Sunday, March 23, 2008

Story Week Afterglow

Each March the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago puts on an electrifying writing festival. This year was radiant. I had the profound pleasure of sharing a stage with Chitra Divakaruni, a writer of fluent imaginative and spiritual intent. Chitra was exceptionally giving in her disclosures and in talking about the endless conundrums and efforts of writing, quite hilarious. I'm so grateful to Chitra for her spellbinding and compassionate books and generous nature. I heard Aimee Bender and Cristina Garcia read, exceptionally smart and inventive and funny writers. I met the uniquely talented and adventurous and inspiriting Hillary Carlip. Queen of the Oddballs and intrepid creator of A La Cart, Hillary is also the web design genius behind Open Books Radio, and it was an absolute joy to meet her. We did conduct an Open Books interview, coming to this web site soon!

Hillary was part of the culminating literary rock-and-roll event that brings Story Week to its grandly rambunctious crescendo. Hillary and ZZ Packer and Colin Channer and Junot Diaz and the empress of literary programs and pizazz, my dear friend Sheryl Johnston. And Randy Albers, big-hearted and brilliant director of this exuberant and inspiring and supportive fiction department, who presented me with the Story Week Achievement Award. I'm so proud of this, and so astonished by this, I'm quoting the plaque because, well, because I'm still trying to internalize it.

"For excellence in writing, for promoting 'the fine art of reading,' and for creative contributions to Story Week."

Long live Story Week. Hugs and kisses to all.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

On the Air

Open Books is still broadcast in Chicago on WLUW 88.7, but I have to say that I'm thrilled to report that a new show will air again on Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ 91.5, and, on Sunday night, March 9 at 9 Central Time. (Don't forget, we lose a precious hour this weekend.)

In this edition of Open Books I speak with Chicago writer Gioia Diliberto about women's history, her biographies of Nobel Peace Prize winner and reformer Jane Addams; Hadley Hemingway, Ernest's first wife, and Brenda Frazier, the Paris Hilton of her day. Diliberto also talks about art and fashion, fact and fiction as we discuss her novels, I Am Madame X and The Collection, which revolves around a character based on Coco Chanel.

More on Joyce Carol Oates

Our sympathy and concern for Joyce Carol Oates remain high, and none of us involved with Story Week here in Chicago were surprised when Oates cancelled her March 17 appearance. It's too soon after losing her husband. I hope to have another chance to speak with Oates in the future. For now, I'm looking forward to reading her next book, a very intriguing novel due out in June titled, My Sister, My Love.