The movement of people through the life of a magazine is one of the sweetest, and most bittersweet characteristics of our journey. We’re sad to see Toni Nealie leave us as literary editor—this issue’s Lit 50 is her swan song—but we also know that her eventual replacement will bring new ideas and a new personality to what we do. And it’s that constant evolution of the publication—both in the office and in the pages—that earns us the “new” in our name, as sad as it is to say goodbye. Thank you, Toni.
Sometimes we find ourselves unexpectedly revisiting people and the life we lived years ago. A few months back, Bette Cerf Hill asked me to coffee, where she told me that the Tribune was letting go of the Printers Row Lit Fest, and that she was stepping in to keep it going and how could Newcity help? She founded the Printers Row Book Fair in 1985; we started Newcity in Printers Row in 1986. We grew up together and for the fair’s first fifteen years or so, until the Tribune took it over, we were involved in many aspects of it every year.
The Lit 50 was a feature that came directly out of a panel with Chicago novelists that I put together one year. Afterwards, I realized that Chicago’s writers were working in such solitude (the nature of fiction writing, natch) that they did not know each other. I started the Lit 50 as an effort to help foster a sense of community. For Newcity, it led to the creation of a whole series of cultural lists each year which have become a core part of our identity. And now, nearly thirty years later, the Chicago literary community is exponentially larger, more diverse and highly collaborative. The Printers Row Lit Fest has been integral in making that happen.
Back in the day, Newcity published a guide to the fair and had a table at its center every year, where we met many of the folks who’ve since become part of our personal and professional lives when they stopped by. My daughter Erica started working at the booth at the age of four. Each year, Bette would ask her to do the drawing for the artist-book raffle grand prize at the end of the weekend. Erica now has her own son nearly four years old, who loves books like his mother. And this year, as part of our reconnection to the fair, Erica’s baby brother Todd designed the web site for the Printers Row Lit Fest.
So the book fair has deep meaning for us, personally and professionally. And it’s come to have deep meaning for Chicago, too, as one of the highlights of the city’s cultural calendar. It’s fun to see it back with some of the original players, and we’re hopeful that it will retain the increase in stature that the Tribune’s stewardship accelerated, while regaining some of the grassroots elements that once shaped it. We’re happy to be working with Bette again, and deeply appreciative of what she’s done, and is doing. Thank you, Bette.
Look for Newcity’s June 2019 print edition at over 1000 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at newcity.com/subscribe.