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Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Blog
Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Blog

What Do You Mean There’s Nothing to Do?

Monday, March 23, 2020

By Donald G. Evans


Chicago’s literary community stands as one of the most productive and supportive in the entire world, and they prove it each and every day, including and maybe most importantly during times of crisis. Here is quick rundown of a few initiatives I’ve stumbled across as I join you all in a period of staying productive while staying put. Send me your news or notes to be included in the follow-up to this.



Christine Maul Rice and her wonderful publication jumped right in to give some of us a chance to engage in a very useful workshop while staying at home.

From its Facebook page: “Hypertext wants to support the writers who have supported our magazine & fledgling nonprofit (& those of you who haven't had a chance to support us one is excluded).

Lots of wonderful teachers have been offering free online pilates and yoga classes. In that spirit and to say THANK YOU to the writing community, I'm proposing teaching free one-hour writing workshops, once per week for 4 weeks, via Google Hangouts." If you're interested, respond via the link here.



The D.C. Comics veteran and highly-lauded creator of original stories like Roche Limited is calling his inaugural YouTube video “Genre Writing—Course 1, Wordbuilding.”

Michael writes on Facebook, “Here we go! I've made my first writing tutorial video based on a course (Genre Writing) I recently taught. I'm aiming for 1-2 videos a week; they're light, they're casual, and hopefully they get you writing/motivated in this tough time.

Please be gentle! I'm no pro at making videos, but I think this one turned out kind of okay. Shares encouraged!”



StoryStudio Chicago has partnered with the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame since the beginning, and has consistently been a generous, creative, and smart source of writing education, one of the primary places to go outside of the academy. Their worthwhile series of online seminars is especially suitable for the time being. Sign up while you can; enrollment tops out quickly. Most of these are single-session offerings. Go to the StoryStudio Chicago website to find out more.

Story Studio Chicago



Rebecca Makkai, whose novel The Great Believers won widespread critical acclaim when it was making the rounds just a year or so ago, is doing her part to support two Chicago bookstores whose launches unfortunately coincided with the public health crisis—Javier Ramirez and Mary Mollman’s brand new Madison Street Books, and Katharine Rose and Thomas Flynn’s newly acquired and reopened Pilsen Community Books.

Rebecca writes on her Facebook page:

“If you buy any of my books from either of them (Pilsen is doing free delivery within the community; Madison is doing the same, and $1 shipping anywhere) and send me proof, I will put your name in the pool. I'll let my kids pick five names at random, and I'll send reader/writer care packages (tell me which you are, and I'll customize) to each of the five.

Packages include two stories of mine (one on paper, the other on balloons), a postcard saying hi, two books I adore and want you to read, and one literary journal. If I can swing it, I'll stick chocolate in there too.

Please help spread the word, especially about these amazing bookstores. Buy books for your kids, your friends, your friends' kids, your kids' friends...

If you absolutely hate my books or already have all four, the offer is also good if you purchase Kim Brooks's Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear, because we all need to be reading it right now.”



Ben Tanzer is a terrific Chicago author and as a sidelight also produces a really fun podcast that often features other Chicago authors. There are 218 installments, so don’t say there’s nothing to do. His series encapsulates the changing times. His last podcast with South African author Judith Krummeck was recorded over coffee at the crowded 3rd Coast Café on North Dearborn; his upcoming installment with Chicago author Stewart Ross was done over Skype.

There are so many great episodes featuring Chicago writers, including a recent one with Gint Aras that is one of the best ones I’ve heard. Some of my other favorites: Jeremy Wilson (recorded in the back room of the Billy Goat), Patricia McNair, Jac Jemc, Rick Kogan, Kathleen Rooney, Lindsey Hunter, and Gina Frangello. Ben lists as one of his favorites a conversation with Chicago transplant Alan Heathcock in Boise, Idaho. There’s also a really good one with Elaine Soloway, mother of Transparent creators Jill and Faith, in her apartment building.

Ben Tanzer



Chicagoan Chris Ware is one of the most important and influential cartoonists/graphic novelists for our time, and he’s already published a sensational take on the times we find ourselves in.

Self-Isolating: A Pandemic Special



Chicago is the home to one of the world’s greatest research library, and among its many treasures you can find holdings on Chicago writers and literature. The Newberry sent out this message reminding people of the various ways you can engage with the library’s materials online.

Newberry Library



The incredible Chicago poet, teacher, and editor Tara Betts is ramping up her new YouTube channel and for starters you can view her Chicago State lecture on Gwendolyn Brooks.


Tara’s YouTube channel is brand new, so if you like what she’s doing, subscribe.



Artist, author, actor, and all-around cultural icon Tony Fitzpatrick shared an essay he wrote on the 7th day of the coronavirus crisis. This is a beautiful example of the art that is already arising from the depths of this pandemic.

7th day of the coronavirus crisis



Okay, not technically a literary organization, though Hemingway and others would argue that fine whisky is a tool of the trade. But Koval HAS been a fantastic and generous partner of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, doing free tastings at several of our fundraising events, donating booze baskets and tasting/tour certificates, and generally helping out whenever they can help out. Now, they are helping again, and nothing represents the best Chicago instincts toward community-building than this latest effort. From their own narrative:

“In the coming weeks, we at KOVAL Distillery in Chicago (typically known for our organic and kosher whiskeys, gins, and specialty spirits) will be focusing our efforts on providing hand sanitizers in bulk to the medical community, retirement homes, and those on the front lines in this war against COVID-19. We have been working with Chicago city officials and the TTB to lift the restrictions that will allow us to pivot to supporting our community.

As we all know, the demand for alcohol-based sanitizers is great, and our communities are experiencing extreme shortages. It is our goal to provide these vital products to those in need free of charge.

If you are in a position to help support our efforts, your donation will go toward paying our team, keeping our lights on, and purchasing the necessary supplies to keep up with demand.

We hope that you will respect that we will not have hand sanitizer available for the general public at this time.

On behalf of everyone at KOVAL, we also want to take a moment to thank you for your business over the past 12 years. It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve Chicago, and the world, with our spirits. We look forward to a day when we can once again focus on spritzers over sanitizers.”

Help KOVAL Make Alcohol-Based Sanitizer



Oak Parker Charlie Rossiter’s podcast features poets and their poetry. A writer, performer, and former TV host, Rossiter does a fantastic job engaging and exploring a wide range of topics and poets. You’ll hear a lot of readings and commentary, but also discussions about teaching poetry, prose poems, poetry and music, and so forth. This is not a Chicago centric series by any means, but you’ll still find some local poets like Carlos Cumpian, Philip Levine, Al DeGenova and Gwendolyn Brooks scattered throughout the 119 archived episodes, as well as local organizations like the American Writers Museum.

Poetry Spoken Here



The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is an ongoing nonprofit project that has already archived more than 1,200 programs from the oral historian’s 45 years on WFMT radio. The goal is to make these fascinating interviews available and accessible to the public. If you haven’t already been through these archives, treat yourself to at least a few. Legendary Chicago authors like Gwendolyn Brooks, Oscar Brown, Jr., Nelson Algren, Sandra Cisneros, Lorraine Hansberry, and so many more are already available (like a great one with Herman Kogan and Mike Royko) with more being added all the time.

Studs Terkel: The Art of Conversation



Kelli Christiansen, who founded and operated Chicago Book Review for many years and now does fantastic work as a publishing and editing guru, posted herself on Facebook recently reading from Albert Camus’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Plague. Her reading is part of a collective book club that has sprung up since the coronavirus overtook our lives. Spoiler alert: Not necessarily upbeat.

The Plague


Proceeds from Kindle Sale on Chicago Cubs-Themed Book Goes to Common Pantry Food Bank

Amika Press is offering the kindle version Chicago author Floyd Sullivan's historical novel Called Out: A Novel of Base Ball and America in 1908 for less than a dollar, and Floyd is donating all the proceeds to Common Pantry. Floyd is a terrific writer and baseball historian, as well as a former CLHOF board member. This book is for sure worth reading and the cause for sure worth supporting.


1001 Donors

Look around our website at other content, especially our 1001 Donors campaign. We want your mini essays on inspiring Chicago literature.

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