishers who were complemented by several workshops and other activities. Although the expo that has emerged this year is no longer associated with the Chicago Writers House, the vision that was created by these individuals has remained at the forefront of the new volunteers’ mission.

Lynn Hall, one of the co-organizers of the event, is a prime example of the hard work and dedication being displayed by the numerous volunteers involved with continuing the expo.

“The Expo started off as a way to celebrate the vital publishing scene in Chicago, and as a way of bringing the many small presses in Chicago to light, as well as the neighborhood of Uptown as a place where writers thrive,” Hall said.

The appreciation for this particular publishing scene brought a new focus that morphed itself from the motivations that previously contributed to the introduction of this book expo.

“As a project of John Rich and the Chicago Writers House, the Expo was also primarily geared toward fiction and poetry,” Hall said. “When other demands took John Rich away from the project, other volunteers had to step in to fill that large void.”

Success only scratches the surface of verbalizing the true impact that this book expo has had on Chicago and the indie publishing scene. Such impact has been reflected in the various publishers and organizations that have continued to come back and participate in the expo, furthering the awareness of this special publishing scene.

One of those loyal individuals just so happens to be an integral part of DePaul’s English department as well. Kathleen Rooney, founding member of Poems While You Wait, in addition to being a founding member of Rose Metal Press, participated in the first book expo in 2011 and had no doubts about wanting to return for the festivities in 2013.

“When we participated in 2011, we were thrilled with the community turnout, and how the Expo – as its name might suggest – exposed the Chicago publishing world to the general public, not to mention for how it exposed all these various publishers to each other,” Rooney said.

Correlating with the original vision of opening the eyes of Chicagoans to a unique form of publishing, the expo has continued to match up readers, publishers and authors to create a flourishing community committed to making their message heard.

“We found that a lot of people didn’t realize how many small publishers and authors Chicago is home to, and that they were eager to learn more and the Expo was a fantastic opportunity to put authors and publishers face-to-face with readers,” Rooney said.

If you still find yourself conflicted with whether this event is something worth exploring, the free admission and six hour time span of the expo should be reason enough to venture up to the corner of Argyle and Glenwood and experience this truly exceptional expo.

“The goal is making connections: with readers to authors, with book buyers to presses, and among the large group of writers and publishers that Chicago has,” Hall said.

With hopes of continuing this expo for years to come, the volunteers in charge of organizing the logistics of the event have remained committed to spreading knowledge and awareness, without the temptation of money derailing their focused vision.

“The volunteer-run and non-profit elements of the Expo are refreshing reminders that there are other ways to calculate value besides just money,” Rooney said.

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