Earlier this month I traveled to Chicago for a couple of book appearances, and discovered a city so literary I couldn't begin to cover it all. I read trivia questions about solar power in a bar where I met a couple of terrific local writers, visited more than half a dozen bookstores, prowled through Printer's Row (the midwest's largest outdoor book festival), visited the Balzekas Museum which is America's only museum for Lithuanian culture and history, and read at one of Chicago's newest bookstores, City Lit Books. I spent one day getting around on the local bike share system, Divvy, which works particularly well because the city is so flat. It made me ever more impatient to get bike share in LA. I also bought way too many books.
While in town I picked up a copy of Newcity, which had a fantastic cover piece on Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago. It's a great overview of who matters in literary Chicago, from bookstores to local indie presses to the literary editor at the Chicago Tribune. Turns out, I'd met one of the city's literati, Eric May, while doing trivia at Sheffield's bar.
It wasn't until I got back home that I found out The Rumpus had listed my reading at City Lit Books on their "Notable in Chicago" events listing for that week. The Rumpus! It pairs nicely with being listed as one of the Top 5 Things to do in Seattle the weekend I read at Elliot Bay Bookstore.
Here are a few pics from my Chicago literary biking adventure. Some of them you might have seen already on Instagram or Twitter.
You don't have to be a poet laureate to appear on GuerrillaReads, but we're always proud to say we knew ya when. Big news today in American poetry is the announcement of Juan Felipe Herrera as the next US poet laureate, the first Latino to hold that position. But you can call him PLOTUS. Way back in 2010 I caught up with Herrera for this fantastic guerrilla reading (along with Michael Medrano and Anita Hernandez) of his poem "Arizona Green (Manifesto #1070)." If you think poetry is old fashioned or boring or irrelevant to your life, you've got to watch this video.
Herrera isn't the first poet laureate we've featured on GuerrillaReads. The City of LA's current poet laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez, also did a terrific guerrilla reading for us.
I launched GuerrillaReads as an online video literary magazine back in 2008 to help writers in all forms and genres take advantage of the opportunities created by online video, while also trying to make both the real world and the internet a bit more literary. Go out and do a reading in a place that's meaningful to your work, a place where people might not expect literature. Video it and share it with us. Think of it as an electronic zine, with a strong DIY ethos.
Over the years we've featured Naomi Hirahara, Peter J. Harris, Terry Wolverton, Reyna Grande, Jen Hofer, Melinda Palacio, Susan Straight and many other writers, poets and more. You don't have to be anybody's laureate to do a guerrilla reading. Just be the best writer you can be and share your work with us. Here's how to submit.
A big GuerrillaReads congratulations to California's own Juan Felipe Herrera!
Tonight's Reading Under the Influence event was a blast. I read with a couple of terrific Chicagoland writers, C.J. Arellano and Courtney Jones. Each of us read something original we'd written (I read the first few pages of Love Songs of the Revolution). Then we all had to come up with trivia questions related in some way to the topic of TOOLS, and read a short piece of someone else's writing that is somehow related.
C.J. decided to define "tool" in the Urban Dictionary sense, and asked questions about T.V. characters who were tools, like Archie Bunker and somebody on the show Angel. Courtney asked about social media tools, and read a lovely excerpt from from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.
I went with solar power cells as tools, and read a brief segment from Dr. Richard Komp's arresting classic, Practical Photovoltaics. So here's a chance to test your solar energy knowledge! See if you can answer my trivia questions (scroll down for the answers).
Bonus! Here's the tie-breaker question I had in my back pocket but didn't need to ask, because we had a total solar nerd in the audience:
Bonus: 80 percent
Looking for your next book to read? I can recommend all these great indie press books.