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Tip of the Week: Story Week 2009: Part Two

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Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 continues Thursday and Friday, kicking off with an event featuring the school’s playwriting students, who stage scenes from their work, at Film Row Cinema on Wabash. Later in the day at the same venue a panel discussion ensues, titled “On the Rise: Chicago Theater and Beyond,” featuring About Face Theatre Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar, Goodman’s Tanya Palmer and Oobleck Theatre genius Mickle Maher. Friday offers a conversation with “The Girl on the Fridge” author Etgar Keret at Hokin Annex, plus a celebration of F Magazine, with Keret, Mort Castle, Augustus Rose and Betty Shiflett, later in the evening. The big event is Thursday night’s “Literary Rock & Roll” party at Metro, featuring Nami Mun, Lydia Millet and “Lush Life” author Richard Price. You should never miss an opportunity to see Price. (Tom Lynch)

Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 runs through March 20; visit colum.edu/storyweek for complete details. 

Tip of the Week: Story Week 2009

Events, Lit, Literary Venues, South Loop No Comments »

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One of the city’s top literary events of the year, Columbia College’s Story Week begins on Sunday, and as usual features the best of the bunch-students and faculty-of the school, plus some high-profile outsiders, at various events scattered throughout the city. This week kicks off with the “2nd Story: Storytellers” event at Martyrs’ on Sunday night, featuring readings by CP Chang, Molly Each, Deb R. Lewis and Doug Whippo. Saturday features a Q&A with “Blue Angel” author Francine Prose at the Harold Washington Library, plus a reading at Sheffield’s Beer Garden by local crime guy Marcus Sakey. The Nelson Algren Tribute, Tuesday at the Harold Washington, features appearances by Joe Meno, Billy Lombardo, Stephanie Kuehnert, Bayo Ojikutu and J. Adams Oaks. On Wednesday at the Spertus Museum, Rick Kogan discusses Studs Terkel in a tribute to the man, with Donna Seaman, Bill Young, Alex Kotlowitz, Don De Grazia, Drew Ferguson and Ann Hemenway. And that’s just the first half of the festival. (Tom Lynch)

Story Week 2009 runs March 15-20 at various venues. Visit colum.edu/storyweek for complete details.

Tip of the Week: Mary Pat Kelly

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An epic novel that documents one family’s emigration from Ireland to the United States during the great potato famine—Chicago, in fact—Mary Pat Kelly’s enormous epic “Galway Bay” paints a picture of the nineteenth-century Irish-American experience with thrilling, if a little overwhelming, results. Let’s face it, though—there was no way this book could’ve been short. Gritty, though not as gritty as “Angela’s Ashes, ” and romantic, though not in an abysmal “Far and Away” way, Kelly weaves her plot with historical intricacies and brilliant observations that could only come from an authority on the subject. Spanning six generations, Kelly’s most impressive feat is her ability to naturally allow space for the passage of time. A former nun, Kelly’s an award-winning documentary filmmaker and former producer on “Good Morning America” and “Saturday Night Live,” plus has a PhD in Irish literature. “Galway Bay” is a meaty novel, rich with color and hope. (Tom Lynch)

Mary Pat Kelly discusses “Galway Bay” March 9 at 57th Street Books, 1301 East 57th, (773)684-1300, and March 11 at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark, (773)769-9299, 7:30pm. Both events are free.

Well Whatevs: Modern Life with Eugene Mirman

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eugenemirmanarticleThe Book Cellar is packed, with room only left to stand, for comedian Eugene Mirman’s first-ever book reading. His book, “The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life,” is something that spawned from an advice column that he has had on his Web site for the past six years. “I made little books out of that [advice column]. I printed little books and took them on tour. I would sell lots of them,” says Mirman. “I sort of pitched it as answering questions, but then it turned into really what this is, which is sort of ephemeral self-helpish.”

Just after 7pm he rushes in, grabs a beer and quickly sets up. He begins with a PowerPoint presentation. The video, similar to those simple Web-cam videos that have made Mirman something of an Internet sensation, shows his advice on how to get a husband, with one possible suggestion to conduct the ceremony while the man is still in bed half asleep and will agree to anything. Mirman goes on to read from his book. He tells the story about someone from high school. He introduces the character by reading, “It’s important to note that he wasn’t an emotionally troubled pyrotechnic, which I would have forgiven at the time, but simply a crappy kid who lit a bunch of paper with a Bunson burner and threw it into my hair.”

“It was really fun,” says Mirman after the presentation and Q&A session that followed. “It’s not like I have to do stuff for some period of time, or anything like that. It was mostly like what seemed fun and enjoyable. It was fun taking questions and answering them. It was great.” (Todd Miller)

Hang Loose: Loose Leaf Tea Loft loves its books

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img_3809Nailed firmly to almost turquoise walls are box-shelves made of unfinished wood that hold pots, moleskin journals and books ranging from Sartre to “House of Leaves.” A tranquil mood is set by slow music playing overhead, where far from bright lights shine from up above. The place: the Loose Leaf Tea Loft.

The Loft is set up by Michelle Wu and Conor Pewarski, Harvard and Yale graduates who, on a brave whim, decided to set up the tea joint in Irving Park after a post-graduation return to Chicago. “We decided to open a tea shop in July 2008, drove all our things in a U-Haul from Boston to Chicago, found a few spaces on Craigslist, and fell in love with this corner immediately,” Wu says. “Then, with help from family and friends, we repainted the entire space and collected wine crates for the wall display. We tasted hundreds of teas to pick our thirty-six for the menu. We filed for restaurant licenses and business permits from the city.”

After about three and a half months from conception to their actual opening, Wu and Pewarski have established a space with a relaxing atmosphere with character to boot. “Our general mission is to promote health and happiness through balance and community,” Pewarski says. “Tea is the perfect way to do that, because a key ingredient is time—time for the leaves to steep, time for conversation. We also wanted to create an intimate space that the community feels free to use for their own artistic, social and intellectual gatherings—poetry readings, musical performances, open mic nights, writing workshops, game nights. We love it when someone comes to us with an idea for an event that they’d like to host at the shop.”

With hopes of attracting delightful crowds, Wu and Pewarski have added to the Loft all the necessary tools for a nurturing atmosphere. “Hoping to create an atmosphere of reading, writing and conversation, we decided to sell notebooks along with tea and put all our favorite books up on the wall for decoration and use. That gave us the name of the shop: Loose Leaf Tea Loft, for loose leaf tea and loose leaf paper. Then with our favorite books in the wine crates, it just made sense to connect the teas with our sources of inspiration,” Wu says. And the teas’ names are no joke, either. “Each tea is named after a different literary character that has some trait or connection with the tea, and almost all the characters come from a book in the shop. For instance, Jack Kerouac’s character in ‘On the Road’ gave us our Sal’s Paradise tea, sharp ginger with tangy orange freshness. Miss Scarlett’s Sweetest is a white tea with playful peaches and spunky tangerine, reminiscent of Georgia and southern society in ‘Gone with the Wind.’ And of course, our Barack’s AudaciTea promises to ‘change the way you think of oolong with the flavor of hopeful hazelnut.’”  (Micah McCrary)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Loose Leaft Tea Lost is closed as of July 2009, and will soon reopen as Latte on Lincoln.

Loose Leaf Tea Loft, 4229 N. Lincoln, looseleaftealoft.com